Food & Fitness

Who are YOU?

Be sure to answer this month’s poll about time spent driving!

A major part of my Operation Lose Five Pounds is about figuring out exactly who I am. Not who I used to be, or who I’d like to be, but who I am now. And that means listening to my body.

I’ve noticed that when I eat something particularly carb-heavy, even if it’s a sweet potato with a smear of Laughing Cow cheese, I begin to feel lethargic. I don’t want to do anything. I get lazy.

However, if I have steamed mixed vegetables with some edamame thrown in there, I feel my whole body wanting to get up and go.

It used to be that I could virtually live off of carbohydrates with very little protein and next to no fat, and I thrived. I was full of boundless energy. I positively bounced.

Things have changed.

I started realizing the changes when I began going through a jar of peanut butter in about a week. Or less. That’s a whole lot of protein and fat in a short time frame! I also started noticing that although I would crave popcorn or bread with Earth Balance, it didn’t do much for making me feel good. It just made me feel worse, regardless of how much I ate of it.

My nutritionist Nicole lent me a book a month or two ago called The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott and Trish Fahey. Metabolic typing has been one of the dieting hypes within the past few years; the basic premise is that different people (depending on how your ancestors lived and how you currently live) metabolize fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in different ways, and that if you take some tests, you can identify which way of eating is right for you and thus clear up health problems and function at peak performance. Nicole and I view the notion of “metabolic typing” with the same attitude: some of it makes sense, other parts seem a little too intensely technical and are worthy of raised eyebrows. But this book was still an interesting read and well worth taking a look at, even if I didn’t agree with everything in it.

I took the test (I’m a “mixed type”, which means I do better with a balance between each of the macronutrients rather than overloading on one or the other), and as I was answering some of the questions (which range from “how would you rate your facial complexion?” to “what is your appetite at breakfast?” to “which climate are you most comfortable in?”), I noticed how very different some of my answers were at this point in time, compared to how they would have been a year or more ago.

The light bulb really went off for me at one of the answers in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the book, quoted from page 246:

Q: I feel sleepy and hungry shortly after eating even small quantities of… whole-grain breads, crackers… cereals… rice cakes, or granola. Yet I also get very fatigued if I go without these kinds of carbohydrates. What can I do?

A: Try substituting cooked whole-grain cereals such as rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or buckwheat for grain foods that have been baked- such as breads, dry cereals, or crackers. Any grains that have been ground into flour and baked (even whole-grain breads or crackers) break down into sugar faster than slow-burning whole-grain cereals that you cook yourself.

I could have written that question! I have the same issue where I love breads, but they don’t always love me. When I eat quinoa or oatmeal or rice, even though I don’t tend to crave those foods as much, I find that my energy levels are still high. My energy doesn’t dip down the way it often does if I eat bread or “baked” grains.

I started this challenge on a great footing; earlier this week, I was down a pound! Then I made the mistake of not bringing enough food with me to work one day, so I popped next door to the Greek Market for fresh whole wheat mini pitas and their homemade hummus. I devoured nearly the entire bag of pitas and the container of hummus.

The next day, I was craving grains like crazy- cookies and bread especially. I was also craving a lot of fats, and I wound up eating a huge pile of honey-roasted peanuts and raw almonds, followed by cheesy pepperoni pizza in the evening. The result: I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible tummy ache. I felt really awful.

Although this was a major set back, and I ate enough that one day to undo all my hard work from previously in the week (grr!), I still learned something from it: I really do have to keep away from the aforementioned “baked” grains, and instead focus on the “cooked” grains. Along the same vein, I am also becoming more aware of my sensitivity to lactose, and I’m beginning to suspect that I may be sensitive to gluten as well. I’ll be trying to stick with spelt or kamut or other grains with a lower amount of gluten in them from now on.

I’ve also learned that a life without nuts or nut butter is a sad one indeed for my body. I managed to do just fine without them for the first part of the week, but then I really wanted that perfect combination of fats and proteins that peanut butter has to offer. So, yesterday, I went out and bought a jar of peanut butter. Wish me luck that I eat it in reasonable portion sizes!

I’ve also found this week that there were a couple times when I wanted eggs or another non-vegan food item, but I tried to repress the craving because I felt as though I’d been eating too much non-vegan food recently. However, when it comes to weight loss (or maintenance, or gain), I think it’s really important to do what the body tells us. Whole eggs and egg whites are a fantastic source of nutrients that my body wants a lot of right now, so I’m going to honour my body by eating them.

What foods does your body function the best on? Have your needs changed over time? What foods can you simply not be without? And what are your favourite weight-loss foods (natural rather than processed, if possible!)?


  1. Dr. J

    “Who am I,” is one of those enduring questions where the answer is continually changing as we and life redefines us. It’s all about the voyage.

    Whole grains, lean proteins, and foods that naturally contain fat works best for me.

  2. fd

    yeah i find that where i used to function perfectly well with sandwiches and fruit at lunchtime i now feel really awfully lethargic for hours afterwards. whereas if i have some lean protein and a mound of vegetables i feel amazing for hours. but this is the only meal where i have really felt a change in my dietary needs/wants and energy levels.

  3. Geosomin

    For the longest time I tried to eat breakfast because I was told I should, but it was usually cereal and juice and I ended up so hungry I could gnaw my arm off by lunch and ate way too much…then I figured it out: oatmeal. I LOVE oatmeal…I’ve had it pretty much evry morning for the past 6 months…with a handful lof blueberries or half a banana and a dash of milk and spoon of brown sugar. Delicious AND it keeps me fueled all morning. No wierd sugar cravings or food hungers…lots of energy. I figure if it works, I’ll stick with it 🙂
    I have noticed that I love startches and breads I need to keep them in balance with veggies and other things or I get lazy and lethargic…and hungry about half an hour later. It’s been a real trick figuring out what I need.
    My main issue is with portion sizes…I often have too much. I’ve got a few pounds I’ve been trying to shed for ages and it’s just hasn’t worked out right yet. My crazy go nuts schedule lately hasn’t helped as I really need to exercise to reall ymake a difference, but I’ll keep at it…:)

  4. Sagan Morrow

    Dr. J- It certainly is! Which is why we must constantly revisit the question 🙂

    fd- So strange how that happens, but it’s good that we’re able to recognize it and appropriately adapt to the changes.

    Geosomin- The boyfriend isn’t a breakfast person at all, which is so strange to me (I can’t function if I don’t have at least a piece of an apple in my stomach), but somehow that’s what works for him. We’re all different! You and I seem to be on the same page: I love my morning oatmeal (I have it as a “2nd breakfast” when I get to work, after eating something small when I first wake up in the morning), especially because it helps deal with cravings; it’s SO challenging to figure out a good balance of the starches with veggies; portion sizes are something I really am trying very hard to work on, too!

  5. Holly

    Gosh….I never thought about this, but I might be the same way! I’m going to start paying attention to how I feel after eating carbs. This I do know – I’ve been having salads for lunch for the past 2 weeks, and I feel SO GOOD afterwards. Not lethargic and dragging like other meals.

    One thing I could NEVER go without is dairy! I crave cottage cheese and greek yogurt, in particular. Thankfully my body functions pretty well on it, too!

    My best weight loss snack would have to be almonds – just raw. I carry a bag around with me so if I’m running errands and get hungry, I grab or a few or a handful. I’ve really started to crave them!

  6. Maggie

    What a great post!

    I think my type changes/changed too. I really *enjoy* a carb heavy diet, but it doesn’t work for me. I honestly feel and function best with some animal proteins, tons of veggies, and some healthy fats (butter and avocado). The past month I’ve been up and down these same 2 pounds, and I’m hoping that I will start to stay in the downward trend. The other thing I did is forbid myself from the scale. When I know I’m down a pound or 2, I get lenient. When I don’t know how much I weigh I’m often scared of it and I will not mindlessly munch because I don’t know if I’m down or not. Weird, but that’s how my mind works. I’m not using a scale until at least mid-June. Haven’t decided exactly when I’ll pull it out again.

  7. sophia

    I’m not on a weight loss program…but the opposite. I think carbs work the best for me…as long as they are not too sugary. Sugar crashes me. I get burned out, and so fatigued. But other forms of carbs…even refined bread (but low-sugar), keeps me high in energy.

    Too much fat also weighs me down, and my tummy just doesn’t feel good. But I still defy that and eat WAY too much nuts. I think it’s just my body telling me I need as much calories as I can get, because nuts are so nutritionally dense.

    However, I still try not to analyze this too much…it just feeds on my disordered relationship with food. I just eat what I want, when I want…in the most natural possible, instead of obsessing whether I feel “good” or not. A lot of times, our minds can play tricks on us.

    Okay, food I absolutely CANNOT live without: pumpkin. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. Fruits. Cheese. Eggs. Sandwiches. Mmm!

  8. Emergefit

    “Who are you”, in a fitness agenda, or any other agenda for that matter, is one of only two questions which matter. The other being, “where do you want to go?” RE Metabolic typing: It has been my understanding that metabolic typing (too busy this a.m. to search for links for you) is an concept that is more functional for those of a more linear ancestry. That is, the more mixed one’s geographic ancestry is, the less relevant metabolic typing and blood type dieting are. My mother studied the eating habits of the Navajo for many years, and her findings are consistent with this meme.

    Yes, knowing yourself and being true to yourself is so important. Grain carbs kill me.

  9. The Candid RD

    I don’t know about books like that…I mean, is there any actual science backing them up? I think maybe some of us feel “lethargic” after eating a carbohydrate because that’s what everyone tells us we “should” feel like. So do oyu think maybe some of it is a placebo effect? I can’t help but wonder. Either way, I hope it works out for you, this is very interesting. My aunt did something like this and she said she feels better, but even in her case they said she doesn’t do well with sugar. Well DUH, so then she took our sugar form her diet and lost weight and feels better….it just seems….obvious to me!

  10. Sagan Morrow

    Holly- Almonds truly are a great snack. I just have to make sure that I only eat a few 😉 My sister is the same way with dairy as you are- somehow, it just works awesome for her body.

    Maggie- Interesting about the scale! Hmmm… I’m wondering if I could try that… usually it’s simple curiosity that causes me to pull out the scale. Curiosity can certainly be tricky to satiate!

    Sophia- Weight gain is something that most of us don’t think about often, but it’s just as important as weight loss when trying to achieve a healthy weight. And goodness yes our minds can play tricks on us! Have to try to work WITH our minds, which can be a challenge.

    Emergefit- That was one of the issues raised in the book, actually- the fact that most people have a completely mixed ancestry, which makes it especially difficult to figure out the kinds of foods that work best for us. But, they also say that how we live NOW, with our current lifestyle, is equally as important… so I guess that’s more the focus. And great second question! You’re right, asking ourselves where we want to go is incredibly important. Thanks for that contribution!

    Gina- Hehehe, yes, I agree that the placebo effect might certainly be there, and that a lot of it is common sense. That’s the same kind of thing my nutritionist and I were talking about. But what I took away from the book is that we’re all INDIVIDUALS, and we are all going to react in different ways to different foods, and we have to listen to our bodies to understand that. There’s supposed “science” to back the authors’ theory up, but just about anything can be either considered “scientific”, or else the science can be skewed to suit the needs of whatever is being promoted.

  11. Miz

    Im GF and have been for 17 years now.
    way before it was en vogue.
    Im not afflicted with celiacs but realized EARLY in life that gluten made me sluggish moody and depressed (and gave me a BAD ITCHY SKIN RASH but that wasnt enough to make me cut it out initially. sad huh? :))

  12. asithi

    I think there is something to be said about genotype. I notice that I feel lethargic when I have too much protein and dairy (I am Chinese). I find that if my meal is more carb heavy, I feel great afterwards.

    When I took my nutrition class in college, we spent several weeks talking about ethnic background and ancient geographical location and how that influence the descendants’ diet needs. It was one of the most interesting courses I ever took (certainly more so than structural design). So though I think the human body is more complex than just eating by your genotype for weight loss, I think there might be a small grain of truth in it.

  13. Sagan Morrow

    Miz- REALLY? I had no idea you were GF! I’m trying to reduce gluten in my diet… it’s tricky.

    Asithi- Agreed, there does seem to be something to genotype- the problem that I see is that so many of us have no one particular ethnic background these days. Makes it rather complicated when our ancestors are from a mix of hot and cold climates in different parts of the world, for example! But it’s still a neat concept and something that we can think about when making food choices.

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