For God's Sake, Eat! Plus: Nutrition Advice Not to Listen to.
Eat as little as you possibly can and you'll lose weight, right? Oh, what I wouldn't give for a tazor gun to shock you right now if you even briefly considered silently answering yes to that question! Just kidding, the closest I ever came to hurting someone that bad was way back in 6th grade, when I was in no place to tell anybody how to lose weight. Plus my victim was a nasty, rotten boy with a chip on his shoulder; someone needed to set him straight. But enough about my issues! Another time, another blog...
Sure, if you cut your calories way back and skip a couple meals, you may feel skinny at first and enjoy the opportunity to tell people, "I just can't eat much anymore because my stomach shrunk." Well, I'm sure Gumby's stomach didn't hold much either but do any of us really want to look like him? My point is, many of us, women in particular, eat far too few calories over the course of our day, which makes us a lot less likely to turn down that chocolate mousse pie or 12 oz prime rib later on. Think about how much and how frequent you might eat on an average day. Say you start your day off with cereal (+1 point for eating breakfast!), then don't eat again for 5 hours (-2 for bad behavior...which sets you back to -1. I know it isn't fair but this is my game), how hungry are you going to be later on in the day? Lemme tell you - you're going to be ravenous! It may hit you at 3 pm, or not until later at night when you're settling down at home, but you're gonna binge. It's just your body's way of telling you that it's starving, desperate, and calling in the reserves if you don't do something STAT. Which isn't a very nice response because by that point, it's too late. Here's why, in a nut-shell:
When your body senses it's not getting enough food, your metabolism slows waaaaay down and goes into what many call starvation mode. Think of it this way - your metabolism is like a fire, and it needs fuel to burn. No food = no fuel = no fire, and therefore anything you do eat later on is stored as fat for future use, since your body isn't really trusting you at this point to give you more.
Many also complain that they're working out and eating less but just can't seem to shed any pounds. In this case I would say look at what you're eating, how much and how often. It could be that you're eating too much, but in most experiences the case is usually that we're not eating enough. So any muscle that you might be building while working out is being scraped away by your body to use as fat. So you may lose weight at first, but you're gaining fat. Then gradually you will see an actual increase in weight because now that you've got that foundation of fat, guess what gets piled on top of it? Yep, no tazor gun neccessary - I'm sure you've got this one, more fat. Which just becomes really, really frustrating when you're trying to lose weight. It's even more frustrating if you have thyroid issues.
So how does one avoid this horrifying downward spiral to metabolism hell? Eat! Eat! Eat! And no, I don't mean eat EVERYTHING or ANYTHING in sight. Shoot for between 1600 - 1900 calories a day for women, that range is a bit higher for men. Of course it also depends on your activity level and weight, but this is a good and safe guideline to start with. Aim to get in 5-6 small meals a day. Eat a good breakfast, have a 100-200 calorie snack mid-morning, eat a sensible lunch, another 100-200 calorie snack in the afternoon (this is the time most of us start gnoshing on whatever's lying around, so choose carefully), then if you know you're going to have a late dinner, have another snack before-hand to tie you over. Or have a light one after dinner if you eat early enough. Tweak it to what fits best for you, but please don't starve yourself fat!
Now I know there are a lot of really great resources for nutrition and fitness advice out there but I just want to take a moment to get a bit practical here. The reality is, how much time, money and willpower does the average person have to put all that advice to practice? Don't get me wrong - I absolutely believe that the key to a healthier lifestyle is to make yourself accountable for the choices you make and look at what you have the ability to change. However, I also know that there's no way anyone's going to stick to a healthy lifestyle if it doesn't fit their reality. So here are 4 expert suggestions that, although well-intended, are pretty useless and hard to adopt. Try the suggested alternative routes instead.
Advice: Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
Yes, water is imperative to our health and we need to be well hydrated for lots of reasons, but it's absolutely no fun if you have to get up every 20 minutes to go to the bathroom. Luckily, 8 glasses is not set in stone. Start gradually, and as your body gets used to more fluids you can add another glass. And don't forget the pee-test! If your urine is clear or close to it, you're getting enough. If it's as yellow as a school bus, more liquids would be a GOOD idea.
Advice: If you're going to drink wine, mix half the wine with half club soda.
Okay I speak from personal experience...whoever set this suggestion in motion throughout the health industry has clearly never had a decent glass of wine! Add club soda?! I tried doing this the other night and guess what it tasted like...wine with club soda in it, does that sound good to you? Honestly, I was just bummed that I ruined a good glass of wine even if the bottle only cost $6. Just stick with the good stuff in its true form but make sure to drink water between alcoholic beverages if you know you're going to have more than one. This will help off-set that nasty dehydrated feeling as well as the impulse to eat lots of salty, insanely greasy foods. Or even better, actually have just one.
Advice: Put half your entree in a to-go box at a restaurant before you start to eat.
Do what?! Okay, I've never actually tried this because, call me crazy, I don't need perfect strangers to witness my control issues. I kinda like to keep those to myself. If you do this and it works for you, excellent. But for the vast majority of us, just the fact that someone is suggesting this makes me want to scream. So instead, maybe pretend that the bread basket has been sprinkled with battery acid and when ordering, substitute sides with veggies, soup (broth-based), brown rice or a salad. Also, set your fork down between bites so you give your body time to register that you're full. When you start to get to that point, just ask your waiter immediately for a to-go box. And yes, that battery acid thing has worked a couple times for me. That way people just witness my active imagination, not my control-freak tendencies.
Advice: Just Have One Bite of Dessert.
If I was a crack addict, would you tell me to have just a little crack? I don't think so. Plan for this, that's all I can say here. If you know you're going to dinner with a girlfriend or your boss always orders dessert at the end of a business lunch and wants to share, skip the appetizer before dinner, order healthy sides, maybe swap out the alcohol and just add it up to the fact that you went a little overboard today but tomorrow you'll do better. That guilt will get you nowhere so drop it as soon as your fork hits the plate, then go back to your healthy eating habits.
Enjoy and be healthy!