Diet and Fitness: Preserving Metabolic Rate

By Marsha Hudnall
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Small_meals
My hairdresser last week proudly removed her apron (or whatever they call the things they wear to keep all the hair products off their clothes) to reveal her newly slimmer body.  As long as I’ve known her, she’s been on one diet after another, of course to no avail.  I asked her what she’d been up to this time, and it was miraculous.  She’d been eating!

I posted about eating enough last week, but my hairdresser’s experience and a comment to last week’s post spurred me to continue on the subject.  As we’ve said for over three decades now at Green Mountain at Fox Run, eating can make you thin (or, to be more exact, it can take you to the right place for your body.  Not all of us are meant to be thin.).  We’re, of course, talking about eating well, and that includes regular, well-balanced meals eaten in a way that makes us feel well (I think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but it’s clear that often we have to hear something many times before it gets through).

My hairdresser’s ‘secret’ was eating often — she said she was eating every 2-3 hours — and eating just enough to take away her hunger, but not ending up feeling full.  That’s fine.  Many healthy people I know don’t seem to eat much at any one time, but they do seem to eat frequently.  It’s that person many of us know — ‘she eats all the time, and never gains a pound!’ 

These folks do seem to eat often, but they generally eat foods that they like and make them feel well — a piece of fruit at one time, or a salad with protein and starchy foods (including bread) at another time, a sandwich or hummus and vegetables or crackers at another time, or a ‘real’ meal of fish or beef, or whatever with vegetables and potatoes or rice, etc.   And they also eat other foods — cookies, chocolate, wine, etc.  The key is that they eat whatever they want in a way that makes them feel well — not too much of anything, and enough of the things that are important to good nutrition/health.

One problem that some people get into with eating frequently is a lack of access to foods that are going to make them feel well.  In the U.S., we’ve got a plethora of food available, but many of the foods that are readily available for snacking aren’t always the best choice.  The bottom line is that if you’re going to eat like my hairdresser, then you have to make sure you have the food around that you need.  That requires planning.

Whoever had advised my hairdresser on her latest attempt told her that she needed to eat like this to preserve her metabolism.  It’s true that eating small, frequent meals will help keep the metabolic rate going, especially if you’re a chronic dieter who has spent a lot of time trying not to eat, and as a result, depressed your metabolism.  But it’s not the only way to do that.  I just returned from Belgium last night, where I spent the last 5 days eating three meals a day, which were fairly large, but there was no snacking in between.  I didn’t need to because my meals were substantial enough to keep me satisfied until the next meal.  I was hungry when mealtimes came, though, because I didn’t overeat.  I ate to full but not overfull, and that allowed me to go through the morning or afternoon without needing a snack.

Bottom line:  Whatever way works for you is fine.  The key is being hungry for meals, no matter how frequent they are, but not coming to them starving.  That way, you’ll be eating enough to feed your metabolism, and not slowing it down by undereating, or overloading it by overeating. 

Then there’s the matter of exercise, too.  I walked a lot in Europe — always do.  It’s the lifestyle over there.   It feels great, too!

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