2013 Food Challenge.

Cast iron forever!
I have been fortunate to meet many climbers this year, a lot of them in their 20's. While I was amazed at their strength and stamina, I was also in awe of what they lived on:

Some opted for everyday carbo-loading by consuming vast amounts of "Special K," while running up and down the Grand (elevation: 13,770) as if it were a 3 mile jog down the road. Others chose protein: eggs, burgers and bacon everyday, again going up and down diverse high altitude peaks several times... weekly. Others just went for the sugar: Pop Tarts, Snicker bars, Tweezers... any junk food really, and/or whatever was on sale at the supermarket, as they spent days at a time traversing peaks... and last but not least, there were also many who lived on ready-made frozen dinners, canned and/or frozen vegetables, canned soups... basically all varieties of processed food, and again putting in hours of workouts daily, and difficult climbs weekly.

While the exercise load was tremendous, I did see and hear complaints and concerns about weight gain. How can super active people in their 20's and 30's possibly gain weight?... yes, it's possible:


I experienced it myself when I came to the US. I was not very active in Brazil, but I did walk everyday (no car) and ate a diet of mostly rice, beans, and an incredible variety of fruits and vegetables. When I moved here, to Boston, I continued to walk even more. But I was 16, and had no idea what eating was all about. I was happy to eat Wonder Bread, Pringles (so delicious!), cereal with vitamin D-fortified milk, eggs, hot-dogs, tuna sandwiches, pizza slices, breaded chicken sandwiches from Burger King, donuts, danishes, ice-cream... and not so many vegetables. I quickly gained weight as a result, and was constantly sick- plagued with colds, sinus infections, ear infections... It took my sister visiting me, scolding me on my diet, and teaching me from scratch on how to buy and eat fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and beans... to change my habits. In short, I had to thoroughly reeducate myself on how to eat in order to maintain the weight and size I had in my 20's... into my 40's.

The beauty of changing habits is that we have an incredible ability to adapt to the new- as long as we give ourselves the chance to do it...

Dark leafy greens = good for the blood
The hardest part of changing eating habits, or any habits for that matter, are the first days. Those are the days that are spent battling the mind, back and forth. Will against ego, change against comfort, fear of ridicule, self-doubt, self deprecation, self beating, confusion, darkness, depression... yes, I have named them all, because I have been through it all, with food and smoking as well... but it is doable. Even giving up donuts and ice cream is doable. I promise.

Start slow, one step at a time. Don't try it all at once. It's too overwhelming, and easy to give up that way.

Go for one change a week. If one week is not enough time to get comfortable with that one change, take 2 weeks, or 3, or a month. A month of one eating habit change is better than no change at all.

So for you, super strong dudes and dudettes that have helped me so much with climbing and work out tips and advice this year... here goes a weekly food post to help you on your own quest for health, strength, and a fearless mind.

Just say no...
Getting started... Most folks lack adequate pots and pans to cook with. If you fall into that category, you may be eating out a lot, and/or "cooking" with the microwave.

Eating out, while convenient, does take a toll on your health if you make it an everyday habit. The reason is, restaurants want folks to love their food... so they will unabashedly use salt, butter, and all kinds of oils... in abundance. Yes abundance is great, but not when it comes to not-so-great ingredients. Remember that most restaurants are trying to make a profit however they can, so the rule is to use the cheapest ingredients possible. That means antibiotic-and-hormone-rich butter, cheese, eggs, poultry and meat, and veggies grown with pesticides. And an abundance of regular salt (sodium), saturated oils (cholesterol), and sugar. As for microwave cooking... that is not cooking!!!! It involves frozen dinners, and/or heating up stuff. Not cooking!!! If I can think of one appliance I'd see in hell, it'd be a microwave.

Big pot
Now that you know my idea of hell... let's move on to step zero: go out and get yourself a pot. Get a fairly big one, then, because that way you will be able to make pasta, soups, stews and beans with just that one pot. You can find your all-in-one pot at a supermarket, wall mart, target, online at Amazon and/or kitchen shops, Good Will... basically anywhere. But make sure your pot is stainless steel, not Teflon or Calphalon. Enamel or cast iron are also great. No aluminum either, as it is associated with Alzheimer's. Aluminum is  unfortunately the metal of choice in restaurant cookware, as it is a great conductor of heat, but not so great a conductor of health (http://www.freshfoodunderground.com/2010/02/on-quest-to-get-rid-of-teflon.html). Very important. Now that you have a nice sized pot... let's start.



Why whole wheat pasta? Because whole wheat foods are less processed, and have more naturally-occurring nutrients, instead of the chemical vitamins and additives that are added to foods like "special K." Whole wheat has lots of fiber as well, which is important for maintaining a good rhythm in your body and keep things moving the right direction. Whole wheat pasta is also simple and easy to cook. 11 or 12 minutes, and you are done. If it is organic that is great, but if not, that is great too. I have in my pantry both organic pasta from the health food store, and non-organic pasta from Costco. And white pasta as well.

Penne, my favorite! 
Now that you have a box or 2 of whole wheat pasta, substitute one "old" menu item for "pasta" this week. Try it once, a couple times, or use and abuse and go for it every day. If you get sick and tired of it, there is always next week, or the old menu, right? so go for it. No fear.

So then back to basics... cereal folks, you have just created a whole new dinner meal by simply opting for "pasta" for dinner instead of cereal. Add butter and salt to the pasta, and you are set. Protein folks, serve your protein with pasta.; pasta with meat, pasta with bacon and meat... for the junkies, put mapple syrup in the pasta... and for the frozen dinner gang... add some of the frozen vegetables to the pasta at the end of the cooking, or sautee the veggies with butter and/or olive oil, and throw them on top of the pasta when it is done... and you have a meal.

Penne, chicken, broccoli
If you don't like the pasta you bought, try a different brand. Also, try going back and forth white/whole wheat and see if you eat less or more of one versus the other... or if you notice any change in how you feel afterwards. Try cooking it with olive oil, and then with butter... more or less salt, spices, pepper. Create what pleases you and makes you feel good. You are not restraining and constricting yourself, you are expanding your horizons.

And please ask questions! Write anytime. I am here to help, and I am excited for this process to begin. Recipes always welcome as well! Here is to great cooking this year!

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