Eat More Not Less
Do you ever think in terms of fuelling your body like a car? Making sure it’s always full to avoid it breaking down, and aiming to get the best out of it when you use it. Or do you often wait for the empty light, then fill up wherever you happen to be, and wonder why it costs you so much and doesn’t run that well?
When we fuel up our bodies, we need to think in terms of calories. In 2011, the UK Department of Health estimated the average person needed a daily calorie requirement of: 2079 calories per day for women (up from 1940) and 2605 calories per day for men (up from 2550). But exactly how many calories we need each day can vary greatly depending on lifestyle and other factors; and should we take these figures literally, especially since every day we hear about an Obesity epidemic and you only need to look down the local High Street to see the evidence.
So surely, rather than the number of calories we require overall, we should really be thinking about what type of food we eat and what makes up those calories? And, like planning a car journey, we should also be thinking about what we need those calories for and when?
If we look at what we, as a Nation enjoy consuming - crisps, pies, pizza, chips and cake, not to mention beer, wine and sugar-loaded drinks. How many of us not only hit our daily calorie allowance, but smash it on a regular basis? And how many of us are overweight, in fact obese, yet find ourselves unable to stop consuming convenience food and drink combined with doing no or little exercise? In other words, why, in an economic downturn especially, do we continuously put overly-expensive fuel in a car we’re not going to use and which is too big for our purpose?
Yes, convenience foods are seriously appealing and accessible, but what will they do for our body overall, for our energy levels and our mindset? And what do we really mean by: Eat More Not Less when we’re bombarded with mixed messages from the Marketers and Advertisers persuading us to buy more of everything versus the Health and Fitness experts telling us to stop.
If only I had a £1 for every time somebody’s told me ‘It’s ok for you, you can eat what you want,’ I’d have a reasonable amount of cash. When people see me tucking into something they consider ‘bad food’ apparently I have some unique body which means that anything I place in my mouth contains zero calories! Not true. No I don’t have a magic metabolism nor do I have a self imposed all out ban on eating snacks, chocolate or drinking alcohol, but, what I do have is a body that requires a good amount of calories and nutrients (including some fat) to enable it to function properly and provide it with energy. And what I do have is a body which I’ve trained to utilise a regular intake of food efficiently and effectively, meaning that, in general I can eat more not less without having any significant impact on weight, and in fact, because I need to eat at least my daily number of recommended calories to keep operating effectively. And the simple reason: I actively use my body which means it burns the calories sourced from the food and drink I consume because it requires the energy which is released from it.
The golden word here is energy. Mostly I eat healthily, but yes, I enjoy crisps, adore almond croissants and don’t hold back when it comes to partying but, whenever I do this, I’m aware of what’s been put in and what that will mean:
The reality of these foods is that, although they taste good, they will sooner or later pile on the excess weight, and they won’t provide much energy, in fact quite the opposite. The old saying ‘We are what we eat’ is in this case fairly true. For example, a packet of crisps at lunchtime will almost certainly result in a crash of energy about one hour later, as will a piece of chocolate cake, and as for wine – whilst we may have a great night as a result of having a few glasses, what we won’t get is any energy nor any good quality sleep afterwards. In fact most probably we’d wake up feeling not only hung-over but really tired and hungry too. And the result the next day? The classic remedy: Spending hours reaching for the snacks in an attempt to feel better and find some random energy source to keep going. The outcome: ‘False Energy’ - created by the type of food that will give us a temporary boost to energy as the sugar levels spike, followed by a serious slump. All because our blood sugar levels have rocketed one hour and plummeted the next. The resultant being a vicious cycle of snacking, feeling lethargic, snacking again to boost ourselves, followed by another slump in energy soon after where it tends to remain. The long term effect: Putting on Excess Weight, feeling sluggish and possibly getting numerous health problems on top.
Indeed, the 3pm slump in energy levels is symptomatic - a time when most people reach for the biscuits, a cup of tea, coffee, chocolate or other caffeine fix to help push through the crash hour. Sound familiar? Think back, take note, if you ate totally the wrong type of food for lunch, having probably eaten no breakfast or may be having skipped both, the afternoon is going to feel tough until that is, we grab the nearest snack!
So what’s the answer? And why the title ‘Eat More Not Less?’ Well, the crucial point stems back to the energy we’re seeking.
For those who missed both breakfast and lunch, then you’re kidding yourselves and your bodies that you’re doing yourself a favour. Since your body will tend to cling on to the tiny amount of energy it has, rather than sit there ‘burning the calories’ or ‘fat’ as some people like to think their body miraculously tells itself to do when no food hits our insides for hours on end. Yes, clearly if no food or drink goes in, then no excess will be gained, but unfortunately it’s not quite that simple in terms of calorie burning and fat loss.
Since, we can’t instruct our body to get rid of ‘all the excess on our thighs or waist’ merely by doing nothing and waving that magic wand. The only way we can really lose weight is to fuel up the body with the right foods, then work it in the way in which we were intended to use it and operate at the level it is meant to function at on a regular basis. Only then will we start to see some change.
And for those who start the day with a hang-over, ate the wrong type of food for lunch or indeed breakfast, yes, the day is going to feel long, the energy is going to yo-yo and the snacks and caffeine are likely to be key throughout. Not only is this an unhealthy way to exist, it’s also costly in numerous ways.
But what can we do to improve things? Change is the key. We have to change our habits. Think ourselves into eating regular meals rather than sporadic snacking. We need to eat more of the right foods: Fibre, Fresh fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice. Focus on using raw ingredients. Know what’s in your food. Avoid the processed, fat filled convenience products, the sugar-laden drinks and snacks and think and eat natural. Yes, we’re all busy. No, it’s not easy to change your taste buds and your attitude, but it’s not impossible to break habits.
Most people have to watch their food budget. But, surely it’s potentially more cost effective to buy the ingredients rather than the finished product and how long does it really take to chop up some vegetables, add a touch of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger plus a few cashew nuts and whole wheat noodles for a DIY stir-fry? How long does it really take to make a quick fruit salad or eat a bowl of porridge before we leave in the morning? And do we really need to rely on take-aways, chip shops and chocolate bars for our meals because we have no time to buy anything else? And remember, you wouldn’t run your car on empty then fill it up with rubbish and expect it to run smoothly for miles. Why do we think our bodies are any different?