Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Diet vs Lifestyle

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on June 7, 2010

In this article, I will assume that when you’re reading this, you have committed to some level of weight loss. Whether that weight loss is for an event (i.e., wedding, prom, hanging at the pool, going to the beach, vacation, etc) it doesn’t really matter. Or, perhaps, you’ve just decided to make a change and simply want to be thinner than you are. Whatever the reason for the weight loss, the goal is still the same… to lose the weight.

What is your goal?

I’m not asking how much you want to lose. We’ve already established that you want to lose weight and you’ve likely already determined how much. No, this question is asking for how long do you want the weight gone? It’s a valid question. The reason I’m asking this question is very much the crux of this entire article. If you are looking to lose your weight for a month or two and then ‘forget about it’ and go back to ‘normal eating’, then this article really isn’t the answer.

This article may help you attain that goal, but this information is not intended nor designed to lead people back into the dieting trap. This article is designed to help people get out of the diet trap and bring about lasting change. If you are committed to lasting change, then you’ve come to the right place.

Thinking patterns evolved

Let’s start by discussing what the food industry has done for America (and, arguably, the world). We’ll start by saying that the food industry is, first and foremost, in it for the money. Secondarily, they supply food. Plain and simple, without profits they can’t stay in business, so money always comes first. From Kraft, Hershey, ConAgra, Archer Daniel Midland to Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s, the mantra is the same. Eat more. It’s a simple and subtle, yet consistent message. The more we eat, the more money they make. It’s simple economics. It’s also economics working against the waistline. The bottom line is, eat more so they make more money. I’ll discuss how that thinking manifests shortly. As long as you keep this ‘money making’ aspect of the industry firmly in your dietary planning, you can easily maintain your weight loss goals. Remember, it’s about their profits, not your waistline.

Money making manifestation

The ways in which the food industry keeps to their profit goals is through marketing. Whether that marketing is on TV, in print, on menu or on the packaging, the message is always there. Eat more. How? On packages, there are many ways they accomplish this. Some subtle, some not-so-subtle. The first and most bold is the ‘serving suggestion’ combined with ‘image enlarged for detail’. So, for cereal, as an example, it’s always a heaping huge bowl of cereal filled to the top. Granted, the image is ‘enlarged’ so determining scale is out. But, that’s the point. They don’t want to give you a frame of reference so you equate that imagery with the bowls in your cupboard (probably huge due to standard manufacturer sizes). So, then you turn to the ‘Nutrition Facts’ panel and see that 1 cup is 110 calories. You naturally equate the ‘serving suggestion’ to the ‘1 serving size’ and pour your cereal thinking you’re eating 100-110 calories. The thing you don’t realize is that bowl of cereal you poured might account for upwards of 300-400 calories depending on bowl size. Combining that with 2% milk, you are looking at 244 calories in 2 cups of milk. That turns what you thought was a 100-110 calorie meal into a 500+ calorie meal. Granted, 500 calories for a single meal is probably fine by itself, but the nutrition in cereal and milk is questionable. Basically, it’s carbs and fat with some protein. The vitamins you receive have been fortified both in the cereal and the milk. On top of that, the milk contains bovine growth hormones that could interfere with weight loss.

With restaurants, the idea is similar. Show a picture of a great looking meal on the cover or next to the food item. They tempt you through the look of the food. Of course, if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant once, you know the food never looks like it does in the photographs. But more than this, the size of the meal is also, again, quite large and hard to judge scale. On the plus side to this, however, is that many states (including California) are now requiring nutrition guides be placed on the table. So, you can look up that oh-so-delicious-looking-meal and realize that that meal is actually 1100 calories. Yes, that’s 1100 whopping calories. Over 1/2 of the recommended calories for a 2000 calorie a day diet. Again, over half of the calories for 1 day’s meals. So, the plate may appear appetizing, but you need to dig deeper to see just how calorie dense that meal really is.

You should begin to understand why are waistlines are exploding. We can’t eat like this and expect to remain thin. But, the food industry has been slowly and steadily increasing portion sizes so that we’re to the point of gut busting, yet oblivious as to why.

Convenience and Instant Gratification

The second aspect of this thinking paradigm shift is in convenience and speed. The restaurant (and food) industries have additionally ingrained into our consciousness the need-for-speed. We have to have it now. That food should be something that’s ready in 5-7 minutes. The microwave and other innovations have also instilled this thinking. Granted, some foods don’t need to take long amounts of time to prepare. Some do. However, it’s not the speed here that’s at fault. It’s the fact that most meals that can be prepared rapidly are usually the foods with the highest calorie density (see below). So, with speed can come higher calories. The food industry has played off of our need-for-speed and produced foods that prepare rapidly, but those foods are usually overly calorically dense.

Bucking the system (and your friends, relatives and colleagues)

So, now the main aspect to weight loss is bucking the system. You don’t have a choice in this matter. The industry has so ingrained into the American consciousness that more is better that you have to forget that mantra and retool your own thinking. In addition, that now means you have to ignore your friends’, relatives’ and colleagues’ comments. What matters is your goals. If you want to lose the weight, you must look at portions and do what needs to be done to meet your goals. That means you need to think critically about what got us to the gut busting mentality and retool your own personal programming. It also means eating smaller portions and eating less calorie dense foods. However, this does not mean starving yourself. It also doesn’t mean you can’t eat the foods you like. You must eat them in smaller sizes.

I know, it’s hard to ignore friends’ and relatives’ comments. It is. But, if you are committed, you have to do this. When they ask you to eat over, accept. But, don’t eat more than what you need. Remember, you also do have ‘cheat’ meals.

Calorie density

As food engineering has progressed, prepackaged foods have become increasingly more calorie dense. Calorie density means that the manufacturers have been able to pack in more calories into smaller and smaller sizes. This also means that you cannot easily spot high calorie items simply with your eyes. You now need to weigh the foods. So, that means if you don’t have a scale in your house, you need to get one. Scales are important because weights are the only true way to measure calories. For example, 85g of chicken is 120 calories (that’s ~3 ounces). But, can you spot 85g of chicken just by looking? No. 85g of chicken is actually a small amount of chicken. It’s about 1/3 of a small-med chicken breast. That also means that a small-med chicken breast is about 360-400 calories. But, some chicken breasts are now enormous (thanks to hormones). So, here’s another example of density. Because chicken producers are now able to produce humongous chicken breasts, restaurants may even be serving these on your plate. These breasts might be 600 calories. The food scale is your friend, so weigh your foods. It’s the only way for you to be certain of how many calories are in your foods.

Cheat meals

What is a cheat meal? Simply, a cheat meal is a meal that lets you eat a ‘normal’ (ahem) sized portion. A portion that you would find in a restaurant. Yes, that 1100 calorie meal above would be considered a ‘normal’ sized meal. But, this is a once-a-week meal. This is something that should be considered a treat or a reward. Think of it as a way to eat out and make it appear like you still accept the ‘eat more’ mantra. That you blend in with your waistline bulging friends. Then, once the meal is over, you immediately go back to your regular eating schedule as normal. And yes, I realize, I haven’t gotten to what is a ‘regular meal’ answer. We’ll come to that next.

So, what is regular sized meal?

Going by the 2000 calorie-a-day guideline of the FDA, let’s examine. It’s very simple math here. 2000 / 3 = 667 calories per meal. That’s assuming you eat only 3 meals per day. If you want to add in two 100 calorie snacks per day, then let’s calculate. 2000 – 200 = 1800. 1800 / 3 = 600 per meal + 2 100 calorie snacks. So, let’s break it out:

  • Breakfast = 600
  • Snack = 100
  • Lunch = 600
  • Snack = 100
  • Dinner = 600
  • Total = 2000

Here’s a challenge, I dare you to find any chain restaurant that offers full adult meals plus desert that fits into 600 calories. It’s next to impossible. Most restaurant meals start at 800 calories and finish (including a desert) well over 1800 calories just for that one single meal. How is anyone expected to lose weight eating that amount of calorie density in one meal? Combining that with several meals around that same size and you can’t.

So, this is mostly why you need to make your own meals at home. There are some restaurants that do offer lesser calorie meals. But, you need to dig through their nutritional guides to find them. For example, Chili’s offers a Guiltless Tilapia meal that’s just 200 calories (the full meal). That’s a Tilapia fillet and a side of vegetables (broccoli and shredded carrots). That would still leave 300 calories for a dessert (if following the above meal guide).

So then, what does a 600 calorie meal look like? Here’s a web site that gives you some ideas.

Grains, Vegetables and Fruits

The only thing that breads and, specifically, wheat products offer nutritionally is 1) carbs and 2) fiber. Both carbs and fiber are readily available in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are much more vitamin and mineral dense than breads. In general, grains of all types fall into this as well (rice, barley, rye, corn and, of course, wheat). That’s not to say not to eat grains, you can. But, you get better nutrition out of vegetables with far fewer calories. So, you can eat more vegetables and get full, yet still eating far fewer calories So, eating vegetables will give you more fiber than wheat with far fewer calories (and much less insulin response). On the other hand, fruits give about equal insulin response as wheat (because of the fruit sugars). So, always think of fruits as desert.

Weight Loss

To truly begin losing weight, you need to rethink your meals. In that goal, instead of trying to do the above 600 calorie meals, you could do 200-300 calorie meals spaced out differently. For example, you might do 6 300 calorie meals over a 6 hour period and throw in 2 100 calorie snacks where ever you feel you need them. By eating more frequently with smaller meals, you keep the body constantly processing foods and nutrition. The body burns calories to digest foods. So, you are using this food processing system to burn calories. At the same time, you need to restrict your calories to an amount just under your maintenance calorie number.

So, if your maintenance number is 2000, you might have to drop to 1700-1800 to begin losing. You might need to go to 1500. It all depends on where your number is and only you can determine that number. Once you determine the number, you can easily maintain your weight (or go back into weight loss mode) as necessary. This also means the end to ‘normal meals’. That is, meal sizes dictated by the food industry. You need to ignore that rhetoric and use a plan that actually works.

Fresh foods and density

Food designed by nature is food the way it was intended to be found and eaten. That means, when foods are eaten the closest to that foods natural state, the more healthy it is (barring pesticides, hormones and fertilizers). When foods are in their natural state, they are the least calorically dense and the most nutritionally dense. This means, you can eat more of them to satisfy your hunger and, at the same time, not go over your calorie goals. You will also meet your body’s nutritional requirements. Such foods include broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans, corn on the cob, carrots, etc.

On the other hand, foods designed in factories are the farthest away from nature that they can get. These foods are devoid of nutrition and very calorically dense. These foods must be fortified (vitamins and minerals are added back to these devoid products). These foods include bread, pizza dough, Pillsbury Dough, Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Ice Cream, Cheese and processed cheese food (Velveeta).

Foods that fall into the unsure status include Milk, Eggs, Chicken, Pork, Beef, Lamb, Veal, etc. While meats contain dense proteins and are necessary for the body, the commercial meat industry uses questionable practices to get these foods into the stores. So, unless you trust your meat supplier explicitly from farm to market, you may be getting extra things in your meats you are not really needing. That’s not to say that you can’t eat meat, let’s just say that you should limit meat consumption to only the amount needed to fulfill your daily protein requirements. As far as bovine milk, this is an calve food not designed for human consumption. See Randosity’s Milk: Does it really do a body good? for more details. Milk (and milk products, like cheese, yogurt, kefir, cream and butter) should be avoided as they are not necessary for the human diet. There is nothing in milk that cannot be had from other sources of solid foods including meats and vegetables.

Portions vs Exercise

To truly lose weight requires rethinking. It requires making yourself acutely aware of marketing practices and thinking about how manipulative these images really are. You need to determine your own calorie intake per day, but that will likely be no more than 2000 calories per day (unless you are an extremely active person like a bodybuilder, a runner, a biker, a hiker, a skier, a climber, a swimmer or a surfer). If you are not extremely exercise active, then you need to reduce your calories to fit a less active lifestyle. The bottom line is, calories in have to be less than calories expended to lose weight. The more active you are, the more you can eat. The less active, the less you can eat. It’s simple math here.

So, you need to reduce your portion sizes to accommodate a less active lifestyle. Increasing your exercise levels does not give you cause to binge, however. You still must stay below your energy expenditure to lose weight. You must equal your energy expenditure to maintain your weight. It’s very simple logic.

Permanent thinking

The hardest part is changing your thought behavior to become a permanent way of life. You can’t keep thinking ‘Oh, I only need to lose 5 pounds in 30 days’. No, instead you need to think, ‘They’re tricking me into that portion size’. So, eat a piece of cake, but eat a 50-100 calorie piece. Eat a size that fits into your daily eating schedule. As long as you adhere to portion sizes and calorie relationships that fit with your goals, you will continue on your weight lose goals. Don’t forget your cheat meal, though. You can use this as a crutch to help keep you on track. Eventually, this crutch won’t be necessary every week and you will fall into a normal eating behavior that is correct for your long term goals. You just need to give your body a chance to adapt (usually several months). And yes, your body will adapt to the correct portion sizes over time. Getting over that hump can take some time.

Let’s Recap

To affect permanent lasting weight loss, you have to understand misleading marketing materials that can lead you astray. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You need to retool your thoughts about food and your current lifestyle for long term changes, not for a month or two. So, think about how you can affect food changes that you can live with for the rest of your life. We also learned that a real meal size is about 600 calories (for a 2000 calorie a day diet). In fact, your meal size might be smaller than this to affect weight loss. It’s also difficult to find 600 calories in restaurant meals. You may have to request substitutions in restaurant meals to reduce the calorie density. Fresh natural foods are always healthier than processed industrial foods. Processed industrial foods tend to be high calorie density foods. So, you need to rethink your thoughts on foods and the way you think about foods. If you are committed to making these thought changes and learn more about foods, you can make a permanent lasting change towards a thinner you.

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Obesity Overtaking America

Posted in Health, health and beauty, Uncategorized by commorancy on December 13, 2009

You’ve heard all about this issue in the media. But, what you may not know is that this issue is now even reaching into the military (including our armed forces in Iraq).  The Pentagon has reported that obesity has doubled since 2003 in the US Military. Here are people who are actively serving for our national security and they’re becoming obese.  I always thought that army food wasn’t that great and was designed to keep the troops’ healthy.  I guess that’s not happening.

Some people attribute stress to the obesity epidemic in the US.  But, who or what is to blame for the growing waistlines?  Clearly, people do need to take responsibility for what they eat.  On the other hand, the human body does not come with an owner’s manual.  So, these two issues combined with the media, the food industry, so-called professionals, easy access to foods and misinformation lead to the waistline growth.  Which one is to blame?  They all are.

Food Industry

I know we all want to blame and, in some cases, even sue the food industry for this issue.  In some cases, lawsuits may even be warranted.  However, each person needs to take responsibility for their body.   Unfortunately, in some situations it may not be possible to purchase and eat your own foods. You may end up being in a semi-captive situation where you eat what you are given and have no access or say in the foods that are served.  In these cases, that establishment is to blame for feeding you poor quality food choices.  This may be the situation in the military.  This situation may also follow for lower income families who need to eat, but cannot afford to purchase produce due to its higher costs.

However, when the person can purchase their own food, make their own food and then eat that food freely, that’s where self-responsibility must take place.  You can’t blame the food industry when you have choices.  Basically, as a consumer, you must take responsibility for your food choices.  But, even more than that, you need to take responsibility for your body.  You can’t push your growing waistline off onto food manufacturers because you made the choice to eat their food.  There may be other liabilities that you can call the food industry on, but it isn’t personal responsibility for your body.

Food manufacturers do, on the other hand, provide loads of misinformation on their food items, so you have to become an intelligent and informed shopper to avoid these FDA-endorsed yet very deceptive food labels.  Note that deceptively labeled food items would be a liability for the food manufacturer except for the fact that the FDA has endorsed and approved those mislabeling practices. So, while you may want to sue the food manufacturer for mislabeling, you simply cannot.  These practices are definitely legal.  But, that doesn’t make them right, helpful or help you make an informed choice.  That said, you need to understand how to read the labels and discard the useless deceptive information and to determine just how nutritious something really is for you.

Three types of macronutrients defined

Of the three types of main nutrients your body needs, these are protein, carbs and fats.  Protein consists of meats, fish, eggs and is also in other products like milk, cheese, nuts and beans.  Fats consist of oils and is in foods including butter, avocados, nuts, fish, meats and table oils.  Carbs may be the hardest to identify in foods, but consist of both starches and simple sugars.  Starches include corn, rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, rye or any other type of grain.  Simple sugars include any granulated sugar (sucrose), fruit sugars (fructose) and dextrose (included in some food items). Sugar Alcohols should also be considered a simple sugar of sorts and these include maltitol, xylitol, mannitol (or any other sugar ending in ‘ol’).  Other sugars include maltodextrin and oligofructose among others.

All sugars ultimately become glucose in the body.  So, eating that piece of bread is ultimately the same as eating a piece of candy.  The only difference between candy and bread is the amount of fiber it contains.  Most finely granulated white flour is really no better than sugar and digests with similar speed.  With white flour based foods, you might as well be eating straight sugar.  Eating ‘whole wheat’ based items may slow down the digestion some, but that’s all dependent on the amount of fiber.  Most ‘whole wheat’ items may be partially made with white flour, so be careful with that.

Basically, your plate needs to consist of proteins, fats and carbs in the proper quantities to keep the body balanced.  Too many of any one of these nutrients and your body will compensate by becoming fat or having other issues.

A Society of Grain

The grain industry has a huge hold over our food supply.  You simply look at the average American meal and you will see one thing that dominates the plate: grains.  These include primarily include corn, wheat and rice.  But, there is also barley, rye and sorghum.  These grains are then made into items such as bread, crackers, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and pasta.  Once added to the plate, these items consume at least 25-50% of our dinner plate and probably 50-100% of our snacks.

Starchy vegetables

On top of these heavily starchy grains, we add yet another starch to our plates in the form of a potato and corn.  Yes, corn is both a grain and a vegetable depending on how it’s used.  So, between the bread and the potato, our dinner plate now contains probably 50% or more starches.  If you add corn as a side dish, that’s even more starch and makes up for at least 75% of the meal.  But, starch and starchy vegetables aren’t the complete answer to obesity.. even if the low-carb diets would like you to think so.  We’ll come back to the starch and weight relationship shortly.

Vegetables

In the vegetable category which should consume at least one-third of the plate, we should be serving green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and similar.  Other vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, soybean (green), green beans, leeks, etc.   Unfortunately, many people choose to skip this portion of the meal.  But, this portion needs to consume at least 25% of the plate (and actually, these should consume the most).  The reason they should consume the most is that they are high in fiber, low in calories and fill you up. Unfortunately, many vegetables can also cause flatulence and other intestinal issues (due to higher amounts of fiber).

Protein portion

Of the rest of our plate, we reserve the protein portion of the meal.  This includes foods such as, obviously, meats like beef, chicken, eggs, pork, turkey, fish and other seafood.   For vegetarians, there are other sources of proteins such as legumes, soy and other vegetable proteins and even milk (if lacto-vegetarian).

Beans

Legumes should be catagorized separately because they are both a starch and a protein at the same time.  So, while it’s great that they contain protein, they are also fairly starchy.  So, eating them in addition to other starches only serves to undermine any sensible weight loss approach.  So, be careful when adding beans to your plate.  Beans include white beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas, English peas, sugar snap peas, peanuts, refried beans, black beans, Lima beans, fava beans, etc.  It’s pretty easy to identify a bean on the plate just strictly due to its consistency and texture.  Beans also have one additional side effect that can be unpleasant in a lot of people: gas.  So, if you know you are intolerant of beans, be careful adding them to your plate.

Fruits and Nuts

Fruits should be considered a sugar (carb) combined with fiber.  So, when adding these in, understand that they add to your total calorie intake as well as your sugar intake for the day.  Nuts are considered both a protein and a starch.  So, again, add them into your total protein and carb intake for the day.  Fruits, like vegetables, are far lower in calories than nuts.  So, you can add more fruits to your diet (assuming you aren’t carb intolerant or diabetic) and reduce your calorie intake.  Nuts, on the other hand, are high in calories.  So, eating lots of nuts can add a lot more to your calorie intake than you think.

Dairy

Dairy products (cheese, milk, milk-based products) can be reasonably high in both calories and carbs (lactose), so be careful when adding lots of dairy to your diet.  Yes, diary does contain calcium and vitamin D (fortified), but you should try to find other ways to add calcium and D to your diet than through dairy.

Junk Foods & Soda

When trying to readjust your diet to be more healthy, you really have to get rid of these from your diet.  Junk foods are those that add calories without substance.  They may make you ‘feel’ good while you’re eating them, but the sugar high that you get and the subsequent weight gain isn’t wanted.  So, avoid junk foods.  Junk foods include potato chips, pretzels, bread (more than one piece per meal), crackers, Triscuit, Wheat Thins, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, rolls, biscuits or anything basically that uses refined white flour.  Refined white flour needs to be removed from any healthy diet.  Junk food also includes straight sugar based candies like hard candies and candy bars.  It also includes pies and ice cream. If you need baked goods, then make them from nuts, coconut or other alternative flours than refined white and wheat flours.  Note that whole wheat flour isn’t.  If the flour is ground to a powder, then it is not whole.  This is yet another label that mislabels the food.  Anything that’s ground to a powder consistency is refined to the point where it takes no digestive processing.  Note that I also include Pizza and Hamburgers in the junk food category because the food contains 40% or more refined wheat based flours.

As for commercial sodas, avoid them.  If you must drink sodas and want to be frugal, buy a SodaStream carbonator and carbonate your own water.  A SodaStream will save you money over time and prevent you from having to carry home heavy bottles of soda water.  If you can afford the costs and want to deal with carrying heavy bottles home, buy soda water in liter bottles.  Then, use your own sweeteners (like Stevia) and flavorings (like Vanilla) to create your own homemade sodas.  This avoids the acidic issues of commercially produced sodas and it also avoids the unnecessary preservatives and additives that are placed into commercial soda flavorings.  It also avoids the added sugars and potentially unhealthy lab created sweeteners.

Resting body caloric needs

The number one issue when it comes to weight gain or loss is how much to eat.  The suggested daily calorie allotment on the Nutrition Facts label of foods usually shows a 2000 calorie a day and sometimes a 2500 calorie a day value. This labeling implies that this is the number of calories YOU should be eating.  In fact, this assumption is incorrect. You cannot know how many calories per day that your body needs unless you get evaluated by using a device that measures your resting caloric needs.  One such Resting Metabolic measuring device is called the BodyGem.  This device measures several things at once through a mouthpiece where you sit and breathe.  As the devices are quite expensive, they can be found at better health clubs like 24 Hour Fitness.  As part of getting a membership, 24 Hour Fitness will measure your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) with the BodyGem. For example, my resting body caloric needs were tested at 1700 calories per day.  Even more than this, you need to understand what that number represents.  Is that the number at which the body will stay in equilibrium (i..e, no gain and no loss)?  Or, is that the number at which the body will gain or lose weight?  This information was not made clear to me.  So, getting yourself tested is only half of the battle.  You need to make sure you understand what that number represents.

Calorie?

Many people just assume that people know what a calorie represents.  In fact, most people don’t.  One calorie is the amount of food it takes to raise one liter of water one degree when that food is burned.  So, they burn the food in a controlled environment and then determine the how many calories the food is based on how much it raises the water temperature.  Note, however, that burning food is not an identical process the body uses to convert the food into energy.  Burning something is a combustion chemical process.  The body doesn’t use combustion to convert the food into energy. Instead, it relies on lock and key chemicals (solvents) to dissolve the molecular bonds of the foods. Thus, a calorie is only a representative measure of how the body works.  It’s symbolic and is allegedly equivalent enough that it works.  So, we’ve all taken for granted the calorie and what it represents when it may, in fact, not be as accurate as we would like.  For the sake of argument, however, we will assume that the calorie as measured is accurate for the purposes of this article.

Unrealistic labeling

Unfortunately, the FDA and the food industry are both working together to keep the public misinformed.  It’s unfortunate, but the food labels are really not there to help consumers.  The Nutrition Facts label is probably the only label on the package that you can trust as far as sheer numbers go.  So, what is inaccurate about the labeling?  Well, let’s start with the numbers of servings.  Realistic labeling for a small package of chips should state 1 serving per package.  Instead, many food manufacturers break down what should be a single serving into multiple servings.  So, you might find that single serving package stated as 2.5 servings.  So, the entire nutrition facts will only show you the amounts for 1 sub-serving of that bag of chips (which is about 1/3 of the package).  Ok, so who’s going to eat 1/3 of a package and put it away? For many reasons, this labeling idea is stupid.  First, it’s a single serving package and should be treated and labeled that way. Second, no one will store 2/3 of the package for later consumption as it will be stale in only a few hours.  But, the casual consumer might not look at the number of servings and assume that they ate 80 calories when they, in fact, just ate ~240 calories.

The numbers of servings issue is but one on the label.  In addition to the above, the Nutrition Facts lists total Daily Value (DV%) based on a 2000 or 2500 calorie per day diet.  Again, you need to know if your body gains or loses fat based on those assumptions.  If your body gains at 2000 per day, then you shouldn’t be using those DV values as a guide.  You will need to calculate your own Daily Values for yourself based on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Other mislabeling issues include the front of the package.  Again, based on the number of servings they put into the Nutrition Facts panel, they can then say ’80 Calories Per Serving’ on the front of the package.  This then makes the consumer assume that because it appears to be a single serving package that the entire package contains 80 calories. Again, mislabeling at its finest.

What it comes down to is read the Nutrition Facts label closely and read two pieces of information: Numbers of Servings and Calories Per Serving.  Then multiply that out in your head to find out how many REAL calories are in that package.  Remember: Numbers of Servings * Calories Per Servings = Total Calories in package.  Always determine this before you put that food into your cart.  What you think may look like 80 calories may end up being 500 calories.

Eating Out

With laws being enacted in many states requiring restaurants to put nutritional information on the menu, you can now see that Pepper Encrusted New York Strip with Penne Pasta and Spinach is 1500 calories.  1500 calories!  That’s nearly my entire daily allotment of calories in one meal!  Combine that with their 800 calorie desert and you’re well over your daily recommended intake with one single meal!  That doesn’t even take into account breakfast and lunch you ate earlier.

Weight Loss

It’s simple, to lose weight you need a calorie deficit.  That means that you take in less calories than your body expends in a day.  With a calorie deficit, the body reaches into its fat stores to provide energy.  This means you can’t eat that 2300 calorie meal combined with breakfast and lunch and expect to lose weight.  It won’t happen.  In fact, that’s the recipe for weight gain.  This will, over time, add pounds to the hips and give you the spare tire that you don’t want.  It makes you buy bigger clothes and feel bad about yourself.  But, the food industry feeds other industries including the health industry, the insurance industry, the hospitals and on the other side, the food industry itself, the restaurant industry and even the clothing industry (as you get bigger).  So, eating more and gaining more weight gives you incentive to spend more money on health and weight related issues (including gym memberships, supplements, weight loss fads, diet supplements and so on).

The simple truth about weight loss: you lose weight through a calorie deficit.  You have to eat less than your body expends.  Yes, this means you need to remain hungrier than you’ve ever been.  But, hungry means your body is losing weight.  You can’t lose weight without being hungry at times.  But, the desperate hunger you feel initially will subside over time as your body pulls from the fat stores and gets used to less calories.

Calories per day

This is yet another misnomer.  We think of our bodies in terms of a 24 hour period and how many calories we shove into it during this period.  This is wrong.  The body doesn’t know the concept of a day (or a 24 hour period).  The body utilizes a continuous cycle of processing.  When you eat, you interrupt the fat loss process by adding external calories.  Once those calories are finished being processed by the body, the body can then go back to utilizing internal calories from its own stores.   This means smarter eating.  When you do eat, eat foods that process completely to give maximum nutrition and then allow the body to go back to processing internal stores. This means smaller meals more often to reduce food processing times.  Large meals keep your body processing external foods far longer.  With a larger meal, there is a large likelyhood that your large meal will still be processing once you start your next meal.  So, your body never gets into fat loss mode between meals.

Instead, you need to think of your body as a constant processing machine.  It doesn’t recognize a 24 hour day.  It continually processes.  So, you need to think about eating foods not in a 24 hour period but on a continuous basis.  So, about every 2 waking hours you should eat a small meal.  That’s the necessary amount of time it takes to process the small meal. You do not need to eat while sleeping.  In fact, the sleep fasting period lets your body burn fat. However, if you go too long between meals, the body may go into survival mode and conserve.  Adding a small meal keeps the body aware that it is receiving external fuel and helps prevent survival conservation mode.  Note that the body’s conservation mechanism can help you lose weight (as well as gain it), so you need to understand how to manage that by eating small meals.

Lower Calorie Foods

By reading the Nutrition Facts panel closely (including numbers of servings) you can accurately determine if that food fits within your calorie requirements.  For example, you can eat that cookie if you want.  But, if you’re looking at 200-300 calories per meal, that 160 calorie cookie is over half of that meal.  You can do it, but you need to readjust your meal intake accordingly.

Eating Out Continued

Once you get into eating smaller meals more often, you may find that eating out is a thing of the past. It’s almost impossible to find restaurants that will serve you a 200-300 calorie meal.  Most average meals in restaurants are around 800-1200 per meal.  You can limit this by leaving food on the plate, but that’s a waste of money.  If you’re with friends, they may think you’re odd not eating an entire meal.  I find it simpler to make meals for myself at home.   On the other hand, you do need a cheat meal occasionally to keep the body off-guard and kick it out of survival conservation mode.  So, your cheat meal should be a ‘standard’ meal you will find at a restaurant, in addition to your 200-300 calorie per meal meals every 2 hours. You should add a cheat meal no more than once per week.

Starch and Weight

Because starch is a big staple on our plates, we must acknowledge the role it plays in our health.  We cannot deny that starchy foods are a contributor to our obesity.  Most starchy foods are combined with fat and that’s a recipe for fat storage.  The reason, starchy foods raise blood insulin levels and insulin is a carrier to bring the fat into our cells for storage.  So, the more insulin the body produces, the more likely you are to store fat.  When combined with an overly large calorie meal, these body processes are perfectly aligned to store the fat in our cells.  Because we continue to eat the same way day in and out, we do not give our bodies a chance to release the fat.  So, more and more storage of fat is added and never removed.  Thus, we get fatter and fatter to the point of obesity.  As a result of this, we need to put starch into perspective.  This means, reducing the amount of starches you eat at a meal and reduce their overall importance in the meal itself.

Losing Fat?

If you’re committed to losing the fat, you need to understand the body’s food and survival mechanisms, food labeling, foods that work for you and nutrition.  Our bodies were designed to be hunters and gatherers.  That means we eat meals when we find foods in the wild.  Once we find them (or hunt them), we would basically eat smaller meals more often rather than sitting down for a big meal.  We would also expend our energy engaging in food search. The body’s internal processes have not changed since the days of the hunters and gatherers.  But, our meals and energy uses have.   We now eat more calories in one sitting than ever in human existence.  We sit on couches watching TV, web surfing and playing video games.  The body just can’t cope with the excessive calories and, thus, adds the fat to the stores for future famine.  In fact, eating too many calories triggers the body’s survival conservation mode by storing the fat for famine situations.  The famine situation never comes, so we get fatter and fatter.  Just as not eating enough food can trigger storage conservation, so does eating too much.

There is a middle ground where you need to eat small meals to keep the body’s food processing active, but not enough food to kick in fat storage mode.  This is the balance in eating that you need to observe.  The balance is in calories that you eat, but not always what you eat.  The specific foods that you eat fills in the blanks for vitamins and minerals.  Limited calorie intake prevents fat storage and encourages fat store release.  Note that as our foods have become more calorie dense, they have been lacking in vitamins and minerals.  So, you may find that you need to add supplements for vitamins and minerals.  I recommend individual vitamins in gelatin capsules versus packed tablets containing recommended Daily Values (which could be inaccurate).

On a final note, once you get to your target body shape and weight, you will need to find your equilibrium mode to maintain that weight.  To do this, increase your calorie intake for each meal and eventually you will find that equilibrium. You will also need to eat more food the more active you become.  If you drastically increase your daily activity, you will need to compensate for that activity by increasing food intake to prevent, again, survival conservation mode (among other health issues that could arise).

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended to be used to as a diagnosis, to diagnose or as a diet.  It is strictly to be used for information purposes.  You will need to find your own way to lose the weight.  These suggestions may work to help you understand the body’s processes, but you will need to choose the foods that keep you healthy and let you lose the fat.  Everybody’s body is different, so this information may not work for you.  You should also consult with a doctor before launching any calorie restricted diet to determine any pre-existing conditions prior to dieting. This information is provided as is.  All risk of use of this information is assumed by the reader.  This information is copyright 2009 Randosity.  All rights reserved.

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