This past week I received news about my MRI results. What was to be my comeback trail race after 5 years of foot injuries, this past spring I headed off to race only to become injured halfway through the course. Another set back. Diagnosed with a sprained calf, hamstring, and MCL (medial cruciate ligament), and the possibility of a torn meniscus, I anxiously waited for the test results 3 months later. Great news, no torn meniscus! One injury checked off my list.
As I worked with a physiotherapist on my knee injury as well as my upper body injury (completely unrelated), I seemed to be better prepared this time around to handle the set back of not being able to workout. I wasn’t able to do any cardio or strength training for both my upper and lower body. I had trained myself to be in the best shape of my life (then at 45 years of age) and I wasn’t prepared to lose all of that hard work. I finally had defined arms, ripped abs, and was eating more than I could ever dream of. Most of all, I couldn’t control all of this new energy I had gained.
Physiologically, without weight training, there is going to be some muscle mass lost especially after 12 weeks of being sedentary (well, sedentary by my standards). Even though each injury is different, doing rehabilitation exercises prescribed by my physiotherapist helped with the ability to keep the muscles somewhat strengthened around my injured joints. What surprised me this time around was the fact that my body fat levels hardly changed. How could this be? No cardiovascular exercise and no weight training, how did I keep the weight off?
Before we get to why’s and how’s, I have to admit that I don’t own a scale. So you’re probably wondering how did I know if I didn’t gain any weight? First of all, I have no idea what my weight is. Yes, I’m within a certain range (anywhere between 105 – 125 lbs depending on what I’m training for) but the number has always been insignificant to me. I know for many people it’s a measurement tool, which is fine, but I’m more focused on how my clothes fit but more so on how my body feels. This is my measurement tool. You see my weight will fluctuate depending on my training goals. Sometimes I’m training for a long distance race and other times my goal is on building up muscle mass. Now that I’ve adapted a whole and plant-based lifestyle, it’s a little harder to fit in my clothes. In fact, I’m 2 sizes smaller than what I use to be 20 years ago. My biggest problem today is finding clothes that actually fit me as everything is too big for my frame. This is what consuming the right type of food can do. One of the reasons why my body fat levels stayed low during my injury was directly related to the type of food I ate.
Eating Lots, High Nutrients, Low Calories
Are you aware of the amount of calories in the types of foods that you eat? If you are eating animal products, they are high in fat, high in cholesterol (yes, even chicken), and low in nutrients. Many people switch from eating beef to chicken and/or fish thinking it’s a healthier option. The fact is, the impact of consuming beef on human cholesterol is quite similar to that of chicken and fish. Actually, our poultry contains more fat that it did in previous decades as they are genetically modified. More fat, more calories. Sorry, but the leaner choice isn’t so healthy and largely impacts your weight and health. It’s not just about the fat in animal products, but the lack of nutrients. Again, people are resolved with the reductionist way of thinking of eating a particular food for one nutrient (ie. meat for protein, dairy for calcium). The nutrients in our food work together, which is a holistic approach. Our bodies require an abundance of different nutrients daily in order to achieve optimal health.
Then we get to the processed foods. The misguided food labels of ‘low in fat’ and ‘calorie free’ lead consumers to buying products that are actually higher in fat and calories. The reduction in fat is replaced with refined sugar to make up for the lack in taste when the fat is removed. When people see these labels, they actually consume more of the product thinking they are actually consuming less fat and calories when in reality then are consuming more calories and putting on excessive weight. You see, if you look at the label of a processed item, you will see the daily RDI for all nutrients. However, the RDI for sugar is missing. Why? The government doesn’t put any regulations on daily RDI for sugar. Nobody has any idea how much sugar they are consuming by eating the processed foods they buy. Look to your scale and you will find out just how much.
So how do you more, lose weight, and consume more nutrients? Well, it’s no surprise if you’ve been following my blog posts, and the answer is to simply eat a whole and plant-based foods. I have clients tell me that they eat healthy 70-80% of the time while the other 20- 30% is crappy food (meaning animal products, refined sugar, and processed foods). Now, some people are happy eating this way and that’s fine, this blog post isn’t for them. I’m simply here to help people who are not happy with their current situation. These are the people who tell me that they struggle keeping the weight off and then I ask them how this ‘rule’ is working out for them. Again, I’m not coming across as judgemental, but simply asking them questions so they can come to the conclusion of what they are currently doing is not working. I want people to figure out on their own why the weight is not coming off. They need to understand what they’re consuming and how the ingredients effect their weight as well as the rest of the body and its functions.
I don’t have the willpower to eat whole and plant-based foods? For the majority of the population, willpower doesn’t work. Some people can just stop cold turkey and not eat animal products, refined sugar, and processed foods while for others, it’s a process. I find the latter works by breaking it down into steps. When I tell people that they don’t have to calorie count, eat specific foods at certain times of the day, and eat more food than they are currently consuming, it generally get’s their attention. Once your taste buds adjust to new foods (whole foods), you don’t crave the foods you once loved or thought were healthy for you. People see the weight come off by consuming more food. How does this happen? Whole and plant-based foods are whole grains (yes, you can eat bread and pasta), greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Very high in nutrients but very low in calories and fat. In fact, you will find yourself eating more food than you did before. There is no refined sugar (high in calories), hardly any fat with the exception of nuts and seeds (these healthy fats need to be consumed on a daily basis), no additives, no preservatives, and most importantly, no oil. Yes, oil is not healthy for us. Once it goes through the refinement process, you are left with no nutrients and basically pure FAT. When I stopped consuming olive oil (I was too fooled that the good olive oil is healthy for us), the weight went down significantly.
So I have eaten lots of food these past 12 weeks and my body fat has stayed significantly low throughout my injury. There is something to be said about keeping it WHOLE.
Staying Active When You Can’t Exercise
Who says walking isn’t exercise? Our bodies are meant to move. We live in a day and age where people are glued to their TV, computer, and phone screens. We can’t live without them. In some cases, we neglect our bodies because we are so focused on social media and what some person did for their workout that day, that we forget to workout. Being injured is not fun, I get it. Sometimes we can’t do anything due to the nature of the injury but for the most part, we can do SOMETHING. So I was told no weight training for both upper and lower body, no cardiovascular training that put stress around the knee joint. The key words, ‘stress around the knee joints.’ Even though a meniscus tear was possible (minor, not severe), I was still able to walk. With guidance from my physiotherapist, I did exercises to keep the muscles strengthened around my knee joint. With appropriate rest, the other two minor injuries (sprained hamstring and calf) went away quicker than I thought due to the nutrient dense foods I was consuming and I was able to increase my walking time, pace, and walk uphill (increasing intensity) eventually. I worked in my vegetable garden and did chores around our property that kept my body mobile so I was constantly using my muscles. Staying active isn’t always about working out.
Always consult with your physician or physiotherapist before going back to your exercise routine after an injury.
Positive Thinking Approach
I still believe and many others as well, that adapting a positive mindset is the key to losing and keeping the weight off. The key to my recovery wasn’t just about the rest, but knowing that my body would heal eventually and I kept focused on the end result as opposed to where I was currently. The difference between my other injuries and this one, was my positive thinking.
Use your time wisely. The time I usually spent working out or training, I instead used to try new recipes and work in my vegetable garden. So I can’t workout, it’s not the end of the world. I can still walk, grocery shop, prepare and cook food. I used my 30-60 minutes that I would normally spend on working out every day to research and try new plant-based recipes and learn more about maintaining my vegetable garden. I shifted my focus off of my injury to other projects. We complain that we never have time to try and do other things. I saw my injury in a different way. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue other opportunities.
As humans, we focus on the negative in each situation instead of the positive. As a result from injuries, we lose strength, muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, some flexibility, but we don’t lose control of how we think while our bodies take the time to heal. Our minds can heal our bodies. Going through injuries can help us put a positive spin on a bad situation. The mental skills we develop can be useful when we hit a rough patch in our workouts or when training for a race. We can revert back to what got us through to use in the future.
Adjust your outlook. Some of believe that things happen for a reason while other don’t. Regardless of what you believe your injury teaches you a lesson. The key is that you learn from this lesson. My lesson was to trust that everything was going to be fine (including believing that there was no meniscus tear) and I turned my self-pity into positive affirmations. I adjusted my state of mind by practicing gratitude for what I currently had in my life. My life is not perfect but it’s AMAZING! Despite the physical pain we go through, there is always something to be thankful for.
Sitting still is not more strong point but I have gotten better at it through the power of mediation. With more time to relax while I was injured, it was necessary for my own peace to ease my frustration and keep my emotions in check while centering my mind through meditation. It was an integral part of my healing process. My focus was on feeding my body with clean food and positive thoughts. The mind deserves to be treated with respect, not just our bodies.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,