I feel fat and panicky: Part 3

You can develop your own plan. It takes a lot more work that reading one in a magazine or buying one from a blog. I work with my clients to develop a plan that works for each of them.

Believe it or not, you already know exactly what will work for you. It’s just been buried beneath all the ‘shoulds’ and rules and guilt. Below all those rules and restrictions, beneath all of the body hatred and lack of trust, is a quiet voice, a still small voice of calm. This voice, the one that we bury with food, the one we don’t listen to, knows things about us that we couldn’t imagine.

It’s this voice that can help develop a way out of the maze of diets and restrictions, of overeating, feeling out of control and then trying to put the lid back on our appetites.

Any way forward, if it is to be successful, needs to be three things:

  • Kind
  • Enjoyable
  • Sustainable.

It needs to feel kind to ourselves – not punitive or restrictive, but loving and compassionate. Unless it is based on this, it’s destined for failure.

Enjoyable: when we enjoy things we do them, we stick to them. Think about what you enjoy eating, the foods that you love. Write a list of all of them and try to make it as long and comprehensive as possible. Then go through the list and think of how you feel when you eat those foods. If you don’t know, or can’t remember, then try them. Have the bowl of pasta and find out whether you feel energised and great afterwards, or tired and sleepy. It might be different on different days.

Sustainable means something that we can do every day. Rather than a diet, which is short term, this needs to be a plan that can last forever.

So, work out when it suits you to eat. When do you get hungry? Is your appetite highest in the morning or later in the day?

As you focus on your preferences for food and what, when and how you like to eat, start developing a plan around that. My clients do this, so that they nourish themselves in a way that works for them. For some, that means they aren’t that fussed about breakfast, whereas others wake up starving.

Make sure you include foods that you enjoy. If you really love chocolate, then banishing it is likely to result in a binge later. Give yourself permission to enjoy it when you really want it, as part of your plan.

 

 

I feel fat and panicky: Part 2

When we feel fat and ashamed, it’s natural to want to punish ourselves. After all, we ate the food, so it must be our fault that we aren’t as slim as we’d like to be. And a diet is the perfect way to both punish ourselves (by depriving ourselves of what and how we’d like to eat) and to gain control (as we’re scared of how much we might eat if we allowed ourselves) and to lose the weight.

The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like isn’t because we don’t have enough control. Its because we’ve been subjecting ourselves to TOO MUCH control. There are many many scientific studies that have shown that dietary restriction leads to excess eating, beyond the point of fullness, and beyond the body’s requirements.

The reason we aren’t as slim as we’d like is BECAUSE we’ve been punishing ourselves – depriving ourselves of what we’d like to eat.

We’ve stopped trusting ourselves, stopped trusting our bodies. And the media reinforces this. It tells us that we can’t know what to eat. We need diets, or nutritionists, or television programmes to tell us. No matter that for thousands of years before these existed we managed fine. These days, we’ve been told we can’t be relied on.

If we want to lose weight, we need to eat less than we have been. And if we’re eating less, I recommend that we enjoy every mouthful.

So the first thing to do is to wait until you’re hungry. This again might make you feel panicky. It isn’t about deprivation – this is about listening to when your body is ready for food.

And once those feelings of hunger start, then take some time to imagine what you might like to eat. Chicken salad? Or do you really want something hot? Ask yourself what would make you feel satisfied. Give yourself permission to choose.

Allow yourself food. Tell yourself that you can not only pick what you eat, but that you can take time to enjoy it too. And once you have decided what you’d like, ensure that you sit down, at a table, with a plate, and savour every mouthful. Stop occasionally and ask yourself whether you’ve had enough. It might be tempting to eat more than you want to, because part of you will be scared that a diet is about to start, and it won’t get any more food.

The problem with dieting (or clean eating plans, or whatever we call them), is that we cheat on them. We cheat on them because we don’t like the food, or we get hungry or bored. Or because something happens that means we can’t stick to them: a late meeting, a family dinner, or we’re too busy to do all the preparation required.

And when we cheat then the shame envelops us – it makes us feel as though we’ll never accomplish anything, if we can’t get through a day sticking to the plan.

So how about a new plan? We’ll talk about how to come up with a new plan next time.

Eat at your desk at your peril…

Eating without noticing is one of the fastest ways to put on weight.

Snacks are so easy to forget. They are usually high calories and not very filling. In fact some (like a handful of sugary lollies or muesli bars) can even make you feel hungrier shortly afterwards. If we’re eating at our desk, it’s even easier not to register what we’re consuming. Our minds are focused on the spreadsheet, conference call or project, while we funnel foods into our mouths.

If you want a snack, try and get a plate, and make a proper small meal.

I can feel you resisting. “But then I’ll get fat if I eat all that.” “But I don’t want a proper meal’. If you don’t want a proper meal, perhaps you’re not hungry and you actually don’t need a snack either. In the event that you are hungry, maybe it would be better that you register that you’ve eaten something, something substantial, which might sustain you and prevent you from nibbling again in half an hour.

There are other hazards of snacking. The constant stimulation of our stomach means that it never has a chance to rest, or more importantly ‘clean up’. We have brilliant little helpers in our guts that maintain our bodies. If we have eaten a steak, it might take five hours for it to be digested in the stomach and small intestine. Once this is done, the small intestine sweeps itself in a such a cute manner that even tough-minded scientists have called it the ‘housekeeper’. If we eat before it has a chance to do this, it once again goes on standby to receive food. But constant snacking means there is no time for ‘cleaning’ which helps keep our gut healthy.

The drip feed of food also keeps insulin churning up and down. Our bodies don’t have an opportunity to find their point of homeostasis where blood sugar and hormones are regulated, balanced and consistent and don’t have to deal with a constant influx of food. This constant demand for insulin, to deal with the food, can artificially inflate our appetite. So constant nibbling and snacking not only adds to our waistline because we’re not paying attention to it, but also because it makes us want to eat more.

If that isn’t bad enough, if we eat at our desks, we associate being at our desk with eating, which triggers us to want to eat, whether we’re hungry or not. All in all, we’re not helping ourselves.

Step away from the desk. Can you get in the habit of eating somewhere else?

Can you lose weight on junk food?

An American professor of nutrition has, in the name of research, spent ten weeks losing weight on junk food. He wanted to prove that it could be done. And it has been done! He has spent weeks on a diet of biscuits, cakes and other high-sugar, fat-laden junk food and has generated a great deal of media hype with tales of weight loss, deeper sleep and better general health.

Mark Haub is an associate professor from the department of human nutrition at Kansas State University. Over ten weeks, Mark ate sponge cakes, biscuits, some raw vegetables and drank full fat milk and a protein shake every day. He lost 12.1 kilograms from his original 91.3-kilogram body weight.

The but (and it’s a big one) is that he carefully controlled his calories intake. He limited his intake to a maximum of 1800 calories (7531 kilojoules) a day, exercised heavily throughout the period and took vitamin supplements in addition to “muscle” protein shakes.

At one point he estimated that he had worked off, and not replaced, more than 800 calories through an abnormally strenuous workout.

“I am not recommending or promoting this approach. I am simply in the process of illustrating that foods deemed to wreck diets, cause obesity, lead to diabetes, etc… do not – in and of themselves – do that,” he said after four days and a 3.2-kilogram loss.

On September 10, he ate:

          a double espresso

          two servings of Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake

          one Centrum Advance Formula “From A To Zinc” pill

          one serving of Little Debbie Star Crunch cookies

          a Diet Mr Dew drink

          half a serving of Doritos Cool Ranch corn chips

          two servings of Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal

          a serving of whole milk

          half a serving of raw baby carrots

    one and a half servings of Duncan Hines Family Style Chewy        Fudge brownie

          half a serving of Little Debbie Zebra Cake

          one serving of Muscle Milk Protein Shake drink

          Total: 1589 calories

Excerpt from ‘Why we Cheat when we Eat and how to stop’.

Neuroscience is proving what food manufacturers have known for years…

Until recently, research focused on physical hunger, and assumed that being obese meant you were just incredibly hungry and therefore had to eat loads. I suspect a number of us could have told them that eating dessert has nothing to do with feeling hungry or full. And at last, research is catching up.

Michael Lowe, a clinical psychologist at Drexel University coined the term “hedonic hunger” in 2007. He says: “A lot of overeating, maybe all of the eating people do beyond their energy needs, is based on consuming some of our most palatable foods.” No kidding! Please don’t tell me it took years of scientific research to work that out. Who gets fat on cucumber?

Research shows that extremely sweet or fatty foods light up the brain’s reward circuit in the same way that cocaine, drugs, gambling and other ‘addictive’ behaviours do. The brain begins to react to fatty and sugary foods even before they enter our mouth: just seeing them excites the reward circuit. As soon as such it touches the tongue, taste buds send signals to the brain, which ramps up dopamine. The result is an intense feeling of pleasure.

Over time, the brain gets desensitised, so to get the same ‘high’ or pleasurable feeling, we need to eat more. It’s the same with any addiction. We need a bigger and bigger hit. The brain needs a lot more sugar and fat to reach the same level of pleasure that it once felt with smaller amounts of the foods.

This isn’t a sign of us being weak. It’s us being in thrall to an addictive circuit in our brain. When dopamine levels drop, we feel down. So no wonder we turn to fat and sugar. They are literally acting as an anti-depressant. Food is acting like a drug.

Excerpt from ‘Why we Cheat when we Eat and how to stop’.

The bites that ‘don’t count’

Perhaps you turned down a slice of cake, but now you find yourself at the plate, knife in hand, just making sure that the edge is even. You cut a sliver and shove it into your mouth. The cake tastes delicious. You return to the platter and ease off another morsel. Now the edge is a mess. You take the knife again and cut to smooth the ends. A short while later, the cake is considerably smaller…

It’s very easy to say that one mouthful won’t make a difference. The question is then, which mouthful makes us fat? Is it the first? Or the hundredth?

Maybe your friends are saying, come on, you’ve done really well! One dessert won’t kill you! They are right, it won’t, but it’s very easy for that one dessert to become many.

There are many times we can tell ourselves ‘This doesn’t count’. I didn’t order a dessert – I ate it from my husband’s plate, so that doesn’t count. Or I was just clearing dishes, and it was a shame to let the rest go to waste. So I scoffed it rather than put it in the garbage.

It’s much easier to let ourselves off the hook than stick to a diet because diets require us to make a huge effort. They ask for such a large change. Everything we know, everything we do is thrown out of the window. Your normal eating habits are utterly disrupted to make way for a new miracle fix that promises amazing results.

This is mainly because most of us believe that losing weight is so hard, so painful and so mysterious, that only the truly radical solutions will work.

But what if that wasn’t the case at all? What if one tiny change was all that was needed?

Excerpt from ‘Why we Cheat when we Eat and how to stop’.

How food porn arouses us

I love the introduction to the scientific paper called Eating with our Eyes: “One of the brain’s key roles is to facilitate foraging and feeding. It is presumably no coincidence, then, that the mouth is situated close to the brain in most animal species.”

The mouth is close to the brain, indeed! This same paper talks of ‘food porn’. We are currently obsessed with images of food. Instagram feeds are crammed with photographs of meals and snacks. Cookery channels dominate television with depictions of luscious ingredients whisked into appetising meals. Food has become more forbidden than sex. We are ogling pictures of it in the same way that men used to sneak glances at 1970’s centrefolds.

In America, digital media influences more than 70 percent of the food eaten by households. Research show that “external food cues, such as the sight of appetizing food can evoke a desire to eat, even in the absence of hunger.” Again – no kidding… these scientists seem to spend years researching things that you and I knew to be true from a relatively young age.

What’s really interesting is that physical things occur within us, just from seeing a picture. We salivate (we all know that). But more worryingly, we produce insulin. Our bodies shoot out the hormone required to deal with the sugar even when we haven’t eaten it. And of course, when our insulin goes up, we crave sugar even more to balance it out. Even our heart beats faster in anticipation of the food.

This is where we need to track back to hunger. Food manufacturers know that seductive images of delicious food will draw us in, hungry or not. And our brains will take the trigger and act on it, without even consulting our conscious selves.

If we can stay in touch with our natural appetite, and eat when we are hungry, it reduces the impact of these external stimuli, and allows us to remain in control of what we eat and when.

Excerpt from ‘Why we Cheat when we Eat and how to stop’.

Should I avoid carbs in the evening?

Some of us try to avoid carbohydrates in the evening, in the hope that it will help us lose weight. We’re told that we’re going to sleep soon, so anything we eat later in the day will just be stored as fat. If we want to eat carbohydrates, then we should eat them earlier, for breakfast, when we are going to burn them off.

Is this true?

The body doesn’t really work like that. If you eat more than you need on any given day, it will be stored as fat, whether it’s carbs you’ve eaten, or fat or even protein. Consume more calories than you’re burning and your body will store it. And it will store it as fat, even if you eat it all at breakfast.

Basically, your body works on physics. It’s a ‘closed system’ and the energy that goes in (food and drink) will be either stored as mass (fat or muscle) or burned as energy (either metabolic processes or exercise).

If you are training hard, are eating a set number of calories and have all of your ‘macros’ down pat (ie the proportions of fat, protein and carbs), then the timing of the carbs might make a small difference. But lets face it, very few of us are doing that.

What matters most to our bodies is calories. Clearly, a more nutrient-dense option is going to be better for our health (brown bread over white). However, if you really want carbs in the evening, then going without is probably going to lead to overeating later.

I really enjoy carbs in the evening. They help the brain release Serotonin, which is a relaxant and anti-depressant. They help me sleep. And I like a bigger meal then. It suits me and if it’s your preference too, then there is no reason not to have it.

What does suit you? Do you like carbs at night?

The Potato: 19 lumps of sugar or superfood?

This appeared in the British media a few days ago:
“The nation’s obesity crisis is partly being fuelled by the seemingly harmless potato.
Scientists have found a single baked spud contains the equivalent of 19 lumps of sugar.”
 
Five years ago, in the same press:
“Ignored by dieters because they are ‘fattening’, few would class the potato as a ‘wonder food’ packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
But the spud is actually better for the body than traditional superfoods – such as bananas, broccoli, beetroot, nuts and avocado, a study has found.
The researchers said people are wrong to shun it in favour of modern and more expensive alternatives.”
 
No wonder we are all confused about what to eat…
 
So what are the facts?
 
Potatoes are high in fibre (more than five times the amount in a banana), vitamin C (more than in an orange) and Selenium, an important mineral for immune health. There is also some evidence that they may lower blood pressure.
 
However, they have a high glycemic load, which means that the energy in them (carbohydrates) is released quickly, which leads to a spike in insulin. This isn’t great for weight management, as it can set off a roller coaster of sugar and insulin. Eating protein with the potato would minimise this effect.
 
Sweet potatoes have a much lower glycemic load, and are possibly a choice that is easier on the body. Although that isn’t going to help if you really fancy a potato: baked, mashed, boiled or in a salad.
 
A potato is neither going to kill us or rescue our health. It’s just a potato.

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