Never Go Hungry!

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I ate healthy food for two years and remained slightly overweight, even though I was watching what I was eating. I would eat enough but irregularly, which meant that my body would store excess into fat and then eat away at my muscles until the next meal. I regularly put my body into starvation mode and prevented it from working properly. Now I know I should never go hungry!

I didn’t have the proportions right, which I discussed last week, and I certainly did not eat appropriate portion sizes.

Being healthy is not just about watching what you eat, but how much you eat and how often. This may seem obvious, but I didn’t realize that under eating, even by a little bit each day, can have even more destructive effects on your body in the long term than overeating.

Your body eats away at muscle before fat stores because muscle is easier to break down for fuel than fat. [1][2] The only way to burn fat is to focus your body on building muscle by providing it with plenty of nutrients and exercising. While I was eating relatively healthy food and working out, I still did not support my body properly: certainly not enough to be happy with my results. This was frustrating and discouraging, but figuring out the solution has been a rewarding process.

There is no universal solution to portion sizes. Every body burns energy differently.  But everybody experiences the same cues when they are satiated. The problem is that the cues most will notice often happen with a ten or fifteen minute delay. The key is to figure out how much food you need to feel content, without triggering your body to store away the food for later. This also means that you must exercise regularly so that after a meal your body is focused on forming muscles, as opposed to fat stores.

Another way to prevent your body from going into starvation mode is eating at a snack whenever you are hungry. Things that can satiate your hunger in small portions are generally relatively high in fat or protein. They include nuts, avocados, berries and cheese, and I always keep such snacks on hand. They’re in my desk at work, in my pantry at home, in my purse and even in the car.  If I undereat at the previous meal, or I’m running late, I always make sure that my body has something to continue fueling it until that next meal. I also make sure to snack a bit before going into a work meeting that could run long. No excuses!

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