Friday, April 9, 2010

To Your Health - Part 3

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Welcome back, sorry for the delay, but I'm here now, so fret no more. Last time, I talked about improving what you put into your body, because when you build your body out of crap, it tends to turn your body into crap. And before that I suggested you drink more water to help lubricate the machinery. Now I'm going to complete the trifecta of input by discussing HOW to eat.

"I figured out how to eat when I was a baby," you cry. Ah, but you learned wrong, and because you're eating the wrong way, you're triggering your body's starvation reflex, which makes it almost impossible to lose weight. The "traditional" way to eat was developed back when we had to do lots of work and sometimes had to worry about whether we'd miss meals; it allowed our ancestors to pack on fat when they needed it and burn it off when they didn't. Ever wonder why so many Renaissance paintings and sculptures are of overweight women? Back then, being fat meant you were wealthy and could afford to miss work; you never missed a meal. Today, though, it means you're not working enough and overeating. So let's change the way we eat to get rid of the unneeded fat.

The "traditional" way of eating is 3 meals a day, spaced about 5-6 hours apart. Breakfast is usually big, then a moderate lunch, then a big dinner, including dessert. Maybe a sugary snack here and there, and maybe a midnight snack. Some people skip breakfast, which is even worse! This is bad because after about 3-4 hours of not eating, the body starts to think you're starving, and so starts conserving energy. It gets rid of the "strong" muscle in favor of the "weak" muscle and the fat.

By simply getting a small snack between your meals and right before bed so that you're eating something no more than about 3-4 hours apart, you stop the starvation reflex. Breakfast is especially important because you've been asleep for 6-9 hours, and you wake up in starvation mode!

We don't want to increase our total caloric intake, we just want to spread it out. Doing this will help out a lot.

To help you figure out how much food to eat, I've come up with a little guide. This will require you to feel out what's needed, because we're all different.

The first meal size is the "Full" meal. When you eat, take note of when you first feel full enough that you could stop eating. Ignore what's on your plate, you want to figure out what it feels like to be full.

I eat a Full meal as my 1st and 3rd meals of the day. For breakfast, this is usually 1-2 bowls of cereal (depends on the size of the bowl). For lunch it's usually a lunchmeat sandwich and some chips.

The next meal size is the "Snack" meal. A Snack is just enough food to kill off your hungry feeling for a couple hours. For me, it's a little less than Full, often about half to two-thirds that size.

I eat a Snack as my 2nd and 4th meals of the day, and sometimes my fifth. Usually I have a banana as my mid-morning Snack and my mid-afternoon Snack will usually be a fruit cup and some crackers.

The third meal size is the "Handful". It's what I can loosely fit in my hand. Usually this is a few dried apricots or a box of raisins or some pretzels, maybe a 1 oz bag of chips. This is usually my fifth and sixth meal of the day, before I go to bed, but sometimes I have a Snack from the truckstop instead. I eat these at the end of the day when I'm settling down and don't need much energy, and their only purpose is to put a little bit on my stomach so I don't trigger the starvation reflex. Occasionally I'll have something like this after I wake up if I know I can't have breakfast soon enough. It's a good way to break the fast.

And the last meal is the "Stuffed" meal. This is any amount of food you eat after you're already full. Most people eat to this point for their supper, during holidays, or if they go to a buffet or a restaurant. That need to clean our plate isn't just something to blame on our poor, starving parents and grandparents, it's built in.

I do occasionally eat this much, but not nearly as much as I used to. Overeating a little bit once a month is tolerable, even 3-4 times a month is okay if you're not having to unbutton your pants, but more than that and you're going to gain weight.

Because I've gotten used to eating less during meals, if I overeat, I'm usually still full 3-4 hours later. In that case, I keep drinking plenty of water, and sometimes have a Handful, usually peanuts or sunflower seeds.

There's a little bit more to this, though. It's called drinking water. While you eat, you should also be drinking water. I don't generally do it while I'm eating cereal, but I have water before and after. The water does several things. It takes up space in your stomach so you feel full sooner. It helps dilute and break up the food so it's easier to digest, meaning you're not as tired after eating. And it slows your eating. You know how when you go to a buffet, if you eat fast, you can eat more, but if you eat slow, you can't eat as much? Use that effect. Eat slow, drink water.

Between meals, drink cold water as often as you feel like. Since your body has to maintain 98.6 degrees, if you drink cold water, your body has to spend energy to warm it up, meaning cold water actually has negative calories!

Here is my typical meal schedule. It's kind of a default for me, but it varies a lot.

In the morning when I get up, I have some water first thing. Then I make a bowl of cereal. I now eat Kashi Go Lean almost exclusively, and I've just tried almond milk with it and it's pretty good together without being ridiculously expensive.

About 3-4 hours later, I usually have a banana, sometimes some peanuts or crackers or pretzels as filler.

About 3-4 hours later I have a sandwich. This is usually 3 slices of Turkey Balogna (3 oz), a slice of cheese, and two slices of Honey Wheat or Whole Grain bread. Sometimes I put some honey on it. I also have a 1 oz bag of chips since I can't eat out of a bigger bag without eating half of it. Occasionally, maybe once a week, I'll have a can of pop with it, but I'm almost off the pop.

About 3-4 hours later I have a cup of mixed fruit (4 oz) and usually a box of raisins or some peanuts or crackers as filler.

And my last meal is usually a handful of peanuts or sesame sticks, or maybe another bag of chips.

Right before bed, I'll usually have a few nuts.

I eat unsalted foods as much as possible. Nuts are especially salted, so you have to be careful and get the unsalted kind. The taste grows on you. If you can learn to like something that looks, tastes, and smells like it came out of a dog's bladder (aka beer), then eating unsalted nuts is a breeze.

While this is the default for me, it's hardly all I eat. I make a point of about twice a week eating lunch at a restaurant, usually a fast-food joint or pizza place, but sometimes a real restaurant. I also make a point of having eggs for breakfast once a week. Eggs have good things you want, but not too much. Once or twice a week seems just about right to me. I also try to make a point of having seafood once or twice a month, usually shrimp.

And of course there's Mongolian. Can't get enough of that. I'll talk about that in a bit.

So, in summary, about every 3-4 hours you should eat SOMETHING. One or two meals should give you a "Full" feeling, and the rest should be smaller, and you can knock out some hunger pangs with a couple mouthfuls of food. Also, drink plenty of water with your meal to improve digestion and give you a fuller feeling sooner. And don't eat a large meal before bed, but DO eat a little bit of something that won't keep you up.

I've got one more leg of the table I built to effortlessly lose 50 pounds last year and have so far kept it off, and I'll tell you all about it next time.

Stay awesome!


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More articles of interest or amusement: 
To Your Health - Part 2
What you should know about the military before you join
To Your Health - Part 4

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