Anyone who knows me in the real world will tell you that I rarely hold back in regards to my diet and, for the most part, I still eat what I want. I am lucky to have an average frame, a decent metabolism, and no major health problems contributing to weight problems. That being said, my recent 25lb weight loss was not by accident, nor was it some kind of magical occurrence. Although I did cut back on calories, I wouldn’t attribute my weight loss to “dieting” in the traditional sense of the word, because other than switching to diet soda, I made little sacrifice in terms of the types or sometimes even the amount of food I was eating. Running has proven to be the best solution for me. Who wouldn’t want to be able to eat cake and still lose weight? That’s not to say that you should drive to Pizza Hut, eat an entire large pizza, and then just run it off (which would take roughly 14 miles, and would probably result in you losing that pizza partway through said run). I also recognize that many people are trying to shed much more than the 25 pound goal I started with and that being aware of what you eat is an important part of a weight loss program. However, the occasional night of pizza and beer is not going to derail your weight loss progress, and I am a firm believer that, within reason, we should feel free to indulge our cravings.
The video above is a US Weekly interview with the 2006 “Biggest Loser” winner Erik Chopin. Erik managed to lose 200lbs while on the ranch but, as US Weekly noted, “less than two years later, the deli owner from West Islip, New York, had gained back 175 pounds”. Erik blamed his weight re-gain on procrastination and overeating, but my argument is that Erik was incorrectly trained on how to deal with cravings. For those of you who are fans of the NBC smash hit, you have probably noticed the many times when Jillian or the participants pretend like they are going to vomit when they see any of their old favorite meals. They even push people a step farther with the “Temptation Challenge” during which the contestants are given the option to eat a ton of calories and the one who eats the most is able to make some game changing decision. Those who do choose to eat during these challenges end up with a massive guilt complex about it and are often shamed by their fellow contestants. End of the day, these people are never actually given the training to deal with cravings that they will deal with in the real world. In many cases, the contestants come away from the show with a borderline eating disorder because they are practically afraid of any fattening, calorie-rich food. Instead of giving people some sort of complex about a slice of chocolate cake, the Biggest Loser should be explaining why you are safe to indulge every once and awhile.
There are diets that suggest or even recommend allowing a few “cheat” days. For example, the “Cheat to Lose Diet” by Joel Marion, focuses on the idea that at least one day a week you should have a “cheat” day. The end result of allowing yourself a cheat day is that you are able to manipulate your body’s leptin levels. The Diet-Blog’s review of Cheat to Lose points to the hormone leptin as the primary culprit of diet failure. They go on to explain that “leptin levels fall once calorie intake drops, and begins to restrict the body’s ability (or will) to keep burning fat. Leptin supplements are not available, however, Marion claims that an increase of caloric intake will do the trick.” The increased weight loss is fantastic, but lets not forget the psychological effects of being able to enjoy one of your favorite foods again. I don’t know about you, but cutting pizzas, burritos, brownies, and burgers (that was a lot of b words!) out of my diet would be nearly impossible.
Reducing calorie intake is still an important part of weight loss, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut every indulgence you have. If you plan your day around a larger meal, you can normally make up the difference, or if you plan to exercise on that day, you should have plenty of extra calories available for an indulgence (or two?). Even Livestrong agrees:
Even though there are hundreds of diet plans available for you to choose from, the number of calories you consume makes the difference between success and failure, according to Frank Sacks and his colleagues. Their 2009 “New England Journal of Medicine” study found that reducing calories caused the participants to lose weight, whether the calories were predominately from carbohydrates or predominately from protein. Allowing yourself an occasional food indulgence that keeps your calories within a weight-loss range will not affect your rate of weight loss or overall success.
The trick, with this quote in mind, is to track your calories. I am by no means a diet aficionado, but I will say tracking my calories allowed me to cheat more often than I probably should have. The Fitbit really played into this as it allowed me to not only log my entire day’s worth of activity, my exercise, and my sleep habits, but it also gave me an idea of how many more calories I could eat and still achieve my weekly goal of a pound of weight loss. Anyone who is really trying to lose weight should think about investing in an activity tracker such as the Fitbit or other similar tool (e.g., BodyBugg, Jawbone Up, or the upcoming Nike FuelBand), as it will help in more ways can be imagined.
Now that I have explained my reasoning, without further ado, I bring to you the first “This is Why We Run”. In this series, we will share one of the tasty, fattening, calorie-rich things we have gotten to eat during our weight loss journey, all thanks to running!
The Clogger is one of the most amazing burgers I have ever had in my entire life. This treasure is to be found at Lulu’s in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. This beautiful treasure touts a 1/2 pound burger patty deep-fried in a thick beer batter, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, gravy, and nacho cheese sauce. This monstrosity (with fries) weighs in at roughly 1500 calories. In order to break even on the calories with this behemoth you would need to run, assuming the average calorie burn for men is 124 calories per mile, 12 miles.