Meet the people behind RAWK and read on how they are trying to incorporate healthy habits into their busy schedules. In this week’s RAWK Story a RAWK team member is sharing with us her battle with a disrupted relation to food and her own body:
MEET HANNA, WINNER OF THE BODY-BATTLE
a.k.a RAWK Content Marketing
Conditioned to feel ashamed and guilty about the tiniest little indulgence by her diet-haunted mother, Hanna had fought a very personal, exhausting battle throughout most of her adolescent years. Over the time the surreal attempt to compensate every little caloric outburst with long and tiring endurance workouts on the running track and tread mills had left her nothing but waiting for desired results. Today she is twenty-seven years old and ready to share with us the most crucial milestones on her journey from being a girl trapped in a disrupted relation to food and her own body, to being a mindful young woman, living a balanced, sustainable lifestyle.
Ironically I made the biggest steps of that journey here in China – a country where during the past three decades obesity has become a serious issue and food safety guidelines vary within a wide spectrum of grey tones. When I arrived here four years ago my eating patterns were about to collide with a new lifestyle: An unknown culture, new international friends, and a whole new palette of foods and tastes – I was amazed by what Shanghai had to offer and the temptation was indeed imminent at first.”
Although I never neglected my workouts, the daily intake of fluffy steamed dumplings and excessively oily and salty food had left me with no less than unflattering pads around my waist, notably bad skin, and a serious starch addiction.
After all my mother had taught me I knew though, that I wasn’t doing my body any good, and the fact that my new nine-to-six-o’clock office job wouldn’t allow me to hit the gym whenever and as often as I wanted, scared the hell out of me.
Re-organizing a Lifestyle
I realized that instead of re-organizing my schedule I needed to re-schedule my lifestyle. I needed to figure out how to optimize my time and effort. Thereupon I gradually began to replace my time-consuming endurance workouts by more efficient, high-intensity body weight workouts. Sticking to a training schedule has never been an issue for me – so I just did it – preferably early mornings, four to six times a week. Although I had to eat a lot more than before in order to go through my new workout routine, results started to show, what in turn made me keep poking my physical (and mental) limits harder and harder each workout.
And then one day – I don’t remember what triggered the insight – I realized: My food is fuel to my body! What I feed my body with and what I expose my body to is crucial for my physical and mental performance and well-being”. This changed everything and turned out to be the last missing value in my nutrition-exercise-equation.
During the past two years, ever since “the great insight”, I have constantly been optimizing my diet, carefully tailored to my schedule and needs. I started to become interested in the foods I eat, their health benefits, nutritional value and in particular their origin. As I became aware of gruesome facts about local food safety regulations and China’s outrageous meat consumption I eventually stopped eating meat and started to carefully choose and prepare my food. Today I stay away from seafood and both, red and white meat, without hesitation and any regrets – but only because I know that even though I banned animal proteins from meat and most dairy products from my diet, I can still push through my workouts, maintain a balanced diet and enjoy tasty food.
As a vegetarian in a country like China you might think I’d be struggling – particularly in regard to my fitness routine – but one would be surprised how broad the plant-based palette of foods and dishes actually is.
Certainly, at first I was concerned that in order to replace those animal-proteins, my carbohydrate intake would increase drastically and ultimately result in an out-of-control weight gain. However, to avoid that “protein vs. carb challenge” I meticulously logged all my meals and snacks into a food-tracker application, which helped me estimate my total daily calorie consumption and keep my macros balanced.
I was forced to explore new palettes of foods for myself. I am now getting all my proteins from eggs, legumes, seeds and grains and the best thing about it is that it all tastes delicious with my favorite range of middle-Eastern spices.
Today I feel more comfortable in my skin and more confident in my relation to food than ever – besides the better digestible plant-based proteins I consume a lot more fruit and vegetables, which have improved not only my digestion, skin appearance and hair quality, but also my mood.
What I am eating on a regular Day:
As an early morning person the hours before midday is the most productive time of the day for me. Even though I consider myself a hardcore breakfast advocate, my first meal of the day has to wait until after workout. Occasionally there are times when I need to fuel my body before; in that case I’d dip half a banana into a glass of my favorite raw almond butter and then eat it on the go.
Generally my breakfast consists of lots of fiber and healthy fats, depending on the duration and intensity of the workout the ratio may vary: oven-baked avocado on German rye bread with thyme and a pinch of salt. Additionally I eat one of the two hard-boiled eggs that I prepared for my snack box the night before and if I am still hungry I eat the other half of the banana.
The after-burn effect is indeed a welcoming side effect of high-intensity workouts, but it also means that I am constantly hungry. A well-stocked snack box is therefore crucial and as important to be planned as any other meal of the day. Until the end of the day I eat another hard-boiled egg and as much fruit as I want, I pick on raw, unsalted nuts and seeds and I share a bag of baked, un-sweetened coconut flakes with my colleague. Generally I don’t eat dairy; it causes me a stomach pain and besides that I find good quality products (imported, without added flavors, sugar or color) to be fairly expensive. However, every now and then I allow myself to eat a small piece of Parmesan cheese because it is a great source of Calcium, an essential mineral that plays an important role in building stronger, denser bones.
I have become very skeptical about the quality of my food (which is a blessing as much as it is a curse), therefore I barely eat out and because I try to avoid microwaving my “lunchbox creations” are mostly cold dishes that are filling and easy to make: a cup of protein-rich kidney beans with red bell pepper, spring onions, fresh cilantro (or curly parsley), and the other half of the avocado, garnished with salt, pepper and a slice of lemon. For the dressing I keep a small bottle of olive oil at my office – ét voilà! As a spinning instructor I occasionally work out in the evenings again, and even though I try not to eat after 8pm, I sometimes have to schedule my dinner quite late; To re-fuel my body after a tedious endurance workout I stir-fry a few tofu cubes in coconut oil, seasoned with curry or spicy chili powder. I heat up a small cup of brown rice or quinoa (or whatever I prepared for my carb box the night before), and boil my fiber-fav’s the Brussels sprouts or broccoli.