Yes Before No

There are so many theories and ideas out there about how to eat or not eat to manage weight. I like to go with what I call “Yes Before No.” Basically, I have a list of “yes” foods that I can eat any time I want, as much as I want, without restriction. And I have a set of characteristics that make foods “no” foods, but they’re not forbidden.

A lot of diets, or at least, a lot of the old-school diets I grew up with in the 80s and 90s, give you a big list of Nos. For example, “No cookies, no candy, no baked goods, no dessert, no potatoes, no fat, no sugar, no life, no fun.”

Jesus, who wants to sign up for a big list of forbidden things? Nobody. All that’s going to happen if you give me that list is I’m going to fixate on all those things I can’t have and then they’ll be the things I crave desperately on hard days and can’t wait to get finished with the program so I can go binge on them. That’s counter-productive.

How about a list of things I can have? In fact, how about a list of things that I can not only have, but I’m required to meet a minimum? Here’s my yes list:

  • Fruits – any kind
  • Veggies – any kind

I can have as much as I want of all the fruits and veggies in the world. In order to not get bored, I can find new recipes and experiment with as many different kinds of fruits and veggies as exist at my local market. In fact, I am required to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (but for me a day when I only eat 5 servings is extremely rare, I usually average around 8-10 per day).

A serving is one medium-sized piece of fruit, or a cup of veggies (leafy greens like lettuce or spinach are more like 3 cups when raw though).

I can eat as much as I want though! I don’t have to restrict myself whatsoever, and most of the time I don’t measure anything if I’m eating fruits and veggies. Why bother? More is better – my only restriction is a minimum, not a maximum! That’s how I get through things like parties and barbecues – I graze all day long on fruits and veggies, so I’m never hungry and I can munch away like a normal person.

Now that I’ve shown you my yes list, here’s what’s characteristic for a no: Stuff that’s highly processed, deep fried, or wouldn’t be recognizable as food to my ancestors. But it’s not a “No Forever.” It’s a soft no. The real no for me is: No eating other stuff until I’ve had something on my yes list first. I know I have to eat a minimum off my yes list, so if I’m feeling a craving for something that’s not so great for me, first I need to find out if it’s actual hunger, or just a passing craving based on an emotional fluctuation (like with chocolate when I’m down). After I’ve eaten some fruit or veggies, I can have the thing. Most of the time I don’t want it then.

Food is fuel, so I try to eat the things that fuel my body in the most constructive way. I know the things that are going to make me feel sluggish and bad, and a good way for me to avoid them is to stick with my yes list first. Maybe this is something that will work for you – focus on eating more of the good stuff you can have, without feeling deprived right off the bat by setting up a big list of things you can’t have. Set a goal that’s a minimum, not a list of don’ts.

Also maybe bring less of the non-supportive food into the house. It should take effort to sabotage yourself.

It WAS Easier For Your Parents

HOLD THE PHONE.

Cripes, I don’t even know what to say about this article I just stumbled across:

Your Parents Didn’t Have As Much Trouble Losing Weight As You

Summary: It’s harder for people who are young now to lose weight despite doing the same exercise and eating the same things, than it was for people in the Baby Boomer Generation, due to various environmental, physiological, and behavioral factors. It lists 4 factors that have scientifically been proven to cause weight gain or prevent loss, and yeah, 3 of those 4 (if not all of them) are definitely a factor for most people living today.

And then the last half of the article is utter bullshit, where they ask an “expert” what you should do and he says that it’s all your fault anyway because you don’t move as much as older generations did and you eat too much sugar, oh and try to exercise more and eat better (which contradicts what was stated in the first three paragraphs of the article, and I quote: “People were about 10 percent heavier in 2008 than in 1971 and five percent heavier, despite eating the same amount of food and doing the same exercise.”). So the last half is really stupid but it’s about what I expect from articles on Yahoo! Health anymore.

This week I’m doing the Killer Body DVD. There are 3 workouts: Monday I did arms, yesterday I did core, today I did lower body/legs. I’m gonna be sore, but tomorrow I start in on arms again, etc. Good workout! The one-minute cardio intervals are significantly harder than her usual 30-second ones. More than twice as hard, I think! Harder than they have any right to be. The Core workout yesterday left me sore in places I’ve never felt before, so yay!

I think we’ve found your problem, America.

PG&E shut off our power today from 8am to 5pm. I misread the letter they sent us, thought they were doing it Tuesday, so my husband and I had arranged to be out all day Tuesday, but no, it’s today. So we walked over to the IHOP for breakfast, which is practically 2 blocks from our house, which we have never yet eaten at since we moved here. In fact, I think I have been to an IHOP maybe twice in the last 10 years. I just don’t eat at restaurants very often, and that style of restaurant really at all.

HOLY CRAP. The menu is overwhelming. They now print calorie totals on each item. HOLY CRAP. The item with the lowest calorie total on the entire menu is twice what I normally eat for breakfast. And I assure you, nobody goes to IHOP to order the smallest, healthiest option on the menu. I am appalled, agog, aghast at the menu options I saw this morning. People eat like this? Every day? Regularly? More than once a month? As we settled into our booth a couple left and said to the waitress, “See you tomorrow!” WHAT??

A couple at the next booth over ordered “New York Style cheesecake pancakes”. Cheesecake in pancake form – for breakfast! There was something called “carrot cake pancakes”. “Cinnastick pancakes”. Cream cheese-stuffed french toast! These all come with hash browns, eggs, and bacon, and caloric totals that approach more than I need for an entire day.

Good god I’ve been leading a sheltered life, with my eating-at-home proclivities! I was actually somewhat nauseated by this display. Am I being judgy? Good. I can’t even imagine shoveling this kind of apocalyptic gorge-fest of gluttony into my body on a regular basis. People eat this stuff and think it’s normal?

In sum I think I can answer the question that appears to be flummoxing all the health writers and media hand-wringers. I know why America is fat.

Interesting article, food for thought

If you didn’t have enough good reasons already, this article makes yet another compelling case for avoiding processed foods. Definitely worth a read:

The Hidden Truths about Calories, Guest Blog on Scientific American

Tuesday Link: Do Calories Matter?

I think this article does a really good job of summing up my thoughts on the LowCarb/LowFat debate.

Low Carb or Low Fat: Do Calories Count?

From the article:

“Face it. The greatest challenge in dieting is to figure out how to eat less – and to eat healthfully on a regular basis – in the midst of today’s “eat more” food environment. And that’s a much more important research problem than whether low-carbohydrate or low-fat diets work better for weight loss.”

Greetings from Iceland!

Tonight I’m in a little village in the East Iceland fjords. I’ve seen a lot of amazing stuff so far, some of them the fulfillment of lifelong dreams, so I’d say I’m having a perfect vacation.

Couple of things I’ve had to adjust on managing my weight:

1. My normal travel strategy is to hit a fruit and vegetable market for snacks as I’m traveling. Well, in a country where most of the fruits and vegetables are shipped in, or grown in greenhouses, the fruit and veggies for sale are either sad and old or prohibitively expensive. (actually, I’ve only seen the former kind, haven’t even seen any locally-grown produce yet, greenhouse or otherwise). Time to be flexible! For breakfast I usually have some muesli with skyr, which is an Icelandic milk product similar to yogurt but non-fat and very low in calories – utterly delicious! For lunch I try to eat at a cafe that has a soup option, a bowl of soup and a roll is usually all I need to keep going. And for dinner – when on an island, eat the fish! The seafood here is amazing! I’ve had lobster, cod, blue ling (I dunno anymore about it than that, it was the special so I ordered it), Atlantic char, and um, a few others. Can’t go wrong getting the fish in Iceland.

2. There’s no artificial sweetener to be found anywhere. It’s sugar or nothing. So I’m drinking my coffee a lot less sweet these days.

3. I keep moving a lot more on vacation than at home, so I hardly even notice the time pass, which means I’m looking around to graze a lot less often. This has spurred me to try to pay more attention when I’m back at home and at work to see if I’m eating out of boredom or true hunger.

Lots of walking every day, hiking up and down seeing glaciers, geysers, volcanoes and puffins! Oh, and here’s a picture I took yesterday in a grocery store – I call it “accurately labelled junk food.” —->

And speaking of sweetened beverages, several people I know have posted this article about high-fructose corn syrup, and how it prompts more weight gain than regular sugar as a sweetener. This is certainly something to bear in mind, when making food choices – corn syrup is in everything. Everything processed, that is. If you make your food yourself, you don’t have to worry about it, because who would purposely add that junk to their food? Eat food – not “food products”.

Oh, and that article was originally written in 2010, so it’s not exactly news, but it’s a good thing to know.

All right, back to vacation with me. This time I’m trying to take a vacation from my constant anxiety that I’m gaining weight when on vacation. Oy, it’s a constant battle in my head some days.

Friday Fitness Links

Normally I eschew articles on the internet about which foods make you fat, because in general, eating too much food is the problem, not which foods are eaten. But this article in the Guardian really lays out some interesting information about the change in food manufacturing that’s been occurring over the last ~40 years, and I’m increasingly agreeing with the view that sugar and corn syrup should be avoided whenever humanly possible. I eat a pretty plain diet, most of the time, of fruits, veggies and lean meats. There’s not a lot of room for sugar. The real problem is eating in restaurants or eating processed food. Again I say – avoid processed food, eat clean!

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Here’s an article about maximizing your healthy food choices. This is definitely “tinkering around the edges” kind of information, but if you’re already eating healthy, and looking to kick it up a notch, check out this Healthy Food Smackdown.

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And, because this morning I really REALLY didn’t want to run (stayed up too late last night), but I did it anyway , here are some basic tips and reminders on how to optimize conditions so that you will actually go running in the morning. I use most of these – pretty much everything except “sleep in your running clothes” because, dude, there’s a limit!

Never tried running before? Lots of people I know and read have had success with the original Couch to 5K plan (C25K). (Sorry, the web site is hideous – but the content is very good) If you’re interested in trying something new and have never run before, it’s worth a try. I like that it starts you out slowly – too many people have bad associations from PE classes of tortuous, sweaty sprinting sessions leaving them out of breath and nauseous. That’s not how it has to be!