The inspiration for the next 800 words or so comes from Larry Sandhaas, a friend from the Muscatine Community Y, Warrior Crossfit Muscatine and Facebook.
Larry is a principal structural engineer at Stanley Consultants in Muscatine and one of the smartest people I know. He has life figured out in ways I’m not sure I ever will. But don’t take my word for it. With 21 words today on his Facebook page Larry offered perhaps the best summary I’ve ever read on eating healthy: Just cook a lot from basic ingredients, and aim for something somebody from 100 years ago would recognize as food.
His approach to fitness is also pretty simple: Larry seriously dabbles in many different activities. He runs, bikes, practices yoga, lifts weights and does Crossfit when the mood strikes him. He also cuts fire wood to help heat his home and makes time to do a fair number of strenuous activities around the Illinois farm where he lives with his wife and children.
All of these things make Larry a guy who is worthy of admiration in my book. When you factor in that he also likes Johnny Cash, well, if I gush any more, I may be accused of having a man crush.
But his advice for healthy eating resonated with me today as I contemplated separate, but perhaps related, things going on in Muscatine:
- Finding out Wednesday in Des Moines if Muscatine has been selected as a Blue Zones community.
- Competing in a 30-day paleo diet challenge that my friends at Warrior Crossfit Muscatine will kick off on Friday.
- Stepping Monday on to a set of scales that shouted back: Step away, fat man.
If anything, the scales give some support to why I should try the 30-day paleo challenge. Paying close scrutiny to what I put in my mouth for 30 days would be a useful exercise. But it also seems logical that the best diet is one you can maintain for a lifetime, which is why I’m leaning towards saying no to the challenge. I’m pretty sure I know what would happen at the end of 30 days if I managed to successfully deprive myself of things I’d have to give up. I’d eat them until I practically foundered myself.
I have a lot of experience with this sort of thing. Six years ago, I lost a lot of weight by adopting most of the lessons I learned from my friend, Jill Skeem. But then a bunch of things changed in my life, I wasn’t able to maintain Jill’s way of living and have since regained most of the weight I lost. And to be brutally honest, as I re-read the previous sentence, I have to admit not nearly enough has changed because all I’ve done is fall back into the really bad habit of overeating when I am angry, stressed, frustrated, unhappy, etc.
And, yes, I know all I’m doing is making excuses.
It’s the ups and downs — the weight lost and gained back — that has me rooting for Muscatine to become a Blue Zones. I sort of feel as if I could be a poster boy for the effort even though my situation isn’t unique and may not be as bad even as what some other Muscatine residents face. When it comes to living an active life, I have come a long way in the past 10 years. But I still have obvious issues with food that need to be addressed. Making healthy living a priority for the entire community couldn’t possibly hurt my effort to do the same, so I’m hoping for good news Wednesday on the Blue Zones front.
So while part of me feels compelled to try to the 30-day challenge, here is what I am going to do instead (and by writing about it, I hope some of you feel compelled to help make me be accountable):
- Eat three meals a day made of real food, placing an emphasis on protein and vegetables. I’m going to cut back on — if not outright eliminate — sugars and processed foods. No soft drinks or junk food. In other words, I intend to eat things that people would have recognized as food 100 years ago.
- Do something strenuous every day — break a sweat.
- Do more strength training — at least three times a week. I have to work up the courage to go back to Crossfit.
- Stop watching TV in the month of February.
- Replace snacking in the middle of the day and at night with going for walks or knocking off some squats. The worst times for me to eat things I shouldn’t are between 3-4 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. My diet will improve tremendously if I can overcome these obstacles.
- Give up beer for the month of February.
And if I succeed at even 90 percent of this, I figure the worst thing that can happen is I may start to make homemade beef jerky or I might start making wine or running endurance races. But that wouldn’t be so bad because Gatorade got it wrong.
I want to be like Larry.