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Marshall V. King at work
Marshall V. King
Marshall V. King writes about restaurants and local food issues. And a lot about what he eats.

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Eating clean is more than leaves and nuts

Limiting sugar and other treats is hard, but has its rewards. 

Posted on Feb. 24, 2014 at 8:49 a.m.

It's not easy eating clean.

Too much of the food around us, and the food we love, isn't good for us. Or at least it's not very nutritional.

Forty days ago, a bunch of people started a challenge that involved exercising hard and eating clean. A handful of us at The Elkhart Truth and others grunted and sweated at Boot Camp Team Training and tried to dial in what we ate.

Faithful readers know that I love good food, that I'm a flavor junkie. That love sometimes translates into over consumption.

Even for those who don't love food, overconsumption is a problem. In the United States, obesity rates doubled among adults between 1980 and 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Even worse, overweight rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents.

• Only about 25 percent of adults eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

• More than half of American adults don't get the recommended amount of physical activity to benefit health. (The figure that's usually touted is 30 minutes a day, five days a week.)

We need to keep moving. We need to eat better. And it's hard.

Michael Pollan, an amazing food writer, has the mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Sugar calls to us. There's a lot of research that's showing how addicted many of us are. Our brains love what sugar does.

Alton Brown, former host of "Good Eats" and still an amazing presence in the food world, recently talked in his podcast about how quitting diet soda changed his sugar craving. He had to get rid of that artificial sweetness to change his palate.

I had gotten closer to being Fat Marshall again. I was eating anything in sight and not stopping until I went to bed. I was still exercising, but not as much and not as vigorously.

So in January, I went on the wagon. It wasn't a diet. But I was following a suggestion of what someone else thought I should eat.

So I've had eggs with spinach, peppers and onions for breakfast most days.

Most days I get a salad for lunch. As I munch, I hear Harrison Harte telling me, "It's just leaves."

And dinner is a reasonable protein like fish and a pile of vegetables.

I eat nuts by the handful as snacks.

I've made my own almond butter by blending almonds. Because almonds are better for you than peanuts.

And then I went to the gym three times a week and tried to play basketball or do yoga otherwise.

And the weight started coming off.

Funny how that happens.

I don't need to bore you with the numbers, but a restaurateur told me the other day to "stop dwindling away."

I wasn't perfect. There was that week in southern California during which I ate cleanish. I drank wine. But there was that visit to Pink's, a hot dog stand in Los Angeles that has been serving celebrities and others since 1939.

I got a chili dog with coleslaw, a pile of onion rings and a Coke with real sugar.

They tasted so good. I tried to stop eating the onion rings and couldn't.

And then I felt like I'd consumed a bowling ball. Whatever coursed through my veins for a couple hours didn't actually feel good.

I don't regret eating that stuff. The onions rings tasted better than leaves. But then I feel better after a pile of leaves.

When I came home, I started eating clean. I started losing weight again. And at the end of the 40 days, the numbers — the lost inches between my neck and knees and the drop in body fat — made me happy. They made trainer Lori Harris happy.

The lower numbers on the scale do too, but it's still easy to argue with the scale. I stand there looking down at the number and say, "C'mon. Is that all you're giving me?"

This is hard. And maintaining it is harder. Other research shows that eating and using drugs aren't that different.

Amanda Mitchell, an Elkhart Truth copy editor who has been in the challenge, said, "I'm addicted to feeling good."

Part of the challenge was going to restaurants and seeking out the clean food on the menu. It became a bit of a game.

At Buffalo Wild Wings, there's little on the menu for someone eating clean. Aside from salads, there are Naked Tenders (unbreaded, grilled chicken) and carrots and celery. And like most things on the menu at BWW, they're overpriced.

Aside from the regular lunchtime visits to the salad bar at Martin's Super Markets, three restaurant dishes became favorites during the last number of weeks. I could eat them nearly every day.

At breakfast, Janice Hayden and Pam Knight at Old Style Deli, 200 S. Main St., Elkhart, will put a pile of spinach, peppers, onions and mushrooms on the grill and either scramble them with eggs or use them as omelet filling. Add a bit of feta cheese and it's money. It's a great breakfast for around $5.

At lunch, Jenny Rusnell at The Moringa Tree, 300 E. Jackson Blvd., Elkhart, serves a $7 taco salad with either grass-fed beef or organic chicken. The mixed greens come with guacamole, salsa and a great vinaigrette. There's so much flavor in that salad.

At dinner, Paul Cataldo and his staff at Antonio's Italian Restaurant, 1105 Goshen Ave., Elkhart, will serve barbecued or grilled salmon. I get it without the barbecue sauce. But that $14.95 dish is amazing. It comes with tomato salad that's great, but grilled vegetables are also very good.

My goal is to eat clean 80 percent of the time. And keep getting in better shape.

I have incentive now. It's hard. But I feel better.

I'm hungry. Let's eat.

Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@elkharttruth.com, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


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