Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nix the Nighttime Snacks: BMI = 28.1

Starving all day is not a good weight-loss plan. Starving all day and then bingeing at night is a terrible weight-loss plan. I used to try to starve myself all day but, really, I just wound up snacking all day. With my diet almost devoid of nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, by the time evening rolled around I desperately sought out comfort foods to fill the void. When people ask me about my weight loss, looking for some advice, they usually tell me their weakest time is in the evening. Some go so far as to brag about hardly eating anything all day long.

Yes, I remember how hard it was to kick my late-night binge eating. It was almost as hard as breaking my snacking addiction. The key for me was to stop trying to starve myself, even though I failed miserably at that. I had to start eating substantial, balanced meals. That starts with breakfast.

As soon as I mention breakfast, though, most people put on the brakes and start telling me that breakfast is a terrible idea. They are most able to avoid food in the morning, they tell me, and so they just don’t want to add those extra calories. Breakfast, however, is an opportunity to get a tonne of essential nutrition in your belly. I have a whole grain cooked cereal that gives me great energy for the start of my work shift. I dice an apple on top of it, have another serving of fruit on the side, and drink 3 ounces of orange juice. For protein, I have some mixed beans and smoked mackerel. The mackerel is also good for the omega fats, and to that end I have a couple walnuts and mix some soy beverage in with my 1% milk. The 1% milk offers even more protein, but also calcium and it is fortified with vitamin D. All totalled, my breakfast runs around 800 calories. It really is a breakfast, because by the time I start eating, I’ve gone about 14 hours without food.

Knowing that I’ve had plenty of fruit for the day, all my servings of dairy, all my required omega fats, and 2 servings of whole grain – I seek out mostly veggies and whole grains for my lunch. I still have some lean protein in my lunch, but it’s the veggies and whole grains that I need to get in me. It’s a lot of food.

By the time I eat dinner, I only need a few more servings of veggies and whole grains. It’s a lot of food to eat but the calories are low because I barely have any sugar in my diet. Eating this much food during the day makes late-night snacking easy to avoid. I’ve stopped trying to stop eating because now, each day, my goal is to get all my servings of the right foods as recommended by the Canada food guide.

If I starved myself all day, then I would likely end up bingeing at night again. Malnourished and hungry, it is unlikely that fruit, 1% milk, whole grain hot cereal, smoked mackerel and walnuts would seem very enticing. More likely I would want the calorie density of the two-pack of double-cheese burgers sold at the corner store across the street. It’s much easier to choose healthy food at breakfast, and that makes it easier for me to fill out a balanced diet at lunch and dinner.

Occasionally I still get a craving in the evening. These days, however, I’m happy to have a couple olives because I just can’t handle a meal-sized snack. If you have trouble controlling your appetite in the evening, then I’m willing to bet that you skip breakfast.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Food Porn: BMI = 28.2

We’ve all seen those videos in our social network feeds that glorify meat, cheese, and decadent desserts. They don’t just make our mouths water, they also reinforce bad eating habits. No one eats mountains of ground beef, sautéed onion, and peppers by pouring melted cheese over the mess and making a video of the spectacle. Nonetheless, the normalization of such comfort-food excess serves to skew our view of what a healthy diet looks like.

I’ve been guilty of producing some food porn myself. A colleague once asked me to make some big burgers as a staff meal. I made the burgers so damn big that we spent 15 minutes taking pictures of them before eating them. We laughed and posed with our burgers, but I didn’t keep a copy of myself eating one of those burgers. I knew that sort of eating was driving my weight up and I had already stopped stepping on the scale for fear of how far I had already gone.

I spent so much time thinking about bigger sandwiches, thicker pizzas, and richer cheese that healthy foods became unappealing to me – other than as a prop for the photos. The fact is that food porn does have an impact on our diets and that’s why fast food advertisers seeks to make their food seem almost sexy in their ads.

These days my taste in food porn has radically changed. I post more photos of food than ever but it’s mostly healthy food. Just google my name and select ‘images’. There are more photos of healthy food then there are of me. There will also likely be some photos of unhealthy food but that is because I use such images in this blog to make a point.

The above photo of Cara Cara Oranges with ginger now makes my mouth water. I’m not saying that giving up food porn, or changing to health-food porn will change your diet – but it might reduce some of your unhealthy cravings that drive you to snack or overeat.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Success Breeds Success: BMI = 28.3

120 pounds ago, I challenged myself to go one hour without snacking. That may not sound like much of a challenge, but it was an attainable goal. I knew I needed to go from grazing all day to eating three balanced meals each day, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight. If I had set that as my goal (3 healthy meals, no snacking) then I would have failed before I even got started.

My initial challenge was to see how often I could go for an hour without so much as a sip of water. I kept track of how often I succeeded and how often I failed. If I hadn’t snacked in the hour before I had a meal, then I got a point. If I went an hour after a meal without snacking, then I got a point. If I went an hour between snacks, then I got a point. If, however, I found myself eating or drinking and it had not been an hour then my compulsive eating got a point.

I wish I had held onto those original score cards. It took me a week to have a 16-0 shutout against my compulsive eating, but I was winning the daily score from day one. The first day went well and I believe my compulsive eating only got a couple points on me. The second day my compulsive eating got 4 or 5 points, but I still won the day score and doubled down my resolve to get a better score the next day.

Essentially, I had stacked the odds in my favour. I set up the scoring system in a way that let me win, every single day, even though I still didn’t have full control over my eating habits. I succeeded each day, even when I gave up a few more points than the day before, and that drove me to strive to give up fewer points the next day.

I was also working on having 3 balanced meals a day and had setup a bit of a scoring system for that as well. The exciting game was the snack-timer game, though. Once I got a few shout-outs in a row, I started using 1.5-hour intervals.

The specifics of the intervals are not what is important here. The message is that the seemingly unattainable can be attained by breaking it down into small attainable parts. Even though my initial goals were very small, each success proved to me that I could succeed at something. With each success my desire for another success increased – my very expectation of success increased.

Today my BMI is 28.3. The photo below shows me with a BMI of 28.3, 33.4, and 43.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mindful Eating: BMI = 28.4

Stated plainly, mindful eating is the act of making mealtime about the meal, rather than watching television or driving. Take the time to plan what you are going to eat, to prepare it, to set the table and sit down to enjoy the meal as a meal. Chew, talk, have a sip of water, and immerse yourself in the act of having a real meal.

Mindful eating can help you gain some control over mindless eating: the sort of grazing one does while watching a movie or snacking while working at the computer. When my diet was at its worst, I rarely sat down and enjoyed a meal. I was always trying not to eat and yet always grazing away on snacks. By the end of the day I had no self-control left and wound up binge eating most nights.

It takes me about 20 minutes to prepare my breakfast and another 20 minutes to eat it. I pull up some music on my tablet and sit at the table as I savour some orange slices, sip my coffee, and work my way through a giant bowl of porridge and fruit. Breakfast has become a ritual for me and by the time I am done I know I won't be able to eat another bite for hours.

After breakfast I take the time to prepare my veggies for the day. As I prepare them I can't even think about eating because I am stuffed. It's just another ritual that I've developed to make sure that when my hunger returns I'll be prepared to put together another balanced meal. Focusing on mindful eating has given me the discipline to keep my diet on track for over a year now. From a BMI of 43 to a BMI of 28.4.