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Chow vs. weight control?

As a devoted 'hound, I always have the weight issue to deal with. Anyone out there have any good ideas? And I do go to the gym and walk as much as I can. There's just so much good stuff out there.....

Wish I had one of those bodies that just burns it all up so I could have MORE!

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  1. Eating, seasonal, local and as fresh, as possible, usually helps. Think about it.

    16 Replies
    1. re: Quine

      I've struggled to take off and then keep off some serious late high school and college pudge. (I am now 26 and satsifyingly close to the place I'd like to be, which is probably a tad ambitious.) Although I like the spirit of a lot of 'Hounds to "eat, drink, and be merry!" because we only live once, I also decided that I'd like to be healthy and more attractive, to be utterly frank, during my one lifetime. So I do these things:

      I have learned that really pushing myself exercise-wise is the only way to be trim. (I will always be sort of voluptuous, if you will, no matter how little I eat.) I joined a masters swim team at the YWCA and found that the swimming workouts I was doing alone were not helping me anymore. Circuits, which is what the swim team does, have helped a lot. I don't just plod through the water anymore for 45 minutes, which stopped being effective. Walking is good, of course, and adds up, but really kicking your own butt at the gym might help you if it helped me.

      I really try to avoid high fructose corn syrup. I don't know if it makes physiological sense, since on some level sugar is sugar is sugar, but since I started making a concerted effort to stay away from the stuff, it's been good. Usually food made with HFCS is pretty low quality anyway and not worth it. A real sugar dessert from a bakery or nice restaurant (or made at home)? Completely worth it.

      I have switched to soy milk in my coffee at home and cut out the sugar entirely, which I now vastly prefer and think the taste of the coffee is more pure. It was gradual, but not consuming the equivalent in half-n-half and sugar over a couple of years has been helpful. Sometimes it's the little things. I also order one of those Frappuccino things maybe once a year. Maybe. I'd rather have ice cream, based on the nutritional trade. Or a whole sandwich! Geez.

      Finally, and MOST importantly (except maybe the butt-kicking at the gym), when I cook or go out -- even in full-on CHOW mode, I try to focus on all the good things I get to *taste*, not all the food I get to consume. I have changed from a plate-cleaner to a taste-seeker. I still overeat from time to time, but this paradigm shift has been profound for me. No more eat, drink, and be merry. Taste, taste again, and be merry!

      Hope this helps.

      P.S. I also watch how much I drink. Having one glass of wine is really enough most of the time.

      1. re: slowfoodgrrl

        For someone who's only 26, you've learned a lot! I agree completely about exercising: If you hit the gym hard for an hour, six days a week (I get up at 5:30 to fit this in), you can eat just about anything. I also think you're absolutly right about the American "clean your plate" syndrome, especially with the huge portions we get in most restaurants. When we eat out, I mentally divide the food I'm served in half and take one half home for lunch the next day. If something is not delicious, I simply don't eat it -- to me, those are the true empty calories.

        1. re: pikawicca

          This is not meant as an attack against you pikawicca, not at all, but I see this sentiment all the time on Chowhound -- the "if you work out you can eat whatever you want" sentiment -- and MAN does it get on my nerves. It is just simply NOT true. I work out every single day. I do cardio for an hour a day 4 days a week and half an hour a day 2 days a week. And I don't mean leisurely pedaling the stationary bike while I read the newspaper. I'm pounding the treadmill or sweating on the cross trainer. I do pilates on my non-cardio day. I also strength train 3 times a week for an hour. And I absolutely cannot eat whatever I want. Even with all this activity, I have to watch what I eat closely; when I don't, even when I keep up this level of activity, I gain weight. It's a fact. Who knows whether it's because I have that fat gene, or a bad metabolism, or what. But the point is that for some of us incredibly unlucky people, it doesn't matter how much we work out, we still have to watch the calorie intake. Everyone is different; weight is really complicated, and it does everyone a disservice, I think, to say it's a simple matter of "exercise and eat whatever!"

          1. re: charmedgirl

            I don't think the two of you disagree. I agree with you in that even with the workouts, one has to be careful on the consumption side. On the other hand, I agree with wicca in the sense that I'd be dead if I didn't work out given the eating and drinking that I do!

            1. re: charmedgirl

              Perhaps the difference lies in what we want to eat. I don't care for junk food, so don't eat it. I rarely crave sweets, so don' t eat those often, either. When I'm full, I stop eating. I do not know anyone who operates this way who is overweight. I just returned from a week's vacation in Maine. I spent roughly three hours a day hiking very strenuously and ate a modest breakfast, resaonable lunch, and substantial dinner. Had ice cream every day. Lost two pounds. Most places I ate I was surrounded by skinny folks in hiking clothes eating heaps of food. charmedgirl, if you exercise as you say and still have to watch what you eat, I suggest you have yourself checked for something like hypothyroidism: something doesn't compute. (I once had the opposite "problem:" ate like crazy, was pretty much desk-bound, but was losing weight. Turned out my thyroid was in over-drive.

              1. re: pikawicca

                it really does come down to that, doesn't it. the "gene" that is supposed to contribute to differences in weight accounts for no more than 6 pounds difference. Attitude towards food is everything. One of my friends complains she's overweight but she eats a lot of sweets, it's obvious when we're outogether that she is used to eating more. Another friend has struggled with her weight for a long time, is at a healthy weight, but needs to go to the gym every day. meanwhile her house if full of "healthy" processed food.
                we were all working very hard, and went out for burritos. i said without thinking," mmm, there must be a 1000 calories in this thing, i need this" because i felt burnt out. both of them put down their burritos, and stopped eating. i don't think it's people's "fault" necessarily if they're overweight, but it is due to psychological phenomena and not physical, unless there is a thyroid problem, which is rare.

                1. re: fara

                  Fara, to politely disagree:
                  You've contributed some excellent tips below, but current science does not back up your above statements. Body size and weight are enormously complex, not a simple equation of calories in vs. calories expended.

                  With your interest in biochemistry, I urge you to read the New York Times article of May 8, 2007, linked below -- it's surprising, truly -- and to also head to the National Library of Medicine and read further for the latest medical studies.

                  The NYT quotes a New England Journal of Medicine article:
                  "Weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease."

                  Heredity determines metabolism, set point, the amount of satiety hormones produced, efficiency in food processing, where fat is stored, the cellular production of energy, as well as muscles' electro-chemical production of energy.

                  Of course, behavior is involved, but then an individual's biochemistry directs much behavior. Certainly not all of it, however.

                  The incidence of obesity in the United States reflects that, and points to other issues such as changes in energy expenditure at work over the past 50 years, children's lack of physical "playtime," portion size, fast food and its marketing, food additives, automobile driving vis-a-vis less walking, our changed sense of entertainment, the demise of recreation and advent of exercise, a declining sense of community, and on and on. Very complex, indeed.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    ml, agree with you on all, except that the NEJM publication wasn't so much about metabolism as the key variable determining weight, but about how people are "stuck" with a certain weight plus or minus a few pounds (and I say this because many people blame their perceived weight difference from their ideal on "metabolism"). Although the truth is, as you say, very complex indeed.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Yes, agreed on the specific nature of the NEJM article. The NEJM article was a brief mention in the NYT article, which focused specifically on the fiercely predetermined nature of a body's set point and was itself an excerpt from Gina Kolata’s new book, “Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss — and the Myths and Realities of Dieting.”
                      Other recent research available at the NLM and NIH.

                    2. re: maria lorraine

                      ml, i know this is generally a sensitive subject. yes, i am interested in biochemistry, i am currently in a doctoral program in biochemistry. what you refer to as "heredity" is not genetic, it is environmental influences such as what the mother may eat during pregnancy, the family's attitudes towards food, etc. Even if someone is unfortunate enough to be brought up in an overweight household, this trend could be reversed for the next generation.
                      I referred to the phenomena as psychological, because I think most studies have shown that overweight people have a different relationship towards food. This may be due to family ubringing, traumatic experience, stress, current environment, or a genetically determined brain chemistry akin to depression. However, it is completely false to say that genes determine weight, and frankly I am sick of hearing that. The latest published study, as I said above has determined that about 6 lbs or so can be attributed to genetic differences.

                      the biggest and most obvious proof of this is the fact that Americans did not spring out of the Earth, but came from all over the planet. And......50 years ago we were not overweight so no it is not some form of immigrant natural selection. It is our relationship to the environment, how we were raised, how we live now.

                      1. re: fara

                        I politely disagree, but disagree I do about the heredity/genetics of weight. I wonder if you read the research I cited before replying. Please do, as your debate may be with it, rather than me.

                        I believe you may have confused which factors I call genetic or inherited. I mentioned these physiological factors -- efficiency in food processing, amount of satiety hormones produced, etc.

                        I would not characterize family attitudes about food as heredity; those are clearly in the "learned behaviors" camp. I mentioned other behavioral/psycho-social factors in the US as well that affect weight. These operate in addition to genetic factors.

                        'Nuff said. We won't clear this whole issue up on a CH thread, but I would urge you to read more research, especially the large double-blind, peer-reviewed studies. By the same token, I am happy to read the recent study you cite. If you tell me the primary author and title, I'll look it up.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          I agree w/ you and it does go further. Someone who grew up heavy, due to either heredity or genetics, has more fat cells and once you develop them, they don't go away (liposuction aside) and predispose you to gaining weight more quickly. There is so much that we're learning about the field. I've been reading about how babies in utero who don't get enough nutrients tend to be overweight as adults. One study group was a town in Denmark during WWII that went through a famine due to the war. They said a disproportionate number of them are overweight.

                          http://www.obesityresearch.org/cgi/co...

                          It's not as simple as saying all people who are overweight eat more than those who don't.

                  2. re: pikawicca

                    Thanks, pikawicca. I agree, something doesn't compute, it's a mystery to me as well. Just to clarify, I am not overweight, not at all; I'm at the low range for my height. But that's sorta the point. To stay here, I exercise like a maniac and watch what I eat closely. (And I DO excerise as I say, sadly, no exaggerating there!) There may be differences in what I eat, as you suggest; I fully admit I LOVE dessert. (Ice cream every day would be my dream come true. Sounds like you had a great vacation!) But other than a sweet tooth, I'm a pretty healthy eater. I shop the outer ring of the supermarket, TONS of fresh veggies and fruit, lots of fish, chicken every once in a while, red meat once in a blue moon, always the low fat dairy, can't TELL you the last time I ate anything fried, etc. From the posts below it seems people in the know say that it's a cop out to blame a "fat gene" or a low metabolism. I had my thyroid checked about two years ago and was told there was no problem. So ... who knows! I threw my hands up about it long ago. It is what it is. Anyways, I've gotten into a lot more personal details than I ever intended. Really, my initial post was just meant to offer another perspective. We're all made differently, and staying at a healthy weight can be far more difficult for some of us than for others.

                    1. re: charmedgirl

                      just to clarify that my comments did not indicate "cop out." - a lot of research point to the environment people grew up in as contributing to their current weight, through no fault of their own. i wanted to make the distinction between that, and saying it's "genes" which doesn't make sense as I describe above. but you're underweight, maybe you just haven't found a way to balance without stressing yourself out. stress contributes to weight gain, too.

              2. re: slowfoodgrrl

                It is fabulous and healthy that you are no longer drinking half and half in your coffee, but just remember that soy milk is not a perfect replacement for real dairy products. The natural calcium in real milk cannot be reproduced, so make sure you get enough for strong bones!

                1. re: qwertyu

                  Not true! You can get as much calcium from fortified orange juice and soy milk as you can from cow's milk. I am allergic to cow's milk and have never had trouble finding other sources in my diet. You can take supplements (make sure they have vitamin D plus calcium to help you absorb it).

                  Leafy greens such as collard and spinach have loads of calcium, as do beans, mollasses, sardines, salmon. almonds, hazelnuts, etc. There are many of vegans with strong bones.

            2. Dieter on weekdays, using portion control & visits to the gym... then
              Chower on weekends, partying (in mouth & tummy) -- and quality partying at that, not just a beer keg bash -- till the clock strikes midnite on sunday.

              Although this method hasn't actually assisted in melting the pounds off, its at least good at maintaining where I am.

              1 Reply
              1. re: S U

                That's pretty much my plan. I work out 5 - 6 days a week, which makes a huge difference in the calories that my body can burn. On weekdays I have most of my meals at home and bring my lunches to work, and those meals are fresh, balanced and reasonably portioned. Weeekends are another story - then I have most of my meals out at restaurants or at friends' houses, and I pretty much eat and drink whatever I want. That plan has kept my weight pretty stable for about the last 10 years (I'm 42 now), and while I haven't been overweight by anyone's charts for years I've actually lost a few pounds over the last year by shifting my weekday diet away from white foods (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) and towards more lean protein. I've always loved fruits and vegetables so eating lots of those doesn't feel like a chore to me. Also, I find that a by-product of eating this way is that my weekday diet moderates my appetite such that when I do go all out with the steak, pizza, deep-fried whatever on the weekends I truly don't want to eat as much of it.

              2. seems like most people have the same answer- portion control and water. Drink plenty of water all day long just for general overall health. Eat what you want (within reason) but remember that you don't need to eat all of it- especially true if you are an american hound; your portion sizes are totally out-of-control (in general).

                1 Reply
                1. re: nummanumma

                  My hubby and I have some serious appetites, but we only eat organic/biodynamic/unprocessed foods and much of what we eat we make from scratch. The places we dine in also tend to serve fresh foods or we order accordingly.

                  That being said, last night we had huge veal osso buccos simmered in a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, eggplant, basil, onion, garlic and spices over whole wheat linguine served with fresh salad greens from our garden that I tossed with goat cheese and pears and coarse pepper. Everything was organic and much of the produce came from either our garden or the local biodynamic farm. Make no mistake...health nuts we may be but we EAT.

                  But nothing processed or manmade makes it into our kitchen. So we stay slim and most importantly, healthy.

                2. Eat lots of vegetable dishes, soup, and lean meats, stay away from bread & white rice as much as possible or make it a weekend treat, and drink plenty of water.

                  I have one of those stocky bodies with an unremarkable metabolism, so I know what you're dealing with. I'm contemplating taking up ice hockey again, or maybe just skating--so much food, so long to my waistline!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Louise

                    Water, water, water... an apple every single day, less protein and don't deny yourself what you really like! These are my secrets! Oh, and move around alot at work.... don't just sit there all day...and of course exercise. I'm done.

                  2. So, you'e clearly not the first one to wrestle this issue. Here are what others do/reccomend/deal with it:
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31844...

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/30321...

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39372...
                    - Especially this quote: "Remember, if you're gonna get suspended for fighting, you might as well knock out a tooth.
                    Bottom line, saying you feel guilty does nothing...either you wanna or you don't.
                    Make no excuses.
                    Eat well everyday and exercise...I don't mean to run a 10k everyday, just don't be lazy.
                    Cuz when your daily habits are healthy, you don't have to worry when you splurge on a 16 course tasing with wine pairing.
                    I happen to be a personal trainer who does not diet, does not exercise excessively, and I have no history of any eating disorders (unless you consider my obsession with bacon a disorder)...my clients always ask me why I'm not huge when they hear about all the fine dining I do...well here it is: think about it, when you see unhealthy/overweight people eating, do you ever really see any pleasure on their faces, do they ever SLOWLY saver each bite, do they really fully chew each bite before the next one...I know it sounds harsh, but really.
                    I know, there are a ton of thin people with the same habits but god only knows what is going on on the inside.
                    The trick is, enjoy every bite. Feel no guilt. Eat slowly and weigh the pros and cons of the guilty pleasure.
                    There are nights when I really want Tommy's Chili Cheese fries...no guilt, but I know I wont feel very good the next day but sometimes it really is worth it and I'll just workout a little bit the next day or choose to not eat quite as much cheese ( I do love my cheese but I don't want it on my ass).
                    I had to make a choice today...work-out between clients or enjoy a quicky with my boyfriend...I chose the man even though I know I have an amzing dinner to go to with my wine/foodie friends tonight that will include tooo much food and too much wine...I intend to eat the F--- outta everything and Drink the F--- outta the wine with no regrets...why? Cuz I chose to eat very clean and light today knowing I can't resisit the butter and bread and that I'll take an extra spin class tomorrw.
                    Work-out to pig-out and enjoy every bite!!!
                    We only live once, be healthy everyday so we can enjoy a little bit of decadence every night and we'll live longer to enjoy more amazing meals if we're lucky."
                    tatertotsrock Apr 24, 2007 03:54PM
                    Seriously, I love how she puts it!