Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I’m heading to the beautiful
island paradise of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. To try to tame my usual out-of-control eating while away, I spoke with certified nutrition coach Bryndan “Coach Be” Moore. The 38-year-old New Jersey resident has taken proper eating very seriously since he was a student at Howard University. Moore used the physical education department as his personal gym, taking more than the required credits for PE. Though he was an engineering major, he took swimming, martial arts, gymnastics and any other athletic course he could fit into his course load. He went on to teach local children the basics of gymnastics during the summer.
After finishing school, though, his healthful lifestyle took a backseat to a sedentary job and a partying night life. Eventually he grew tired of getting his pants let out at the tailors and watching friends and family fall victim to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure.
He decided to study exercise nutrition, and now he manages the Web site AlumniWellness.com, which offers advice and resources on how to improve athletic performance and have fun while getting in shape. Moore has counseled several organizations, including the Rutgers University women’s soccer team, about nutrition.
In an e-mail conversation, he spoke with me about how to enjoy local food and sweet cocktails without losing track of my fitness goals. Our edited Q&A is below.
I’m going to be in St. Croix for a week. There’s a beach bar right by the ocean and the bartender makes some to-die-for mixed drinks, including one with ice cream and plenty of rum. How can I enjoy a cocktail without getting completely off track?
I love that you are thinking about staying on track. The truth is there is no magic pill or activity I can prescribe that is going to keep you moving forward with your body results while drinking a banana cognac. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption will preclude your ability to burn fat!
Your [goals] should be: enjoyment of your hard-earned vacation, staying active by picking fun ways to move all day and [getting] high-quality calories as much as possible, including water; delicious, locally spiced lean proteins and local veggies.
Find out what the island cuisine is and dig into the grilled meats and the local fare. Try to dodge starches like potatoes, corn, rice and bread.
I’ll actually be staying at my grandmother’s, so I can prepare my meals at home. For the nights that I go out, how can I enjoy local food without missing out on flavor?
There’s no way I would go to an island rich in culture and not eat local. It’s actually one of the best joys of traveling to me — to discover the history of the culture through the food. That being the case, I still look to eat by the guidelines I live by and which will lead me closer to my health and body goals. So I say if it’s possible eat out! Find local cafes, restaurant and chefs to give you the culinary tour of St. Croix. Here is the pro eating-for-abs secret phrase:
Hold the rice, [and eat] extra meat (or other protein if you don’t eat meat) and a side of vegetables.
I have an aunt who usually makes me roti, a type of unleavened bread usually served with a curry dish, from scratch when I visit. I’m definitely having some when I’m in St. Croix. What would I need to do to burn calories from that while I’m away?
I know it may sound crazy, but try the roti without the wrap, and try to minimize the amount of rice or provision [roots and tubers like yams and plantains], you eat with it. The roti will still be delicious and you won’t miss the calories. I promise.
How can someone like me, who enjoys the occasional cupcake, satisfy her sweet tooth minus the empty calories?
First of all, I don’t begrudge anyone an occasional cupcake. Enjoy it with a smile. The key is occasionally, as in the opposite of regularly.
People often say to me “Everything in moderation.” That’s true as long as we’re talking about moderation between what your body requires, and your wants. Not between what you want and what you really want.
If the rest of your diet consists of high-quality calories, I wouldn’t worry about it. Also, there is a way that you can minimize the effect of those cupcakes in your diet. It requires timing them right in relation to performing a challenging workout.
I’m hard-headed and often lose my focus. What words of encouragement would you offer someone like me who tends to be flighty when it comes to healthy eating and weight management?
I’d say the biggest thing is learning to accept yourself and love your body. Love it for all its flaws and great points. I say that wholeheartedly without reservation. The thing about loving yourself is that you must then therefore be ultimately concerned about your health. So love yourself, forgive yourself if you ever go off track, come right back with a clean slate and take care of your health.
What quick meals and snacks would you suggest for when I’m on the go?
My go-to meal at new restaurants is a steak salad with extra steak and a non-creamy dressing. I’ll often ask for extra steak and if possible I substitute spinach for whatever greens they are serving, which is typically some form of lettuce.
There are also several go-to meals that I like to prepare and carry with me when possible. We’ve posted several recipes on my site www.AlumniWellness.com.
Some experts recommend eating six small meals a day to manage weight. Is this method really effective?
Six meals per day isn’t the key there. The key is not eating until we’re full, or until we clear our plates. The key is to eat only until we’re satisfied, meaning pause [and ask] “Am I still hungry or am I just eating?” Once you’re not hungry, stop.
By default you will get hungry again sooner than normal, which will end up causing you to eat more frequent meals.
We all know that staying hydrated is important. Any tips and tricks for those of us who view drinking eight glasses of water a day as water torture?
One trick I find useful is sipping with a straw. I don’t know if it’s the air that comes with regular drinking or what, but I find it easier to knock it out. Also, the bathroom rush that comes with increasing your water intake is temporary. Your body will adjust after a few days and you won’t be running back and forth as much.
Is a daily vitamin really necessary, or can I get away with eating certain foods?
Vitamins and other supplements are very helpful in closing nutritional gaps in our diet. I do take a multi-vitamin in order to help ensure that my body has all the necessary building blocks to keep me healthy and growing in a positive way. When your body doesn’t have the required minimums, it starts to adapt and react to the absence of those needs. This typically results in increased stored fat and increased risk of sickness and injury. Yes, you can go without vitamins without risk if you are getting what you need from your diet. This would require between 7-9 servings of varied fresh vegetables and some fruit per day to start. If you’re not getting that, keep it as a goal, and get to the vitamin store.
For those of us who can’t tolerate lactose, soy is said to be an option, but I read an article about its negative effects. What other milk substitutes would you suggest?
I am in love with a product I’ve recently found by Blue Diamond. It is a blend of almond and coconut milk, and it is absolutely delicious and full of healthy fats. Give that a try or try unsweetened almond, rice or coconut milk.
What’s your favorite exercise?
To tell you the truth, I don’t love exercise; I love the results I get from it. If I could just play sports and still get the body results I want, I’d do that.
Leilah Reese is a news aide at The Washington Post. For more updates on her fitness goals, follow her on Twitter and check here each Tuesday for a new blog post.
More from The Root DC