Meal Planning and Calorie Counting: A Love Affair with Food Part 2
We talked about meal planning and calorie counting in the first article, in this second article we will conclude with some other tips that will seal the deal with your long term relationship with food.
Kick the Old Flings to the Curb
We talked about some things you should do to maintain your long-term love affair with food such as how to do calorie counting and what should go in a meal. Let’s also talk about some of the bonehead things you should avoid beyond worrying about the amount of calories per day, namely those crazy old ex’s. If you can be faithful to the right foods, then you will have little stress in this relationship.
I am not going to get into all of the details here because there are other posts in the nutrition section where we dive deep, but there are few ex’s you need to avoid:
- Legumes: beans, lentils, soy, peanuts, and peanut butter.
- Dairy: milk, butter, cheese, etc.
- Flour & Grains: pasta, rice, bread, chips, rye, barley, corn, oats, etc.
- Sugar: maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, Stevia, sugar drinks, high fructose corn syrup, etc. It doesn’t matter whether it is real or artificial. All can have an insulin spike.
- Starchy Carbs: potatoes of any kind with the exception of sweet potatoes. Also it won’t be cheating if you eat yams, pumpkins, and squash occasionally as mentioned.
One of the best ways to be faithful to this new relationship with the right types of food is to start by removing the old habits. You wouldn’t have some random person you dated living in the same house with you and your spouse. If so, that is kind of weird. You can try to be as much of an adult as possible about it, but that would get awkward. You have been there once and it didn’t work out, why wouldn’t you go back again?
This same lesson should be applied to crappy food. It hasn’t worked out good in the past. If you aren’t sure, then look at your hips and gut for reassurance.
Get rid of all of the nonsense that isn’t going to help your health, and that includes the food you buy for your kids or spouse. Let’s be honest…that crap food for your kids is really for you.
Clear it out of sight. Burn it, dump it, or give it to that neighbor you aren’t that fond of.
Often just by seeing and thinking about that junk food can trigger the hormone responses that makes you want to eat that crappy food. This Pavlovian experience is like food porn. In fact, just the thought of sugar or refined carbs can cause your body to start secreting insulin, which causes your body to retain fat. Just thinking about it!
It isn’t much, but it is prepping the body for a terrible motel affair I have this image in my mind of the tribal folk banging gongs and preparing King Kong for his feast. The massacre is about to happen inside your body and the beast has been unleashed. So avoid this situation as much as possible. Out of sight, out of gut.
Meet the needs of all four food Love Languages
Eat a variety of protein, veggies, and fats. Then finally top it off with a lot of water. Each food has unique strengths in the forms of nutrients. Have a variety of colors in your foods through vegetables and fruits. The more variety you can get in these different types of foods, the better chance you have of meeting nutrient needs across the board. Also this helps to avoid eating from becoming boring.
Don’t be Stale, No Processed Foods
Processed foods may survive the nuclear holocaust, but it won’t do your body any good. When foods are processed, they are loaded with carbs, salts, preservatives, and other junk that assists in spiking your insulin levels and leading to gut irritation.
Food producers are kind enough to pack in more poor calories while not giving any good nutrients. And often the good nutrients they give aren’t absorbed well by the body because of the junk it is coming in with. They have negative nutritional value.
Natural and organic foods on the other hand will be fresh, perishable and look fairly close to the plant or animal source where it came from (no that doesn’t mean the beef should have the cow head on it, but close…). Find foods that are in season, like oranges during the winter and grapes during summer. Eating this fresh food will be higher in naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. If that just confused you, those are good things that your body needs.
Try to find organic food, but don’t get obsessed with it. Frozen, cut, or canned vegetables are a much better choice than brownies. Don’t get worked up if it isn’t perfect. You won’t be graded or forced to sleep on a couch. Just do the best you can to eat the right type of foods.
Eat your Breakfast!
Your mom was right on this one. You need breakfast.
Breakfast is important to help get your day going on the right track by avoiding a morning crash, higher levels of consistent energy, balanced hormones and better support to fight the sugar cravings throughout the day. In fact, you can get away just fine with protein and fat for breakfast, without the vegetables if you want to.
One of my big health pet peeves is this idea that you have to have certain foods during certain meals. If you don’t, it seems easy to be ostracized by others.
Let me tell you how I feel about that…it’s bull. It is something lazy plump people say because they have bought into the mindset that is celebrated by obese people. Cereal during breakfast, sandwiches during lunch, casserole during dinner, rinse and repeat.
Eat eggs for dinner and steak and veggies for breakfast if you want. Just because society has been brainwashed by tradition, media, and our government, it doesn’t mean that it is right. And it doesn’t mean you have to conform. Look how well it has gotten us so far as a society with nearly 2/3rds of us overweight. Thanks America.
Why Did it Take so Long to Find this Relationship?
This idea having a diet consisting predominantly of lean unprocessed protein, vegetables, and fats may be like a vision from Heaven or it may feel like trying to read Chinese. If this is a revelation, you may also feel a bit betrayed by friends and family members for years of having meals packed with the ingredients: lies, deceit, and a touch of bamboozled. Well don’t.
Most people don’t know about this or were never that clear on it. There is so much noise out there with contradicting advice from many sources. This is partly why so many people are overweight, obese, and therefore suffering from chronic diseases.
For others this may simply be that reminder of what is important in this relationship with your body. It is like that marriage counselor that tells you, “You need to listen more to each other, try to give more of your time and attention, and build your hopes and dreams around each other.” It seems like a “duh” statement. You knew it already, but deep down you know you probably need to hear it again.
Then finally there are those that feel like this is a foreign topic. Just relax and test it out. You won’t know unless you give it a chance for 1-2 months at least.
How Long Will this Last?
Well just like any good relationship, this should be something that goes on forever. Protein, fat, vegetables are as much of a staple to your food relationship as “live, laugh, love” is to a cheesy made-for-TV romance movie on the Lifetime channel.
Like most people that get cold feet at the altar, there may be a growing pit at the bottom of your stomach and the thought, “No way in heck can I eat only these foods for the rest of my life.” First, just calm down. Breathe. This is the best way for you to be really happy.
As you think of all the foods you can’t eat that you did, walking down the aisle of any grocery store feels like taking a stroll through the Vegas strip. All of that junk food is just short term gratification. In the end, it turns into carnage, pills, hospital beds, and a crappy life.
So take another deep breath, dunk your head in water if necessary, and think about how good this could be. Think of all the types of protein, fruits, vegetables, and fats that exist. There are actually a lot. If you throw in all of the types of herbs and spices on top of that, you could literally go the rest of your life without repeating a single meal. Talk about spicing up your love life!
The truth is that we tend to eat a lot of the same meals over and over again, just like we probably go on the same type of date (movie and a dinner) with our significant other more than what we may realize. If you test out several of these meals, find 10-15 meals that you like and stick to it for at least a month. If you can make it that far, then you will get great results. Nothing beats looking better in the mirror. And trust me when you see that, you won’t want to go back to one-night stands with “Ho Hos”.
What if I Cheat?
Ask for forgiveness to your midsection and get back on the plan. Don’t let it snowball and don’t feel like “I need to count calories now!”. You can turn on a dime just as quickly toward eating healthy as you can toward eating crap. The goal is to get as many days and as many meals as you can eating the right types of foods. The higher the batting percentage, the better.
If any of you know anything about Mickey Mantle and how good he was, then this will speak to you, “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1700 times and walked maybe 1800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”
It’s ok to fail, just don’t continue to fail.
With that said, unlike your real life relationships with humans, this is one where you can actually cheat once or twice a week and eat whatever you want.
Measuring Food and Calorie Counting
So you are making progress, but you seem to hit a snag. Something has gone wrong. What is it? Should I count calories? Do I need calorie counting tips?
The easy thought may be that you are eating too much and that you need calorie counting help. This isn’t necessarily the issue. We talked about this a bit, but no you don’t have to count your calories in order to make this work. You can get at least 95% of the results you want just by eating the right foods unweighted and unmeasured. Stick to the hand portions I mentioned. Then if you want to tweak it, then calorie counting can be a last resort.
Before you start counting, there are a few things I would tinker with first:
- First re-evaluate all your food to make sure there aren’t any hidden sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, or sugary drinks. Often these two-timers will show up also in the form of sugary or creamy dressings.
- Ask yourself honestly, “How many cheat meals do I really have weekly?” Keep it to 1-2.
- Some of you actually may need more protein and dietary fat. This helps on multiple levels to regulate your hormone levels.
- Am I getting 8-9 hours of sleep without interruption in a completely dark, cool room? If not, you are putting stress on your body and raising cortisol levels, which means more body fat.
- Do I have the energy I want through my day or in my workout? Is my performance getting better? Or am I working out too much? Am I going beyond 40-50 minutes a day? Am I working out 6-7 days a week? It may be good to get a good break. Also it doesn’t hurt to cut back there on number of workouts or duration. Often physical stress can lead to more cortisol, which means more fat.
- Then if none of those things work, cut down or remove fruits and nuts. I have seen personally limiting these two was that final boost I would often need to fight past a plateau.
Then after all of these checks, at this point would I attempt to count calories. One of the most common form of counting is through the measurement blocks of the Zone diet. I think it tends to be a bit too low on fat and protein, and maybe a bit high on carbs.
- Protein: 1 g of protein for every pound of body weight you have. So for a 300 pound person that is 300 g of protein daily. So that is like 50-100 g per meal. That may seem like a lot, but it works to help shed pounds. As you start to get closer to your goals, you can move to .5 grams per every pound of body weight.
- Fat: 15-17 calories per pound of body weight daily if you are looking at trimming fat. 18-19 calories per pound of body weight daily if you are looking to maintain weight. 20-21 calories per pound of body weight daily if you are looking to gain lean mass. So an example would be if I weigh 200 pounds and I wanted to lose fat, I would eat 15-17 calories per pound of body weight daily. For my 200 pound body that would be 3000-3400 calories of fat daily.
- Carbs: 50-75 g daily coming from non-starchy vegetables
The fat and protein may seem crazy, but this is about as high as you can push the levers no matter your genetic makeup and still get results. And again, this is option number 4,586.
There isn’t a “one-size fits all” as I mentioned. In the end, it really comes down to a few questions you need to ask yourself as you evaluate if you have a happy relationship with food:
- Do you sleep well and get 8-9 hours easily without interruption? This answer should be yes.
- Do you go through the day without feeling groggy or like you should be pounding 5 Hour Energy drinks? This should be a no.
- How is your energy and performance with working out? Can you go longer? Can you move faster? Can you lift more? This should be a yes.
More than any number I give you, it should come down to you constantly tweaking and testing to see what amount of food will give you the highest level of energy.
It is pretty simple. Pay attention to your body and find out what makes your body happy. If you do this right, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Afterfall, this is your chance to get to “know your body”.