On sustaining your passion – a word on nutrition

In the height of my workaholism, I was running from meeting to meeting without time for a proper lunch. With a regular team meeting at 11 and an offsite meeting at 1pm, I subsisted on Snickers and Diet Dr. Pepper for lunch. When I got home close to 10pm, too exhausted to think, much less about cooking, I would wearily open up the chips, throw salsa and sour cream into a bowl, and wash it down with a beer before collapsing into bed.

iStock Photo - Low Battery Meter

Your body on too much work, too little time off, and meals consisting of Snickers and chips and salsa.
©: iStockphoto - luismmolina

Yes, yes I did. And no. It wasn’t sustainable.

It’s no wonder that at the conclusion of the major project 5 months later, I simply crashed, internal battery meter blinking red. You can have a passion like I did for my job and for this project. But it’s not sustainable if you treat yourself this way.

Contrast with the moment I started having this driving passion to climb. My job is now a regular eight-hour day. I frequently metro home, change clothes, grab a bottle of water and a Clif Bar, climb for 2-3 hours. Soon, after I started this ritual, I started craving protein drinks, so Odwalla Protein Monster and I became equally good friends. Almonds, too. I couldn’t get enough of raw nuts. And boiled eggs on the side at lunch.

First, I want to clarify that this entry is more about fuel than meals. Meals are meant to be lived and enjoyed. I will write more about this later – just wait for the reduction sauce entry – YUM!

(Having said that, I do receive enjoyment out of fuel. Much like my body recognizes the heat of the Bikram studio and gets excited, my body gets equally excited with I eat Clif Bars, because it generally means I’m going to the climbing gym. Associations are funny things.)

In addition to my new cravings, since I began climbing, I was growing increasingly intolerant of hunger. One time, while brainstorming into the lunch hour, a colleague made a joke. Together with my other colleague, they laughed and laughed and laughed. I just glared. They glanced at the clock, noticed the 1:00pm hour, and tactfully suggested we break for lunch. When I came back to the brainstorming session after lunch, I perked up and asked “OMG, what did C say?” and then proceeded to laugh heartily for about 10 minutes. That was a little scary. Now I make sure that I have healthy snacks in my drawer, even if a handful of almonds. Life is too precious to go missing good jokes like that.

What else has changed? At work, we had a new cafeteria concession, a company focused on whole and nutritious foods. Every Thursday, they bring in a nutritionist. (Employers take note – find a way to do this for your employees.)

One day I stopped by her table and I mentioned this trend I had noticed in my body. I told her that I could feel my muscles make-up changing, I had lost 20 pounds after a year of climbing, and I craved the protein drinks after several hours at the gym. Was I doing the right thing by consuming the protein drinks, I asked? Was there something specific I should do to fuel my body, especially considering I would alternate between high intensity days when I climbed, and low intensity days when I didn’t?

This was not a question I would have asked during my workaholism phase. I was completely incurious about what was going on with my body, except for the fact my clothes were getting tighter. The nutritionist gave me advice, which I follow. Since I’m not a nutritionist and I don’t even play one on TV, so I don’t want to hint of advice that you should follow. I want instead for you to be a seeker of yourself.

See, I didn’t set out to start a diet. I took one step to go to a climbing gym. I started doing something with my body. And then I got hooked on that activity and listened to what my body told me it needed. This is how I got head-faked into nutrition.

Be a seeker of yourself. Take a small tiny step to find that secondary passion that will feed your primary one. Make it something about your body – what you do with it, how you fuel it, how you connect it to your mind. Then listen to what you tell you. No, you can’t do this working 12 hours a day. But trust me, you’ll get more done with your eight hours if you’re properly fueled and nourished that you will after too many successive long days on a low battery.

cliff bar

cliff bar by A writer afoot, on Flickr
A contrast: This is your body on sustainable fuel and a passion.

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