Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Best Exercise of the Day: "Push-Aways"

(Thanksgiving Day marks the official kickoff of the holiday season and, for many, the start of a whole lot of eating. Food becomes the center of social interaction at family gatherings and at school and office parties. Cooking comfort foods and holiday desserts are parts of family traditions. There are many social and emotional reasons to eat. Even the most disciplined eaters can fall off the wagon. My hope is that today I can offer some perspective on overeating and unfavorable food choices. Here is some "food" for thought...)

Let's start by testing what you know about diet and digestion:

Digestion is the breaking down of chemicals in the body, into a form that can be absorbed. It is also the process by which the body breaks down chemicals into smaller components that can be absorbed by the blood stream. It takes an average of 12-24 hours to digest a meal depending on the types and quantities of food ingested. So, your breakfast eaten at 8 a.m. today won't be digested and passed from your body until at least 8 a.m. TOMORROW. TMI? Get this: Your body hasn't fully extracted and used the nutrients consumed from your first meal of the day by lunch time. In a 24 hour period, your body could be storing a minimum of three meals in your digestive system. This is a normal condition if you eat three balanced meals a day.

What happens when you overeat? A simple definition of overeating offered by Merriam-Webster is "eat(ing) to excess." There are many reasons why one might overeat: stress, going too long without eating, greed, sugar/carb addiction, depression, bulimia nervosa, and emotional reasons. Gorging yourself on sugar, high fat, and /or salt-laden foods creates a traffic jam in your digestive tract. Your blood sugar levels spike and if these sugars are not used up in physical activity, they are stored in your fat cells. Translation? You gain weight. The amount of time and energy required to lose these extra pounds is a whole lot more than the amount of time and energy it took to eat them.

So how do we keep it all in check? Indulge with balanced moderation. Here are some tips:

1) About an hour before you eat, drink a glass of water. Then, have some fresh fruit or dates. Wait a while for your appetite to return before filling your plate.
2) Fill up on the veggies first. Eat colorful salads, soups, and cooked vegetables. The fiber will start to fill you up which will prevent overeating.
3) Focus on proteins and carbs next. Ensure that you serving size is not greater than the amount of food that you can hold in the palm of your hand.
4) Now "push-away" from the table. Examine the spread and earmark the desserts that you would like to sample. Do not eat more than you can fit on one DESSERT plate.Wait an hour before you partake.
5) If you have food allergies, are on medication, are overweight, and/or have diabetes or another chronic condition, then do not use these occasions as an excuse to forgo your diet. You will pay for it later.

I hope this helps! More next time...

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