How To Lose Weight Without Being CONSTANTLY Hungry!
Yesterday I had pudding with my lunch. It was amazing. Cherry sponge with vanilla ice-cream. YUM. It was also totally in bounds with my CEP (cookie eradication programme) as it was portion controlled, with a meal and only the once in that day.
During the course of the day though, I had several really interesting conversations which bought home to me just how irrational people can be about food.
Don't get me wrong, I've been there. Once I decided I'd eat no more than 800 calories a day. I lasted a month before gnawing off a finger....not one of my own of course.
When I was in college I had a three item rule. I was only allowed three items to eat in a day.
Was it rational?
Was it a good idea?
Definitely not. Aside from the fact that I get HANGRY (I'm talking chomp your head off if you get too close hangry) it also did me a lot of damage - both psychologically and physically.
I've had my fair share of irrational dieting programmes and I'm sure a lot of people who are in my position have. It's the first thing you think of "oh, I need to lose weight, I'll just cut down everything I'm eating". Everyone is a potential victim of these thoughts but they can lead to all sorts of bad places, let me give you two examples from my day yesterday - these are what got me thinking about writing today's feature:
I'm sitting with someone eating my lunch. They talk about whether they want pudding or not. "Go ahead" I said "it's really nice, and hey, it has fruit in - win (joke)". They'd eaten about a handful of cous-cous and some vegetables. They looked at me sceptically and decided on the pudding. Having eaten and enjoyed said pudding the immediate response was "oh, I shouldn't have done that" followed by "oh well, I won't have any dinner".
A friend posts about how they've binged at lunch and they're really regretting it. What should they do?
In response someone says that "if they meant to do it fine, but if they lost control it's not ok. You should never lose control, only eat what you plan to each day".
Is this what life boils down to?
Food is something to be enjoyed. There's no doubt about it. It's a primary requirement of any animal to be fed, but we have a capacity for enjoyment. Yes, we also have a capacity for gluttony and overfeeding, but at the root of it, we also have a function in our brains that tells us when enough is enough - both physically and psychologically.
Food is essential. You can't live without food. It's got LOADS of good stuff in it - fat, protein, carbs. All completely required to keep you fit and healthy. So why spend SO much of your time regretting what you've just eaten and vowing to never eat again?
Both examples above are what are known as "disordered thinking". It's not a rational approach to food, nor is it healthy. Yes, by all means cut out sweet treats. Yes, by all means don't stuff your face with food until you're ready to be sick from being full but also don't allow those things to become primary regrets. Eating one pudding in a day will not throw you off of your weight loss goals forever. Binging on a chinese buffet will not immediately make you gain 1, 000, 000 Ibs it is CONSISTENT over fulfillment of calorie goals that leads to weight gain.
It's very simple at the base of things: calories in - calories out.
Yep, you can get into loads of arguments about this. There's theories on thermogenics (raising the BMR by increasing your heat/energy expenditure - either by drugs or exercise), starvation mode/famine response (long periods of sustained fasting lead to the body metabolising body stores and storing anything that comes in) and a whole host of others but if you look to the base of them it's all the same thing, eat less calories than you consume over an extended period of time. 1 day won't make a difference. You may be able to raise your basal metabolic rate (BMR) over time, or have to ensure you eat ENOUGH but it's all the same. Calories in - calories out.
Right, but if i eat less than 800 calories a day I'll lose weight really quickly?
You'll be worn out, irritable and you'll start having a famine response over an extended period. Some people start losing hair, some get so tired they don't want to move around, some people get angry enough to hurt everyone around them. You might ache, feel dizzy, have headaches and bad breath. You won't sleep as well and you might have weird dreams....sound fun?
Food is your friend. Food contains essential macro and micro nutrients that keep your body healthy. If you cut too low you're not going to be getting these and you're just going to piss your body off.
I was speaking to one of my friends yesterday who said they'd just signed up for MFP. It had set them to 1200 calories and she didn't see how she could maintain that. I asked her why she'd want to. She looked confused. "To lose weight?"
But you don't need to cut your calories by a huge amount to still see losses. In fact, by eating enough you will be fueling your body so that you're able to perform your workouts at top speed and still burn away that fat, whilst keeping hold of your precious muscle.
Keeping hold of muscle is REALLY important. I've said it before, I'll say it again - muscle is metabolically active. If you have it in your body you burn more calories sitting still than if you don't have that muscle present.
Which is why weight training (and pole dancing!!!) are amazing exercises - they PUT MUSCLE IN!! That = more calories burnt just doing nothing! Wow. Freebie!
So - eating very little won't work?
So you could land yourself in a position where your BMR is very low and you end up gaining weight eating very little. That would suck.
So what should I do if I want to lose weight?
Sometimes that in itself can lead to problems - if you think back to the implementation of the CEP I was chowing down far too many cookies. But I don't regret it. I never regret cookies.
You want to lose weight, I get that but it doesn't have to hurt! Set a calorie restriction that is achieveable and suitable for your activity levels - this can be done in several ways, but I'm going to discuss the most common:
1) calculate your BMR and add back any exercise calories you burn.
This is good because it motivates you to workout for food, but it can lead to you going hungry sometimes and your daily goal will change.
You can calculate your BMR here:
2) calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure)
I prefer this method. You get to eat a set amount each day regardless of exercise, but if you've had a big workout you can be a bit stuck with your calorie goals and end up hungry.
To calculate your TDEE check these links out (use the "harris-benedict" formula):
More advanced methods:
There are lots more options,among them: You can intermittently fast (supposedly very good but I refuse to do it on the "relationship with food" argument), you can calorie cycle or you can use a combination of methods.
I'm currently looking at body re-composition (so removing fat whilst maintaining/gaining muscle). I use TDEE method but I utilise two days of the week where I eat at maintenance calories (the amount of calories I'd need to eat to maintain my weight). Some people call these "spike days" some people call them "splurge days" but I call them "nomnomnom days".
This works for me, because it allows me some choice in my calorie goal - I'm not consistently restricted and it keeps me burning that fuel.
When I started this journey I had done a lot of damage to my metabolism through poorly educated and borderline disordered eating. I couldn't eat 1200 calories daily (sedentary) without gaining weight. Through a careful cycle of reverse dieting (starting low and adding a small amount of calories to your goal weekly) and then cutting calories I can now eat 2000-2400 (very active) calories a day and lose. It's taken me two and a half years.
I'm active and healthy and I'm learning a good relationship with ALL kinds of food.
Food is not your enemy. Just because you "mess up" one day doesn't mean you have to "mess up" always. It's not a forever moment. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try harder to eat sensibly the next day. You might break your calorie goal for the day but PLEASE remember, it's not the end of your new-diet. It might be a hiccup in the road, but you'll learn from it. It might even be beneficial for you to break the goal and have a bit of a calorie laden treat - break the hold your food has on you.
Control isn't cutting everything out. Control is being able to stop. Once you have a good relationship with food, where you can enjoy a treat - even daily, you have control of your food.
Remember: food is your friend. What is your daily treat? How do you manage your calories? Are you a BMR kinda person or a TDEE sort of gal?