As we enter 2017, I imagine that many of us have made several resolutions to eat better, exercise more, reduce stress levels, and the like. If you’ve made these resolutions for yourself, let me start by saying that I’m so happy that you’ve committed yourself to goals that will make you feel healthier and happier! I hope you know that I’m here to support you every step of the way.
That being said, there’s a certain pattern of eating I fear some of you might engage in in an attempt to lose that extra holiday weight—one that I’ve experienced far too many times with dismal results.
Here’s what happens: our jeans suddenly feel a little snug, we feel an extra jiggle here and there… Time to tone up, we think to ourselves. So, we plan out tomorrow’s menu: Coffee and an egg for breakfast, a light salad for lunch, and chicken and veggies for dinner. Easy peasy, right?
But then suddenly 11:00pm rolls around and we find ourselves surrounded by an empty can of Pringles and a melting pint of ice cream. I’ll be better tomorrow, we think! And this vicious cycle repeats itself.
This is the worst way to try to lose weight. It involves setting unrealistically high standards for yourself during the day—needlessly limiting your calorie count and confining yourself to a menu of raw veggies—before binging like a crazy person at night. In today’s post, I’ll unpack why you should avoid this habit at all costs and what to do instead.
Why You Should Never Take the “Starve-Yourself-All-Day-and-Binge-at-Night” Approach
When we skip a meal, our bodies turn to “hidden,” internal sources of energy instead. Its first step is to check out our glycogen stores—glucose (or sugar) that has been stored away into our muscles and liver from previous meals. When we’re hungry and don’t have food around, these stored sugars get broken down for us to use instead.
When that source runs out, our muscles get broken down into amino acids that we use for energy. This is NOT GOOD. Our muscles are precious and glucose is a way more efficient form of energy for us than amino acids that come from broken-down muscles.
What’s the Big Deal?
Ironically, this style of eating is strikingly similar to the diet of sumo wrestlers.Yes, I’m referring to sumo wrestlers who have an average weight of 326 lbs. These athletes gain their weight by skipping meals (always breakfast), consuming practically all of their calories late in the day, and sleeping soon after eating.
When you subscribe to the starve-yourself-all-day-and-binge-at-night approach, you’re engaging in a toned down version of this diet. You probably skip breakfast, limit your calories significantly during the day, then go buck wild before heading to bed. In other words, all those calories you just consumed aren’t being burned off.
Two main physiological reactions occur when you skip meals all day and binge at night:
Your blood sugar levels become detrimentally low and your brain gets pretty damn mad at you since you didn’t give it the energy it needed to function properly throughout the day. Cue mood swings, irritation, and cravings for anything in site in a desperate attempt to bring your blood sugar levels up.
Since you needlessly caused your muscles to break down in a desperate attempt to find energy, your metabolism has slowed. Remember, muscle burns a lot of calories; the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. The less muscle you have—or the more you break it down because you’re skipping meals—the easier it will be for you to gain weight (mainly in the form of fat, by the way).
What to Do Instead
If you don’t want to look like a sumo wrestler, you have to engage in the opposite habits:
Always eat breakfast, especially one that’s high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Forget the bagels and muffins that are cakes in disguise; instead, why not try some of my pumpkin power oatmeal that contains complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and 15 - 30g of protein? (Plus it’s delicious, if I do say so myself.)
Keep your metabolism revving by eating small meals frequently. Listen to your body and have snacks when you’re hungry. Avoid eating processed, packaged foods that come in a bag or box. Structure your meals around high-quality proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. (For healthy snack ideas, check out this blog post.)
Eat an early dinner and avoid snacking afterwards. Those calories likely won’t be used, so who needs ‘em?
The Bottom Line
I know from experience how tempting it can be to limit your caloric intake during the day in a desperate attempt to lose weight. This habit comes with the best of intentions but leads to the worst results. In fact, it’s the safest way to slow your metabolism, experience unavoidable cravings, engage in binge eating, and gain weight. I don’t want this for you in 2017 and I know you don’t either, so make a promise to me (and yourself) that you’ll stop eating like a sumo wrestler!
You Tell Me!
Have you subscribed yourself to this type of diet in the past? Let me know what that experience was like for you in the comments below!