Thursday, March 4, 2010

Adios, high-fiber diet. It's been real...aggravating

The bowl of Raisin Bran I had for breakfast today officially marked the end of my attempts at a high-fiber diet.

The family-sized box of bran goodness is finally empty. And not a moment too soon if you ask me.

Fiber may be healthy, but in the context of my copious running habits, it's really just been a bathroom-inducing annoyance. I've lost track of the number of times I've had to stop running on a treadmill at the Y because my "bodily needs" conspired to sabotage my workout ambition.

In an effort to aid my weight loss goals for marathon training, I adopted a high-fiber diet about four months ago. According to Runners World and the Mayo Clinic Web site, fiber requires more chewing time and generally helps make your meal feel larger, thus aiding in curbing your appetite. There are numerous other benefits, like improving blood sugar levels, lowering your cholesterol and normalizing your bowel movements. But in reality, all I really cared about was the weight loss aspect of it.

I resorted to a variety of measures to incorporate more fiber into my diet. I ate Fiber One bars every morning. I bought Raisin Bran for breakfast cereal and snack food. I mixed old-fashioned oatmeal into pancake batter. I even went so far as to buy the high-fiber banana bread mix at Cub Food (I know, yuck).

Well, after four months of working fiber into my diet, here are the results:
  • I've lost roughly 10 pounds in that time span. Though that could also be attributed to the 30 miles a week I've been running and the other healthy foods I've been eating. My appetite did not feel any more or less curbed as a result of the fiber. In reality, if a person wants to eat less or eat healthier, they really just have to make a conscientious effort to do so.
  • My overall health (i.e. cholesterol, blood pressure) is good, but it was already good before I started up on a fiber diet. Again, I really only cared about weight loss.
  • My bathroom habits are ... normal, I guess. But that wasn't really an issue beforehand. All the high fiber has really done in this regard is the aforementioned annoyance of having to go to the bathroom while running.
Realistically, the fiber has probably helped me somewhat in my overall health and energy level. But considering the rest of my diet (reasonably healthy, minus a few doughnut indulgences at work from time to time) and exercise habits (on the par with an average marathon runner), it hardly seems necessary to keep consuming fiber diligently. Weight loss will happen as long as I stick to regular workout routine and watch what I eat.

One last thought on fiber: The last bowl of Raisin Bran may have signaled the end of the fiber era in my diet, but my run outside today only hammered home the point even further.

I started running at about 4:00 in the afternoon, hoping to get about 10 miles in before it started getting dark. The weather was pleasant, so I decided a t-shirt and shorts would suffice so long as I kept running the whole time.

The first six miles breezed by. I was keeping a good pace, checked out the marathon course around Sibley Park and was pumping along to a solid classic rock mix on my iPod.

But after the six-mile mark, everything went downhill in a hurry. My iPod died at that point (in the middle of "Freebird," no less) and one mile later, Mr. Fiber decided to rear his ugly head in my digestive system.

I had to go the bathroom, badly. Unfortunately, I still had three miles to go to get back to my apartment and I couldn't run more than 300 yards at a time without having to stop and walk because my bowels were essentially at a boiling point. The bouncing and bounding aspects of running do little to calm a digestive system; any runner can attest to that.

I basically spent the last three miles rotating between running and walking in short spurts while wondering how many bathrooms (home-installed or grouping of trees) I was passing along the way. I resisted the urge to make my own bathroom in a tree line off the trail because: a.) I didn't want to have to explain myself to anyone who might pass by, and b.) There wasn't anything to wipe with, unless tree bark and snow count.

So picture, if you will, a man in running shorts and a sweaty t-shirt in 38-degree weather trying to get home before losing control of his digestive system all together. He's clenching his teeth, cursing his iPod, and probably walking/jogging as if he's doing so on egg shells. That was me around 5:30 in the evening today.

So congratulations, high-fiber diet. You managed to get one last laugh before disappearing from my eating habits.

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