Monthly Archives: March 2010

Are You Really Hungry?

Many people in developed countries eat for many reasons other than a physical need for food, and this is the primary cause of weight gain.

To understand what hunger is not, we need to understand signs of false hunger:

False Hunger

1. Headaches, weakness, or difficulty concentrating – these are signs of detoxification from addictive or harmful substances. However, in certain situations, it may be necessary to take a small portion of clean food to slow the detoxification process.

2. Stomach rumbling – these are simply contractions of the stomach from digesting a previous meal and have nothing to do with the need for food.

3. Not being used to burning fat – I admittedly feel “colder” and nervous when utilizing stored fat as opposed to burning a fresh food supply. It’s simply a different feeling that you need to get accustomed to. Exercise helps.

4. Stimulation – being influenced by things like watching the Travel Channel can increase your desire to eat. Condiments, spices and seasonings – foods that are prepared to have higher palatability are easier to overeat than relatively simple or plain foods. This should be no surprise. Also, variety is the spice of gluttony. There is a reason for the saying, “There’s always room for dessert”.

5. Emotions – since eating can alter your emotional state, the perceived “pick me up” can move you out of boredom, or relax you if you are stressed. Unfortunately, because we are not eating out of necessity, energy is wasted in the digestive process, not gained; and you are increasing stress, not reducing it. Think about how tired you feel after Thanksgiving dinner and notice your temperament after a fast food meal. I’ve found that time-consuming hobbies such as music, arts, or video games are useful tools for keeping “recreational” eating at bay.

6. Tiredness perceived as a need for food – you may simply need rest or sleep.

7. Regular meal times – I am simply against eating on schedule, because you are around others, or to please a host. But I know we are social creatures, so if you know you’re going to be eating in a social setting, then “save” up your calories and wait until that moment to eat.

True hunger is a physiological need of the cells for nutrients. When you think about the amount of food reserves the average person has stored on their body, does it make sense that we are experiencing a need for food every time we eat? Think about that before your next bite.

Calorie Density

What Is Calorie Density?

The calorie density (or energy density) of food is a measurement of the average calories per weight of that food.

If you’re looking for guidance on what types of foods you should consume each day in order to reach, but not go over, your Calorie Target it’s worthwhile considering a food’s calorie density. By choosing foods that have a low-calorie density you can eat more food and feel full on fewer calories. This can be especially useful if you have a Calorie Target of 1200 calories or if you don’t exercise much.

Foods that are low in calorie density tend to be high in water and fiber, and low in fat. Examples include fruit, non-sweet fruit, and leafy greens. So for 50 calories you could eat a cup of strawberries (low-calorie density) or one donut hole (high calorie density). It’s easy to see that a cup of strawberries would be more filling, have less fat, and more beneficial nutrients than one donut hole.

I’m finding this helpful to put into practice, because when I’m in an abundant food environment (such as Whole Foods) I find it overwhelming to make decisions about what to eat. Usually, when I’m ready to eat, anything appeals to me, from blueberries to cookies. By knowing the relative calorie densities of foods across the spectrum and making choices based on that, I can feel satisfied while keeping my calories low enough to continue progress. It also keeps calories controlled when splurging (intentional or not). We are human and our situations vary day-to-day, so sometimes it’s not only the progress you make but how far you don’t regress. Just be sure to do your best either way.

Inspiration Comes From Unexpected Places

One day I was on the internet looking for inspiration (which you cannot search for, by the way, it finds you) and I happened to type in “ripped arms” or something similar. The results were several photos of a sleeveless Madonna from various gossip magazines. That reminded me of my girlfriend telling me that Madonna’s arms were actually airbrushed(!) at one point by a popular magazine, in order to obscure her muscle definition. How obscene!

As a male, I must say that from time to time I see musculature on a female physique that I would like to emulate (and that’s where it ends – get that right). I mean, just look at these awesome set of pipes. This is obviously not the result of simply dieting to get thin; I have no doubt she does heavy weight training in addition to a strict and effective diet. Awesome!

My First Bodybuilding Contest: NPC Orange County Classic 2005

My posing routine from 2005. It’s a third-generation video so excuse the quality.

A brief description about this event: I started training at the beginning of the year, after returning from a 2-week European vacation (where I ate whatever I desired and didn’t lift a weight). I didn’t decide to do the show until 6 weeks out. It was the first time I really dieted down (from an offseason weight of 190 to a competition weight of 160). Mix was by DJ MINIT using minimal equipment at the time. Enjoy!

The Importance of Losing Fat Slowly

When we talk about losing fat, what we are really doing is shrinking the adipose tissue, or fat cells. Think of a them as billions of microscopic balloons that can either shrink or expand based on our energy (caloric) balance. The only way to remove fat cells completely is through liposuction (which is not without its own danger), but the caveat is that if you go back to living and eating the same old way, the body is more than happy to create new fat cells to store that birthday cake! We are evolutionary programmed to be fat and happy, not lean and mean.

On to the topic of this post – I prefer dropping fat slowly for two reasons:

1) Functionality. It is absolutely possible to lose 7 pounds in 7 days (and I’ve come pretty darn close) but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option in every circumstance. Fasting is a physiological rest that requires physical rest as well as rest from mental or sensory stimulation. Now if you are working 30-40 hours or more a week, and your occupation requires any kind of minimum mental or physical performance (and I hope it does..?) then your brain need glucose (carbohydrates) to function. To maintain that hard-earned muscle mass, your skeletal muscles need glycogen (again, from carbohydrates) to get through those heavy workouts. Not to get too technical, but your body can convert fats to carbohydrates through a process called ketosis, but the switchover is not very rapid and you will feel sluggish.

2) Acclimating to your new body. The other reason I feel it’s important to lose fat slowly is because we need to psychologically “accept” our modified body composition. It sounds like a simple thing to overcome, but losing weight too rapidly can play serious mind games on you. Well-meaning family and friends will want to feed you donuts or perhaps Turron to fatten you up again. You will also find that your pants start falling at the waist and your dress shirts become super baggy. Then it’s time for your tailor to do more work! You may not yet feel “comfortable” in your new self and that may drive the urge to return to your old ways…

In short, I’m sticking to a 2 pound weight loss per week, which will come steadily, and can afford me a splurge meal here and there in the beginning if I’m too depleted and need to fill out again (a splurge meal for me at this point might be whole grains or starchier carbohydrates – that’s it). BUT the bottom line is as long as I’m losing 2 pounds a week then I’m on point, which is another reason to start your diet early.

Good luck!