New Year Resolutions

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Happy New Year! I think anytime is a good time to make a resolution to change your life for the better, but the New Year seems to be the most popular time.

Here are my “10 Tips to Stick to Your New Year Resolution” from last year (click on the links to read more on each one):

1. Forget “No Pain, No Gain” mantra. Instead, strive for consistency and patience.
2. Give up potatoes and rice for one month. Instead eat fruits and vegetables as side dishes.
3. Introduce fruits and vegetables for each meal.
4. Try new fruits and vegetables to find some you may like.
5. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. Hold off on the gym membership for now.
6. Set a goal to compete in and complete an organized recreational event like a 5k or bike ride in the March – June time frame.
7. Re-prioritize your schedule so that exercise doesn’t get pushed off the list.
8. Try one or two new activities to discover something you may not have known that you’d enjoy.
9. Join groups that meet for recreational activities.
10. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs.

4.2: Education: What are macronutrients?

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Macronutrients are three basic building blocks our bodies need for maintenace and energy. Feeding my body the right mix of macronutrients has been one of my most helpful techniques for gaining control of my weight.

The three macronutrients are carbohydrates (or carbs), protein and fat. Each of these macronutrients have calories that can wind up on your waistline if you eat too much.

Fat has 9 calories per gram.
Carbs and Protein 4 calories per gram.
By the way, Alchohol, has 7 calories per gram in case you were wondering.

Our bodies break down these macronutrients to supply energy and to build and repair cells. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just shovel three basic building blocks into our front door and our homes automatically took those to make repairs and keep the house warm or cool? That’s what our bodies do.

I grew up in the 80s, with low fat diets. I lived through the 90s and it’s low carb diets. Both of those trends did damage to my waistline, because neither worked for me. Dr. Barry Sears, convinced me one evening that my body actually needs a fairly steady mix of all three macronutrients. That evening was the night that my wife bought his short, grocery counter checkout book, “A Week in the Zone”. It’s a very short book – just like mine – but to me made a compelling case for me to get 40% of my calories from carbs, 30% from protein and 30% from healthy fats every time I eat.

Since then I’ve seen other diets recommend a similar formula as the long-term eating solution – most notably, the South Beach Diet. Incidentally, diabetics are taught to control their insulin levels with the same mix of carbs, protein and fat.

Before, I use to feel like I needed to visit confessional for eating any fat. I tried to cut as much fat out of my diet as possible. I figured that was the way to stay thin. So, how did I gain weight? Turns out, the body does need fat. It’s designed that way. Starving it of fat ended up causing me to eat more calories than I needed.

And that is the reason I got fat. I ate more calories than I needed. For weight loss, mathematically it doesn’t really matter where the calories come from – carbs, fat, protein – if you eat too many, you will gain weight.

But, physiologically, where the calories come from can make a world of difference. When I changed my mix of calorie intake to include more fats and to balance out the mix I noticed a difference immediately. It took me longer to feel hungry after eating.

So, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: with the right mix of macronutrients, I’m able to eat the right amount of calories to control my weight without feeling like my stomach is trying to digest itself 30-90 minutes after eating.

I don’t follow the 40/30/30 advice to the gram. It’s more of a guideline. And, now, I know (or my stomach knows) well when I stray too far away from that guideline.

4.1: Education: What are calories?

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I’m now getting back on my roadmap to success with the second installment on education.

Have you ever look at a word that you’ve been using all of your life and it suddenly seems odd? Calorie was such a word for me. What exactly is a calorie?

Have you ever visited the website HowStuffWorks.com? I love it. It contains informative articles on most subjects. Click on the following link to read a “HowStuffWorks” article by Julia Layton and learn how calories work.

How Calories Work

A calorie is a unit of measure for energy. A mile measures distance. A fluid ounce measures volume. Calories measure energy. It’s easy to visualize a mile or a fluid ounce, but not so easy to visualize a calorie. Energy is abstract. We see the results of energy expenditure – motion, light, boiling water, for example. But we usually don’t actually see the energy. Wow, I better stop, now ‘energy’ is starting to look weird.

I’ll spare you anymore physics. The easiest way to view a calorie is to think that it takes about one to two calories to “keep your lights on” in your body each minute. If your in motion or exercising it can consume 5-10 calories per minute.

I’m thankful for the calorie. A lot of diet plans try to invent their own system of monitoring food intake, but why? We already have a pretty darn good system. Calorie information is readily available for almost every food we eat. Once you know how many calories you need to consume it’s 2nd grade math to figure out if you’re consuming the right amount.

Calorie and macronutrient (i.e. fat, protein and carb) content are the only two pieces of information I really need to monitor my food intake for weight control. I’ll write more about the macronutrients down the road.

A friend of mine says that weight loss is simple – just burn more calories than you consume. I agree, that’s the essence of weight loss.

Alcohol is good for you – in moderation

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People always ask me what I eat. I tell them anything I want, just not a lot of it. Moderation is bliss. Add alcohol to the list of things that are beneficial in moderate amounts. According to this article up to four alcoholic beverages per day for men and two for women are linked with longer lives. More than those amounts is linked with shortened lives (hmm – car wrecks, liver disease, etc. – shocker).

I’ve been around statistics enough in my profession to understand that statistical studies are far from proof of cause and effect, but I can believe this. My guess is that it has something to do with the the disinfectant and blood thinning capabilities of alcohol. But who cares?

The key here is moderation and responsibility. Too much of a good thing, especially in this case, can kill you.

"Mindless Eating"

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I’m taking a little break from my roadmap to success. A friend sent me some information on Professor Wansink’s book, “Mindless Eating” because he said that some of the stuff Wansink said reminded me of some of things I said.

Wansink writes that in a typical day we make 200 food-related decisions and that many subtle things impact how much food we eat. For example, according to his latest blog post we tend to consume 28% more calories when eating low fat snacks because we think they’re healthier.

Very interesting. I agree. Most people are unaware of the little things that drive their eating habits. For example, I notice that if I don’t watch myself, I tend to eat at about the same pace and volume as those I’m with which is dangerous since I’m shorter than almost everyone and I don’t need as many calories to maintain my weight.

Food intake awareness is a great skill to develop. It took practice to develop mine but quickly becomes second nature. Now it’s like a little computer program that runs in the background. So, while I’m carrying on a conversation with a friend on the way to a restaurant I’m thinking of my options and try to settle on one before I get there to avoid being tempted by the bad stuff. When I get my food, I visualize the portion I want to limit myself to. As I’m eating, I stop and ask my self if I’m full. Sometime in a future post, I’ll make a checklist to get you started if you’re interested.

I know some are thinking, “that doesn’t sound like fun, I want to enjoy my food.” Believe it or not, I do that too. When I say it eventually becomes second nature, I mean it’s sort of like driving a car. Most of us can drive and do something else at the same time like think about other things, carry on conversations, listen to the radio, and talk on the phone (not recommended). But, all the while you’re steering, controlling speed, keeping tabs on nearby vehicles and pedestrians and navigating.

In driving, if you turn off the driving subroutine that’s running in the background of your gray matter in order to focus on a phone conversation you might end up around a tree. If I turn off my eating subroutine, I’ll end up in a food coma.