I LOVE vacations, but I need to be really careful that I don’t allow vacation eating to turn into a new routine. Many of us tend to go all or nothing with our dietary habits, so we either stick to chicken and broccoli on vacation or we fall off the wagon completely. Many people also tend to bring their vacation habits back into their day to day lifestyles. None of these mentalities lead to long term success. If we are too rigid and don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life, especially on vacation, we burn out and usually end up right back where we started. If we allow ourselves to go crazy while away, we usually can’t flip a switch and get back to the behaviors that will promote our goals when we get home. Rather, we carry those vacation behaviors when we return to everyday life. There are a few things that can help you bring balance to vacation eating. First, aim for two meals that look like what you would eat at home eat day, and allow yourself to enjoy one without regrets. Second, be active! Try to be as active or more active than you are at home. If you are more active, those relaxed meals won’t matter so much. Third, if you are going to drink, make a deliberate choice each time you have a drink. Finally, plan your reentry, and make sure you have a couple of days worth of meals prepared at home (frozen is fine!) so that you can get back into your routine when you return.
Being with friends often helps us relax and forget about work or other things that may be weighing on our minds. In many instances, however, friendships revolve around food and drinks, particularly ones where the friendships are of long duration and the individuals have developed different goals, mindsets, and lifestyles as the years have passed. How do you maintain friendships and a social life while meeting your fat loss goals? One thing you can do is plan a different activity for the group rather than stick to meeting for dinner and drinks. If you cannot get people to buy in to that concept, eat beforehand and order something light, offer to be the designated driver, and offer to make the dinner reservation, choosing a place that you know will let you stick to your goals.
Our families usually want the best for us, but often times they don’t understand that what works for them may not work for us. They question why we want to do things differently than they do, don’t understand why the way they do things isn’t “good enough”, and sometimes are afraid that changes we make in our lives may not leave as much room for them as they would like. Add that that family traditions that usually involve food and grandma’s great cooking courtesy of a pound of butter used daily, and family gatherings can get tense. A few things can help. First, if you are not staying there, eat beforehand and limit yourself to small nibbles and servings of the things you truly love. Second, if you are staying over, offer to do the grocery shopping or help with cooking. This gives you greater control over ingredients and preparation methods. Third, offer to plate dinner or suggest serving the meal buffet style. This allows you to make your plate look how you want it to look, and to make the best choices you can. Finally, if people really push as to why you are eating differently, be sincere about your goals and motivation, and ask for support.
Parties often lead to dietary disappointments. There aren’t a lot of healthy options at most parties, alcohol is plentiful, and people may pressure you to act as they are. Here are a few ideas to help stay on track and have fun. First, eat beforehand. If you are already full, you will self regulate your food and drink consumption. Second, bring something yummy that you feel comfortable eating. I love veggies and dip, and make my own dip with fat free ranch dressing. Unless I eat all of the dip all by myself, that won’t get me off track. Third, club soda with lime is your friend. It looks like a drink and no one will ask you if you are drinking or not. Fourth, if it is polite to do so, arrive on the later side; always have an exit strategy. You can be social but it needn’t be five hours of temptation. Leave when you feel your willpower diminish. Finally, buddy up. If you know someone else attending has similar goals, stick together. A “no, thank you” is usually better received from two than one.
Offices are rife with problems for dieters. Between free food in the break room, forced socialization involving food for someone’s birthday/retirement/baby shower, that deadline that forces you to miss a workout or grab something that doesn’t fit your food goals, and peer pressure from coworkers to go out for food or drinks that aren’t part of your plans, your job can derail your fat loss goals. A few things can help. First, eat before going to work and before any work event, and have emergency rations just in case. Second, if there is a work event that involves food and you HAVE to go, plan what you will and won’t eat, feel free to say “no thank you, I just ate”, and stick to protein and veggies. Third, have an exit strategy to get out of the situation. During the workday, it might be an urgent message to return, or a project that needs to get out by the end of the day. At the end of the day, it can be other plans or a family commitment. Finally, if it is a HUGE event at work and you cannot get away from eating or drinking something you don’t really want, remember that a bite or two won’t derail you from meeting your goals.
Back in October, several of my blog posts discussed how following the latest hyped research studies may not lead to the best results. Shortly thereafter, Greg Nuckols of MASS and Stronger By Science came out with a great article on how to determine whether a study’s findings can be trusted or not. It’s a bit dense, but I am linking to it because it is a great read. The Cliff Notes version? Look for three things before thinking about making changes to your nutrition or training based on a new study: replicability, consistency with the weight of prior research, and study design, including size, funding, and timing of when theories were developed.www.strongerbyscience.com/trust-research-findings/
There is one expression I hear a lot that drives me up a wall: “I worked out so I earned (insert food or beverage choice of dubious nutritional value)”. While calories in and calories out do matter, and the more active you are the more calories you can consume without being in a surplus, the idea that humans need to “earn” their food is anathema to me, particularly when we use that concept to justify eating something that we want but know isn’t the best food choice. If we want to eat something and make a conscious and deliberate choice to eat it, we shouldn’t have to justify it to ourselves.
Instead, I prefer to think of food as fuel. Think about a car for a minute. If you drive a car at a steady average pace under normal conditions, it will burn gas at a certain rate, and you will need to keep refueling it at a certain rate to keep it going. The further or faster you drive it, the more fuel it will use. If you load it up or tow something with it, it will burn fuel at a faster rate and need to be filled up more frequently. If you drive more slowly or for a shorter distance, you need less gas and won’t need to refuel as often.
Grossly oversimplified, the normal human metabolism works in much the same way. If your activity or exertion level increases, you will need more fuel. If either decrease, you need less. In short, on the days where you are lifting, carrying, running, or whatever it is that you enjoy doing for moderate to intense exercise, you will need more fuel.
Let’s go back to the car analogy for a minute. Think of the human body as one of those fancy cars that requires 93 octane or higher gasoline. If you fill it with the wrong octane, the car doesn’t run very well. It will shudder, make funny noises, and generally make its displeasure known. Whole foods are premium gas, and processed or “junk” foods are 87 octane. If you put the right amount of whole foods into your body, your engine purrs. If you put the wrong amount in, or if you put the wrong fuel in, you’re not going to get peak performance. Is it okay to use a different fuel sometimes? Sure, but the more you do it, the worse your performance will be.
Do you want to be strong and active as you age? Do you want to stay in your own home for as long as possible? If you do, are you doing any resistance training? Inactive individuals over the age of thirty lose between three and five percent of their muscle mass per year, resulting in long term problems with daily living activities. Current research shows that adults over the age of forty should incorporate weights into their exercise routine to prevent this long term muscle loss, or sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is one of the primary reasons why individuals are not able to live on their own, but routine weight lifting or use of resistance bands combined with proper protein intake helps slow the rate of muscle loss. In some cases, resistance training and proper nutrition even can help reverse the process of muscle loss. So if you want to be active well into your later years, seek out a resistance training program that fits your lifestyle.
One of the most significant changes I ask most of my fat loss clients to make is increasing the amount of low intensity steady state cardio (LISS) that they do during the day. LISS is a proven way to increase the amount of calories that your body uses without stressing it out. The easiest and most common form of LISS is walking at a pace at which you can easily carry on a conversation. For some clients, adding a walk to their morning or evening works, while for others, it’s simpler to just park further away, to take the stairs, or to take two trips to put the laundry away rather than use a big laundry basket so they can do it in one. These small changes can lead to big increases in activity levels and thus the amount of calories your body uses during the day. This in turn accelerates fat loss. Want to learn how to add LISS into your life? We can help!
Over the past few weeks, we have taken a quick look at the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate intensity steady state cardio (MISS). Now you may be asking “Well, what should I be doing?” The answer, as it so often is in nutrition and fitness, is it depends. What does it depend on? There are several things. Your goals, the amount of time you have available, and what you enjoy all play a role. Ideally, there is a place for both in your workout routine, but if you truly are crunched for time, talk to us about your needs and we will help find the right balance for you.
Amy Mariani is the owner of Fit & Fabulous LLC in Winchester, Massachusetts. She is also the nutrition coach at www.mountainstrength.com. Her mission is to help people eat healthy and love life.
Please note that you should consult with your physician prior to embarking on any major changes with regard to your nutrition. Unfortunately, absent authorization from a medical professional, we are unable to provide individualized nutrition coaching to anyone under the age of eighteen, or to persons with certain medical conditions. We are always happy to work with authorized medical professionals under these circumstances.