Monday, March 21, 2011

Rethinking What Makes a "Meal"

In the past seven months, I have lost 40 pounds. I believe that the biggest key to my success has been revamping how I define a meal. The standard in our society is to eat three big meals a day, if we even get that. At least half of you reading this entry may make it a habit to skip breakfast. I used to be one of those people; little did I know that it was setting me up for weight-loss failure. Follow along with me here and make a decision that will change not only your metabolic function and, therefore, your weight but also your overall feeling of wellness and mental clarity.

I am challenging you to ditch the three-meals-a-day mentality and change over to 5 to 6 small meals a day -- 200-300 calories each. [An easy way to judge this portion size is to make a fist. A fist and a half of food is about where you want to fall.] You need to start your day by eating within an hour of getting up in the morning. This will rev up your metabolism (your body will start burning calories immediately) and feed your brain. (Skipping breakfast promotes fat storage because your body is essentially in hibernation mode, thinking it needs to store fat for energy later.) For example, if I get up around 6:30am and try to get my breakfast in by 7:00am, this is what my eating schedule for the day might look like:
7:00am Breakfast
10:00am Snack
12:00pm Small meal
3:00pm Snack
6:00pm Small meal
8:00pm Optional meal or snack (SKIP if you're not truly hungry)

Eating in small, consistent increments will allow your blood sugar to stay stable throughout the day. This is your goal. Most of us naturally eat three large meals or load in the majority of our calories at the end of the day to make up for skipping breakfast in the morning. This sabotages weight loss and wreaks havoc on our metabolism. You may also find that this affects your mental focus and feeling of general wellness, as you experience the "crashes" that come with falling blood sugar. Conversely, you keep your metabolism running high and your blood sugar stable by stoking it like you would a fire: feeding your body in small increments all day to keep a steady flame going.

Making It Happen
Plan ahead -- Make a meal plan and stick to it.
Make a grocery list and stock up on what you'll need. Plan for lean proteins and protein-filled
snacks like Greek yogurt, nuts and nut mixes, and also fruits and vegetables.
If you are going to work, pack your meals.
Eat within one hour of getting up to get your metabolism going and to facilitate your eating
schedule for the day.
Eat "by the clock" if necessary at first -- especially the first half of the day -- to ensure
success. If you eat too much during the last half of the day, you are not going to wake up
hungry. If you even out your calories, you will start waking up hungry.
Good Rule of Thumb:
Have half your meals in by 2:00pm.

If you're anything like me, you like to see examples; so I am providing some examples below for what I eat for "meals" and snacks.
  • Half turkey sandwich on high-fiber bread
  • 2 eggs with yolks + 1 slice dry toast
  • Greek yogurt + apple slices with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • Open-faced sandwich with meat, veggies, and light mayo
  • Meal replacement shake
  • protein or breakfast bar
  • 1/2 C. of cooked brown rice + 3 oz. chicken
  • 1/2 C. oatmeal (not instant) + 1 scoop of protein powder and almond milk, if needed for consistency
  • 3 oz. tuna fish (no oil) with whole grain crackers
  • 25 raw almonds + fruit + protein drink
  • 3 oz. salmon + salad greens
  • 3 oz. grilled chicken + 1/2 C. grapes
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs mixed with light mayo & mustard on 1 piece high-fiber bread
  • 1 small apple + 1/2 C. cottage cheese
My weight-loss journey began when I felt the need to develop discipline in this area of my life and be a good steward of the health and body that God has blessed me with. One verse that has spoken to me so powerfully during this journey is Isaiah 58:11 -- "The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs...and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." I want to be healthy and whole to meet the needs of my family and to be able to spend quality time with my athletic little girls. I want to live my life to the fullest and healthiest to be able to carry out all of God's plans for me. Revamp and refresh your thinking; exercise choices that will lead you to a happier, healthier lifestyle. Here's to better health!

No comments: