Food for thought -- Smart eating habits

During this offseason, I made it a huge focus point to change my eating habits and sleeping habits. With my new eating habits, I have noticed a huge change in not only the way I look, but more importantly the way I feel and perform. Don't get me wrong; I usually eat pretty healthy. I just made it a focus to be really careful about what I am putting into my body. I took to heart the phrase "you are what you eat."

Before this training period, my diet would consist of lots of veggies, some protein and carbohydrates. Think pasta, chicken and squash. Sounds pretty healthy, right? Well, since starting my Vasper and Sparta training, I thought, "Why do all this hard work on improving my body, and then be replacing those nutrients I lost and broke down with bad food?"

I have started to eat a lot more protein and placed a huge emphasis on WHOLE foods. I try to make everything from scratch and really pay attention to the way I am cooking. Now, days consist of something like this: egg whites for breakfast with bell peppers and ham cut up into the scramble and some strawberries. Lunch would be a chicken breast lettuce wrap with tomatoes and a side portion of a lentil/veggie mix. (Thank you, Trader Joe's, for the lentil/veggie mix idea!) For dinner, I have fish and another veggie. I try to eat snacks in between all meals to keep my metabolism steady throughout the day. This would consist of a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit with some peanut butter or a yogurt.

One thing that really helped me get on track with my eating was writing everything down. It forced me to be aware of what I am putting into my body. It also made me not want to cheat my eating habits as much, knowing I would have to write it down.

Now, let me give you the secret to being able to eat healthy the entire week and have no breakdowns. Say it with me: CHEAT MEAL. Each week I choose something or somewhere that I get to go and eat on my Saturday night. This past week, I tweeted (@jayneappel) about my cheat meal at Fentons Creamery. The gloriousness of a cheat meal is that you get to eat whatever you want and not have to write it down. I got after it at Fentons with the girl scout cookie sundae. Mmm. The cheat meal serves as motivation for me, knowing that if I am good with my eating throughout the week, I get to eat this meal. To be honest, it keeps me sane.

Being a professional athlete, we are forced to travel a lot and don't always have the luxury of a kitchen to cook our own foods. This can make eating healthy a bit harder. I find it best to try to plan ahead as much as possible. Carrying almonds and going to a supermarket to buy some fruits for snacks are always good ideas. And when in doubt, ordering the food with the least amount of "extras" (sauces, dips, fried) is always a good idea. It is tough to get started on eating healthy, but once in the flow of things, I really have started to enjoy it and notice how much better I feel when I have eaten healthy all week.

I have also focused on my sleeping this offseason. I have made it a goal to get nine-plus hours every weeknight. While this was a lofty goal for me at first, I have noticed my efficiency in training has gone way up when I do sleep that much. I have had to force myself to get work done during the day so at night I can just turn everything off and rest my body. This is essential to the rebuilding of my once-hampered knee and foot. I have been able to slowly pull myself off the broken shelf on the way to trying to look shiny and new. The focus on sleep and eating habits for me has been huge this offseason, and I really have enjoyed feeling healthy for the first time in a while. Each day of my training/good eating/sleeping habits gets me one day closer to the start of the WNBA season; I can't wait!

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