Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We don't need no stinkin' diets or cleanses!

There was some recent traffic on the TCSD email list concerning cleanses and other extreme diets.  Here's my $0.02:
I'm no dietitian or nutritionist, but I do have some simple weight-management guidelines I follow:

1. Never Say 'Diet'.  Make normal eating healthy: Don't think that abnormal eating, such as fad diets or 'cleanses', is a substitute or even a useful adjunct for sane normal eating practices.  Conversely, don't eat junk thinking "Oh, I'll just do a cleanse later."

2. Listen To Your Body.  Over time, I've somehow become sensitive to decoding my body's cravings and finding creative ways to satisfy them.  This results in eating habits that contain lots of variety.

3. Energy In = Energy Out.  I don't count calories, but I do watch my bathroom scale.  When I trend high, I simply reduce fats and carbs slightly, and try to find ways to increase my workouts.  It's more about maintaining balance than watching myself like a hawk.

4. Remove temptation.  If you looked in my kitchen right now, you'll find my only "junk food" is peanut butter and honey sandwiches, which ain't all that bad as far as 'bad' snacks go.  You'll also find lots of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables in my 'fridge, along with low-fat (not non-fat or fat-free) yogurt.  That's the kind of stuff I allow myself to buy, so that's all I have on hand to eat.  I'm not all that strong-willed, so I do sometimes have to go to extremes: I really have trouble not buying the large Costco boxes of Wheat Thins, so much so that I gave up my Costco membership (and it wasn't just the Wheat Thins).

5. Eat to ease hunger, not to become full.  I usually have just two 'sit-down' meals each day (without dessert), and tend to snack 3-4 times during the day.  The meals serve mainly to get protein and fat into me (eggs, cheese, meat, legumes), with fruits and veggies for grazing.  Drinking lots of water while eating also serves to slow me down and fill me up.

6. Moderation in all things, including moderation.  When I'm toward the low end of my ideal range, I permit myself to have lots of fun (called 'beer') getting closer to the top end of my range.  It is important for me to reward myself now and then.

7. Go easy on the supplements.  Dense supplements tend to mess with my sense of physical well-being.  I try to get all my nutrition from 'real' food, with my main 'supplement' being a multivitamin.  This changes during peak training periods, where there aren't enough hours in the day to eat what I'm burning.

8. Have a high resting metabolism.  This somehow feels like cheating; it's the 'anti-diet'.  I carry 5 extra pounds of muscle that do little more than burn calories and make my shirts fit better.  I do full-body circuit/strength training for 2 hours each week using only my own body weight (no weights or machines).  It has benefits beyond muscle development: It also builds reflexes and coordination, which help keep me from doing face-plants when I stumble on a run.

What is your ideal weight range?  Last summer I maxed out my training, ate like a horse, and lost 20 lbs, getting down to 165 lbs (my lowest weight in over 30 years), which I soon found was my 'bonk weight': I had no significant fat metabolism at all, and my endurance performance suffered (though my shorter PRs totally rocked).  By the time I did the Tri Classic last September I had added 5 lbs back and was bonk-free for that event.  My ideal weight range is 170-175 lbs, with 170 lbs being my 'race weight'.

Many of us are time-crunched or injured and have trouble burning all the calories we take in.  If you can do stationary exercise for just 30 minutes every day, even as three 10-minute sessions (morning, noon and night), you'll be amazed at the results.  Without those sessions while my foot was broken (mainly crunches, squats and push-ups) I would have gained MUCH more weight (I only gained 10 lbs over two months).  These short sessions have a triple benefit: They burn calories while you do them, increase your metabolism right after them, and build muscle that burns energy between them.

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