Thursday, October 30, 2014

Diet and Exercise: Musing on the Adjustment

160 lbs. (scream weight!)

Warning:  This post is a bit of a ramble about my diet.

Since I returned from vacation, I've experienced a few changes that keep me thinking about the connection between diet and exercise (and the tweaking of food intake for optimal nutrition).  I'm also thinking about the blurred line between eating optimally for fuel, and eating for other pleasurable reasons.

Over the past few weeks, with my increase in exercise, I've slowly increased my calories.  When I increased my calories a few weeks ago, I was able to maintain my weight pretty well.  This told me that my metabolism was continuing to increase and recover from almost 40 weeks of a very low calorie diet.

But things have changed both behaviorally and perhaps metabolically for me the past few days.  This week I found myself eating a couple of extra servings of cottage cheese as a snack, I've been adding to my daily lunch salad some protein, dried cranberries, avocado and sprinkles of Gorgonzola and sunflower seeds, too.  All of these little add-ons (that also make my salad a decadent treat) have lots of calories.  At first, I was eating because I was famished on the days that I have my strength training class.  Those days had me hungry and scrambling for food throughout the day.  But now I wonder if I'm overdoing it by adding these treats daily.  Am I unconsciously adding in those treats as a reward for exercise?

When does a logical eating strategy turn into a pathway for old behaviors?

Well, I guess when I start justifying daily consumption of foods that I LOVE, such as cheese and dried cranberries!  I'm probably going to have to throw in cottage cheese as well, since I have gotten into the habit of adding a little Splenda and cocoa power for a sweet treat.

Where does exercise fit into this equation?  Well, here's where I might get myself turned around sometimes.  I've done some reading, and I'm learning in my maintenance class that it is beneficial to eat very soon after lifting and also it's important to have some carbs with that snack.  I'd been avoiding grains for the most part, but for the past week or so I started having a piece or two of whole wheat bread with natural peanut butter (yummy and also high calorie!)  I'm pairing my carb with a fat or protein just like my class suggested, but I wonder if that yummy combination of a carb and peanut butter might be too much of a trigger food for me.

Maintenance is a learning experience for sure.

I have to call myself out when I see certain snacking and eating behaviors creep back into my life and when the result is an uptick in the scale.  Eating whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter (and measuring and logging the calories) may not seem like an issue to many people.  For those who subscribe to the notion that a calorie = a calorie, they would look at my diet and say "she's eating too many calories for her energy needs, so of course she's gaining weight."  They would be partially right, of course.  But I think our bodies are more complex.

What I've learned about myself in the weight loss process is that I DO experience emotional reactions to foods that make me want to eat more (perhaps those are even hormonally triggered and can be managed with food choices.)  I don't know the answers yet.  I'm just now truthfully trying to identify those foods and deciding how I'm going to handle it.  Whether it's through abstinence, mindfulness, distraction techniques, or other ways of moving away from food when I'm not hungry, I'm going to try and be honest with myself and figure out the best way to manage my "head" issues around food.

I also realize that I'm still healing from my fast, and that it may take some time for my body to adjust to the ups and downs of exercise, hormones, new foods, etc.  So I'm trying not to have too much of a knee-jerk response to all of this.  I have to look at it objectively, scientifically, and with a long-term view that this is a process that I may be wrestling with forever.  That's fine with me, as long as I can successfully switch gears and get back down to a healthy weight when it starts creeping up.


Anonymous said...

Definitely a learning experience - and I'm still on it 1.5 years later in maintenance. I always heard/listened to the protein thing after exercise but only recently heard the carb thing too. I do think that adding that with the protein might have helped me with building some of the muscle...I was so afraid to eat carbs that i was pretty much avoiding them and not giving my muscles much to work with. I definitely wasn't timing them correctly. Ugh. I could definitely use more information about this kind of stuff - it is hard to get at my clinic because they are so focused on helping those trying to lose weight and many/most of them are not exercising quite as much.

And it is hard to not justify the "add-ons" after a hard workout....I get that too. I have a can of Redi-whip that goes on top of most of my protein shakes. Pretty sad...

Kathy said...

Reading your post was a reminder that even healthy foods can be a trigger or cause a weight gain. It's so great, though, that you're willing to look at this as an issue. You worked too hard not to do that. I'm glad that you're looking at the big picture and not picking on yourself for being human. I find so much inspiration from you!

My best,