Love and Advice

Just a quick one while my man friend Gareth remains glued to his laptop screen watching numerous Modern Warfare 3 trailers in preparation for his big buy today.

I want to just clear up a few things, tackle a few nutritional and weight gremlins that have troubled my mind at some point during the past, and kind of just lay down how I’ve dealt with them in case anyone else is going through the same thing. This is something I care about a lot; I can’t stand it when people get depressed over diet myths and warped self-opinions that they’ve believed for so long it’s become the word of gospel for them. If your pre-conceived ideas about nutrition are getting you down, chances are you’ve exaggerated them or just been totally misinformed So here we go. Hope this helps:

“My over-eating is out of control.”

Humans need to eat to live. Just because you eat, it doesn’t make you a fat pig. You just need to eat the right things in the right amounts. I don’t think you should EVER ban ANY food, (even deep fried Mars Bars!) I would just recommend you go about eating like this: eat lots of certain foods, eat some of others, eat little of the rest, and avoid certain foods like the plague. But NEVER deny yourself anything if you really, really want it.

So the ‘lots’ category: water, tea, fruit, vegetables in absolute abundance, wholegrain (brown) carbohydrates (each serving should fit in the space when you cup both your hands and put them together), lean protein like fish, chicken and beans

The ‘some’ category: slightly less lean proteins like eggs, tofu and nuts, and healthy fats like avocado, pesto, olives and olive oil, butter, cheese and milk

The ‘little’ category: dark chocolate, the odd tipple, fruit juice (lots of sugar and no fibre in this = unsatisfying, “empty” calories), muesli (again, thought to be a health food but often quite high in sugar = insulin spikes = sugar cravings later), cake, jam, cream, cookies (Gaz is convinced that bakery cookies help him avoid the Common Cold, following an incident in which he decided, righteously, to forgo cookies and came down with one. He now swears by them as “medicinal”…)

The ‘avoid like plague’ category (but occasional indulgence is encouraged !): white carbs, takeaway, sugary sweets, high sugar fizzy drinks, cheap chocolate, pastry items (sorry, it’s so fatty)

Okay so I said never deny yourself anything. But these are a few things you will NEVER see me consume (although probably have at some point in my life): energy drink (went through a phase of drinking this every night I went out, mixed with vodka. Death cocktail, literally), KFC chicken (hydrogenated fat CITY), deep fried Mars Bar (’nuff said…).

Just remember this: if you’re going to allow yourself a treat, make it a good one. Homemade farmer’s market carrot cake, for example, as opposed to deflated coffee shop muffin.

“If I eat junk I’ll gain weight.” 

Yes, you will. But you need to consume an excess, EXCESS – that’s on top of the 1,800 – 2000 daily recommendation for women – of 3,500 calories in a week in order to gain 1 pound of fat in that week. That’s 500 calories a day. If you allow even 500 calories for a really indulgent piece of cake once or even twice a week, you won’t even gain a pound.

So the same goes for losing weight. Whatever you weigh now, make a food diary for a week, add up total calories for each day (for women it should be under 2000, unless you’re an athlete or something) and then the next week make sure you consume 500 calories less than what you consumed for each day last week. Also, calories burned during exercise counts towards deficit, so, for example, even if you go off the rails a bit and eat 2,250 calories in a day, go for an hour’s swim; even breaststroke burns 544 calories in an hour. Your daily calorie intake will be 1706.

This is a great website for calorie counting.

“I need to starve myself in order to lose weight.”

Restricting too many calories is likely to cause your body to go into starvation mode, wherein it saves up all the fat it can get its grubby mits on, slowing your metabolism to pitiful levels because it thinks you’re dying. Great, if we’re cavemen and dying of starvation is a very real threat. Not so great when thin is in but cake is delicious.

Try not to dip below 1,800 calories a day (for women). Too long at below this level and you’re likely to end up mental, hungry and inevitably in Binge Country.

“I’ve been dieting and exercising all week but I gained 2 pounds, I might as well just give up.”

Women’s ‘scale weight’ fluctuates from week to week because they have a tendency to retain water, especially before you get your period. I’ve gained half a stone of a week in what I thought was weight but turned out to literally be water retention. I was angry and depressed that whole week, until I got back on the scales the next week and it had all gone, and then some.

Maybe don’t weigh yourself for a bit ? Look in the mirror instead. Put on some trousers that are tight, and try them on every week when you wake up in the morning (this is when I tend to feel the least bloated) and see how long it takes for them to get loose. Then after a month they are, weigh yourself. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Also, weight loss is a slow thing. Quick-fix weight loss does not exist; the faster you lose the weight, the quicker you’ll regain it, as crash diets often resort to radical lifestyle changes that are impossible to sustain in the long term. Be patient. Slow and steady wins the race.

“I don’t enjoy exercise.”

Start by just watching your eating and just walk briskly. For half an hour to an hour, 5 times a week. Window shop. An hour of brisk walking burns 206 calories. Combine with swimming, which is fun and won’t make you feel like a great sweaty walrus as you drag yourself in a half-jog, half-limp past all the nubile school children than insist on walking every day past your house when you’re trying to get in shape…

Take a yoga or pilates class for strength and muscle tone, or add a few resistance exercises (squats, lunges, bicep curls with 2kg weights, lady-push-ups, crunches, about 3 sets of 10 repetitions) a few times a week (having muscle means your resting calorie burn is more) until you build up enough strength and confidence to blast a short 15-20 minute run. Then you can start building your run time up. Easy !

Don’t think you can start at the top. You’ll just hurt yourself, and your self-esteem.

“Everyone is skinnier than me.”

Some people are. Some people aren’t. Be safe in the knowledge that your eating is healthy, your exercise is abundant and your weight is healthy for you. Everyone is different. Everyone’s natural metabolism is different. I know girls who totally hate their skinny body and desperately try to put on weight because they hate their small breasts and boxy frame. I know it sucks that some girls can eat junk constantly and still be tiny, but here’s a little thing my Nan often says to me:

“I used to have a waist like this,” she coos when she hugs me. Needless to say, she doesn’t have it anymore. When you feel the jealousy set in, just say to yourself, “She’ll get fat when she hits 40 and her metabolism slows down.” Even if she doesn’t. Hey, it makes me feel better.

I also find this Regina Spektor quotation helps (the song title escapes me): “I’ve got a perfect body because my eyelashes catch my sweat.” Be thankful you’re alive, functional, and have the luxury of being able to choose what and when you eat. Perspective.

“I can’t believe I ate that whole pizza last night, I’m not having breakfast.”

At least eat some fruit and yoghurt. You’ll just end up starving by the end of the day and likely to eat another whole pizza. You don’t need to alter your calorie intake if you’ve splurged the day before. Just chalk it up to experience and carry on as usual. Expect to have to eat more than you planned sometimes – birthdays, Christmas, dates – if you know in advance you’re going to let yourself go a bit, you’re less likely to freak out about over-consuming every once in a while. Because really, it is completely okay to do so. We’re only human.

“I can’t say no when other people offer me junk food.”

Stop people tempting you by always having a healthy snack in your cupboard or your bag so that when someone starts dealing out the cake you don’t have to stand like a lemon while everyone else chows on down (unless you’re having some, which is fine). Bring a fruit salad, vegetables and hummus, a square or two of dark chocolate (this is good because then people don’t stare down your carrot stick and go, “Why on earth are you eating that, have some cake, let yourself go, live a little!” and other such feeder-cliches, and you’re like “NO !” That’s why I DON’T look like you, because I don’t let myself go ALL THE TIME.”).

Also make sure you drink your 1.5 litres of water a day, it actually apparently curbs hunger. Eat lots of the ‘lots’ foods, and space your eating throughout the day, eating a small meal every 3 hours or so. This will also help to satisfy your hunger much more effectively than you think.

If junk tempts you, just stop and think. Does your body need it ? The answer is no, not really. Does your soul need it ? If the answer is yes, eat it. But sometimes you realise that your brain has become conditioned to immediately think, on seeing a piece of cake or chocolate, “RARE TREAT, MUST EAT, SO TASTY.” When really, are your tastebuds going to remember eating it tomorrow ? Will you die if you don’t eat it ? Will you feel cheated tomorrow if you don’t have it ? No. Save yourself for the occasional treat, instead of consistently giving in.

And just to round off. This is a list of my absolute favourite foods in the whole world. They are all ‘lots’ or ‘somes’:

Balsamic vinegar
Butternut squash
Cheese (particularly mature cheddar, feta, mozzarella, goat’s and wendsleydale)
Peanut butter
Red onions
Sundried tomatoes

Okay I think that’s enough for now.

All this is stuff I’ve picked up from various sources. I’m not saying it’s all correct, but it works for me. Any questions or corrections that you have PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS and I’ll endeavour to answer. (I know there are more, but Modern Warfare videos on the internet seem to have become less of a necessary pursuit now, and I’ve been blogging for a lot longer than originally intended…)

love and happiness,

Amy x


About AmySquirrell

Musician Food-lover Student

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