Monthly Archives: April 2010

Is Overeating Ever a Bargain?

I was in the grocery store and saw a display of “big name” candy bars with the special: Buy 2, Get 2 Free.

“Wow!” I thought. “Those candy bars are basically half price.” Other variations have included Buy 4, Get 1 Free, but whichever way it’s spelled, you’re getting more bang for your buck.

I’m not going to give you the holier-than-thou attitude that the best bargain is zero calories for zero dollars; because I’ve been known to indulge. What I will tell you is the truth behind specials like this. I don’t blame advertising, because the job of advertising is to always sell MORE product.

The problem is not your wallet, but your waistline. Deals like this ALWAYS get you to eat more as a side effect of buying more. It never fails. Even if I walked into the store with the intention of buying just one candy bar, if I saw this deal, then I’d just need to buy one more to get the candy bars at half price. Who wouldn’t?

Another way of looking at it is you’re paying twice the amount you intended and will end up eating four times the amount you intended. You may decide to share with loved ones, or save for a future date, but they will be eaten. As for saving for a future date, I’ve found that this never happens. It’s there so you might as well eat it, why store it in the office or household when you can store it on your body?

Even if I wanted to buy 2 candy bars, I’m still getting 2 for free, so I still end up with double of what I intended to eat. It’s too easy to justify eating the extra amount. As a human species, we want to get the maximum number of calories for the minimum amount of effort (money). It’s the reason why we eat way more at all-you-can-eat restaurants versus ordering items from a menu. But if our brains can evolve larger than our butts, then buyer beware.

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Eating While Driving

I cover a large area for work, so I’m on the road a lot, and I ALWAYS see people eating while driving. Usually it’s pastries or a fast food sandwich. Other than being as dangerous as texting or talking on the phone while driving (hands free or not), I do not recommend this. I’m not saying that calories are more fattening when eaten behind the wheel (although the distraction could cause you to eat more unconsciously); but I, for one, would rather enjoy my food completely.

Eating is one of our basic pleasures, and I believe that we should enjoy every moment of it, through all 5 senses. This eliminates things like eating while watching TV, reading, or staring at a computer screen. Limit yourself to good companions and light conversation (although avoid talking while chewing – it hinders salivary digestion).

I know our lives are on-the-go, and you may get few opportunities in the day to eat, but why not focus completely on something, burn some fat, and wait until you can actually enjoy a meal? It’s not only a better experience but will actually enhance the nutritive process.

Moral of the story: whether you’re eating a cantaloupe or a candy bar, take your time, savor every bite, and enjoy it completely!

How I Measure Fat Loss

When it comes to measuring fat loss on a diet (or technically, fat “shrinking”) I use two tools to measure progress: a digital bathroom scale and the mirror. The combination of these two methods alone may be enough to know if you’re moving in the right direction.

First, I get a fasted weight of my current condition. In other words, how much do I weigh and what do I look like at that weight? This is obviously more difficult when you’re carrying more than a moderate amount of body fat, as it’s hard to see muscular definition at higher body fat percentages. In that case, you’re better off just using the scale and perhaps measuring tape (to measure around your waist – the pants don’t lie!). Make sure to take your measurements as close to the same conditions each time – in a fasted state, after using the bathroom, before drinking water, and without clothing.

Since I have a pretty good idea of what I would weigh in peak condition (plus or minus 2 pounds) I know what weekly goal to shoot for based on how much time I have. It’s true that other things affect your scale weight, such as muscle mass, water retention, food volume, and hormonal cycles for women; but since the goal is to lose fat, you’re obviously going to be lighter at a leaner appearance. So, despite scale fluctuations, the key is to look at downward trends over time.

8 Simple Truths About Changing Your Body

These are pieces of knowledge I put together from years of experience changing body composition. I’ve experimented on myself with what seems like every conflicting philosophy out there regarding physique transformation. In conclusion, you will see that controlling your food environment and/or your behavioral response to your environment is THE biggest factor in changing the shape of your body.

Some of these truths may blow you away.

#1 Body fat (or lack of it) has the most dramatic affect on your appearance. This is truer the leaner you get. Fat is lumpy and muscle is sleek, even untrained muscle.

#2 You can change fat more dramatically than muscle (minus drugs). Obviously, there are the genetically elite, but muscle building is a slow and laborious process compared to fat building.

#3 Caloric restriction, fasting, or skipping meals does NOT lower your metabolism to any degree that matters to you. Yes, thyroid activity adapts to a fasted state, BUT this adjustment is to your advantage because it helps to preserve muscle and glucose while continuing to utilize fat. You will not hear this much anywhere. You want a “high metabolism”? Stuff yourself at a buffet as often as you can.

#4 Beyond juvenile muscle growth, effective training is what builds muscle (anabolic steroids and other growth-enhancing drugs do so as well,  but they’re not limited to muscle tissue). You do NOT need excessive calories, protein, or body fat to build muscle. You DO however, need excessive calories to build body fat.

#5 Calories burned from exercise will never measure up to the calories that can be ingested from food, especially if you live in North America. For example, running a half marathon, you can burn approximately 1/4 pound of body fat. You can also gain 1/4 pound of body fat from ingesting a box of cookies on top of your basal metabolic requirement. I can casually eat a box of cookies in 5 minutes. How long did it take you to complete a half marathon?

#6 – The simple truth about fat-burning supplements is that you don’t need them. Even if a powerful drug (illegal) burned half of your daily requirement, let’s say 1000 calories, understanding what that would entail physiologically, the drug would involve massive side effects, and you can still get 1000 calories from that box of cookies.

#7 Muscle does NOT burn a significant number of calories. Many sources claim 50-100 extra calories burned per pound of muscle, but this is utter nonsense. The actual figure is 5-10 calories, meaning if you gained 10 pounds of dry muscle (which is phenomenal, by the way) you can expect to burn an extra 50-100 calories per day. Whoop dee doo. You can now eat 3/4 of a Reese’s Cup, even though I wouldn’t expect anyone to gain 10 pounds of pure muscle unless they were completely new to weight training or were on growth-promoting drugs.

#8 – Your environment primarily affects what you eat. Think about that. Social gatherings, the people you hang out with and the way they eat, holidays, billboards, special deals, leftovers, and all of the different emotions you experience in a day, combined with Westernized caloric abundance, and you have an fail-safe recipe for efficient fat storage.

These 8 truths weren’t meant to depress you (although they may have); but to know what you’re working with so that you can steer the right path.