Taking a Closer Look at Some Diet Tips

Diet tips. I love them. Where would I be without them? Yeap …

Ask yourself: “What is the worst diet  tip I’ve had so far?”
I guess mine came from one of my best friends, a physiotherapist.
“Intensive exercising won’t help you, you’ll get hungry for sure but nothing else. In all my career I haven’t seen anyone to lose weight a.s.o”
It took me quite a while to get over this tip and discover the benefits of  both moderate and intensive exercising. For one, my heart is happy.  My brain works better.
Then, there’s this long term effect. Just have patience. Keep exercising and you’ll build some muscle which will  burn more calories. Slowly you’ll start to see some difference.
Of course, you can’t just exercise and not change your fattening diet.

While all physical activity counts, nothing beats a sport you really enjoy. Like swimming, for example.

What has helped me most:
– a pedometer. I’m not advertising but I do like my fitbit ionic. I don’t have an explanation, it just works, it keeps me moving like a personal trainer.
– swimming
– walking in fresh air, at least half an hour a day, often with my camera.
fitness snacks  (I’m still working on this)

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Source: pixabay.com


“Adopt the Dissociated Diet”
. This nasty tip came from a diabetes doctor and actually is a “favorite” of many Romanian doctors and nutritionists. I see it’s still popular on Internet too
Obesity is a disease and a strange one.  It might not hurt you, kill you immediately but for sure, it’ll make your life miserable. I myself don’t know a quick treatment or a diet to “cure” it  once and for all. Until some magic pill will be discovered, the diet you adopt is for life and no diet suits all.  The Dissociated Diet, like any other fad diet, is an unrealistic and unhealthy plan to maintain over the long-term.

Like exercising, the diet you ultimately build yourself requires time, effort and patience.
It helped me a lot to start with a healthy diet like Mediterranean Diet combined with the South Beach Diet and traditional Romanian diet. But I’ve changed some of the rules to suit my lifestyle, my health problems and my body.
For example, I can’t eat daily 4 tbsp of olive oil, like I’m supposed to do in the Mediterranean Diet, Predimed version, it’s way too much. I can’t afford 500 kcal only from the vegetable oil and it seems it’s not good for my joints. I like fish and poultry but I eat also a lot of pork (lean meats mainly), especially in winter. I live in a temperate climate after all, not in a warm Mediterranean country.
I can’t have 25% of calories from protein like I’m supposed to in The South Beach Diet, I simply don’t feel well eating so much protein, either meats or beans.
I eat potatoes, not recommended in the South Beach Diet, but cooked in a way to make them healthy and the results are good.
I had to outlaw the bacon and simplify a lot my rich traditional Romanian recipes.

And so on, it’s an ongoing process. Eat, exercise, control your weight, adjust.
If something works, keep it.

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Visit Oldways: https://oldwayspt.org/resources/oldways-mediterranean-diet-pyramid

“Drink water, lot’s of”. This “nice tip” came to me from everywhere, including a smart nutritionist woman working for some huge diet supplements company. She actually recommended me 3.5 l of plain water, besides whatever other liquids I had like tea, coffee, soup a.s.o. I was supposed to have some 5-6 l of water daily, which obviously, it’s closer to water poisoning. Not even funny.

I gave up long time ago counting water glasses. It’s no use, it didn’t help me, added only some more stress.
A nice veggie or meat soup is a perfect way to start lunch, fills you quicker and keeps blood sugar quite low.  I have my morning coffee and some mineral water or herbal tea  when I’m thirsty.
I might drink also a glass of tomato juice, kefir or sugarless lemonade. A beer or a glass of wine now and then. The rest of the necessary liquid comes from veggies and fruits, plenty of.
However, I take care to have a small bottle with mineral water or warm herbal or green  tea with me when it’s very hot outside.

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Source: pixabay.com

“Eat 5 meals a day, at the same time of the day. Healthy snacks will help you not to feel hungry.  Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.”
Most diets nowadays include these tips in their recommendations. Well, I hate eating if I’m not hungry. I hate being hungry.  I’m not always home for a mealtime. I’m not always hungry in the morning a.s.o. What’s to be done?
First of all, from my experience, at least for me it’s of no importance if once in a while I skip a meal or more.
Then, being hungry once in a while it’s not the worst thing. Food tastes better when you’re hungry. Just don’t rush like a wolf, eat slowly, give your brain time to “digest”.

Snacking all day long seems to be quite a bad idea. Your blood sugar will fluctuate all day long and this is a no-no.
I’ve given up the mid-morning snack, it was a nuisance. Besides, there’s no need to see my sugar blood going up and down all morning.
I do have a healthy light after-lunch snack, around 5 o’clock and most of the times, a very light dinner (cup of milk with a cookie for example).
I somehow keep with the old saying: “Eat your breakfast, share your lunch with a friend and give your dinner to your enemy”.

But, once again, it all depends on your lifestyle and preferences.
Just take care of the quality of food (what) and the daily calories (how much).
Take care especially when eating out or when there’s some special event or a barbecue or whatever could make you easily eat more than enough.

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Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

 

 

Back to Basics: Hungry

Let me ask you a question:  Can you resist a favorite plate when you’re hungry like a wolf?
Well, I honestly don’t and my problem is that I do like to eat, I have lots of favorite foods.
But is hunger such a bad sensation?
Some obese people complain of being hungry all the time. Maybe, but not me.
And, I do like to eat when I’m hungry, not when I’m told to eat because it’s meal time.
Food is tastier, you feel more satisfied.

When I started my diet trails, I was having a hunger problem. I went to a nutritionist, actually the bully kind and, that not so nice lady gave me a strict menu and other strict rules to follow.
After eating my not so nice healthy meals, I was still hungry. I was hungry day and night. I simply couldn’t follow her diet.

Than I made some interesting discoveries, while trying to build my own diet and following for a very short time a low carb diet. I’ve found out that there are delicious friendly healthy foods which  cut your appetite.
My favorite ones:  hummus or bean mash, raspberries, cottage cheese with a tomato or scallion or celery, a tomato with a bit of cheese, an apple or pear with a whole grain cookie, a tomato juice with a small slice of whole wheat or rye bread, a yogurt with some blueberries or strawberries, fried zucchini or eggplant salad, summer squash or cauliflower puree, eggs with avocado. Or just a tbsp of olive oil and a couple of olives with a bit of rye bread.  Quite a long list and delicious too, yumi.

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foodiefactor.com/

There are a few other tricks I’d like to share with you but keep in mind this:
Except maybe for short periods of time, you have to eat enough to cover your body energy and nutrient needs. Diets too restrictive can make you sick.
If you eat less than your daily necessary calories or nutrients, don’t be amazed that you’re hungry all the time or have some strange cravings.

So, here’s what I’m doing to keep things under control:
– I’m paying special attention whenever I’m stressed or go to a party. It’s so easy to  indulge in goodies whenever you feel depressed, or, on the contrary, you’re “happy”. Crunch a fruit or a handful of popcorn if you’re stressed. Taste everything you want at a party, don’t eat more than you usually do at that time of day.

Yeap, I know, easy to say … It takes time but it’s possible. Just don’t give up because at some point of time you’ve stepped out of the trail.

– I try to eat 3 main meals and if necessary one snack but if I’m not hungry, I might skip a meal or two.
If I’m hungry between meals,  I’ll have a healthy snack like a bit of a low/ medium  glycemic index (GI) fruit with a small portion of cheese, a hummus sandwich, a tomato with some cold meat a.s.o.
On short,  a small portion of  protein and a veggie or a low/ medium GI fruit will do the trick.
– I do  plan my menus and try to stick to my plan. If however, after I finish my meals, I’m still hungry,  I’ll wait for 10 minutes before eating something else.
You have to let your brain enough time to receive all signals from your body and decide weather you need more food.
If I’m still hungry, I’ll try the protein & veggie or low/ medium GI fruit trick or a bit of dark chocolate or a handful of nuts.
Be advised that dark chocolate isn’t for everyone. If you have a tendency to eat chocolate or other sweet things uncontrolled, better stick to nuts, cheese, veggies and low GI fruits.
– If you’ve followed my blog, you might remember my experiments on blood sugar. If you start your meal with a consistent portion of high GI carbs, your blood sugar might spike and soon enough you’ll be hungry again. 

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Here’s how your blood sugar might spike or not, depending on the order you eat your foods.

Always start your meals with a protein or a salad or a veggie and/ or beans or meat soup.
Don’t eat a high GI snack (like a pretzel or a  cake) on empty stomach, you’ll get hungry again in no time.
And maybe here  is one reason why some obese people are feeling hungry all the time. A diet rich in high GI foods can make you feel constantly hungry and can lead to diabetes or whatever other nasty illness.

Finally, I’m so curious: what do you do to keep hunger at bay?

ps. You might like this item  on hunger hormones:
“Hunger Hormones” Are a Thing, and Yes, You Can Control Them

 

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foodiefactor.com/

 

 

Fitness Snacks

I confess I hate jogging, long and strenuous exercises, static cycling or the like.
I find them terrible boring. I’ve tried listening to music, I’ve told myself how well I’ll be a.s.o. Nothing, I just can’t.
Swimming is a different story. Maybe I was a duck in a previous life, I’d spend my life floating on water.   But … I can swim only in my vacation and once or  twice a week in a health club pool.

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Photo Emilia Dragne

Also, I will never refuse a nice walk in fresh air, in a park or a wood. Especially if there’ a chance to do some nice photos or pick some wild berries or mushrooms.

But swimming like a duck and strolling through a nice garden are by far not enough to get rid of the old surplus pounds, my scale tells me.
I need to strengthen my muscles a lot more.

Maybe, this limited physical  exercising is the reason I don’t get rid of surplus pounds, although I’m quite a conscious dieter.
I’ve got to find quickly some new ideas as Spring is knocking at my door.

I’ve stumbled on a very interesting blog article on MyFitnessPal  http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/lift-weights-lose-weight/
I cite “As our muscles get bigger, they trigger protein synthesis, which requires calories. The result is a sustained burning of calories and an increased metabolic rate”
And one other interesting idea from this blog is the “workout snacks”, quick-and-easy mini workouts you can do throughout your day.
Let’s see what I can do.

A few minutes of isometric exercises is the first “fitness snack” that comes to my mind.
In an usual exercise you tense your muscles while shortening or lengthening it.
In an isometric exercise you just tense you muscle without changing its length. Like a  pose in body building or pushing against an immovable object such as a wall.

You have to do this, like all exercises, correctly. The following article has been most helpful for me, to understand the issues and benefits:
https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/isometric-training-what-it-is-and-how-to-do-it-correctly

According to the author recommendations, I’ll start  with three six-second contractions for each exercise and add a rep per week. No more than 10 minutes per session, finally. In between reps I’ll perform some breathing exercises or anything else that will shake off the muscle tension.

Another short exercises  that comes into my old mind are dumbbells weight exercises.  Easy to do at home. I just need to browse youtube and make myself a five-minute exercise collection. Like some of these ones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF0niVnmMY0

Then I have to do some neck exercises. This article is most helpful
https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/neck-exercises-dos-donts#1

Taichi might be useful for my arthritis. I’ll start modestly, once or twice a week, 10 minutes and see how it goes. Quite tricky, I don’t know if  my new taichi video pack will do, maybe I’ll need some guru to teach me.

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Photo Rayko Swensson

 

Finally, although it’ll be boring, I’ll try static bicycle but only a four minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine. I’ll use a common formula: a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods, for example, 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of slow cycling. I’ll have to add to this a 2 minutes warm-up and a 3 minutes cool-down. This is more than a “fitness snack”, it’s “breakfast”.

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Source: pixabay.com

Let’s wrap it all.

  • Twice a week, swimming, at least 5 times a week walking in the park. These I do already.
  • Taichi, once a week.
  • One session of 5-ten minutes of isometric exercises, in the evening, most of the days.
  • One session of 5 minutes HIIT on the static bicycle in the morning, maybe not every day. Plus a 2 minutes warm-up and a 3 minutes cool-down.
  • A few minutes of neck exercises whenever I sit down at my computer.
  • One 5-minutes weight exercises, whenever I’m very nervous. This will happen at least a once a day, I guarantee. If it’s not the global warming or my scale or some nut on Facebook, there’ll be for sure something else. I know my world.
  • Keep a journal on a site, Fitbit or MyFitnessPal.

 

This is the plan, it’s so nice to make plans!
I’ll tell you in a month what I’ve been able to actually do.

 

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Photo by bruce mars from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-showing-woman-in-blue-sport-bra-carrying-gray-dumbbell-867453/

Instead of Subtracting, Try Adding!

Regarding nutrition, we, humans, tend to simplify what is an incredible complex problem, that of obesity.
As a result, it seems to me, we are now in dire straights (an elegant way to say we are in deep…. shhhhht.  🙂

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Source: pixabay.com

A lot too many scientific studies in nutrition are in a way “fake”.
I distrust statistics, particularly those based on questionnaires. I’ve completed myself such questionnaires, thinking I’m honest and then, after keeping a journal for a while, I’ve discovered that I’ve been honest only in my mind.
Many studies are based on small sets of people, with a limited number of parameters and on a very short time. They usually end with an honest “we’ve noticed this and that but more research is needed”. Only problem, is that media or commercial diets or other interested parties present these observations as super scientific results.

Most recommendations nowadays seem to me to be so simplistic!
“Eat less” mantra has been replaced by all kind of restrictions, like “eat low carb”, “eat high fat, low carb”, “fast for 2 days a week”, “eat only veggies”, “give up  sugar”,”eat only low fat dairy” and so on.

Been there, seen that. Along the last 20 years, I’ve given up sugar, limited saturated fats, been for 2 weeks on a “no carb diet”, been fasting, been on a 1600 kcal diet for some time, been on a diet high in protein, with less carbs, more veggies for months, ate no bread for more than a month, been exercising a.s.o.
I’ve got ridden of more than 20 pounds, put back half of them and now I’m on a plateau and struggling not to put on. And honestly, I’m getting tired of all this nutrition bruhahaha.

However, some research, even if limited,  is worth taking a second look at and some results are good food for thought.
And I do trust chemistry and biology established facts, like what you see in chemical reactions and with a microscope. Scientific facts, not mere statistics.

I’m fond of an idea (someone smarter than me got it, I’m sorry I don’t remember who, maybe Mike Polan). Instead of subtracting, try adding!
Add more good food in your life, like organic food, vegetables, fruits but also fish, quality diary and cheese, eggs, home cooked recipes. Add more interesting activities, physical but not only.

You can do some science yourself. Keep a journal, note the essential at least. Calories, portions, carbs, protein and fat, energy density, your exercises and from time to time your weight, waist, glicemia and blood pressure. Right now, online tools, like that MyFitnessPal, a good wi-fi scale and a pedometer make it so easy!
Review this journal, from time to time. Try to know yourself better.

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Source: pixabay.com


Checklist

  • Don’t accept easily scientific studies results, check any result from more studies and for a longer time.
  • Distrust media, always review the original study.
  • Avoid the simplistic solutions, especially those that “subtract” a food group from your diet.
  • Do some science yourself. Keep a journal, note the essential at least. Review from time to time your journal, looking for “patterns”, trying to understand better the relation between your lifestyle and your body.
  • Instead of subtracting, try adding!
    Add more goodies in your life, like organic food, vegetables, fruits but also fish, quality dairy and cheese, eggs, home cooked recipes. Add more interesting  activities, physical but not only.
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Source: pixabay.com

Some  interesting studies
They might give you some ideas, worth to try, while keeping a journal.

Slow eating speed may be linked to weight loss

Slowing down the speed at which you eat, along with cutting out after dinner snacks and not eating within 2 hours of going to sleep may all help to shed the pounds, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Eating less not the best way to lose weight, study shows

By Ana Sandoiu, 1918, Medical News Today

“The results show that choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options. If you choose high-calorie-dense foods but restrict the amount that you’re eating, portions will be too small, and you’re likely to get hungry,” Zuraikat goes on.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State and a co-author on the study, also  chimes in.
“The study supports the idea that eating less of the higher-calorie-dense foods and more of the nutritious, lower-calorie-dense foods can help to manage hunger while consuming fewer calories. You still have a full plate,” she adds, “but you’re changing the proportions of the different types of foods.”

PREDIMED Study

The PREDIMED (PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea) multicenter, randomized, primary prevention trial assessed the long-term effects of the Mediterranean diet (MeDiet) on clinical events of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Polyphenol Levels Are Inversely Correlated with Body Weight and Obesity in an Elderly Population after 5 Years of Follow Up (The Randomised PREDIMED Study)

A greater polyphenol intake may thus contribute to reducing body weight in elderly people at high cardiovascular risk.

Note.  The most important food sources are fruit and vegetables, green tea, black tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. Herbs and spices, nuts and algae are also potentially significant for supplying certain polyphenols. Some polyphenols are specific to particular food (flavanones in citrus fruit, isoflavones in soya, phloridzin in apples); whereas others, such as quercetin, are found in all plant products such as fruit, vegetables, cereals, leguminous plants, tea, and wine.

Yogurt consumption and abdominal obesity reversion in the PREDIMED study.

Total yogurt consumption was not significantly associated with reversion of abdominal obesity status and a lower waist circumference. However, consumption of whole-fat yogurt was associated with changes in waist circumference and higher probability for reversion of abdominal obesity. Therefore, it seems that whole-fat yogurt has more beneficial effects in management of abdominal obesity in elderly population at high cardiovascular risk.

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Diet Yes, Uncompromising No

via Daily Prompt: Uncompromising

A lot of common sense is necessary when reading nutrition and diet information and one should double check all with reliable sources. Especially if you’re not a nutritionist or doctor ( I’m not),  one might have it all wrong.
And, who said this, Mark Twain maybe:
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint”.
You have to keep an open mind but sometimes it’s hard to  have a dialogue with uncompromising people, be they doctors, nutritionists or their followers.

Some have made kind of a religion out of their diet and when it comes to religion, one must be very careful, you won’t like being labeled the bad witch and “be executed”.

I guess on fashion are now  the Vegans and Ketogenic Dieters. Some are even “aggressive” on the net. Just go to one of their forum, try to tell them in a sensible way that you don’t agree with this or that and see what happens.

I haven’t realized that Ketogenic Diet has become such a religion and humbly commented on a page that I think it’s quite dangerous for my old age.
I kind of know this from my own experience, I’ve tried a week without carbs and my heart told me to stop.
I’m right now “fighting” with a commercial Ketogenic Diet page, which is  bombarding me with stupid messages trying to prove me I’m wrong. It’s worse than a virus. Some of the persons sending me these messages seem to be “fake”. I’ve given up, unfollowed,  deleted my message on their page and hope this will be enough.

Meanwhile, though I used to think that any diet had something good, even the cabbage soup one, I’ve recently became quite uncompromising myself  with such extreme diets.

I won’t comment on Ketogenic Diet other than I guess that, like all low-carb diets in the past, it cannot last for life, at least not for most people. After going back to normal, in less than 2 years you will put back all you’ve lost and more. The best you can hope for is to keep your kidneys and heart healthy.

With Veganism, it’s a bit more complicated.  It’s… how shall I put it,  so politically correct, such nice and noble ideas at first glance…
They want to change the world for better but can the whole world afford to be so noble?
We are omnivore and there are nutrients that we cannot find in plants or we find them easier and more affordable in  animal products. Not to mention the Arctic People or poor mountain people, what are they supposed to eat?
Strangely enough, being omnivore might help Nature in fact, just think about it.

Sometimes it’s pure economics, you simply cannot afford to be a Vegan and stay  healthy. But most Vegans will not accept this idea nor will they make concessions.

I myself prefer the traditional moderate approach in my country.
Be Vegan on Fridays, eat fish instead of meat at least one day a week, fast from time to time, like in Spring before Eastern or in Winter, before Christmas.
Eat “lighter” on Summer, mostly veggies, fruits, cheese, eggs, dairy and poultry.
Not too strict though, uncompromising  it’s not for me.

The Romanian veggie recipes are so delicious and today is my “Vegan” day.
I  will eat zakuskahummus and home made jam at breakfast, beans soup at lunch, a fruit salad, an umami pilaf for dinner. One of the Winter salads will be on my table, for sure.
But on weekend, it’s barbecue!

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Source: pixabay.com

 

Calories, How Much?

I’m rethinking my whole lifestyle and, of course, there is this question begging for a scientific  answer: “How much should I eat not to get fat anymore?”
And the next question would be “How much from carbs, protein and fat?”

First of all, I’ll get rid of what did not work in the past:

  • Eating less. Nope, didn’t work for me. I have been eating 200 – 400 less than what was recommended for me, plus exercising, and still couldn’t get rid of surplus pounds.
    It seems sometimes my body has a mind of its own “Aha, this poor lady is in danger of starving, let’s make some more fat deposits“.
    My question is “How many calories should I eat to stay healthy?” and not “How many calories should I eat to lose weight?”
  • Eating more than 50% of calories from carbs. Nope, this is not going to happen to me anymore. Some carbs are spiking my blood sugar, I’ve done some simple tests with the aid of a glucometer. And, my journal tells me more than 4 portions of bread or other starches a day,  do fatten me. So does sugar. If you don’t eat lots of starches, only 2-3 portions a fruit a day and almost no sugar, having more than 50% of calories from carbs is quite difficult.
  • Eating low carb, low fat dairy, low fat, low anything. I’ve been there, tried that.
    Full fat dairy doesn’t fatten me, it’s proved. Low carb make me feel so miserable, no energy, feeling like an old dirty bag, I won’t even think of trying it once again.
    Low fat? Nope, limited yes, but not low. I like too much my whole fat dairy, my sofrito sauce, my avocado and my olive oil salad dressing and it seems science is on my side this time.
    I’m not saying that these diets won’t work. I’m saying that they didn’t work for me on a long term. And let’s be honest, we don’t know their effects on a long term, if somehow one manages to follow them a long, long way.
  • Any restriction that will make me hungry won’t work. But fasting, the Romanian traditional way, deserves a second look. I’ll deal with this later, not now.

Next, I need some serious advice or, maybe, a trusted tool to calculate how much I need to eat to survive, do my daily chores, exercise a.so.
I’ll cross-check  the number of calories obtained with the figures recommended by a trusted  health organisation or site.

The best method of assessing the basic energy needs, those necessary for my body to function when resting,  is in a metabolic lab through the doubly-labelled water technique. Maybe one day I’ll have access to this method but for the moment all I have are some formulas, supposed to be quite good.
Like the The Cunningham Formula (Resting Metabolic Rate RMR):

RMR = 500 + (22 x LBM) where LBM = lean body mass in Kg

All you need is a good scale to tell you how much fat you have in your body.
Some refer to this formula as the Basic Metabolic Rate or BMR.
I’m not so sure how accurate is this formula, as far as I know,  fat cells do need also some energy for daily chemical reactions.

To this BMR I have to add the calories for my daily activities and here comes trouble.

How much calories do I spend in my daily activities? Almost impossible to tell, I’m not a robot, I’m not either a fitness freak. Some days I do exercise more, or do heavy housework, other days I spend mostly in front of a computer with just half an hour walk.

Here’s another nice formula I’ve found on the net and I wonder what can I make of it:

Daily energy requirement = BMR + thermic effect of food + NEAT

The thermic effect of food is the  energy we spend for digestion, absorption, and disposal of the food we eat. A commonly used estimate of the thermic effect of food is about 10% of one’s caloric intake, though it varies substantially for different foods or nutrients. For example, dietary fat is very easy to process and has very little thermic effect (may be as low as 5%), while protein is hard to process and has a much larger thermic effect, up to 35%. You’d better read more in Wikipedia, quite an interesting subject
For the moment, I’ll stick to the 10% figure. This means that if I eat 2000 kcal a day, 200 Kcal will be burned by the body just processing my food.

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  This is the energy we need each day for non-exercise daily activities.

Move a Little, Lose a Lot: New N.E.A.T. Science Reveals How to Be Thinner, Happier, and Smarter by [Levine Md, James, Selene Yeager]
See this book on Amazon
According to Dr. James Levine, the Mayo Clinic researcher who is currently studying this phenomenon, NEAT can vary between two people of similar size by up to 2,000 calories a day. One study that measured NEAT in lean and obese people, all of whom were sedentary and had similar jobs, found that lean people stood or walked more than two hours longer each day than obese people.

If I take this very seriously, it means that maybe not only my slow metabolism might be a cause for my weight problems, but also my “slow” NEAT.

 

I’ve attempted to calculate my daily energy requirement with the aid of this book “Move a little, Lose a lot” by James A Levine and the site calorielab.com

Somehow I’ve obtained a total of 2300 kCal, exercises not included, of course, nor the “hard working” house chores (see on calorielab.com how many calories these might burn)
I’m amazed because up till now I’ve been striving to stay between 1800  – 2000 kcal, recommended by other sites and diets. This has been the calories number for me, for losing weight. It hasn’t work so far but I haven’t get fatter either. I’m stuck on a plateau.

I’m not sure what to do with my new calorie total. I can do it easily but… isn’t it too much? I don’t know what science is behind this number and most probably it is not accurate.
I won’t lose more time on this, I’ll start with a bit less, 2200, because webmd is recommending this number of calories for my sex and age (I’ve had a lot of good advice from them). However, I won’t eat all of the 2200 kCal  unless hungry. If after increasing my daily calories, the scale will start to show more, I’ll simply adjust this number.
While it’s so hard to get rid of surplus pounds, one can very quickly put on so it’ll be easy to spot if I’m eating too much.

I’d better focus  on improving gradually my NEAT. I’ll start with finding activities that burn more calories than just sitting and watching TV or using the computer.
And I’ll keep in mind what I’ve already discovered, that what I eat is more important than how much I eat.

Checklist

  • Get rid of what did not work in the past. Like, eating less, eating low fat, eating low carb a.s.o.
  • Find your basic energy needs. You need a performant scale for this or access to a metabolic lab.
  • If you’ve chosen to calculate yourself your BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate), you can use the Cunningham formula:
    BMR = 500 + (22 x LBM) where LBM = lean body mass in Kg
  • The thermic effect of food is the  energy we spend for digestion, absorption, and disposal of the food we eat. A commonly used estimate of the thermic effect of food is about 10% of one’s caloric intake
  • Calculate NEAT, The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy we need each day for non-exercise daily activities. You’ll find the calories needed for various daily activities on this site calorielab.com
  • Calculate your Daily energy requirement, using this formula
    Daily energy requirement = BMR + thermic effect of food + NEAT
  • On the days you exercise, add the calories needed for each type of exercise. You can find them here calorielab.com
  • Review the calorie number obtained by cross-checking with the figures provided by health organisations or trusted sites.
  • You might consider keeping  a journal and reviewing this calorie limit weekly. Adjust if necessary.
  • More important, improve your NEAT. Find more daily activities to keep you moving.
    Also, keep in mind that what you eat is more important than how much you eat.

The Science Behind

The Science of Why Caloric Restriction Fails

Dr. Jason Fung – Nephrologist, 2017, Better Humans Coach

Our body acts much more like a thermostat. That is, the body seems to have a certain Body Set Weight (BSW). Any attempts to increase above this BSW will result in our body trying to return to its original weight by increasing TEE (increasing metabolism to burn off the excess calories).
Any attempts to decrease below this BSW will result in our body trying to return to its original weight by decreasing TEE (decreasing metabolism to regain lost calories). No wonder it is so hard to keep the weight off! As we slow our metabolism, we must further and further reduce our caloric intake to maintain weight loss.

The truth about low-fat foods

By Kerry Torrens – Nutritional therapist, 2016, BBC Good Food

Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids (including the omega-3 variety). These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system. The fat in our diet also helps us absorb certain vitamins, the fat-soluble ones, which include A, D, E and K. Following a very low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body’s ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health.

Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?

By Marcelo Campos, MD, 2017, Health Harvard

A ketogenic diet could be an interesting alternative to treat certain conditions, and may accelerate weight loss. But it is hard to follow and it can be heavy on red meat and other fatty, processed, and salty foods that are notoriously unhealthy. We also do not know much about its long-term effects, probably because it’s so hard to stick with that people can’t eat this way for a long time. It is also important to remember that “yo-yo diets” that lead to rapid weight loss fluctuation are associated with increased mortality. Instead of engaging in the next popular diet that would last only a few weeks to months (for most people that includes a ketogenic diet), try to embrace change that is sustainable over the long term. A balanced, unprocessed diet, rich in very colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and lots of water seems to have the best evidence for a long, healthier, vibrant life.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

By James Vlahos, 2011, New York Times Magazine

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”
Working late one night at 3 a.m., Dr. Levine coined a name for the concept of reaping major benefits through thousands of minor movements each day: NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In the world of NEAT, even the littlest stuff matters.

Eating less not the best way to lose weight, study shows

By Ana Sandoiu, 1918, Medical News Today

“The results show that choosing healthy, lower-calorie-dense foods was more effective and more sustainable than just trying to resist large portions of higher calorie options. If you choose high-calorie-dense foods but restrict the amount that you’re eating, portions will be too small, and you’re likely to get hungry,” Zuraikat goes on.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State and a co-author on the study, also  chimes in.
“The study supports the idea that eating less of the higher-calorie-dense foods and more of the nutritious, lower-calorie-dense foods can help to manage hunger while consuming fewer calories. You still have a full plate,” she adds, “but you’re changing the proportions of the different types of foods.”

 

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Photo Emilia Dragne

 

Walking the Calories

It’s Sunday, it’s late morning and it’s raining a lot but my feet are telling me they feel like walking in the nearby beautiful park. Walking in the rain? Why not, I have an umbrella. The fresh hot coffee afterwards makes me already smile. Also, the thought that I’ll burn some of those nasty calories I managed to eat the evening before.

When I started the difficult road from fat to fit, I was in an extremely bad shape and was sure I didn’t had the time or mindset or anything in my power to exercise.

And…I was convinced exercising is useless in a diet. “Just eat less”.
And… I find jogging, aerobic and other “extreme” fitness chores even now boring. Sorry folks, I can’t help it.Then I’ve stumbled upon some interesting and useful science items on the net.
To make a long story short, you don’t need extreme fitness (although if you do it, bravo for you). Just walking for at least half an hour can help a lot.
But you have to do it every day. No use walking only in weekends. Walking every day is not an easy thing to do in the beginning if you are a computer or TV freak, if you have a very busy office life or if you have quite a lot of excess fat (a nice way to say you’re really too fat to move easily).
Sometimes you need outside help, like a friends group or a forum to keep you moving.
Some forums are very supportive, excellent ideas and a lot of advice.  Try, for example, http://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/categories.
Just walking might be boring, if you don’t have some friends to walk with. Here comes technology to the rescue. Try any mobile device with music, audio books or radio programmes.
Investing in a pedometer has been one of my best ideas so far. I’ve started very low, less than 2000 steps a day and increased the number from week to week.
I love my little green fitbit froggy but any other pedometer will do.
Photo Emilia Dragne

In my experience walking is good for your feet and brain but it’s not enough for your body.  You need more to feel fit and wit and you need to build some muscle.
A bit of gymnastics will come naturally. Simple exercises like cycling now and then on a static bicycle, some exercises with small weights. Any kind of physical activity will do, in fact, including dancing, cleaning your house, shopping, gardening etc.
A sport, any sport, will do wonders for your body.
I’ve  been lucky that I’m a nut about swimming. Must have been a duck in a previous life. I’ve enrolled in a swimming club (not easy to find and quite expensive in Bucharest but cheaper than doctors and medicine).
From time to time I  manage to find some pond, lake or sea to swim a whole day long.

A few days ago, I’ve analyzed the data in my daily journal.
Such a journal is extremely useful for your diet. Besides controlling better what you eat and drink, it’s vital to look from time to time at historic data. They can tell a lot, even  if you don’t  have the basic knowledge of statistics and Excel.
For example, my journal  shows that the best recipe in a month to put a pound on is to eat a bit more, whatever healthy food,  while exercising too little or at all.
Calories do matter, take them for a walk.

Checklist

  • Start walking. Start with 20 minutes every other day and increase this from week to week. 
  • Try to find a community of people helping each other to become fit to support you: a forum on the net, friends, relatives, a club, a team.
  • Put technology to work and invest in a mobile device with music or audio books or radio.
  • Invest also in a pedometer (step counter) device. 
  • Find other opportunities of physical activity, even if this means just cleaning your house or shopping.
  • Try to find a sport you can afford and enjoy.
  • Aim for at least 90 minutes daily of physical activity.
  • On days you eat or drink more than you’d need to (like a party or some emotional burst for ex.)  try to exercise a lot more. Dance, swim, walk as much as possible a.s.o. A couple of days will do the trick and bring you back on the path.
  • Keep a “diet journal” and review it from time to tome.
Photo Emilia Dragne

 

The Science behind all these

Is diet or exercise more important in combating obesity?
“Diet and exercise has the same importance if you are trying to lose weight.
Research shows physical exercise on its own or diet on its own is not an effective weight
loss strategy, they need to be combined. Weight loss will only be achieved if energy input
(food and drink) is lower than the total energy expenditure ( activity of daily life and physical
activity). Research shows that to lose weight you need to exercise more than 60-90
minutes/day at moderate intensity if energy ( food and drink) intake is not modified.”

Epigenetic Changes to Fat Cells Following Exercise
The cells of the body contain DNA, which contains genes. We inherit our genes and they cannot be changed. The genes, however, have ‘methyl groups’ attached which affect what is known as ‘gene expression’ — whether the genes are activated or deactivated. The methyl groups can be influenced in various ways, through exercise, diet and lifestyle, in a process known as ‘DNA methylation’. This is epigenetics, a relatively new research field that in recent years has attracted more and more attention.

All Fat Is Not Bad: Study Shows Exercise Creates “Good Fat”
“Our work provides greater motivation than ever to get out there and exercise,” Stanford
said.
These studies suggest that even if you’re not losing weight, exercise is still training your fat to be more metabolically active; even if you don’t see the results on the scale, you are still improving your overall metabolism and therefore your health.

Long, Low Intensity Exercise May Have More Health Benefits Relative to Short, Intense Workouts
Standing and walking for longer stretches improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels more than an hour of intense exercise each day does, but only if the calories spent in both forms of exercise are similar.

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