Archive for the tag - diet

Losing Weight with “Cheat Days”: Do They Work?

I’ve often heard people say that, when dieting, it’s good to have a “cheat day” or “binge day” where you can eat whatever you want. This helps to shock your metabolism.

I’m just wondering, do you have a cheat day? And if so, what types of things do you allow yourself to eat on those days? I don’t want to eat something that will ruin my progress entirely (I’ve lost 47lbs as of Monday when I last checked my weight!), but the idea of having a cheat day sounds great to me.

Thanks,
Brad

Brad, first off – congratulations on releasing 47 lbs of weight. I hope you’re enjoying the journey and delighting in the benefits of a healthier you!

For people unfamiliar with cheat days, the general concept is eating healthy 6 days of the week. On the 7th day, less-healthy choices are allowed. It’s not about eating everything in sight, but it is about maybe eating a piece of grandma’s famous fried chicken, or getting an order of fries with your sandwich.

To answer your question: I don’t have a cheat “day”, though I do something a bit similar. I follow the 80/20 rule. In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule is about eating healthy 80% of the time. During the 80%, I eat lean meats, berries, unsalted nuts, fruits, etc., etc. But every fifth meal falls into the 20% category. This is when I allow myself to “cheat”, though I prefer to call it balance. I don’t appreciate the guilt associated with the term “cheat” – it implies that you’re doing something wrong. At any rate, I’m not religious about practicing the 80/20 rule, but I do try to keep a mental note of the healthiness of recent meals.

I have read numerous articles and pieces of research that conclude cheat days do help boost metabolism, thus staving off weight-loss plateaus. And for a lot of people, cheat days give relief in an otherwise restrictive diet. So there can be some real benefits.

But I also think there’s a psychological downside to cheat days, and I don’t think they’re for everyone. I think cheat days can create a mentality of 6 days of suffering through dieting and 1 day of satisfaction. In actuality, eating healthy and satisfaction need not be mutually exclusive. Rather than focusing on what you can eat, I think it’s much wiser to focus on all the healthy, delicious and enjoyable options available. Moreover, by bringing attention to the way your body reacts to your food choices (healthy foods make the body feel good!), loading up on cheese fries starts to lose its appeal.

I hope that helps!

But what about you? Do you have a cheat day? Do you follow the 80/20 rule? Or do you eat healthy foods 24/7?

10 Tips: When it Comes to Portions, Size Matters!

When it comes to portion control, size definitely matters.

It’s no secret that weight release is the most common New Year’s resolution, but taking advantage of portion control is one of the best tactics to employ.

There’s a difference between portions (what’s on our plate) and servings (what’s recommended), and most of us are getting way too much of some things… and not nearly enough of others.

Here are few tips to help you ring in 2011:

  1. Opt for smaller plates. We tend to fill our plates to their capacity, and by using a smaller plate – you’re likely to put less food on it. It’s a simple trick that works wonders at buffets or holiday parties. And in your own house, use 8 or 10-inch dinner plates instead of 12 inch. {Insert inappropriate innuendo here.}
  2. When saving leftovers, freeze food in individual portions. When you reheat the food – you’ll only be defrosting what you need, and thus less likely to overeat.
  3. Just take a few bites. I’m officially obsessed with nibnobs. I love cake – but it’s obviously terribly unhealthy. A slice of red velvet cake, for example, can have 550 calories and 27 grams of

    Perfectly portioned nibnobs.

    fat. Recognizing the importance of portions, nibnobs are bite-sized desserts… and they are totally satisfying, even for the sweetest of sweet tooths. I’m even bringing a plate to my parents’ house for New Year’s day.

  4. Divide your plate in half. Fill one half with veggies and/or fruits. Fill the other half with a mix of proteins (like meat), and starches (like rice, potatoes, etc.).
  5. Buy individually portioned snack foods. Instead of buying a huge bag of chips, buy smaller bags. It will prevent mindless munching. If you’re looking to be economical, buy larger bags of food but divide portions up in baggies. Never eat directly from a big bag!
  6. Keep junk foods out of sight. Office workers who kept candy in clear dishes on their desks dipped in for a sample 71 percent more often than those who kept their candy out of sight. But keep healthy foods, like veggies (carrot sticks!) and fruits readily available. A fruit basket on your kitchen table can work wonders.
  7. Don’t mix food and TV. You wouldn’t drink and drive and neither should you eat food and watch TV. It’s much harder to watch portions while zoning out in a good television show.
  8. Use visual cues to estimated recommend servings. A deck of playing cards = one serving (three ounces) of meat, poultry, or fish. Half a baseball = one serving (one-half cup) of fruit, vegetables, pasta, or rice. Your thumb = one serving (one ounce) of cheese. A small hand holding a tennis ball = one serving (one cup) of yogurt or chopped fresh greens.
  9. Split desserts at restaurants. It cuts calories and builds relationships!
  10. Ask for dressings, spreads and sauces on the side. Most restaurants are far too generous in their condiment portions.

Obviously, portion control isn’t the be all and end all of weight release; it’s just one tool of many, but it can be a super helpful and effective dimension of a bigger plan.

What portion control tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!

5 Tips to Eat Dessert Daily and Never Get Fat.

Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eating just one of the pieces.  ~Judith Viorst

Yeah, yeah. We all know two things:

  1. If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to keep tabs – even if it’s roughly – on the calories you consume.
  2. Desserts tend to have a shitload (that’s a technical industry term) of calories.

The Great Wall of Chocolate from P.F. Chang’s, for example, has 2,200 calories. More modest desserts in more modest portions tend to average out in the 300 calorie range (see here for a more detailed calorie listing). It’s no surprise, then, that I found the following tip posted in a fitness forum:

Limit yourself to 1 dessert per week – Go from 7 to 1 day to decrease calories by 1,800 (300 per dessert) per week. 3,500 calories burned (more than consumed) equals 1 pound.  So you can lose 1 pound every 2 weeks and 26 pounds in 1 year this one tip alone!

Talk about buzz-kill. Beyond the importance of calorie counting and the unhealthiness of most desserts, we also know another thing: Life is better with dessert. And so, dessert is one thing that I’m not willing to give up.

Don’t get me wrong: Nutrition is crucially important for a healthy lifestyle. But I refuse to subscribe to the mentality that I must deprive my taste buds of ice cream, apple crisp, pie or anything else pleasureful. Life is too short not to indulge responsibly; remember all those men and women on the Titanic that waved off the dessert tray.

If you’re like me in your unwillingness to deny your sweet tooth, then here are a few tips:

  1. Watch the portion and eat consciously. Your dessert desires can be satisfied with just a few bites. Consciously and fully enjoy each bite. You don’t need an entire pint of ice cream or thick slice of cake. It helps to put the portion on a separate plate or bowl (i.e., not eating ice cream out of the carton).
  2. Mix healthier options into your dessert selections. All desserts are not created nutritionally equally. While I’d never ask you to ditch chocolate cake entirely, occasionally opt for things like fruit salad, yogurt, mixed berries, cut mangoes or bananas drizzled in chocolate. Need more ideas? Here are some healthy dessert recipes you may want to try out.
  3. Work it off! Better and more effective than cutting calories to create a caloric deficit is to increasing the amount of calories you are burning. Starving yourself to lose weight tends to backfire. If you want to lose weight and you are unwilling to cut dessert, make it up on the treadmill. I burn 425 calories in 20 minute on the treadmill. I’d run an extra 20 minutes if it came to that or dessert!
  4. Balance it. Nutritional balance isn’t holding a cupcake in each hand. It’s eating well – most of the time. If you know that you’re going to indulge with your dessert, then cook (or order) a healthier man course. Instead of the double bacon BBQ cheeseburger at The Cheesecake Factory (6 zillion calories), order the Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp (only 2 zillion calories). I follow the 80/20 rule of eating healthy 80% of the time.
  5. Enjoy it. For fuck’s sake, enjoy the dessert and don’t feel guilty about it. Worst of all, don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty. Guilt is not a powerful motivator. Dessert is one of life’s simple pleasures. Eat up and enjoy.

So yes, when it comes to dessert, you can certainly have your cake and eat it to. If God didn’t want you to have chocolate, then she wouldn’t have invented it. Just indulge responsibly.

My question for you: What’s for dessert tonight? I’m having apple and pear cobbler.

What to Eat After a Workout.

I just read an e-mail from a confused blog buddy that needs some post-workout nutrition guidance. Here’s my best shot.

Admittedly, it can get confusing – especially when marketing comes into play. Dozens of workout shakes are pushed our way, not to mention a whole slew of protein bars. So what’s one to do?

First things first, there is one thing that you definitely don’t want to eat after you exercise: Fat. Even “good” fat. Obviously, all of us need fat in our diets, but immediately following a workout is not when you want to consume it. Fat slows down digestion – and after a workout, your body needs to be replenished quickly. This is why I tend to avoid “muscle milk” which is actually quite high in fat.

There are three things you do need after a workout:

  • Hydration – I prefer water.
  • Carbohydrates.
  • Protein.

And how soon do you need them? Very quickly. I try to get my initial post-workout feeding within 20 or 30 minutes of exercising. Definitely within 1 hour.

When it comes for protein, we know that not all proteins are created equal. You want a high quality protein that is absorbed quickly by the body. This is why I tend to mix some whey protein powder for my initial intake as a shake. I recommend that you try the same – whey protein (ideally, whey isolate instead of concentrate) is as good as it gets! If you need deeper guidance, find out how much protein you should be consuming over the course of a day.

You also need carbs. Thanks to the likes of Dr. Atkins, women and many gay men alike try to avoid carbs like the bubonic plague. But carbohydrates are super important to your post-workout recovery. In fact, they restore muscle glycogen – and if you don’t have carbs, your body may break down muscle to perform the same process. So, make sure your post-workout meal does contain carbs. There are several formulas to calculate the exact amount, but they generally point to a range of 30 – 70 grams, depending on body weight and workout length and intensity.

If you want to get fancy, try a chicken sandwich or egg white veggie omelet with toast. But really, a good protein shake powder will generally do the trick. You can even bring the powder with you to the gym – or leave a scoop in your protein bottle and just add water on your way home. It’s a great way to help you make the most of your workout and get the results you want!

What do you eat after you workout? Let me know in the comments below.

How to Eat French Fries and Stay Fit. Sorta.

No, you didn’t read the headline wrong. Yes, it is possible to eat french fries and stay fit.

Back in 2005, when I was living in New York City for the very first time, I went on a date with a guy named Mike. For our first (and only) date, Mike asked me to pick my favorite restaurant in the entire city. I choose Dallas BBQ, a soul food joint overflowing with fatty foods, high calories drinks and massive portions. When we got to the restaurant, Mike was appalled by the menu. He refused to stay – and instead, we ate a dinner across the street. Mike ordered a salad with no cheese, fat free dressing and a diet coke. In that moment, I knew it would never work out.

I understand that Dallas BBQ can’t be a staple food source for someone that is looking to stay healthy and fit – or for someone that is trying to release weight. But I also understand that life is about balance and moderation. If your self-imposed diet deprives you of the foods that you love, then it’s probably a diet to which you’ll be unable to stick. It’s just not sustainable.

So, I follow the 80/20 rule. I eat foods that are healthy 80% of the time. And 20% of the time, I allow myself to indulge in the foods that may not be particularly healthy – but that I love. Things like potato skins, vegetable tempura or french fries. The trick is moderation – and the 80/20 rule is a helpful guideline for striking that gentle balance. It amounts to 2 – 3 indulgent meals over the course of a week.

The 80/20 rule allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Literally. And that’s why I’m such a fan.

Do you follow the “everything in moderation” mentality? When it comes to diet and nutrition, what do you do?