Balance the Scale: What to Eat, How to Burn
There is a relationship between what you eat and the energy it provides. Is this the missing link to your weight loss success?
So you want to lose weight. When you think of what that might entail, you probably conjure up images of steamed kale, lycra spandex, and treadmills. You probably assume you should be eating less and exercising more…but what if you’re wrong?
As a Wellness Consultant, one of the most challenging things to convey to my clients is that eating too little and exercising too much can actually slow your progress. Not only that, but you can easily end up lowering your metabolic rate— and depleting important antioxidants.
The trick is to strike a balance between your energy intake and your energy output. I’m not talking in terms of calories here— I’m talking in terms of how much “sweet potato fuel” your body needs in order to perform 30 minutes of cardio, how much “ground beef fuel” you need in order to feel strong from start to finish of your yoga class, and how much “broccoli fuel” you need to really enjoy that 4-hour bike ride with your family. There are some basic guidelines to follow, of course, but ultimately your best bet is to listen closely to your body and experiment until you find the perfect formula for you.
Energy Output: Prioritize the Active Options
Here are some guidelines…
Moving at a slow to moderate pace for long periods of time should be the majority of your physical activity. For some people, this may be an hour-long walk during their lunch break every day. For others it could be something like an all-day hiking adventure once a week, or cycling with their bike club for 3 hours twice a week.
Something that builds strength should be the second priority. You can get very creative here— tailor these activities to fit your goals, and your hobbies. I find that yoga is a great option for me, but plenty of my friends are getting really into CrossFit and I know that my dad really enjoys having push-up competitions with my brother via Skype.
Add a little cardio to your repertoire if you still have any energy after you’ve walked the dog around the neighborhood and beat your personal record of holding Crow Pose for 48 seconds. A cardio workout can be as casual as playing hacky-sack with your family (a personal favorite of mine), or as structured as a swim aerobics class. Maybe you want to learn how to swing dance. Maybe it’s a beautiful evening for a run. Or maybe you want to rent a kayak and see what’s just around the river bend!
Energy Intake: Keys to Refueling
Now, to balance all that activity with food energy intake, keep the following in mind…
Make sure you’re eating protein at least three times per day. Women do best for dieting when they have about .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Men do well with about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So a gal like me who weighs about 130 pounds should aim for somewhere around 90 grams of protein per day, but my boyfriend is going to need somewhere around 180 grams. (He generally eats at least twice as much as I do, so trust me, this is sound logic!) If you don’t want to eat it all in just three meals, feel free to break it up into smaller portions and munch throughout the day.
Make sure that you’re getting about 2 tablespoons of healthy oils per day. The best sources would be flaxseed oil, fish oil, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and sesame oil. You can keep it simple and just do the old fashioned ‘over the lips, past the gums, look out tummy, here it comes!’, or as I prefer, you can blend your oil into your fruit smoothie or mix up a delicious salad dressing to use for the week.
Don’t forget the abundance of vitamins and minerals in vegetables. When it comes to veggies, there are two different groups to be aware of: starchy, and non-starchy. You can eat as much of the non-starchy ones as your heart desires, but if you’re doing any cardio, you’ll want to save room for one or two servings of the starchy kind (this is what I meant by sweet potato fuel!). So on the days that you’re doing a half hour or more of cardio, aim for about a half cup or more of sweet potato, green peas, cooked carrots, butternut or acorn squash, or pumpkin. (By the way… it doesn’t really get any better than pumpkin smoothies with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Just sayin’.) Pretty much any other vegetable falls into the category of “eat to your heart’s content”.
Maybe you’re waiting for me to mention whole grains, but guess what? I’m not going to! In my personal and professional experience, whole grains are not necessary for your health and they certainly don’t help with the weight loss effort. If you’re craving pasta, try some quinoa instead. It’s a little nutrient-rich seed that provides carbohydrate and protein energy without any of the potential hidden weight gain factors of whole grains.
I urge you to experiment with these ideas for balancing energy in and energy out. Start a food journal to take notes in, and make adjustments as you go based on the patterns and revelations that may surface. Before you know it, you will have this whole ‘fat burning’ thing down to a science!