Food That Makes You Happy, Food That Makes You Healthy, Food That Makes You Hot

August 14, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

IMG_5260

The original plan was for me to take my shirt off. I know, you’re all drooling on to your keyboards at the thought, but settle down! I needed a goal, something to motivate me to get into shape. This was in February. I rejoined my old L.A. gym, Crunch, which makes absolutely no sense because it’s really far from where I live in Atwater Village; only, I really like that gym and when I was a member, I went regularly. I had friends there. So I rejoined and ever since February, I’ve been going four days a week. That’s almost six months of regular gym-going and if I had to take my shirt off now on my blog, I’d be a lot less freaked out than I would have been six months ago (OK, maybe I’ll show you my biceps).

The question for me, though, was never really a question of exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us; there’s not much to think about. You go, you do it, you look better, you feel better, etc. The harder question was a question of diet: how do I change what I eat to maximize my efforts? If I wanted to see changes (and I did want to see changes) what did I have to do?

The breakthrough moment came in a conversation with my friend Brent. I was talking about healthy eating, about wanting to look better by eating healthy foods, and he pointed out that there’s not necessarily a correlation between food that makes you healthy and food that makes you hot.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he said, “you could eat a pile of grilled chicken breasts from McDonald’s and protein shakes filled with protein powders and get really hot, but you wouldn’t necessarily be healthy.”

IMG_5103

Somehow that simple sentiment changed my entire way of thinking about food. Food that made you healthy didn’t necessarily make you hot*; and food that made you hot, didn’t necessarily make you healthy. And what about happy? (* I think if I list the foods here that make you healthy that don’t make you hot, you’ll all get stormy in the comments; but, for example, eating a lot of whole wheat spaghetti might make you healthy, but it doesn’t necessarily make you hot.)

That’s when I created a Venn Diagram in my head. If I were more talented at graphics, I’d embed one here, but you don’t need me to do that: the gist is that there are three categories of food in my life, right now. Food That Makes Me Happy, Food That Makes Me Healthy, and Food That Makes Me Hot. My mission is to find a balance between all three categories throughout the week.

So, for example, on Mondays I eat a salad for lunch (most often the chopped salad with chicken at Pitfire pizza with some extra dressing on the side) and, for dinner, some kind of protein with some kind of vegetable: usually chicken with whatever I have from my CSA. (Hence all the chicken breast with this and that posts.)

IMG_4933

I often blur the categories; so the chicken breast dinners aren’t strictly healthy or hot-making, they’re also happiness-inducing because I make a sauce with a little butter and a little acid. But, generally-speaking, they’re hotness-focused.

And that’s the general idea as we move deeper into the week: lunches tend to be healthier things (sushi, salads, the occasional turkey sandwich), dinners tend to be protein focused. It’s important to note how the gym-going informs the diet: if I spend an hour running like crazy on a treadmill, burning 500 calories, I’m not going to waste all that effort gorging on a pizza for dinner. If I hadn’t done the exercise, however, I couldn’t imagine denying myself the pizza. So it’s an important loop.

Come the weekend, though, all bets are off. I eat whatever I want and have no regrets. I’ve earned it. Pasta, of course, is a must. So is dessert.

IMG_4769

The key to all this, it turns out, is balance. The ideal diet is one that hovers somewhere in the middle of that Venn diagram: it’s possible to find food that makes you happy, healthy, and hot. It’s dangerous to spend too much time in any one category. For example, for a while after my conversation with Brent, I would go to the smoothie place below my gym (BodyBuilders) and drink one of their awful protein-powder packed smoothies (the BodyFuel) which was so cleverly masked with pineapple juice and banana, I could easily forget that I was downing a bunch of chemicals to put on muscle mass.

At a certain point, I said to myself, “Why are you drinking this s**t? It’s totally not worth it!” So I stopped. And in doing so, I realized that my original goal was the wrong goal. Taking my shirt off on the blog would be all about the image, not about the substance behind the image. Who cares if you’re hot if you’re not happy? Or healthy? The goal is to be all three things at once and that’s what I’ve been striving to do.

OK, now it’s time to show off my biceps.

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Essays

  • Mary

    This is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Nice progress.

  • Mary

    This is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Nice progress.

  • Mary

    This is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Nice progress.

  • Mary

    This is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Nice progress.

  • Mary

    This is awesome! I’ve been struggling with the same questions. Nice progress.

  • http://www.lynnchen.com/ Lynn Chen

    Yay!

  • boeufdaisy

    Nice, but can you have biceps while you’re smiling?

    This photo has hot and healthy but not so much happy…

  • Agent Strong

    Just about anything you make at home, with fresh ingredients, is going to be way better for you than convenience food or fast food. You’re already way ahead of most people. Now, let’s see those pecs!

  • NancyRing

    Nice!!!

  • Sara

    calories in, calories out. that’s all it takes.

  • Craig

    I came for the bicep pics and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

  • Craig

    I came for the bicep pics and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

  • alison

    I understand the appeal of alliteration, but every time I read “food that makes you hot”, part of my brain thought, “Why is Adam writing about aphrodisiacs?”

  • Angela

    It took me awhile to find that balance myself. It’s hard when you love food!
    Nice biceps ;)

  • Angela

    It took me awhile to find that balance myself. It’s hard when you love food!
    Nice biceps ;)

  • Angela

    It took me awhile to find that balance myself. It’s hard when you love food!
    Nice biceps ;)

  • Angela

    It took me awhile to find that balance myself. It’s hard when you love food!
    Nice biceps ;)

  • Stephanie

    I thought the same thing as Alison.. Expecting aphrodisiacs in every category..haha. Good job on tho, I’m the same way!

  • Alcubierre Visitor

    You gave me some good ideas. But first, I am going to whip up those scrambled eggs with sausage, tomatoes and pecorino again. That’s my happy.

  • http://www.becauseilikechocolate.com/ Mallory @ Because I Like Choco

    I know, there’s a fine line between enjoying yourself and using that as an excuse to eat whatever you want in excess without taking responsibility for your choices. That being said, life is too short to live off of chicken breasts and kale alone.

  • Ttrockwood

    Nice guns there!
    Excersize and day to day activity play a huge huge role in how i want to eat – it makes me focus on foods that give me energy and make me feel good which are generally fresh produce heavy meals.
    As a vegetarian i’ve loved your bean recipes (the garlic and lemon white beans and kale is so good!). Would love to see what you do with tempeh (which has as much protein as chicken! And sold at trader joes…)

    Ps
    I belong to crunch in nyc! The spin classes always kick my a$$ in the best way….

  • Kate Herd

    HOT! :)

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    Look at those guns!