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Food: How I love/hate thee

February 28, 2011 Fitness, Food 3 Comments

True confession: I have a love/hate relationship with food.

When it comes to food, I fully believe that nothing tastes as good as fit feels, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the best part about my workouts is the calorie replacement. Does everyone know the basics about calories and weight? Let’s pause for a brief math lesson:

3500 calories = 1 pound

If you want to lose one pound, you will either need to consume that many fewer calories and/or burn that many more calories. It is almost as simple as that. All calories are not created equal, mostly related to how your body uses the calories. For example, these two things have the same 200 calories:

Starbucks Caffe Latte (16 oz)

Baja Fresh Chicken Taco (with chips)

That’s me being prejudiced because I don’t drink coffee! But of course, I could have pictured 2 small glasses of wine in place of the coffee. The point is, the calories from these beverages are largely empty. I KNOW I am consuming empty calories with the wine I drink. Sure, the latte has milk for calcium and protein. The red wine has antioxidants. But I also know I’m not going to get any real fuel from either of these beverages. I’d need a snack (read: more calories) of some sort to go with my empty beverage calories to get the same effect. I could eat the taco and chips and feel satisfied — and it only “costs me” 200 calories! So for me, drinking a glass of wine when I really need food is just “wasting” the calories.

When I’m looking for calorie replacement after…let’s say a bike ride, I could pretty much eat whatever I want to. Seriously. I went on a 3-hour bike ride on Saturday that included a lot of climbing. According to my Garmin (which is “calibrated” for me), I burned 2946 calories. This is ~3000 MORE CALORIES than what my body burns just walking around all day. I could eat this entire appetizer sampler from Applebees by myself PLUS 5 glasses of red wine and still be “in the clear” to not gain anything:

Applebees Appetizer Sampler

But I have found — the hard way, many times — that eating whatever I want just because the numbers say I can doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to eat. Junk food does not serve my body in its job of performing at a high level, which I ask it to do regularly. Junk food causes blood sugar spikes and crashes. Junk food largely does not have the nutrition needed to repair the damage I’ve caused during a hard workout. Junk food usually makes me crave more junk food. In the worst cases, junk food makes me feel so bad I don’t want to get up and work out tomorrow. So while delicious (hello Cheetos!), these are wasted calories.

Love/hate. *sigh*

The other thing about junk food is that a small portion usually adds up to a lot of calories (and fat, and carbs). I get more bang for my buck when I eat a “real meal” instead of snacking on junk food or splurging on too much food. Of note: I consider a good pizza choice as real food. Good carbs + protein + veggies = real! I am fortunate that I have access to a lot of fresh vegetables, I have the time and enjoy cooking, and I have a husband who will eat anything I put in front of him. A little planning ahead means I can come home from a bike ride absolutely starving and not make bad choices. It’s definitely a commitment, but both Greg and I have found that we feel and look and perform better on real food.

My friends and family often call me a “food Nazi” or admonish me for never enjoying myself and the food I eat. They are wrong!! Let me be clear:  I drink red wine (and beer, and margaritas). I eat chips. I eat pasta. I eat take-out. I eat chocolate. But I consider these “treats” and don’t eat them at every meal, every day. Part of the reason I work my ass off is to be able to eat the treats I want. And I do! Just ask my husband what my social calendar looks like! But it all goes back to that math equation: calories in = calories out.

How many calories do I need?
There are all kinds of calculators out there that will tell you what your basal metabolic rate is. BMR = the number of calories you burn without exercise included. It’s a worthwhile exercise — as long as you are honest with yourself about what you’re putting in and working out (pun intended!). I know there are apps for almost all mobile phones that will help you figure it out and track your input/expenditures with just a few clicks. I have found this is very handy when I’m on the go. Food eaten out of the home has a tendency to add up quickly! Here’s one I found for my Android phone that I am very happy with; the website is also fully-functioning via a home computer if you’re not a high tech mobile user. It even has a recipe calculator so you can figure out the nutrition facts for your own home cooking. According to this app and my desire to lose ~5 pounds before my first race, my calorie allotment is 1230 per day. I have to admit that I kind of freaked when I saw how low that number was. And then I thought, It’s no wonder I’m hovering at the same number! I bet I’m underestimating calories and therefore not losing.

I do this kind of thing at least once a year — documenting my food intake. Sometimes my method is as simple as a hand-written food journal. The business of underestimating calories is something I’m famous for… I want to think that I am infallible because of my level of working out/calorie expenditure. But, remember? All calories are not equal. I’ve been using the MyFitnessPal app since Friday, mostly eating like I normally would to get a baseline for what my normal tendencies are. Admittedly, when I think about having to add something to my list, I think twice about eating it. It’s a built-in checks-and-balances system! Because I don’t eat crap all day long, I can allow myself a couple of glasses of wine a day (usually one during dinner prep and one after dinner), and always allow for chocolate. My current go-to choice is the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s. One serving of three mini cups is equal to 200 calories.

Yes, the same 200 calories in that latte and taco. But I have found that by the time I get around to eating the chocolate, I’m mostly satisfied. I just want a little bit of sweet and usually I need just one cup to satiate me.

Real food wins! Speaking of which, I’ve been cooking/assembling up a storm lately. I will share the kinds of things are coming out of my kitchen. It doesn’t have to be hard, or time consuming, or expensive. I promise!

Do you have any tips or tricks that help you stay on track? What is your biggest weakness? Mine is definitely the red wine!


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Girl, you are singing my song. JUST discovered the TJs Dark Chocolate cups. YUM. For my emotional eating (dealing with the kids as of late) I head to the container. Very dangerous. I relate to your post entirely. UGH. It is a life long battle for me. I LOVE food so much and so many of our fun things revolve around food. Luke’s issues and our changes with food have forced me to look harder at this and think deeply about what goes into our bodies! No matter what, you are not alone! xo

  2. Jane says:

    Oh if only it weren’t true!! I LOVE food and VINO and CHOCOLATE! My tip/trick = MODERATION. Most anything in moderation is healthy. I do not count calories nor do I weigh myself (except for when at the doctor’s office). In general though, I do know what is good for me and what is not. My weakness is ice cream but I do not eat it everyday. Another weakness (enjoyment!) is wine, which I do drink most everyday. As for exercise, I’ve learned over the years I’m not a hardcore athlete. I HATE running. I consider bicycling a cruiser sport. And I swim when I snorkel. I do enjoy hiking, walking and paddling a kayak. And, I LOVE yoga.

  3. […] for your comments and feedback on my love/hate relationship with food. It’s somewhat comforting to know that I’m not the only one with this […]

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