Wednesday, October 7, 2009
How To Eat Right
(Our Monday night dinner: Chicken Stir Fry and veggies in toasted sesame oil).
by Tom Furman
Humans are designed to eat enough food to grow to maturity, reproduce, and die. The human body is flexible enough to deal with poor nutrition, adequate nutrition and excess nutrition. This is not to say there is not a balanced state of optimum nutrition. Unfortunately modern man is but a shadow of his efficient hunter/gatherer ancestors. Plentiful hunting grounds and lush vegetation have been replaced by spacious supermarkets and jumbo sized food courts. No longer do muscular legs hunt prey and gather fruits and nuts, but withered limbs use escalators to deliver the overfed masses to restaurants which will feed you 10,000 calories for ten bucks.
The deep fried carbohydrates being sold hardly qualify as food, but rather a cleverly designed caloric delivery system. They leave you satiated, undernourished, and overfed. The bottom line is, if you are overfat (pinch an inch), you are eating for a specific feeling that the food chemistry gives you. You are not eating for nutrition, you are not eating because the food tastes good, you are eating food for something OTHER than survival, nourishment, pleasure, or socialization. If you have clinical or morbid obesity, you are structuring your life specifically to have food present and available wherever you are. Your life is geared around food.
Calories count, period. There is no magic. Eat less calories and you will lose weight. There are more efficient macronutrient breakdowns to prevent muscle and bone loss, but no REAL magic. If calories are reduced, nutrients must be dense to provide for adequate nutrition. This requires VERY specific food choices. A benefit of reduced calories is its anti aging effect. All mammals, under low calorie conditions resist and reverse aging mechanisms.
Very important is the awareness that pastry, bread, bagels, potatoes, rice, juice, cereal, and pasta are simple starches and will rapidly feed the fat stores in your body. These foods should be replaced with low sugar fruits, greens, and vegetables from a variety of colors. Even with this beneficial trade, IT IS THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF CARBOHYDRATES IN THE DAY that counts. It goes back to the idea of the TOTAL AMOUNT OF CALORIES. There is no free lunch.
Carbohydrates vary in density and quality. You should totally ignore, and I repeat, totally ignore the labels on food that show "23 grams of carbohydrate, and only 8 grams of sugar". This is fantasy. In the case of juice, bread, breakfast cereal, and "energy bars" this is VERY misleading. The carbohydrates in those products RAPIDLY turn to sugar in the body. In fact many popular foods such as potatoes, pizza, and bagels are served in portions that exceed anything that would resemble a normal, human, carbohydrate intake.
Proteins must come from lean sources. There are healthier sources of fat than the fat that surrounds incorrect protein choices. Therefore the leanest protein choices combined with healthy, 'smart', fats from separate sources are your best bet. Lean sources from animals would be seafood, particularly coldwater fish like cod and salmon. Appropriate poultry sources would be turkey breast and chicken breast. The other parts of these birds are close to lower grade beef in terms of saturated fat and cholesterol. Some beef can be found that is less than 5% fat. This would be perfectly suitable as high grade protein source. Eggwhites, devoid of the fat-laden yolk is also a good source. Many scientists debate on the effect of the egg yolk's on blood cholesterol. This argument may go on for years, but other components of the yolk, namely arachadonic acid, and saturated fat have bad effects on blood chemistry and health. Other sources such as wild game are excellent and closely represent what our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate. These would include, ostrich, buffalo, elk, and venison. By all means, try to find sources of these alternative proteins. Lastly, dairy products like low fat milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt provide top grade protein and an excellent form of calcium.
Fat is nothing to be feared, it must be understood. There is fat to avoid, like trans and rancid fat. Then there is fat to be embraced such as monounsaturated sources and fish fat. Fat is a dense source of calories, so a little bit goes a long way. Many low fat food sources can be enhanced in nutrative value and satiation by adding the correct fats. Simply adding fish to the diet, or fish oil, has a tremendous effect the betterment of ones health. The inclusion of olive oil, macadamia nuts, almonds, and avocados provide flavor, nutrients, and a healthy dose of friendly fats. Never eating anything fried is another simple tool that points your metabolic compass in the right direction. Burning fats or exposing them to excessive air or heat is to be avoided entirely. A simple list of good fats vs bad fats, and some simple storage and preparation guidelines are all that is needed to integrate fats into a proper fat loss and fitness program. One quick postscript on fat,..under no circumstances are potato chips, french fries, or bacon good. They represent the rotton end of the bad fat spectrum. I have never seen a potato chip walk the earth. Once again this goes double for frying,...DON'T. You are using an effective delivery mechanism to induce rancid, overheated fat to your body and the body of your loved ones.
You must have short term goals, and a long term outlook. You must have a plan to reformat your lifestyle and get lean. The idea that diets do not work is an interesting one however. Any diet, by any design,has to work. It is based on a reduction of calories. Physics work, try dropping a pen and see if it hits the ground. Most frequently, it will. That means the laws of physics are intact. You can safely assume that increase activity and decreasing intake will result in a reduction of stored energy (BODYFAT).
That leaves the ball in your court. Since this energy formula works for everyone, only you can be responsible for your degree of obesity. In life, most often, the individual determines what goes in his mouth and how active his/her day is. NO ONE else determines this. The exceptions of course are things like concentration camps with inadequate calories and forced labor. Magically, everyone is devoid of fat, muscle, and health, through inhumane treatment. The example is relevant however. There is not ONE obese person in the crowd that is resistant to the energy in versus energy out formula. The opposite case of losing control over choice is the child whose diet is governed by misguided or uninformed adults. Then the natural energy demands of growth, childhood activity, and high metabolic rate, are outgunned by a diet of densely caloric foods that are rich in bad fats, loaded with simple carbs, and highly accessable by clever marketing. The average adult, therefore, is totally responsible for their bodyfat levels.
The word RESPONSIBLE sounds heavy, but is wonderful news. If you created it, you can change it. You have ABSOLUTE control over your bodyfat levels. Many people live in a world of avoiding responsibility, and living with a highly developed excuse-making mechanism. They are not responsible for ANYTHING in their lives. They always lay the blame for poor decision making elsewhere. They blame bodyfat on addictions, stress, hormones, genetics, horoscopes, relationships, and nationality, yet fail to realize that the one common denominator mathematically involved in all of these excuses is THEM. For them, they are not fat because of choices they made. Diets do not work for them. It's as if some scary little gnomes from the movie "Phantasm" come in their bedroom at night and stuff cream pies in their mouth while they are asleep. They wake up magically more obese than they were the night before! Remember this, if you have control, you have the ability to change anything, if you don't have control, someone else does. Let's hope that someone else is adequately schooled in diet and exercise to force you into a good program.
In a discussion of fat loss it is important to mention genetics. If you want a lean, fit, body, with little effort, choose your parents correctly. Make sure they are tall, lean, and have well defined muscles. Also make sure those parents enjoy physical activity and learning. The truth is you are stuck with the cards nature dealt you. Even if you have hormonal problems, injuries, and obesity on both sides of the family tree, your body is subject to the energy formula. The manner in which you get fat, in fact, is determined by genetics. Your genes control the amount of muscle mass, bone length, neurological efficiency, and hormonal make up. This means that only you can determine where you want to take the vehicle that you call your body. We all know someone who eats everything and is naturally thin and fit. They may say that they were athletic when they were young, or worked on a farm or other labor intensive job in their youth. This they claim, may be why they have been fairly strong and slender all of their lives. They of course may also believe in Bigfoot and Crop Circles. The reason they have a superior genetic make up is their gene pool. Dribbling a basketball will not make you 7 feet tall, your parents determined that. A 22 inch waist on a woman is determined by heredity and not training. In fact, a small waist is less stable and probably under-muscled. 300 pounders and 7 footers die sooner than folks of average height. Enter the realm of reality and live in the now. How you looked in high school, during football, in your twenties, at your wedding, before your first child, yadda-yadda,...WHO CARES? You cannot change the past, and it is gone anyway. You have definite control over the NOW. You have the power to make decisions, you can understand the grade school math, you can decipher the middle school physics, and you can reproduce the high school physical education exercise program and be successful.
The pathway to fat loss begins with accountability. Be responsible, look in the mirror and point the finger at the only person in control. Do not blame your parents, your youth, your genetics, your spouse, your friends, the food industry, fast food restaurants, addictions, allergies, depression, hormones, doctors, or the media. Take control and wield the power of change. Don't be the person stuffing food down their pie-hole whining about everything, but doing nothing. In fact take a photo or video of your self and use it as a reference as you are successful in your fat reduction program. Also forget the nonsense that the camera adds ten pounds. That would mean that many people have six cameras pointed at them at once. Use simple measurement tools like a bathroom scale and a tape measure for the waist. Do not get hung up on the numbers, just realize there will be a non linear reduction over a period of time. The closer you are to VERY lean, the harder it is to get leaner. This is why the exercise is SO important. It gives shape to the body that was covered previously with pounds and pounds of fat.
The last component, is the need for coaching. No one is born with all the specialized knowledge in the world. You may need a guide or coach to inform, motivate, and entertain you on your journey. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Find someone who can give you clear guidelines, sensible rules, and appropriate distinctions. If anything they say sounds like it is something for nothing, ...run away. Dietary voodoo promises magic but delivers only smoke and mirrors. Remember though, mystery holds more attention than logic. The elaborate spin attached to special diets may only be masking the authors denial of reality. Physics work, voodoo dieticians and trainers don't. The simple energy formula with a basic understanding of food groups and the application of physical activity will work magic in the right hands. There is NO need for dis-illusion, illusions, or new age flamboyance. Keep it real, keep it focused, and keep making small decisions that will forever change your bodyfat levels and fitness profile.