Monday, March 15, 2010

The worst dieting advice ever

"Don't eat when you're not hungry"


Despite living in a time of unparalleled abundance, hunger is still a major contributor to our health woes.


Ever go shopping hungry? What happens? I know in my case my cart's a lot fuller on the days I shop hungry than the days I don't, and the choices often differ as well.

Ever stop to think what happens when you sit down to a meal hungry?

You shop.

You shop from your plates, your fridges, your freezers, your cupboards, or worse still, from a menu.

And just like shopping in the supermarket you're going to choose a great deal more and a great deal differently waiting until you're hungry to eat than if you'd sat down not hungry.

I'm also betting that my definition of hunger is likely broader than yours. As far as I'm concerned, hunger doesn't just come from your stomach, it also comes from your brain. Some folks like to call brain hunger, "appetite" and growling in your stomach, "hunger". I don't bother with the distinction. The drive to eat is second only to the drive to breathe in terms of importance to our survival. Consequently our body has many mechanisms and backup mechanisms in place to ensure that we do it. Just as there are a myriad of different physiologic pathways to encourage eating, so too are there a myriad of different sensations, emotions and rationalizations built in to encourage us to seek out food, specifically high calorie food.

So aside from stomach growling, brain growling consists of things such as cravings, compulsions, needs for a "taste" of a certain flavour/tartness/saltiness/sweetness, starting something and having difficulty stopping, and overt losses of dietary control and discretion.

When you're hungry it's easy to eat a full day's calories at a single sitting. The good news is, given the world we live in, hunger is entirely preventable and were you to go out of your way with well planned meals and snacks to ensure the hunger hydra doesn't rear its ugly heads, you can make it through the day in control of your portions, choices and your calories.

While it may feel unnatural to eat when you're not hungry I can assure you, it's the wise way to go and it's very easy to do.

Here's a basic hunger prevention strategy. Try it - you might be surprised at how well it works (note calorie range to represent minimums for women-men):

  • Breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, at least 350-450 calories with at least 15 grams of protein
  • Eating every 2.5 hours with between meal snacks of at least 100-200 calories a piece with at least 8 grams of protein
  • Lunch of at least 350-450 calories with at least 15 grams of protein
  • Dinner of at least 400-600 calories with at least 15 grams of protein
  • For every hour of sustained exercise add an additional 100-150 calories that are primarily carbohydrate based.