Friday, May 29, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Keep a Tally!

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days (and onwards!)

Oddly enough, when I got the foodblogging bug, I actually lost weight and kept it off! In hindsight, it shouldn't be a huge shocker, since I've been doing a better job taking notes and keeping track of what I eat. And of course, even less of a surprise that most sensible diet plans do strongly encourage (if not outright mandate) participants to keep a food diary of sorts.

Of course, there are those who insist they keep a good tally of what they ate "in their heads." But, time and again, studies show the human memory to be fickle, unreliable and malleable -- and these are studies on life-and-death situations of violent crimes and murder trials, let alone the everyday mundane going-ons of "what did you have for lunch two days ago?" (Come on, can you really tell me off the top of your head?)

I'll even take it one step further and say that, in terms of food, people tend to be selectively forgetful -- subconsciously burying recent splurgy meals, indulgent snacks and satisfying a craving while "remembering" how good they've been this past week.

I'm not saying you need to scrutinize and catalog every single calorie that passes through your lips (I sure don't,) but at least keep a fairly accurate record of what you are eating -- the more info you can include (portion sizes, calorie counts, other relevant nutrition data) the better.

And with so many free services out there, it's never been easier to spend a minute to jot down what you ate. You can set up a twitter/tumblr/blog account to text into (even make it private if you don't want it to be publicly known), do it the old-fashioned way like I do with a pen and notebook, or even just save your receipts when you're eating out, which is when one's most likely to splurge anyways (it's great way to keep your budget in check too.)

Finally, do a review every now and then and see if you've made progress or if there's room for improvement in your dietary habits. Then make those gradual changes and you'll feel and look better before you know it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half-Marathon

Even though I was training for the L.A. marathon, various factors threw me off my schedule, combined with the expected late May heat I decided it's probably not the best first marathon for me to run (despite my intention of wanting to run my first 26+ miles while I'm still 26.) Oh well, here's to this year's Long Beach Marathon or early next year's Pasadena Marathon, I suppose. Hope LA 2010 will be scheduled earlier.

But I didn't let this beautiful day go to waste, and I signed myself up for the Laguna Hills 1/2 marathon (second time I've done this one.) Since it's so close to the coast and I don't have to worry about mid-morning heat since I'll be done by then, I wasn't as concerned with being dehydrated or overheated.

I didn't set a new PR (came just a minute or two over two hours, compared to my 1:51 last year) but I'm satisfied with the results, especially considering my training setbacks. Even happier that this year around I didn't get any cramps and soreness following the race.

And I think this particular event will be an annual one for me, I absolutely love the trail (great scenery of Laguna Woods and the parks of Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills and Aliso Viejo), the aid stations are appropriately spaced at about 1.5 miles each, the finish-line festival is one of the better ones out there (good vendors, nice freebies, NOT overpacked with peeps) and I love the technical shirt since it's something I'd actually wear working out, or even casually (it only has a small chest logo of the marathon, so I don't feel like a walking advertisement.)

Next time I may even partake in the beer garden celebration at BJs ($10 for two beers and passed appetizers... not a bad deal.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Balancing Your Plate

Bao Plate Angle 2
Even if waffly on taste, Take a Bao definitely got the balanced plate down with half a plate stacked high with a lightly-dressed veggie salad (not to mention more inside the baos themselves!)

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days (and onwards!)

For me, Memorial Day weekend is definitely the kick-off for summer, which brings with it plenty of barbecues, parties and potlucks that'll inevitably turn into eating too much. Again, once in a while isn't bad, but if you're heading to family-style, help-yourself, all-you-can-eat events with some frequency, it's definitely a good idea to keep the calorie intake in check. Hey, we all work hard for to shed those holiday pounds and get that swimsuit-ready bod, let's keep it that way!

One useful tip that I read from Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating (amazingly interesting book, by the way, on the psychological aspects and influences on what and how much we consume) is the "half-plate rule" where, when helping yourself, you fill half the plate with low-calorie, healthful fruits and veggies and use the other half for the more calorie-dense proteins, grains and starchy veggies (e.g. corn, potatoes.) Personally, I'd even take it one level further and fill up two-thirds of your plate with the healthy stuff and splurge on the remaining third, but 50-50 is still great progress for someone used to zero healthy stuff on the plate.

The benefits of the balanced plate rule are threefold: 1) it helps reacquaint/familiarize/remind one with the idea of the balanced meal, which should ideally be at least 50% non-starchy plant-based foods anyways 2) it fills up without weighing down as much because less calories are consumed overall and most importantly, 3) it's NOT depriving since it still allows one the freedom to pick whatever he or she wants, it's simply balancing it out so one don't overdip into one or two food categories at the negligence of all the others. You still get to celebrate with your favorite festive foods, but you're just doing it more sensibly.

So, at that next bash, keep the balanced plate rule in mind (again: one-half to two-thirds of the plate with healthy veggies and fruits) and you can enjoy yourself without feeling guilty the next day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Slow Down and Savor

Soft Shell Crab
Jitlada's super-spicy (but tasty) fried soft-shelled crab will surely slow any diner's eating pace!

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days (and onwards!)

In a world of never-long-enough lunch breaks, quick-to-eat fast foods and eateries that can't wait to turn the table, it's all too easy for us to overeat, since it typically takes the stomach 20 minutes to send satiety/fullness signals to your brain to say, "enough food already!" But in a world where a meal can be finished a mere few minutes, by the time we get those signals we'd already have too much food from the sides, the appetizers, desserts and/or bread basket. And then comes that unpleasant bloated/food coma feeling, followed by the even worse thought of those extra pounds gained.

Of course, the obvious solution is to "slow down your eating!" but if you're anything like me, you've spent years honing down habit of wolfing things down in haste (and even nowadays, I tend to be one of the faster eaters in my group of friends.) But here's a few tricks I have to help me slow down the rate and give my stomach time to catch-up and send the appropriate satiety signals.

- Have a soup or salad beforehand (of course, opt for the lighter varieties like broth-based soups and vinegary dressings); because of their water content, they fill up your stomach space w/o piling on the calories.

- Have it hot (temperature and/or spicywise) both are great limiting factors to how quickly you can consume the food!

- Learn savor/enjoy/analyze your food (a la French Women Don't Get Fat); likely one reason why I started getting thinner AFTER I took on my foodblogging habit, between me evaluating what makes a particular dish so good/bad, jotting notes and taking photos, that's a lot of lag time for the food to settle in and the stomach to tell my brain it's full!

- Drink water (or any low-calorie beverage) between bites.

- For similar reasons, distract yourself while eating; engross in conversation with friends during meals, or if dining solo, bring a book / magazine to read or even sit at the bar and mingle with the bartender.

- and with buffets, take the smaller plate and sit at a table as far away from buffet as possible -- again maximizing the lagtime as you walk to and from helping yourself (not to mention squeezing in just a little more activity.)

- if possible, use smaller utensils; teaspoon instead of the soup spoon or salad fork instead of dinner fork, so it takes more time to finish a dish.

Got any tricks that work for you in terms of slowing down your eating pace? Would love to hear about it.
And of course, stop when you feel full; doggy-bag or leave the rest. To those who think it's wasteful to just "throw away" food, let me re-frame it: a few dollars in wasted food/drinks, or a few wasted thousands (even millions) of dollars in medications, surgeries, devices and care for all the obesity-linked ailments?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Overwhelmed By Workout Length? Then Break It Up!

If your face is bawling at the recommendations of 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise to lose weight, stay healthy and maintain fitness, you're not alone -- I was right there too, especially a few years ago when I began exercising. And one of the best things I did to make it more manageable was breaking it up into shorter segments. Sometimes it'll be 20 minutes in morning, 30 minutes after work -- or maybe three 15 segments throughout the day, and if I'm feeling particularly energetic I'll do the whole 60-90 minutes in one go.

And I always try to squeeze in at least a little in the morning soon after waking up, since I would've already felt like I made progress and will more likely continue to make healthful choices throughout the day.

Some people may feel better with a single continuous long routine and just get it over with in one fell swoop, I'd rather do it in two or three segments that's more manageable and not so overwhelming ("OMG, I got an HOUR of running PLUS strength training?") And breaking it up makes it easier to work around my schedule. And before I knew it, those daunting exercises became habit and I could do longer routines with less effort because I am becoming more fit. But when pressed for time, I still fall back on those multiple short segments. It's definitely better than not being able to exercise because I can't carve an hour out.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Foodie Fit Friday Tip: Liquid Calories

Wine Matching
The multiple whammies of alcoholic drinks

Weekends are usually more challenging in managing what you eat; less structure, more celebrations, etc. -- so here's a Foodie Fit Friday Tip to help with healthful eating for the next two days (and onwards!)

When trying to attain or maintain a healthy weight, be sure to keep an eye on what you drink as well as what you eat. Obviously, this include the likes of sugar- and calorie-laden sodas and fat-loaded milkshakes, but even healthy-sounding beverages such as fruit juices and sweetened teas can pack quite a wallop too. But for me, the biggest whammy would be alcoholic beverages, not only for the calories they contain, but because they also lower inhibitions and raise hunger, so I'm more likely to make unhealthy food choices and get more drinks.

Obviously, the healthy beverage of choice would be water, but hey, we all want flavor when quenching our thirsts from time-to-time, so here's some low- and no-calorie drinks that I enjoy.

- Black coffee: I didn't make the jump from sweetened lattes to these right away, but I did gradually reduced the dairy and sugars until it's OK to enjoy them plain. If you have trouble with the astringency, acidity or bitterness, try brewing with less beans or pick smoother varietals/blends.

- "Naked" teas: for same reason with coffee; again, if the teas are too harsh, use less leaves or opt for mellower kinds (e.g. green/white teas)

- Juice spritzers: mix one part juice with one part still/sparkling water for a beverage with half the calories! Not to mention more refreshing and not so saccharinely sweet.

- and, if you must, artifically-sweetened soft drinks: even neglecting all the health controversies associated with them, generally they taste "off" compared to the real deal made with sugar, and I'd much rather drink a sugar-sweetened beverage occasionally than regularly quenching my thirst with a "diet" drink. But, if you find it hard to shake the can or bottle-a-day ritual and don't mind the diet taste, it's a good transition to other healthier choices.

In regards to the alchy, one tip that's particularly useful is to order your drink with or after the meal, which reduces the opportunities you have to get unhealthy foods. And of course, like soft drinks, beverages that are sweeter and creamier will have more calories. And of course, be sure to drink plenty of water as well to offset alcohol's dehydrating effects.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wise-Up To Fitness (WTF): Overheated and Underhydrated

Even though I do a good deal of homework and reading on eating and exercising right, I ain't a registered dietician or a certified personal trainer, so sometimes I wound up learning things the hard way, my Wise-Up To Fitness (WTF) posts are exactly that - and I'm sharing them with you so you can avoid the agony I've been through. Got any of your own to share? Feel free to let me know.

Wednesdays are my usual run days, and yesterday I felt energetic and hyped up throughout the day, so I thought I could do an eight-mile outdoor run right after work.

What an effing idiotic idea as hit the bleepin' wall at 3.5 miles (and that's if you count the half mile that I begrudgingly walked to the store to get me some much needed beverage) -- between the fairly full blast of sun at 5-something p.m., the ninety-plus degree temperature, and my lack of water (asides from my usual ~32 oz. before the run), I was exhausted, dehydrated and overheated!

Which goes to show, do hydrate and adjust your routine as appropriate for the occasion, which in my case would've meant carrying a water bottle and running closer to dusk -- which is exactly what I did on my much more leisurely five-mile "make up jog" tonight.