WHY WHAT I EAT IS NOT WHAT KEEPS ME LEAN

Burr with Chai“What do you eat?” is a question I sometimes get asked, and it’s one I have trouble coming up with an easy answer to. The students asking this question, I think, are looking for some tips on keeping off extra pounds and wonder if they can glean some insight into doing so from my diet. My dilemma is that I don’t think I can be of much help to them. My choice of foods, which are too high in carbs and include too many chai lattés, won’t give them much guidance. I do have, however, some really effective eating strategies I can share. Two eating rules in particular, which I’ve stuck with from my 30s to my 60s, deserve the most credit for keeping me slim all those years.

Rule #1: No over-eating. Everybody tries not to overeat of course, and I sympathize with people who struggle with this issue. The tactic that’s worked for me is to cede full authority to my body when it comes to determining how much I get to eat. If my body gains weight, I don’t ask questions. I eat less. Metabolism, hormones and aging don’t have a chance against this strategy.

I can thank my mischievous Southern bell of a mother for teaching me to listen to my body from a young age. Starting from when my sister and I were in grade school, she’d tell us at the dinner table that any food we left on our plates was “better in the garbage can than in your stomach.” I loved the impertinence of this rule. It thumbed its nose at everything kids in my time were being brought up to revere. Not only that, “better in the garbage can” pointed vividly to a destination for the food I’d otherwise have been stuffing Mothermyself with (unlike the moralistic-sounding “eat moderately”). You could make an argument for softening my mother’s phrase to “better in the frig as left-overs than in your stomach,” but I prefer the defiant brashness of the original.

Rule #2: Exercise!  You’re probably thinking, “of course exercise burns calories and heightens metabolic rate. So what else is new?” Exercise has done these things, but that’s not how it’s kept me lean. Earlier this year I happened to spend a few months without much exercise due to some time-consuming projects. During that time I noticed that a kind of hunger-blindness set in. I lost my ability to tell whether or not I needed food. Was I hungry? Or was I just bored, stressed or fatigued? I felt awash. From this experience, I came to understand how living long term in a non-exercising state could cause someone to seriously miscalculate their food intake! When I finished my project and got back to exercise, I quickly regained my connection to my appetite. Hunger went back to feeling distinctly like hunger and food like replenishment, not just something to do. Feeling hungry and enjoying food: My body needs to experience both sides of this equation to stay in equilibrium.

So what do I eat?  For one, too many carbs and grande non-fat chai lattés.  My diet isn’t perfect, but it works for me.

Breakfast:
eggs and Activia

  • (When at home) two eggs cooked in a little olive oil over rye toast (360 calories), an Activia yoghurt (100 calories) or
  • (When at work) a whole grain bagel with reduced fat cream cheese (390 calories)
  • Add to both breakfasts one or two Starbucks grande nonfat chai lattes (200-400 calories).

Lunch:
Goat cheese and veggies

  • A Safeway-made lettuce, tomato and provolone sandwich (my estimate is 450 calories), or
  • A Starbuck’s goat cheese & garden veggies box (220 calories), or
  • A half a 7-11 tuna fish sandwich (the whole sandwich is 540 calories).

The tuna sandwich is a recent addition. Since meeting my husband three and a half years ago, I’ve been a vegetarian (eat no meat or fish bu eat cheese and eggs), an easy change

7-11 lunch menusince I don’t like meat anyway. Lately however I felt a need for more protein.  My husband consumes a lot of nuts and protein powder drinks. These sources of protein don’t agree with  me. The 7-11 tuna sandwish is delicious, easy to eat, and a nice solution to my protein needs.

An afternoon pick-up.  I rarely snack, but on occasion I’ll have:

  • A Starbucks tall non-fat hot chocolate no whip (190 calories) or
  • A plain rice cake (35 calories)

Dinner:
My frig

  • Pizza Kitchen spaghettini with goat cheese (1,331 calories, usually half saved in the frig), or
  • Bhaingan bhurta and rice (200-300 calories), or
  • Spinach tortellini made by my husband (calories unknown), or
  • Pumpkin enchiladas at our favorite restaurant Avatar (my guess is about 1000 calories), or
  • Two-to-three pieces of pizza margarita (my guess is about 230 a slice).
  • Add one glass of red wine on week nights (125 calories) and two on Saturday night (250 calories).

Thinandhealthy calorie calculationSo you see that I don’t have the best eating habits! You can also see that I’m not a foodie! I eat a lot of rich food and don’t finish a lot of meals (“better in the garbage can….”). I skip lunch a few days a week due to mid-day meetings or getting busy. All told, I probably eat about 1700 calories a day, right on the mark according to what “ThinandHealthy.com’s” calculator estimates someone my sex, age, height and weight and exercise routine.

So there it is. If there’s any wisdom to be found in what I eat, it would be that different foods work for different people. One person can thrive by being a vegan. Someone else can swear by meat and potatoes. The best advice I can offer is, when you’re searching for the diet works best for you: Listen to your body; get in touch with what your hunger is telling you; stick with exercise; and remember, as my mother always said, “better in the …” 🙂

12 replies
  1. Cousin Lisa in New Mexico
    Cousin Lisa in New Mexico says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s helpful. My dad used to tell me “don’t make your stomach a garbage can”. Guess it’s a family thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen like you did!

    BTW, love Super Sculpting I and II!

    Love,

    Cousin Lisa

    Reply
  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    I’ve noticed the same thing about appetite & exercise! I’m so much more in-tune when I’m moving around at my normal pace, than when I become desk-locked. Funny how I can be ravenous for a big lunch on less physical days, yet a light lunch entirely satisfies me on more active days. The longer I live, the better I become at hearing what my body is telling me….

    Reply
  3. Renee Laverty
    Renee Laverty says:

    I really liked your answer. You don’t seem to be too weird about your diet. It’s just normal. Another reason I like the whole Bar Method philosophy.
    Balance.

    Reply
  4. SaraV
    SaraV says:

    Thanks for sharing Burr! The one thing I noticed is that while your meals are fairly substantial, you hardly snack…..that’s going to be my take-away from this post. I live in Asia and have been doing the CDs 4 times a week since April and seen positive changes in my body.But I’m still not where I want to be. I will try to adopt the ‘fulfilling meals, hardly any snacks’ eating method and see if it works for me.

    Reply
  5. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    Thanks for being honest about what you eat! Most of us don’t eat a picture-perfect diet, and that’s okay. Your end advice sums it all up perfectly. I’m proud to be the daughter of another woman in the impertinent-and-sassy-mom club — her rule at restaurants was that if you ate what you wanted of something, then you got your money’s worth. You don’t have to clean your plate to justify the cost. Bravo to moms like ours!

    Reply
  6. Carol Kimmelman
    Carol Kimmelman says:

    You make a lot of great suggestions, however, the highly processed foods (ie ANYTHING from Starbucks) should be eliminated. More organic vegetables, fruits, and organic pressed juices should be aded. Not just for purposes of weight, but to battle cancer and other illnesses. Avoid wheat, dairy, sugar and eat a plant based diet, free of processed
    foods and you will be all set.
    My breakfast-organic coconut water, frozen organic blueberries, strawberries, 1/2 frozen organic banana, a huge handful of organic spinach and a small scoop of hemp protein. Do bar method on that in the the morning and you will fly through the class! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Tina
    Tina says:

    Thank you for posting what you eat. What I really like is that you look so amazing and you eat what you want. You aren’t strict about eating a tofu scramble in the morning and a salad with an egg for lunch and then a tiny piece of salmon and a veggie for dinner. You seem like you are on the go and eat what you want, just when you are hungry. That makes it more accessible for the common person. I think a big deterrent for people is when they already work hard at their jobs and they need to have too much discipline to modify their exercise program as well as their diets. That can feel like just too much work to do both and be so strict and disciplined when they are already disciplined with their jobs and other aspects of their lives. I greatly appreciate your honesty.

    Reply

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