Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Battle Protein

I'm in the middle of a body battle.
Don't worry, you're not interrupting anything. This is a quiet battle that you wouldn't notice unless you're looking. It's a war for balance; some days I win a little and some days I lose big.
It's a battle for protein.
Yes, afraid so.
My body has been off its rocker for a while- all of 2009 and probably a decent chunk of 2008. With 2010 approaching rapidly on Friday, I'm forcing myself to change my priorities in the new year. I know I know, its strange and a little lame.
But if you can relate in any way to a non-meat eating, weight-focused girl who loves her veggies and sweets, you might guess how protein could become a problem.
For the past week, I've been entering all of my foods into a meal tracker on my iPhone. It's been fun, but seriously not a practice I can keep up indefinitely. It has, however, proved useful in charting what nutrients I currently ingest in abundance (Vitamins A and C are huge), and where I'm lacking (the big pro-tein). I wasn't that surprised by a deficiency, but a little shocked by the size of it. According to my weight, height, and goals, my protein intake is a little less than half of what it should be every day. When you think about how proteins are the building blocks for the body, that's a big deficiency that could explain a lot.
I cut meat from my diet 2 years ago to feel better and (if I admit to myself) for some weight control. This worked fairly well since proteins are more calorie dense. But it doesn't help build muscle and bone, or get a body clock back on track when you're running on a low tank.
Take these beans for example.
The delicious bowl you see below holds the Green Beans with Browned Butter and Toasted Hazelnuts, a dish that graced the Christmas table this year (I would love to post the original recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but they don't appreciate re-publishing). The hazelnuts were the only protein I ate at dinner since I didn't have any of the beautiful tenderloin steak that was prepared to go with the beans and a pasta risotto. As much as I loved this dish (and I ate a good amount of it), it's still only a small amount of protein.

The mental struggle and constant calculations won't go away. At least right now that is; maybe some day I can get away from that place and feel comfortable whatever weight I end up at, but for now that needs to take a back seat. I've decided that a little meat will land on my plate now and then- when it sounds good to me. Besides that I will eat larger and more frequent portions of the proteins I do love: raw and cooked fish, eggs, nuts, and quinoa. The protein component of each meal will be considered first instead of last, and it will be a priority even if I think I've passed my self-pronounced caloric limit. I'm hoping just a few weeks of this approach will accomplish the physical changes I'm hoping for, and form a healthier habit for the long run.

Being on vacation the past few days has made it much easier. I have more time to consider my options and make enticing meals that I am excited about. A little peanut butter with breakfast, some sardines for lunch, and egg whites at dinner- with a little nut-studded fruitcake for a snack. I'm monitoring the scale with an eagle eye, but would I change what I'm doing if that gives me something I don't like. I want to say no. . . I will say no, because I'll be checking myself and I know that the only one I'm hurting is myself.


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