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posted: 4/28/2014 5:30 AM

Learning discipline for food choices

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By Lisa Jones Townsel

One of the biggest take-aways from the Fittest Loser Challenge for me has been discipline.

I have learned more about the important role exercise plays and the right food, eaten at the right time.

In all honesty, I have been surprised to learn what a large role food plays in the weight-loss process. It's not simply about eating less and exercising more. Sometimes the dynamics shift, and you have to eat more, but of the right things.

The lessons really have been continuous. At first, I resisted the whole idea of keeping a food journal.

"Why do I have to write down what I'm eating," I wondered. "I am an adult, I will simply follow the plan and report when there's an issue. "

Well, I have completed one for the past 10 weeks, somewhat begrudgingly. But I have learned more about myself and my eating habits by sticking with it.

Thanks to the journal, I can see when I am hungrier and when I appear to be more satiated. My trainer checks it regularly and lets me know when I should've eaten more, or less.

I put everything in it for full disclosure, which feels a bit juvenile, but it's also given me more accountability.

Knowing exactly what you eat every day, throughout the day, gives you information to figure out where a morning headache, stomach ache or hunger pang may have come from.

It's certainly knowledge I didn't have a clue about before.

I have always been a bit adventurous when it came to food, or so I thought. I've always eaten an array of meats, vegetables, fruits and grains. But for this nutrition plan, I have experimented with old favorites in some new ways.

For starters, coconut oil has become a new staple. It's recommended because it's a healthy oil that cooks well at high temperatures and has been linked to reducing belly fat.

At first, I had concerns cooking with it because I used it regularly as a hair moisturizer as a child.

It took a week or two to adjust my thinking. But once I did, I found that it had a pleasant odor and distinct flavor that enhanced some other new favorites, like kale.

In fact, kale sautéed in coconut oil with onions is delish. You can also use the oil to make kale chips in a snap.

I rarely roasted veggies in the oven before the challenge. (I was more of a steam-on-top kind of cook, or reserved such fare for summer grilling.) But again, I have found that I like all sorts of vegetables roasted that way. And variety has been key.

For quick snacks on the go, I find that keeping a baggie filled with crunchy mini sweet peppers or snap peas give me just the kick I need. I have also become fond of almond butter that I can periodically add to my diet (but not the deep-scoop spoonful that I used in months past).

Also learning to add just a smidgen of salt instead of heavily sprinkling it on food has helped immensely; I taste the natural flavors of food more now.

In all, there's been lots of learning about food preparation and food choices, and I definitely plan to incorporate these into my life following the challenge.

• For freelance writer and substitute teacher Lisa Jones Townsel the lessons about food and good nutrition never seem to end, even as the challenge comes to a close.

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