People will resort to drastic measures when they're desperate. When it comes to weight loss especially, there are some pretty crazy ideas out there. The thing is, once you hear enough people are doing this act of craziness, it doesn't seem as nutty anymore. The Master Cleanse is a good example. You probably know someone who's done it. You simply drink water with cayenne pepper, lemon and maple syrup until you waste away and become euphoric. Remember colonics and colon cleansing pills? They were hot for a while. Lord knows all that poop might have be weighing you down and making your butt bigger. And now the latest act of desperation cleverly cloaked by the guise of "detoxification," is "juicing." Although juicing may rank slightly higher on the health scale than the Master Cleanse or the bacon-crusted beef burgers allowed in the Atkins Diet, most people are really just juicing to lose weight fast.
Helpful hint: You will feel fuller and will be likelier to consume less calories if you just eat the whole veggie or fruit, but I guess you can't carry a head of kale around with you all day.
So, if people are willing to fast on juice, spicy, sweet and sour water, have water or coffee shot up into their intestines or, pop pills that send you running to the throne, what's so crazy about eating in front of the mirror naked?
I once heard this suggestion from a boyfriend in college who wanted to lose weight. It was hard to argue with the logic of Aversion Therapy, after all it worked in A Clockwork Orange. Of course it's impractical when dining out or eating while you drive. And then there's always the possibly of developing some not yet discovered eating disorder from this behavior. But, if people will subscribe to the cabbage soup or watermelon diets, why not this?
I admit, I never actually tried it, but I can't say I never considered it. Even when my weight careened out of control in college, I shied away from this particular method for weight management. What I resorted to was joining a gym, working out three to four times a week and becoming a certified fitness instructor so I could learn more about how the body works. I was just out of college and wet behind the ears. I actually thought I had this whole weight loss / weight gain thing licked. Oh how naïve. There was still so much more to know. As soon as a monkey wrench got thrown into the works and I couldn't make it the gym, the weight would start to creep back on. Sound familiar?
Here are some of the most important things I've learned about managing your weight and your well-being over the 20-plus years I've been in the fitness business (and yes, you can keep your clothes on):
1. Eating in front of the mirror naked and other forms of Aversion Therapy is NOT the answer. Rather than making yourself sick at the sight of yourself eating, think of nurturing yourself with food. Keep the mind set, especially over the holidays, that you're eating for health and nourishment. Before chowing on the stuff will leave you feeling guilty on Black Friday and beyond, eat the things you will be proud of yourself for first.
2. You can't out-train a bad diet. Maybe a college athlete or a pro athlete can, but as the "Nutrisystem for Men" commercials prove, it's gonna catch up to you eventually when you start working out less. I did put it to the test a number of times in my own clinical trial of one. It would work for me to a point, and that point was usually an injury. They call this behavior "exercise bulimia," when you try to burn off the calories you eat or more. I see it often and always to the same end, namely stress fractures or torn ligaments.
3. Do some basic math. Unless you're one of the Ten Percenters (as I call the people who have the metabolisms of fruit flies and can eat whatever they want), you're just going to have keep a rough estimation of how many calories you're consuming and factor that in with how many you're burning. There are plenty of easy to use apps out there to help you figure out how much you're consuming (Livestrong, MyFitnessPal, Calorie King are just a few of the many free or cheap apps that can help). I believe it's true that not all calories are created exactly equal, but if you take in a few thousand more than you burn, the pounds will creep up on you. Even if your food is raw, organic or cold pressed, the excess calories your body absorbs that are not expended, used by your muscles or for your basic life functions, will store as body fat. So all you need to know is how many calories your body burns a day including your exercise, then make sure the amount you eat is about the same or less than what you burned. It isn't calculus. Here are some equations for estimating your Basal Metabolic Rate.
4. It's a fallacy that you can eat as much as you want if the food is raw, organic, and non-processed. If you believe that you can, then you may have been one of the people who bought the pills that claimed to burn fat in your sleep. The only pills I know of that really help you burn fat in your sleep need to be prescribed by a doctor and definitely don't help you sleep! It is true that food researchers are starting to change their tune on calories as they realize that it does take more energy to break down raw food versus cooked food. But it may not be as many calories as we'd like to think. So eating raw sunflower seeds instead of roasted ones doesn't mean you can have twice as many.
5. Either keep trigger foods out of the house or put a taser on your fridge. It's like a zombie movie where an unnatural force just lures you to the cabinets or fridge when your favorite munchies are in there, whether you're hungry or not. Maybe it's boredom, anxiety, procrastination or an emotional hole that's looking to be filled, whatever power is compelling you, it's much easier to keep those snack options out of the house... even if they're "healthy." See number 4.
6. Keep apples around. Apples are my magic pill for when I need to feel full.
7. Are you thirsty or hungry? Sometimes we're more dehydrated than we realize, especially when the weather is cold. Sometimes I find myself craving starchy carbohydrates before I realize I'm just thirsty. Most people don't drink as much water as they should so drink a glass first before you sit down to your meals this season.
8. And finally, you knew this one was coming.... Ease up on the booze if you want to keep the pounds in check over the holiday. It's all too common this time of year to partake in the customary merry making. Of course, most alcohol is full of empty calories. A few easy solutions are to drink water spacers -- a glass of water in between cocktails. Also steer clear of the creamy and mixed drinks. That means giving up the egg nog at Grandma's. Are you really going to miss it? Try refining your taste to single spirit drinks like scotch on the rocks or a glass of wine instead. The sweeter the drink, the more calories are lurking. Remember that alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you wind up making poor choices under the influence. I mean, when else would anybody photocopy their butt at an office party?
In college, it's a holiday season 52 weeks a year so alcohol calories and bad eating choices are par for the course. It's no wonder the weight piles on so fast. Empty alcohol calories plus loss of inhibition equals pizza with chili fries, middle-of-the-night fast food runs and other unhealthy behaviors.
I wish I knew then what I knew now as the old adage goes. But at least I never did eat in front of the mirror naked!
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