Tag Archives: diet

Going Vegan

I have a dear friend who is morbidly obese.  I’ve known him since we were 17 years old.  He was overweight at that time and has put on many additional pounds since then.  We live in different states so we don’t see each other often but we keep in touch by phone, text and email.

He knows I’m interested in fitness and nutrition so often brings up his desire to lose weight in our conversations.  He’s tried many times to shed some of those extra pounds but has never had any success long term.  A couple of days ago, he told me he was thinking about going vegan in order to lose weight.

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Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegans. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances

I’m not throwing rocks.  I love my friend but I was left wondering how the heck he was going to go vegan when he’s never been able to exercise much control over ANY part of his food intake.  If he did stick to a vegan diet, I’m sure he would lose weight but such an extreme change in habits, taken on all at once, seems to be destined for failure just like all his other weight loss endeavors.  I would never discourage him from making the attempt but my philosophy is that a gentle, gradual approach to bringing your diet in line with healthier eating has a much greater chance of success over the long haul.  Extreme changes are incredibly difficult to sustain and that’s the ultimate goal.  You want to move toward a thoughtful, nutrient-rich way of feeding yourself, permanently.

My friend might have some success with his vegan plan.  It might work where nothing else has.  I will cheer his efforts to make positive changes as I always have and I will keep my doubts to myself…unless he specifically asks for my opinion.

If he asks, I will advise him to make small but important changes over time.  I’ll tell him to do the very easy things first like drop soda from his diet and to start eating regular, smaller, balanced meals throughout the day instead of enormous meals two or three times a day.  I’ll tell him that little changes are a lot easier to maintain over time and that the slow and steady approach works best for most people. 

That’s what I’ll say…if he asks.

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A Little Levity

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…but I sure enjoyed those chips while I was eating them!

 

Tiny Things

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That’s right, diets can be very hard.  I don’t want to diet…ever…and you probably don’t either.  That’s why it’s in your best interest to stay within reasonable range of what you like to see when you look in the mirror.  There’s really no reason to stray more than a few pounds of where you’re most comfortable.  Gorging yourself with lots of calories over an extended period of time may seem like great fun but if you care what it does to your physique, it’s just not worth the result.  You have to work much harder to take lots of pounds off, and exert a lot more self-control than if you just made small adjustments on a daily basis.

I call it doing the “tiny things.”  For me that means forgoing salad dressing.  I don’t like it that much so it’s an easy thing to give up.  As far as I’m concerned salad tastes good without it, especially if you add a little shredded carrot.  One tiny thing like not putting dressing on my daily salad goes a long way.  When I eat pie, which is pretty rare, I know that the part I really like is the crust.  Therefore, I get a normal sized slice, cut off a bit of the tip and squeeze some of the filling out.  I give that part to someone else (I never lack for volunteers) and eat my slice with less filling.  It still tastes delicious and I get my treat but I eat a little less of the part I’m not as fond of.  It’s a tiny thing but it’s still significant.  If I want a baked potato and I have a choice, I’ll take the smaller one.  If I want potato chips, I buy a little lunch-sized bag instead of trying to handle self-serve out of a big bag (portion control tends to go out the window when I’m faced with an abundance of delicious chips).

All the tiny things add up over the long run.  Once you make it a point to look for places to cut out calories that you won’t even miss, you’ll find lots of places to do just that. It’s not hard to do, you don’t suffer at all and it’s a heck of a lot easier than letting your physique get so out of hand that you have to try a more traditional (and much more difficult to stick to) diet plan.

So yes…getting a cupcake WITHOUT extra sprinkles is actually a good idea!

Ditch The Diet

I have a wonderful friend who wants to be slimmer.  As long as I’ve known her, she has lamented the fact that she’s carrying about 30lbs more than she’d like.  Now and then, she’ll go on a diet.  She’s got good will power and inevitably loses weight but once she has success, she’ll revert back to her regular way of eating and therefore her regular physique.

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I don’t know what her latest diet was called.  She always researches diligently before choosing a published plan she thinks will work for her.  She’s right, it does work…but only for the time she’s following it.  That’s the fundamental problem.  She, like so many others, thinks that if she adopts a particular plan, she’ll lose weight and that weight loss will be permanent when she returns to her normal way of eating.  It’s a common misunderstanding and the reason so many people give up their goal to have a trim figure.

If you adopt a temporary eating plan, you’ll get temporary results.  That’s the bottom line.  Forget about diets.  The only way to have long-term success is to permanently change your eating habits.  It sounds so daunting that most people don’t want to do it.   I advise them to forget about fast fixes and to move slowly toward better eating over several months.  If you make dramatic, sudden changes in diet, it’s a good bet you won’t be able to hold it over the long haul.  Baby steps are best in this instance.

When asked, I usually recommend people lower their intake of drinks other than water, unsweetened coffee/tea and wine (the wine is for relief after reading the news…it’s medicinal and very much needed).  The chemicals and artificial sweeteners in diet drinks are off the list.  I tell them to work on slowly reducing the amount of processed food they eat (anything with more than 7 ingredients is probably a no-go).  Most people eat lots of bread, pasta and potatoes so I’ll suggest they serve themselves much smaller portions of those foods and fill in with more protein (chicken, lean beef, game meat, fish, eggs, turkey) and veggies.  I never tell them to cut those foods out of their diets completely, just to minimize the amount they eat.  My strongest recommendation is that people avoid high sugar items (simple carbs) like cookies, candy and pastries.  Again, I don’t tell them not to eat them at all but to be smart about their consumption.  Breakfast isn’t a time for high sugar items.  You can have a cookie after a meal containing a good amount of protein, for instance but having a cookie on an empty stomach is sure to play havoc with your metabolism.

Taken all together, changing your way of eating for good can be daunting but taking several weeks or months to adopt new habits is the best recipe for long-term success.  Traditional diets might work for a short while but they just don’t bring forever results.

Pass The Carbs Please!

People often ask me what I eat in an effort to find out if I have some secret to staying lean that they’re not familiar with.  I usually end up disappointing them because I pretty much eat everything….some things in moderation, like sweets but I don’t cut anything out of my diet entirely.  If I want to eat something badly, I eat it.  If I know it’s something that’s not that great for me, I just eat a little but I usually don’t deny myself completely.  Over the last couple of days I’ve wanted copious amounts of carbs in the worst way.  Given my druthers, I would have had a mound of pasta with butter sauce, potato chips, two tangerines and a blueberry bagel for dinner last night.  Yum!

In reality I had all those things but spread out over the day, in small portions and combined with protein sources to slow absorption and keep blood sugar spikes in control.  For breakfast I had an egg white omelette, a small piece of turkey sausage and half a blueberry bagel.  For mid-morning snack, I had one tangerine with a handful of almonds, for lunch it was turkey and mustard rolled up, a spinach salad (no dressing) with a few tiny tomatoes and snack size bag of potato chips.  Dinner was spaghetti (a little pasta with a lot of meat sauce), broccoli and salad (no dressing).

How and when you eat your carbs is much more important than just avoiding them all together.  If you don’t want to eat carbs because you feel better when you don’t, that’s just fine but I like carbs and don’t want to deny myself the enjoyment of eating them.  I’m living proof that you don’t have to grit your teeth and avoid carbs at all costs.  You just have to be a little thoughtful in the amount you eat and what other foods you pair them with.

 

Don't go overboard and you'll be just fine!

Don’t go overboard and you’ll be just fine!

 

 

 

Getting Fat From Diet Food (And My Unproved But Correct Theory Regarding Food Quality)

I don’t make it a habit to look into other people’s carts at the grocery store but the other day I was standing there daydreaming,  waiting for the checker, and my eyes wandered to the contents of the grocery buggy just in front of me.  It was stacked high with boxes of Lean Cuisine.  There must have been 50 of them.  Along with the Lean Cuisines meals there were three 12 packs of Coke, two of Mug Root Beer, potato chips and a few boxes of Mac and Cheese.  The cart belonged to a couple who were significantly overweight.  Standing there, contemplating their purchases, I started thinking about the subject of nutrition, specifically about how people can eat what they think are diet foods all the time and still not lose unwanted pounds.

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Have you ever run into those people who sit down to lunch with you, tell you they’re on a diet and that they’re just going to have a salad?  Then they proceed to order a salad that’s fully loaded.  I mean it has chicken, corn, beans, egg, maybe nuts and a whole bunch of thick, high calorie dressing.  Somewhere under the pile might be a few pieces of no-color iceberg lettuce.  There’s nothing wrong with eating a salad like that unless you’re laboring under the misconception that it’s automatically low-calorie just because it’s salad.  You’re not going to lose weight that way.

If you get Lean Cuisine for your meals but eat three of them instead of one because a single doesn’t fill you up, you’re not going to lose weight. If you’re eating a single Lean Cuisine but drinking Coke along with it and having ice cream for dessert, you’re not going to lose weight. If you have all low-fat foods in your house but you eat a ton of them, you’re not going to lose weight.

The only real way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in over a period of time.  It seems simple but many, many people misunderstand how it works.  They try to eat things they think are better alternatives than their normal fare but they eat too much of them or don’t take into account that something they deem “healthy” might be a high calorie food.  When they don’t see results, they give up and blame their excessive weight on genes (everybody in my family is big-boned)…never mind that bones can only be so big….. or a medical condition (It’s my thyroid).

You have to burn more calories than you take in over time.  In addition to that, I think there is another element that needs to be taken into account.  The quality of the food people eat matters.  I don’t have any scientific proof for my theory but I honestly think that 350 calories from a doughnut reacts differently in your body than 350 calories of chicken breast or avocado or spinach.  I think there is something particularly damaging in highly processed foods especially those containing things like partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup and chemicals you can’t pronounce. I  think that human bodies may have almost an allergic type of reaction to those foods which contributes to excessive fat storage and the terribly high number of obese people walking around. I know for sure when I see them that they’re eating too many calories but I’ll bet they’re also eating the wrong kinds of foods..  In my opinion it’s a double whammy and probably a significant contributing factor in the prodigious amount of extra weight they carry around.

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The only way for people to enjoy success is to run a calorie deficit and eat good, nutritious foods.  I don’t blame the people who load up on Lean Cuisine, Coke and chips.  They just don’t know what to do to get the results they want.  Last time I looked, Lean Cuisine was full of unsavory, suspect ingredients  (to be fair it’s been a while since I read one of those labels).  A good rule of thumb is to put whatever it is back on the shelf if it contains more than 5 ingredients or additives you don’t recognize.

A little simplistic but a good guide for those just starting out.  The preservatives that keep food on the shelf for a long time are not good for your body.

A little simplistic but a good guide for those just starting out. The preservatives that keep food on the shelf for a long time are not good for your body.

I wish I could have told that couple that what it looked like they were doing wasn’t going to work. If they could just eat the equivalent number of calories from good sources they’d have better luck and if they coupled that with a reduction in calories they’d be surprised at the positive results!

Dangerous Curves (Is It A Progress Report If You’re Going The Wrong Direction?)

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When I got back from my recent trip to South Africa I took a photo for the Marines.  I actually took a couple of bikinis and a Marine Corps flag along on my vacation with the hope of being able to get a cool shot with a  giraffe or a colorful African sunset in the background.  That didn’t work since I could never find a private time or place to take the photograph without making of a spectacle of myself.

The word spectacle makes me laugh because it reminds me of what my younger sister would say now and then when we were little.  She’d put her hands on her hips and say “Lynnie, you’re making a speckle of yourself!” I don’t know WHAT she meant since I was always perfectly well-behaved, but I digress.  Although I do enjoy photography of all kinds I’m shy when it comes to taking photos of myself and prefer not to have an audience.  There are times I grin and bear it when I think it’s for a good cause like when I insisted on marching out onto a well populated beach in San Diego with a different Marine Corps flag, and when I climbed a hill overlooking a resort in Utah with my American flag, oh yeah, and when I put on my American flag bikini in Mexico and ran up the knoll, past security, to the warning flag overlooking the ocean and a busy beach.  OK…sometimes I do make a speckle of myself but an appropriate time in Africa never came around.  About a week ago  I decided it was a good time to try to get the photo I wanted.

My Marine Corps photo...cause I never forget that you're out and about the world over putting in that time and hard work

Me with the Marine Corps flag

Now take a good look at this photo.  I do believe I’m looking a bit curvier than usual.  As you know I don’t rely on the scale to tell me what to focus on in my workouts.  The mirror does an excellent job of accurately pointing me in the right direction as does the camera.  My “holding steady” workouts over the past couple of months and my 2.5 weeks off combined with big eating in Africa (did I tell you I ate an entire pizza for lunch three days in a row in Cape Town? No? Left that part out I guess).  The point is that although I came back weighing just about the same, my body composition is clearly different than it was a couple of months ago.  This is the juncture in the conversation when I used to say “I’m fat” which I learned caused my friends (who aren’t lifters) to become extremely agitated and yell out things like “You’re crazy!” or “You’re obsessed!”  (which could possibly be true but has nothing to do with my very accurate assessment of my body’s condition).  What I mean by fat is that although I’m clear on the fact that I don’t look like the Michelin Man, my fat to muscle ratio is not where I like to keep it.  This doesn’t put me in a bad mood or make me regret eating large quantities of cheesy, salty, delicious, delicious…did I say DELICIOUS pizza.  I just know it’s time to go to work.  It’s easy when you note the trajectory early on and change course.

These last few days have been just fine.  I’ve made adjustments (oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast instead of ham and cheese omelets for instance) and I’m putting some serious effort into the workouts, particularly my lifting (I’m keeping the cardio to 30 minutes per lifting session).  Pretty soon those dangerous curves will be gone and then I’ll be rocking the pretty, muscular curves that I love so much!

Mean Mr. Mirror

Yesterday, Mean Mr. Mirror told me I was fat.
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No, I don’t look like this yet and perhaps I should be more accurate in my description.  I’ve learned over the years not to say I’m fat out loud where non-gym going people can hear me.  They don’t understand but any other bodybuilder or serious lifter does so automatically.  What I’ve learned to say is that my fat-to-muscle ratio is off.  In other words although I haven’t put a bunch of pounds on, I’m still carrying too much fat on my frame.  Even a very thin person can have a disproportionate amount of fat compared to muscle.  It’s what’s commonly known as being skinny-fat.
     I’m not one to pay an inordinate amount of attention to what a scale says.  I rely on my own eyes and when the normal muscle definition I have starts to look a little blurry around the edges I know it’s time to take steps to bring it back into sharper focus. The beauty of it is since I don’t ever let things get out of hand, it’s a relatively easy, painless process however it still requires some thoughtful effort.
     The very first thing I do is increase my cardio a little bit.  No, I don’t start doing 2 hour sessions on the treadmill with a weighted vest (the figure competitors at my old gym used to do that when it got close to competition time and they looked miserable).  I simply add 15 minuets to each session of cardio I’m doing regularly at the time.  If I’m doing 30 minutes on the treadmill 3 times a week, I’ll start doing 45 minuets 3 times a week.  It’s an easy increase and not too much to handle.  I don’t normally workout on the weekends but I’ll squeeze in a brisk paced walk around the neighborhood on Saturday or Sunday.  In 48 hours it’s not difficult to find 1/2 an hour to put on comfortable shoes, grab my iPod (which for safety I only listen to with one ear on low volume) my pepper spray (cause it’s precisely where you don’t think it’s likely you’ll need it that you just might and like the Boy Scouts preach, it’s good to be prepared) and head out the door.
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Since I mentioned pepper spray here is what I take.  It has an elastic strap so you can run or walk with it in your hand.  If you fall or you’re startled by an angry dog…or person, you can’t drop it.  Ladies, do not go out walking by yourself without it even if you think walking your neighborhood is like walking the streets of heaven.  Better have it and not need it a thousand times than to need it and not have it just once.
     The second thing I do is address my food intake.  I generally stick to the healthy stuff anyway but I cut some of the carbs from my diet.  This usually takes the form of my toast in the morning….I’ll add another couple of egg whites to fill me up.  I’ll also crack down on my favorite naughty treat which takes the form of any chip I can get my hands on….potato, tortilla, bagel, pita…I love them all but I say goodbye for a while.  I cut my usual two 1×1 squares of dark chocolate a day down to one and I’ll substitute two of my regular mid day meals to homemade soup.  I have a couple of favorite soups I make for this purpose.  They taste delicious, they’re low-calorie, healthy, they have a good amount of protein and they’re filling.   I included the recipe for Mexican Chicken Soup below.  I made it yesterday and actually made a double batch so I’d have plenty for the coming days.
Mexican Chicken Soup
4 bone in chicken breast halves
1 28-oz box or can of organic chicken broth
2 14-oz cans stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Diced avocado (optional)
 
Cook, debone and shred chicken
Combine chicken and remaining ingredients except cilantro
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer
Cover and keep on low simmer for 1 hour
(if you do this in a slow cooker cover and cook on low 8 hours)
Stir in cilantro
Serve in bowl (with avocado) if desired.
 
*to save time and make it even easier you can skip step 1 and shred the meat from a grocery store rotisserie chicken*
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     My overarching philosophy where food is concerned is that what I eat has to taste good and I don’t allow myself to go hungry.  Bad tasting food and deprivation are nails in the coffin of a successful campaign against excessive fat.  You’ll NEVER find me at the dinner table with my family picking sadly at a dry chicken breast while they enjoy spaghetti and meatballs.  I just eat a very small portion of the pasta and fill in with more meatballs, salad and veggies.  Sustainability is the key.  Substituting soup for a couple of my mid day meals is easy to do.
     I’ll be doing my part and soon Mr Mirror and I will be friends again.

I Love Running!

Run, run as fast as you can!

Run, run as fast as you can!

You didn’t think I was going to talk about my love for running did you?  Nah, I don’t really care for regular running  BUT  I’ll enthusiastically be trying to outrun the flu this year.  For the last couple of weeks news stories about the severity of this year’s strain and the early onset of the season have gotten my attention. I’m not that worried for myself but my youngest son (9 years old) gets very high fevers when he’s sick. Not just your run of the mill fevers but the Oh-my-God-it’s-still-105-and-I-can’t-get-it-down-and-he’s-starting-to-have-tremors-so-I’m-taking-him-to-the-ER-again kind of fevers.  Although I’ve learned how to deal with it better, I still dread hearing his little voice in the middle of the night saying  “Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

There isn’t any sort of magic formula to avoid getting the flu but shoring up your immune system with a good diet is always very helpful.  Increasing consumption of dark green leafy vegetables and the brightly colored fruits and vegetables is a great place to start.

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Berries of all types are very good flu fighters.  It so happens I picked up a few baskets of blackberries at the market yesterday.  They’re in season right now and they’re sweet and delicious.  If you don’t have access to fresh berries you can always get frozen.  You can eat them plain like I do or add them to a smoothie but make sure to include them in your diet.

Here are some additional flu fighting foods

Here are some additional flu fighting foods

I don’t know how many people will really eat raw garlic but I’d venture to say some nice sautéed garlic added to your diet would be beneficial.  I can’t imagine a kid wanting to eat a lot of the things on this list (cloves, turmeric, ginseng root, cayenne pepper and ginger might be hard to convince them to eat unless you’re a master of disguise and can incorporate these food items into dishes that they’ll eat), however, the following foods should be easy to put on your child’s plate (and yours).

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Along with making sure you’re getting more of the aforementioned foods in your diet make sure to wash your hands often and keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes.   Those of us who spend time in the gym are in prime areas to pick up the influenza virus.  Everybody touches everything…..the weights, the mats, the bosu balls, the ropes, the cardio machine handles, the lockers and the water fountain.  Studies have shown that the flu virus can live quite happily for 2-8 hours on surfaces such as these so be aware and keep your hands off your face until they’ve been properly washed.  In the absence of soap and water you can use a wipe or hand sanitizer (preferably with alcohol, even though it’s hard on your skin).

Make a couple of adjustments in your diet and remember to wash your hands often and that will go a long way to helping you avoid getting sick.  Wishing you the best of luck in your race to avoid the flu this year!

You can follow this link and see where the flu outbreak has hit the hardest so far this year.  The list is broken down by state so you can determine your risk   http://shar.es/4zrdP

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