I am staring at my sandwich and just musing about how utterly yummy it is…the thickness and creaminess of the moist peanut butter unevenly spread out on my thick slice of wheat toast. As I stare at it, I see brown waves of pure delight calling to me. Eat me, you piggy. I can never have enough of it – peanut freakin’ butter. It is pure heaven. But then I hear myself say that all the time…especially when it comes to pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup.. toasted bagels with unsalted butter and strawberry jam.. authentic salmon (sake) or tuna (maguro) or swordfish (mekajiki) sashimi in all its raw glory lovingly dipped in soy sauce spiked with the sharpness of wasabi.. unagi bathed in semi-cooked egg over Japanese sushi rice.. endless slices of edam, gouda, brie, cheddar, camembert, mozzarella, McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese with that hamburger patty oozing with flavorful grease and that middle part where all the flavors of the patty, onions, cheese, mustard and pickle culminate.. it is in each of them that I find a little bit of heaven in every bite. Anyway, I must stop there before I bore you with my long list.
Yes, I love to eat. I find pleasure in satisfying my gastronomic palate. Let’s face it, though, at my age, my metabolism is not as reliable as it once were. When before I could eat heaps without gaining a pound, now I must be more cautious. But I will never let my aging metabolism hinder my enjoyment of good food and sugar-laden cocktail drinks. And so I take care of myself and here are some tips for those who want to pig out responsibly.
Eat to your heart’s content – but not every time. You should treat pigging out as a reward for eating responsibly. You can do it some days, then the rest of your days, watch what you eat. This is how my week goes – I am on a diet five days a week -which is my entire work week. I take advantage of the time I am in the office, when I am the busiest and the most preoccupied, to be “on a diet”. Doing so will allow you to pig out freely on weekends. Being “on a diet” does not mean you have to deprive yourself of food. You just need to eat healthy and be disciplined about it. It does not even mean you need to make it difficult everyday. Have you heard of the diet food brand, Slim Fast? They actually came up with a great 3-2-1 diet plan which I do not find at all difficult to do. It recommends you to eat, in a day, three 100-calorie snacks, two 200-calorie meals, and one 500-calorie normal meal. In layman’s terms, eat two light meals and one normal meal and you can even snack in-between thrice! The way I do this is to save the 500-calorie normal meal for dinner so I have something to look forward to at the end of the day. I know some diets would recommend you to eat your big meal in the morning and reducing your food intake throughout the day until you just eat like a skinny princess by dinnertime. But, seriously, that’s sad to not have anything to look forward to as your day ends. So I find it enough to just do that 3-2-1 thing, regardless of the sequence.
Learn to count your calories. While ignorance is bliss, ignorance is also fattening. You must learn how much calories you can consume in a day to maintain your weight based on your current weight, height, age and amount of daily physical activity. If you know this, then it is easy for you to know how much your calorie intake should be to lose weight. For example, to maintain my weight I should not exceed 2,000 calories a day. If I want to lose weight, I should reduce my calorie intake to just 1,600 a day. Now that you know this, the next ideal thing to do is to track the calories of the food you consume so you could keep within the limits of your target daily calories (i.e. peanut butter sandwich for breakfast is 326 calories, banana for morning snack is 100 calories). Sounds difficult? Nah! There are so many free on-line calorie calculators and calorie counters ready for your taking. Here are some: Calorie Calculator – Daily Caloric Needs, Calorie Counter – Food Nutrition Data for Healthy Eating Choices. If you have a smartphone, you can even download the MyFitnessPal app – the most incredible calorie tracker ever! If you cannot do this religiously, do not fret! It still helps to just be aware and have an idea of how calorie counting works. Awareness still does you good based on how it influences your subconscious😉
Change your weight-loss diet or diet food every once in a while. The last thing you want to do is to get sick of the ways or food that will help you manage your weight. My diet is crazy. Sometimes I would do all fruits for one day, healthy sandwiches the next day, all protein and no carbs for two days, or replace my breakfast with meal replacement drinks for an entire week. The key here is variety. When you have variety, you have fun as well. So explore and experiment but do not just stick to one diet. Weight-loss diets can get pretty boring so be crazy.
Healthy snacking is fun snacking. I must tell you that I cannot eat just three meals a day. I am a self-confessed nibbler. I must have my in-between snacks or I will get irritable and my head will explode. If you are like me, that is totally fine. Just be aware that you have so many healthy options when it comes to snacking. Keep your snacks within 100 calories each – a piece of fruit, veggie sticks like carrots and celery dipped in non-fat salad dressing, yogurt, a few pieces of dark chocolate, 100-calorie crackers or snack bars like Jacob’s Hi-Fibre Crackers, Quaker Oats Granola Bars, or YoGood and Super K snack bars.
Go non-fat, low-fat, sugar-free, light or zero-calorie whenever you can. Choose honey, agave, raw sugar or artificial sweetener in place of white sugar. Choose hard drinks versus beer or light beer if you must drink beer. Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate and most especially over white chocolate. Choose skinny frappuccino with no whipped cream if you must get your Starbucks fix. Choose fat-free chocolate pudding, reduced fat peanut butter and sugar-fee ice cream. When indulging in sinful food, why would you opt for the regular calorie-heavy, sugar-laden versions when zero or low-calorie options are available? Seriously, these “light” or zero-calorie food or beverage options are God’s gift to mankind. Take Coke Zero for example – all the sweetness and goodness of Coke but without the calories, as if you were just drinking water! Surely, you can have the best of both worlds with these options. All I want to say is, if you must sin, be smart about it.
As sucky as it may seem, limit your alcohol intake. Especially beer – they don’t call it beer belly for nothing. Like I said previously, if you must drink beer, go light. You may also opt for our other lower in sugar alcohol buddies like wine, vodka and other liquors. Did you know that vodka contains no sugar or just a very small amount of it? Vodka is a pure mixture of 40% ethanol, 60% water and has no added sugar in it (unless you go with the flavored ones). So alcohol like vodka is always a smart option. If you are fond of cocktail drinks, though, now that’s a different story. The other stuff that go into your cocktail mix are probably high in sugar like juice or soda. So I advise you to take alcohol away from your diet…NOT. Just take it in moderation.
In a hurry and need some fast food? Choose wisely! Fast food provides so much convenience to those who work but then again, you don’t want to load up on calories on just regular days right? Instead of choosing fast food chains like McDonald’s or Burger King, opt for healthier options like Subway – no frying so less or no oil, less preservatives, you can even choose wheat bread over sugar-high white bread, as well as add a lot of veggies to your sandwich. Even Starbucks offers healthier lunch options like gourmet sandwiches and salads which are just as satisfying. Save McDonald’s and other fast food joints for your pig-out-weekends!
Fond of dining out often? Go Japanese as often as you could! I am fond of dining out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but the frequency is the challenge. Thank God for Japanese restaurants. One can find guilt-free indulgence in eating sushi and sashimi – always a healthy option for those who love to eat. Low fat and high in protein. AND did you know that there are studies right now showing that seaweed, which as we all know is commonly used in Japanese food, contains fucoxanthin which is tagged as a “functional food” due to its anti-obesity effect? Awesome.
Exercise. You cannot get away from this. You must have regular exercise or at least a good amount of physical activity to keep your metabolism at its optimum. I run three kilometers every morning and I find that it does not only help manage my weight but it also keeps my blood pumping throughout the day and I just feel consistently on a caffeine-high with no sluggish moments even after lunch. I guess one of the big things that can get between you and exercise is the fact that it is just so freaking boring. So make it more fun by popping your earphones and listening to good music or listen to an audio book, why don’t you? Work out with a friend, even. Do anything that would make it more exciting for you! Indulge in sports or anything that will increase your daily physical activity like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking to where you need to go instead of taking a cab. One thing I like about Singapore is that there is so much walking involved. In fact, coming from Manila where everybody travels even short distances by car, I can honestly say that I have never walked this much my entire life! Moving on…
Take lots of fiber. Fiber increases the time that food stays in your intestines so it reduces feelings of hunger and overall food intake. It also helps decrease the amount of calories your body absorbs from the food you ingest. Amazing. If I were you, I would load up on fiber everyday. Eat lots of fruits or take fiber supplements like whole psyllium husk. It comes in powder-like form which you just need to mix in water and take immediately. I am a fiber addict. I take chewable fiber as soon as I wake up then my daily dose of psyllium. I used to even eat prunes every night before going to bed. Last but not the least…
Drink lots of water. Yes you have always heard this ever since you were a kid but it’s true. You must drink your 8 glasses of water a day, not only for good health but it actually does have some weight management benefits as well. Burning calories is a process that requires a sufficient supply of water in order to function efficiently. Thus, being dehydrated can actually slow down your fat-burning process.
There. I am done. These tips I shared with you are those that I take to heart. I love eating but I know it takes effort to keep enjoying what I love doing without the worries of ending up like a blob. With great enjoyment of food comes great weight watching responsibility too. I hope this helps you in some way. Now back to my peanut butter sandwich.
Cheers and good vibes!
© Karen Cornejo, November 2012
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