Tag Archives: Food

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A few things have changed from my last super-positive and optimistic post about my new 'counting calories' diet regime.

First, and most importantly, I gained weight.

Well, at first anyway.  I did in fact get down to 160 from 163, but then promptly went back up to 164.  I won't deny it, I was greatly upset.  I felt like a hack, and a failure.  Even worse, a hack and a failure who had to post about how she was a hack and a failure on the internet.  Oh the humanity.

The shame

The shame

Let's ignore how when I looked in the mirror I swore I looked leaner.  Or that when I tried to demonstrate how a pair of shorts didn't fit me anymore, magically they fit me.  Or that I knew I was in a caloric deficit and, seriously, you can't gain fat in a caloric deficit.

Let's also ignore that, aside from my neurosis over the scale, I was pretty happy.  I was enjoying food.  All kinds of food.  I was eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein consistently for the first time in...I dunno.  I hit a couple PR's in the gym.  Forget all that.

THE SCALE WENT UP - REMEMBER WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT HERE.

(just so no one is confused, the above sentence is sarcastic) And, actually, I did go back down to 162ish after a few days.  But even typing out how much I weighed just sounds vapid to me now.

Anyway, thankfully I took some pictures.  For full disclosure, for 5 days prior to this I was testing out a program my gym will be offering.  The diet part included a super-duper low carb meal plan.  I was eating around 1800 calories per day, which was about the same as I was doing before.  However, I did lose about 4 pounds.  Don't worry I've gained all but one of those pounds back since.

8-24-13

Taken this past weekend

 

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

So, not a ton of progress, as we can see.  But, definitely got a little leaner around my stomach.  Progress?

Should I Trust the Process?

It's hard to say whether or not I've made any positive impact on my body composition when the pictures are so small in difference and the main metric I used last year - the scale - isn't changing like it did.  I always say that the scale is useless and yet when it comes to applying that knowledge to myself, I am struggling.  Partly because part of my goal was to compete in the sub-148's, but also partly because I don't want to fool myself.

It really is rather absurd, however, that a little number carries so many of our emotions with it.  How petty.

Cutting it Short

Unfortunately, whether I wanted to trust the process or not, I'm cutting this little experiment short, for a few reasons:

1) I have a Powerlifting competition coming up in November and potentially December and I don't want to suck.

2) I'm feeling a little burnt out of thinking about food and dieting so damn much.  Seriously, it's exhausting sometimes.

So, in all likelihood I won't be picking this back up again until January or so.  (DID SOMEONE SAY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION???)  (No, because I think that's silly)

In a way, this makes me feel like a failure.  A failure on the internet.  But I think it's best for me right now.  The little bit of shame I get from the proclamation is outweighed by the relief I feel.

I will be continuing to count calories, but not as stringently as I was, and I probably will keep it around 2,200 rather than 1,800 - 2,000 depending on if I get morbidly obese or not.  I'll still take pictures intermittently, but I probably won't be posting them.  Speaking of counting calories, here's my overall impression:

Pros

  • No 'rules' on what you can and can't eat
  • Can reasonably eat out at restaurants
  • Always knowing you're getting adequate protein

Cons

  • Counting calories can be really annoying sometimes
  • Counting calories is basically never 100% accurate
  • Many of the better local restaurants don't have nutrition information.

Well that's the end of my little post on insecurity.  On the plus side think of how much more intellectual focus I'll have now that I can divert to more useful projects, like MSPainting all over Pinterest posts and bashing critiquing Bob Harper!

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This week's post is less of a splattering of information and more of an open-ended question.  I'm not going to pretend like I have the answer to this.  In fact, part of the point I think is that the answer will be different for everyone.  And I want to hear those!

The question is, in its most basic form: When is it okay for someone to desire to lose fat?

Let me elaborate on that a little bit.  This is a question that's been mulling over in my head for a while now.  Since writing this article, in fact.  I've recently been reading a lot from several people in the fitness industry who focus on body acceptance and trying to undo some of the neurosis people feel over food.  (If you're curious, it has primarily been from GoKaleo, FitMamaTraining and EatMore2WeighLess.  There is certainly a lot of thought-provoking information there.)

I like the message of these women, and it also just so happens to jive with the "eat whatever I want kinda" part of my diet right now.  (I'll have some updates on that next week)  I've known plenty of people who have gone really far with their diets, to the detriment of social lives, relationships, and performance in sports / everyday life.  I've gone off the deep end when it comes to how I treat food quite a few times in my life, so many of these stories really resound with me. (Obviously the following questions do not apply to people who need to lose fat / gain fat for health reasons, such as the unhealthily obese or someone who is severely underweight / anorexic.  I'm talking about all of us in between.)

I also whole-heartedly agree that there's no need to aspire to look like a model or <insert really lean / thin person here>.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

I agree that chronic dieting is a generally bad thing, and that being able to enjoy food - all foods - guilt-free is something we should aspire to.

However, what happens when someone reads all that, agrees with it, yeah yeah, that's great - and then still wants to lose fat?

How can you pinpoint whether YOU want to lose fat as a reflection of how you see yourself or whether you want to lose fat because you think you need to look like said fitness models?  And the real question - does it even matter which one it is?

If you feel bad when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you need to work on your self-image and accept who you are as you are, or should you try to lose fat to achieve whatever aesthetic you'd be happy with?  When is the latter an "okay" thing to do?

When is losing fat something to do 'for you' and when is it giving into societal expectations?

Thankfully I was able to articulate these questions to a blogger whose work I've admired for a long time, Leigh Peele.  She had an AMA on Reddit today and I jumped at the opportunity to ask her opinion.

I'll get the conversation started by posting responses from a couple of other users and Leigh herself.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

LP1 LP2

Chapter / Rule 4 - Slash your intake of refined flours and grains

First of all I would like to point out that I am eating a white bread sandwich while writing this part of the review.  Just wanted everyone else to appreciate the irony.

Secondly, here is a rule that I can generally get on board with - but not exactly for the same reasons as Harper.

"Grains - mainly in the form of refined flours - dominate our modern diet."

A pretty true statement to start out with.  Harper does a decent job of perpetuating this by advocating everyone start out their day with some refined carbohydrates in the form of sugary oatmeal...but I guess that's me attacking the person instead of the argument.  Whoops.

(If you look up the definition of "Pandering" on google, this video appears)

"...if they are at all refined - from rice to bread - they make you fat."

Harper sure doesn't shy away from making really bold statements.  Pretty much all of them are wrong, like any kind of blanket statement, but there it is.  Let's clarify: refined breads won't make you fat, too many refined breads will make you fat.  It is easier to eat too many refined breads than say, broccoli.

He then goes on to describe some paleo-diet-esque statements about how we weren't created to eat grains, our ancestors didn't so we don't digest them properly, etc.  I'll just leave this video below to let someone much more informed on that topic than I to talk about some of those points:

(Skip to 8:26.  Video isn't working properly for some reason.)

A couple snippets:

"We have...evidence from at least 30,000 years ago of people using stone tools...to grind up seeds and grains."

"Even with the limited research we have...these things include grains, include barley...we even have legumes and tubers."

Now, am I not saying that anyone who feels they don't tolerate grains or legumes or whatever well is wrong.  Regardless of what human history says, you are a unique individual and you have different tolerances / sensitivities from other people.  But to say that all people all the time are not meant to eat grains or legumes is a bit of a stretch.  Do you tolerate them well?  Do you feel well when you eat them?  Are you in good health?  Are you staying within your caloric range and getting in enough protein?  Great!  Have some beans/bread/rice/whatever.

Harper then goes on to describe some grain anatomy, and states that the "bran" of the germ is,

"...utterly indispensable for digestion..."

Grain Anatomy - Taken from runnerbeans.files.wordpress.com

I'm not sure if we have the same definition of 'indispensable.'  One can, indeed quite well, digest grains without the bran.  IN FACT it is far EASIER to digest a grain when it does not contain the bran.  The bran of a grain contains most of the fiber.  You know, that stuff your body can't digest.  The bran also contains a fair amount of gluten.  I'm far from someone who would advocate a gluten-free diet unless you actually have celiac disease (you probably don't), but it's just another point that makes his assertion of 'bran required for digestion' peculiar.

When you remove the bran from a grain, you're removing the fiber, the 'whole grain' part of the grain if you will.  One of the most well-known reasons to eat whole grains over refined grains is that they digest more slowly.  So WHY he would say

"Without the bran, starchy carbs get stuck in our gut for much longer than they should..."

I have no idea.  Maybe I'm missing something, so if anyone has insight into that point, please let me know.  It's true that refined carbohydrates offer one very little in the nutrition department.  I will most certainly agree on that point.  However, many whole grains aren't exactly a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals either.  You'll find far more nutrition and fiber for less calories in vegetables and fruits.  So feel free to enjoy grains if you tolerate them well, but don't fool yourself into thinking they're some kind of 'super-food.' (Aghhhhhh I hate that term SO MUCH)

Harper then tries to make some point about whole grains being awesome but I'm still not really sure what it is.  He references this study, where he says the scientists

"...had [participants] eat a very small serving of barley with their evening meal; other patients ate the same meal without the barley.  In the morning, the researchers drew blood samples and measured blood sugar levels.  The barley eaters' were better."

That could be true.  It might not.  I have no idea because THE STUDY HE REFERENCES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HE JUST SAID.

Seriously, go look at the reference link.  I triple-checked to make sure I got the right study.  What he describes in the book is a COMPLETELY UNRELATED EXPERIMENT.  I can't verify it because I have no idea what he is talking about.  The study that he references is about amylose-spiked bread (the study does not say it was made with any form of barley), not barley.  The participants were asked to eat low-fiber foods and white bread the night before, not barley.

So.  That's pretty bad.  Once again, perhaps I am missing something.  After all I'm not a scientist, I may have misread the study.  It is hard for me to believe that someone cited something completely unrelated to prove a point in a widely-published book.  I do really hope I'm missing something here.

To be fair, the study in the discussion section does mention barley products and potential positive benefits of them, but it is referencing other studies.

Also he mentions in this chapter that your daily allotment for calories is 1750.  I'm not sure where that number is coming from.  That's like how much a pre-pubescent girl should be eating so I am not sure who his target audience here is exactly.

Harper then gives the step-down for this rule: eat brown rice, though he'd like you to get off of rice entirely.  Because it's like, bad for you or something.  Do you eat a traditional Japanese / Chinese / any number of cultures that routinely eat rice diet?  TOO BAD THESE RULES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

Here we see a picture of a traditional Japanese dinner with its trademark white rice and consequently severely obese family. Taken from news-walker.net.

Moral

Yes the American diet is refined-carbohydrate heavy.  Refined carbohydrates have very little to offer your body in terms of vitamins and minerals.  It is EXTREMELY easy to over-eat on cookies and bread than it is on broccoli or carrots.  This is why people advise eating vegetables over grains in general.

However, if you stay within your caloric limits, eat enough protein and don't feel like crap, it is 100% possible to lose weight while incorporating cookies into your diet.  You won't feel much hunger satiety from them though, unfortunately.

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So it's been a while since there's been an update on my second diet experiment.  There's a few good reasons for that, but mostly because -

I fell off the wagon.

Big time.

I participated in eating 'clean' for about a month.  Everyday was a struggle to determine whether this particular food item was clean, or what about that food item??  Mentally, it was extremely frustrating for me.  Did you know it's impossible to purchase a chilled tea like anywhere?  Just cold tea.  That's all I wanted.

I was finding more and more excuses to go out to eat (sweet potato fries are clean right...?) and then just say 'fuck it' once I got there.  Then go out for ice cream afterwards.

This all culminated in about a 4-day eating extravaganza: Help Luke's parents move on Thursday and then go eat a bunch of fried seafood, see my brother for the first time in forever and go out to eat, Saturday have a family reunion with roughly 12 kinds of desserts of which I tried them ALL, Sunday eat with my parents for lunch then go out to eat again at night.

Woke up the next day at 163.  Yeeeeeahhhhh.

So that day I decided it's about time to start Phase II, because this 'clean eating' shit just left me frustrated and EXTREMELY annoyed.

Clean Eating Review

Pros:

  • No calorie counting
  • Forces you to eat more fresh foods which allows you to go by satiety signals.
  • Drastically decreased my diet soda intake - even today I'm drinking much less than I was.

Cons:

  • Clean DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING
  • If you are going out to eat, you either have to be that really annoying person who orders very specialized meals or just concede yourself to 'cheating.'
  • A lot of not 'clean' foods have no good reason to not be eaten
  • In my opinion, promotes an unhealthy relationship with food

Onto Calorie Counting

Started counting my calories and tracking food in earnest last Monday the 22nd.  In general my nutrition goals for right now are:

  • ~2000 calories per day
  • 160g protein at least
  • ~65g fat
  • ~200g carbohydrates (whatever remains after protein / fat)

This is actually a ton of food when I am counting it all up.  If you had asked me if I could lose weight during my experiment last year at 2000 calories I would have laughed.  I was only eating 1200 - 1600 then.  That was only something I could achieve with intermittent fasting.  Surprisingly, so far I have been steadily dropping weight.  I'm already back down to 160 as of this morning.

The best part is how my relationship with food has changed.  Nothing is off-limits.  In fact, even though in my head I say "I could really have a cookie if I wanted to right now and it would be okay," I often don't.

Except for today.  Today I ate a cookie.  WITH NO GUILT AT THAT!

Except for today. Today I ate a cookie. Ain't even guilty about it.

Seriously, a couple of times I've been at the end of the day and still needing to eat 200 - 300 calories, and have thought to myself "ugh...I really don't want to make or eat anything else."  I forced my way through a greek yogurt / protein powder combo yesterday.  IT WAS AWESOME.  Going from feeling constantly deprived to feeling like the last thing I want to do is eat more is so mind-boggling to me - it's incredibly exciting.

So seriously, if you feel like your relationship with food is not a positive or fun one, I encourage you to give counting calories and macros a try for just a little while.  It can be a little annoying to look up the information on everything - especially when you're making recipes - but just remember it doesn't have to be 100% perfect.  Experimenting is a wonderful thing.

P.S.  You can follow EXACTLY what I am eating everyday on myfitnesspal!

P.P.S. Once I've been doing calorie counting for a month I'll have some pictures.  I looked absolutely no different when I took pictures for the end of Phase I so I didn't bother posting.  No one needs that many pictures of me. 

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When you are trying to lose weight on a diet that doesn't involve counting calories, it's important to be in tune with your hunger cues.

Unfortunately, I don't think my stomach and I have been talking for a while.  I'm pretty sure I know what hungry feels like, I'm not quite sure if I know what full feels like.  However, I do know what overstuffed to the point of hating life feels like, and more often than not that's how I gauge my biggest meal of the day.  While this is apparently just fine if I want to maintain my weight:

WL Chart2

MAINTAINING LIKE A BOSS

Obviously my eating habits right now aren't serving my goals so something has to change.  Here is what a usual day of eating typically looks like:

  • Coffee / Tea / Water until anywhere from 12 - 2 PM
  • Lunch is the biggest meal - typically will eat around 80% of whatever I'm eating that day then.
  • Coffee / Water / Tea / maybe an apple until anywhere from 7:30 - 9:00 PM
  • Something small like a smoothie or greek yogurt

If I wasn't trying to lose weight, I'd probably just keep this up.  It's clearly working from a maintenance point of view, but I need to learn to control what I do at lunch.  If I'm honest, it does bother me that I want something like 1,000+ calories to feel 'satisfied' at a meal.  That's definitely going to be past the point where I should stop feeling hunger and achieve sweet, sweet satiety.  To that extent, I've already implemented a couple changes:

  1. Eat most of my meals at home at the table instead of on the couch.
  2. Take a multi-vitamin / fish oil at least 4 days a week.
  3. Drink more water with meals
  4. Try to remember to put down the damn fork between bites

Past that, just trying to be more 'present' while I'm eating.  Trying to actually appreciate and taste the food instead of wolfing it down.  Most importantly, learn to be happy and comfortable being just slightly full, not stuffed.  That is going to be a tough one for me.  I failed absolutely miserably at it yesterday!

WHAT THE HELL IS CLEAN EATING UPDATE

I was complaining to one of my clients about how 'eating clean' doesn't actually mean anything, so she was kind enough to loan me a copy of a book called "The Eat-Clean Diet" by Tosca Reno, as well as an issue of Clean Eating Magazine.  I read through both of these rather quickly, because for some reason when I read things that I disagree with vehemently, it usually inspires me to read more.  If I'm going to dislike something, I usually like to be able to really thoroughly tell you why.  (This may or may not be why I know way too much about the Twilight series storyline)

Here are the laws of eating clean according to Clean Eating magazine:

photo (1)

If you read through my weight loss journey last year - or you could infer my eating schedule above - you know that I tend to not follow rule #1 exaaaaactly right.  As well, I'm pretty cool with saturated fat.  You should be too.  Which made this my favorite quote from the Eat-Clean book:

I know right??? BACON AND SAUSAGE IS SOOOO GROSS - especially compared to plain oatmeal.

Okay, I can't just be a negative Nancy and bash these two publications.  After all, some of the rules from the magazine (avoid processed and refined foods, slow down and savor, reduce portion sizes) are all things I just said I'm trying to work on.  But come on now, don't try to tell me bacon and sausage doesn't taste good.