Why ‘Eat Less Move More’ Doesn’t Work

We’ve all heard it. You want to lose weight? It’s simple, just eat less and move more! If it sounds easy, that’s because the concept is a little bit too simple to be true.

Yes, for someone who eats calories in excess and leads a sedentary life, the ELMM mantra can be useful to guide them towards a more healthy life. It can even help them on the beginning of their journey to weight loss. In the beginning, going from 3500 calories consumed to 2500 calories consumed and adding in a daily walk is a perfect recipe for weight loss. But what happens when your muscles adapt to a daily 30 minute walk?

Eventually, this walk must get longer, include more hills, or otherwise progress. Our bodies are adaptive creatures, and the exact same “movement” every day will stop producing results at some point. The same can be said for calories. As you begin on your weight loss journey, a caloric deficit may be easy, but what happens when your caloric intake gets down to 1800? What happens when you stop losing weight at 1800, and now have to move down to 1500 calories per day? What happens when you’re moving more, but are now down to eating 1200 calories per day?

eat-less-and-move-more-1

…but only at the beginning 

Eat Less Move More is not a finite solution, because our bodies don’t work that way. Metabolism can be a tricky creature, one which you do have a good amount of control over, believe it or not. And at a certain point, that ELMM way of life will actually become what hurts your metabolism and causes you to stop losing weight, usually once you get to that last 5, 10, 20 pounds that you want to lose.

First, let’s look at the “Eat Less” portion of this. At some point in time, women came to believe that the magical number for weight loss was 1200. Women of all ages believe that they need to eat no more than 1200 calories per day to lose weight. This is ridiculous for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is no magical number by which every woman on the planet can lose weight. What determines the number of calories you should be eating to lose weight? Your RMR, or resting metabolic rate, combined with your activity level.

And what determines your RMR? That would be your age, size, and activity level. Keeping that in mind, a 5’8″ muscular woman can eat a lot more calories (and still lose weight) than a 5’2″ sedentary woman with the same goal. It’s also worth mentioning that there is a point at which caloric intake (or lack thereof) can cause a decrease in RMR, as well as hormonal problems which make weight loss more difficult.

Now, imagine that you’ve been on the weight loss train for a while, or even that you’ve just started. You’re consuming 1200 calories per day, because some women’s magazine told you that’s what you need to do to lose weight.  So, will you lose weight? Heck yes, of course you will. You’ll also lose a significant amount of muscle mass, decrease your metabolism, and increase your levels of the dangerous stress hormone Cortisol.

What you’ll also do is without a doubt, set yourself up for failure. 1200 calories is not a sustainable amount of food for just about anyone, especially someone who is physically active (move more, right?). At some point, you’re going to reach a point where you can’t move more because you’re not consuming enough calories to support that movement. Then what? You can’t realistically and healthfully eat less than this, so how are you supposed to continue on your weight loss journey at this point? Eating less only works to a certain extent, for a finite amount of time.

So what do we need to focus on instead of eating less? Eating smarter. Consuming nutrient dense foods, avoiding an over abundance of “empty” calories, avoiding overly processed, artificial ingredients. These are the things that we need to be doing to become healthier — less is not always the answer.

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See this? Eat healthy… not “less”

Now let’s pick apart this whole “Move More” aspect, although I do think that this is the more realistic part of the equation. As I mentioned before, our bodies adapt to the stresses we place on them, that’s just evolution. The first time you run a mile, your body is working hard to accomplish that mile. However, if you continue running one mile, three days per week for a month, that distance will become much easier for you. This is because your body has adapted, and has made running one mile much  more efficient. This means that you are expending less and less effort (calories) to cover the same distance as you were when you first started.

So while yes, I do believe that as a whole, we need to more, it’s again not the end-all-be-all of weight loss. There may come a certain point where you don’t necessarily need to move more, but you may need to move a little bit differently. If you’re a jogger, it may not be realistic for you to move “more” than the 3 miles per day that you’re already jogging, due to time constraints and other responsibilities.

(Wouldn’t it be nice if our only responsibility was staying fit?)

So if you don’t have time to do more, does that mean that you’re doomed to stay the same weight or size forever? Absolutely not. Maybe more isn’t the answer in this case, maybe you just need to be moving differently. Adding in some strength training, switching out a couple of those jogs for weight lifting sessions could make a world of difference. In that case, you’re not necessarily moving more, rather you’re just moving in a better way.

Your muscles and bones need to be challenged in order to stay strong, and to grow even stronger. Progressive weight training can help you to create these challenges without spending hours and hours per day on your fitness routine.

That being said, overall movement is very important, and is the reason why this is the part of the equation that I actually agree with. We should all be walking more, standing more, and just moving our bodies more. Park farther away, take the stairs, get off the train a couple of stops early — whatever it takes, just move your body on a regular basis.

So, what should we call this one? Move more efficiently? Move better?

When all is said and done, yes, Eat Less Move More will work for a very finite amount of time. But is it the ultimate answer to weight/fat loss and a healthier body? Not necessarily, depending on your situation.

I would be totally on board with changing it up just a little bit though — Eat Smarter, Move Better.

It might not flow as nicely as Eat Less, Move more, but you will get more out of it.

Is Sugar The Devil?

Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve been on here, I’ve been in vacation-brain mode since I was away! I have a couple of full recap posts coming for ya soon, but they’re not quite ready yet. Since it’s been a little too long since my last post, I wanted to jump in today with these thoughts on diet and nutrition.

For the past few years on this blog, I’ve been fighting the good fight when it comes to dietary restrictions. I’ve put my foot down many times in the defense of fat, and even saturated fat and the necessity of these things in your diet. It’s been a very long time since I’ve jumped on the “low-fat” or “no-fat” train, as I’m very well aware that the research backs up the positives of including fats in your diet. Thankfully, it seems that the “no-fat” craze of the 90s has officially fizzled out, save for a few chemical monstrosities masquerading as food here and there.

As the media and general public finally catch on to the ideas that fat and cholesterol aren’t actually the devil, there has been another victim of fear mongering to replace these two. Sugar. I’m not here to break down research studies and tell you what exactly sugar is doing to every cell of your body, rather I just want to have kind of a philosophical conversation about all of this today. Now that fat and cholesterol are “okay”, is sugar really the poison that’s going to bring down the human race? Should we really be demonizing sugar and removing it completely from our diets, or looking at the bigger picture?

There have been a few articles that have come out over the past several months detailing the new food guidelines and the changes between fat, cholesterol, and sugar. I read this one a while ago, and although I’m very happy about the changes, I can’t help but wonder are we just going on another witch hunt?

Again, devil’s advocate here.

I agree that sugar needs to be controlled, I’m all about moderation — but is this really the singular key to a healthier society? Or should we be looking more at “bigger picture” — sedentary lifestyle, posture, time spent outdoors, working too much, etc. I just have a really hard time believing that sugar is everything that is wrong with our society’s health as a whole. I went completely sugar free last year, and stayed very low sugar up until my wedding in July. But do you want to know what happened when I became a little bit more lax with my sugar intake in the months following the wedding? I lost weight. In fact, I lost about 8 pounds which is pretty significant on my frame. And believe it or not, that weight is still off. I kid you not when I say that I even thought something was wrong with my health because I couldn’t figure out why weight was just falling off of me.

Do I think that eating more sugar than I had been previously is what made me lose this weight? Of course not– I think there were a lot of other factors at play– less stress, for example. But the point is, it was the bigger picture that lead to this, not my sugar intake.

Scientific research this is not, in fact it’s hardly even anecdotal evidence of anything at all, but my point is that when I stopped being the sugar police, I saw improvements in my body that I had been striving for until then– and failing. So yes, I agree that as a whole, our society consumes far too much sugar. From sodas to juices to sugary coffee drinks, it’s pretty out of control. But what I don’t want to happen is for people to place more value on sugar than is necessary, and miss the importance of other big changes that may be necessary.

Reducing sugar but still sitting hunched over at a desk for 8-10 hours a day is not going to make you that much healthier, in my opinion. Reducing sugar but remaining sedentary and spending 90% of your time indoors is not going to make that big of a difference in your health. Yes, reducing sugar from an extremely high level of consumption is important, but it’s just one small piece of the health puzzle. There is so much more that we need to focus on, so much more that we need to be conscious of in order to make true strides in our health.

So am I saying that we should all eat all of the sugar that we want? No, of course not, I just don’t think we need to become fanatical about eliminating sugar from our diets. A little sweetness in life is not a bad thing, and as long as sugar is treated as a treat, and not a constant component of your meals, it’s not something to stress about.

Besides, I like cupcakes, and a life without cupcakes is no life at all.

Readers: How do you treat sugar in your diet? Do you eat it without abandon? Do you limit it or restrict consumption completely? How do you feel about the newer dietary recommendations? 

On Food: Letting Go Of Shouldn’t

This weekend was full of great times with friends, but it was also full of decadent foods. Will and I went out to dinner with friends on Friday night at Bondir, a lovely restaurant in Concord, MA. It was an amazing 4-course meal, including dessert. Granted, each of the plates/courses was quite small, but it was 4 courses nonetheless. The entire meal was absolutely delicious, full of rich flavors and interesting pairings, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave a morsel of food on any of my plates. It was a wonderful dinner, but with great conversation flowing and a few cocktails, I probably consumed more than I should have at one meal.

The following morning, I went out with some girlfriends to the Langham Hotel’s Chocolate Bar for a birthday brunch. Yes, you read that right — a Chocolate Bar. There was basically a whole room full of all of the chocolate and desserts that you can imagine. From truffles and cookies, to mousse and pastries, to crepes and a chocolate fountain — it was like a chocolate lover’s dream. And even for someone with an impressive sweet tooth like myself,  it was almost a little bit too much.

I ended up filling my plate with lots of yumminess (although the pictures I took didn’t come out great, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one), and took a few bites of each selection. Since there was so much to choose from, I really just had a little bit more of the things I loved, and passing on those that I didn’t love as much. Even with this strategy, I ended up eating more chocolate and sweets than one should eat before noon on a Saturday. Trust me, I paid for it in the “sugar shakes”, and it’s not something that I’d do regularly every weekend. But for a treat once per year or so? Chocolate me up.

As a “healthy blogger”, is this something I should have done? Should I have followed up a 4 course meal with a chocolate bar the next morning? Probably not. But would I do it again? Probably, with the right circumstances. As I mentioned above, this is not a typical weekend of eating for me; I would not do this on a regular basis, because honestly it didn’t leave me feeling great. But the experiences with friends made it worth it, and the way that life works means that I can’t always control timing when it comes to dinners out, birthday brunches, etc. Sometimes, schedules only match up so that we end up over-doing it for a few days.

What if after dinner on Friday night, I had called my friend and told her that I would no longer be going to her birthday brunch because I had had a big dinner the night before and I “shouldn’t” go to the chocolate buffet? No, we don’t always have to eat cake when it’s offered to us, but missing out on experiences with friends just because you “shouldn’t” do this or that seems pretty sad to me.

On the flip side, there are those times when we’re offered a treat that we know won’t make us feel great, or maybe we’re doing really well with healthier eating and don’t want to be de-railed by a mediocre cupcake. These are the times when “shouldn’t” tends to escape our mouths, but might that be doing us a disservice?  IMG_0018

If you’re constantly telling yourself that you shouldn’t have something, you’re putting an awful lot of negative connotations around certain foods. That tells your brain that the next time you do have a delicious cupcake or slice of birthday cake, that you’re breaking the rules and doing something bad. We’re conditioned to think that when one breaks the rules, punishments are necessary.

Congratulations, you’ve just entered yourself into a damaging negative feedback-loop with food, all because you told yourself you “shouldn’t eat that”.

So how can we go about changing this mindset? How can we avoid the negativity, the punishments, the self-berating for eating something that you “shouldn’t”? The answer, simplistically, is that it’s all about perspective.

If you are offered a treat that you don’t think will be amazing and worth every bite (because those are the ones that are worth splurging on, in my opinion), instead of the “S” word, try using a phrase that puts you in control, instead of letting some set of arbitrary rules control you.

“I choose not to”

Yes, giving yourself the control over what you do and do not eat will help you to believe that you are not allowing/disallowing foods because of rules, rather you are doing what is best for you. You are choosing to eat what makes you feel good, you are choosing to treat yourself to those things that you feel are truly worthy of your splurge. But more importantly, you’re choosing not to shame yourself out of eating certain foods, and you’re choosing not to shame yourself when you do indulge.

So let go of “shouldn’t”. Take it out of your food vocabulary, and take back control of what you choose to eat (or not). Your choices are up to you, what you put into your body and how you treat yourself are under your control and your control only. The only thing you shouldn’t do is shame yourself for the choices you make.

Good Reads – Weight Loss Edition

Good morning everyone!  I’m sitting here looking out the window into another Winter Wonderland. With my 3rd snow day in the past week, I’d say Boston has been hit pretty hard! I’m not complaining though, since snow days are usually pretty rare when working at a college. Anyway, let’s hop to it.

After an amazing Super Bowl win by the Pats last night (did you guys watch?), I’m feeling pretty excited no matter what today throws at me! Of course the outcome was exactly what I was hoping for, but the game itself was an amazing game — I would venture to say it’s one of the best Super Bowls that I’ve seen, literally coming down to the last seconds (and that pass? What was that??). If you’re not a football fan, perhaps you watch just for the food and commercials? I have to admit, the commercials let me down a bit this year. Over all I didn’t think they were great, although there were a few shining stars in there.

In case you missed it, or haven’t seen this video circling the internet already, go ahead and watch my favorite of the night — from the #likeagirl campaign from Always.

This is actually a longer version of the commercial that was aired during the game, but I think the message is so strong I actually like this one better.

Today we’re going to kind of stick with this theme of perceptions and self esteem, and look at some good reads I’ve found lately that deal with different sides of the weight loss topic. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments!

I Was On The Biggest Loser And It Was The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made – Kai Hibbard on XO Jane.  I’ve posted a few articles about The Biggest Loser on my Facebook page recently, and I’ve written briefly about the show here. I have a lot of feelings about this show, most of them negative, and this article only serves to support them. This is a little bit of a different take than the articles I’ve already posted. Instead of detailing the horrible physical abuse that contestants on this show go through, Kai digs a little bit deeper into the psychological aspect of this “reality” show.

3 Things Women Must Do For Simple Fat Loss – Erica Hurst at Hurst Strength. Erica has a no-nonsense approach to training and this comes across very well in her writing. Fat loss doesn’t have to be complicated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In this post, Erica outlines three basic principles that must be followed in order for a fat loss plan to be effective. I whole heartedly agree with this entire post, especially #3.

The Unexpected Side Effects of Significant Weight Loss – Guest Post by Kerry Colpitts on Weighty Matters (Yoni Freedhoff). Again, a little bit of a different take on weight loss and the effects it has on the people who succeed. Does losing weight make you a better person? Does it mean that you deserve more in this life?

Dropping Weight Without Losing Strength – Tara Spencer at Sweat Like A Pig. If you’re looking to drop body fat without losing too much strength, Tara does a wonderful job of detailing how she’s going about it for an upcoming competition. Again, fat loss doesn’t have to be complicated, but especially when you’re trying to maintain strength, simple does not mean easy. Check out Tara’s tips,

Bonus:

Why A Fake Article Called Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs Was Accepted By 17 Medical Journals  – Elizabeth Segran. I had to put this article in here even though it doesn’t really fit in with the whole weight loss theme. I just feel like it’s an important read for people who regularly read fitness, health, and weight loss articles, as these often cite research to prove their point. Why is this article so important to read? Because the author points out just how easy it is to create fake “research”, which can then be cited in the very articles you’re trusting for your own health information. The bottom line is that not all research is equal, in fact not all “research” is even real.

And that’s it. Enjoy your snow day if you’re lucky enough to have one, and for the rest of you, Happy Monday!

Life Lately: Blizzard Edition

Well hello everyone! If you’re a reader from New England, you’re probably just digging yourself out from underneath Winter Storm Juno, the blizzard that put a halt to just about everything yesterday. Boston was all but shut down which was pretty crazy. With a travel ban in effect and the subway system shut down, it was like a ghost town!

A lot of schools and businesses are still closed today because the city (and state) is really still digging out.  In fact I’m on my second snow day in a row, and I think this is the first time this has ever happened to me in my career!  Will and I spent yesterday just putzing around the house — I had my nose in the first Game of Thrones book almost all day, and he had some other projects he was working on. We also made sure to get outside and enjoy the storm as well, I find something so exciting about the anticipation of a big storm like this. We went out to shovel and took a walk around the neighborhood — although I’m not sure trudging through 2 feet of unshoveled/unplowed snow can be called a walk!

Steph Snow

Here I am with our buried Prius! 

Anyway, lets get to it.

Workouts Lately

My training sessions lately have been really awesome overall. I am finally getting my deadlift groove back! Since I wasn’t lifting for most of the fall due to injury, I took these first few weeks of January to really groove some of my big lifts, just working on movement patterns and keeping the loads relatively low. This past Monday though, I maxed out my deadlift so that I could have specific numbers to train with. If you missed it on Instagram, there was good news and bad news that came with this lift.

Steph Deadlift

The bad news? I am currently 20 lb away from my previous max of 235. The good news? I’m ONLY 20 lb away from my previous max, despite months of race training and being injured. 215 isn’t my best, but I’ll take it. I know I’ll get back to 235 in no time, and I’m really pushing for 250 lb this year. Can I do it? Only time (and the barbell) will tell!

Besides deadlifts, I haven’t really pushed my other lifts too far yet. I’ve been working a lot with push ups and pull ups for upper body, doing a lot of kettle bell work, and really just working on squat mechanics. I’ve been doing a lot of front squats, single leg work, and more dynamic metabolic work as well, and I’ve been feeling really great! I’ve also been spending a ton of time lately really just working on hip mobility, trying to totally get rid of any butt-wink before I get back to squatting near my max range.

That means I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym lately like this, which has gotten some funny looks…

hip mobility

Food Lately

Again, some of these have already been posted on Instagram, so some of you may have seen a few of these before.

Most weekends, Saturday is our date night and we try to go out to different restaurants each week. We do have a few that we’ve repeated, but with so many awesome restaurants around Boston, it’s easy to go to new places frequently. A couple weekends ago, we tried out a new asian-fusion place in Chinatown called Shojo, a hip little joint with killer cocktails and “small” shared plates. (They say small, we ordered 5 for two people and had way too much food!).

This was one of my favorites of the night — the Kimchi Fried Rice. I’d go back just to have this again!

Shojo Kimchi Rice

Last weekend, during the first snowstorm of the week, we were both craving burgers. We ended up going to one of our favorite burger places in town, Lineage in Coolidge Corner. Their burgers are simple but so, so good. And it’s one place where the bun truly adds a lot to the burger, their bread is some of the best I’ve ever had, hands down.

Lineage Burger

Last weekend also brought a trip down to the South End, where we tried out the brand new Blackbird Doughnuts and stopped into the new (gigantic) Whole Foods for lunch.

Blackbird Doughnuts

Lemon Coconut.. Yummmmm 

Whole Foods Salmon

Made to order Salmon Veggie Rice bowl from Whole Foods 

I’ve also had a few random food finds lately. I have been on a hunt for unsweetened granola, because I love having a little crunch on my yogurt in the mornings. It was proving to be impossible, at least at the stores close to us, and I can’t even find my favorite Renola at most places. I recently found this though, and it’s exactly what I was looking for. Finally, a granola that’s not a total sugar bomb!

New England Naturals Granola

New England Naturals Berry Coconut Granola 

I’ve also been looking for a tasty sauce lately that isn’t soy based. When I prep lunches for the week, a lot of times I’ll make plain pulled chicken with rice, and try to find new sauces and flavorings to switch it up so that I’m not eating the exact same thing over and over again. The trouble is, most pre-made sauces are full of sugar and many are soy based (either with soy sauce, tamari, or soybean oil). I found this gem at Whole Foods last weekend and am hooked — I even had everyone at work drooling with how good it smells!

Cindys Kitchen

Cindy’s Kitchen Roasted Yellow Bell and Serrano Pepper Sauce

Life In General Lately

Life in general is… pretty great! Will and I are planning a west coast trip for the spring, I have another trip planned with coworkers for a conference (we’re road-tripping to St. Louis!), and we have a couple weddings coming up as well. I know that the spring is going to fly by, and honestly, that’s ok with me. As much as I loved the snow this weekend, I’m looking forward to warm weather again for sure.

One major thing I’m thinking about right now is going ahead with becoming a certified Wellness Coach. It’s going to be a little bit of an investment, both with time and money, but I think it will be helpful to me both in my existing career and in my long-term future. Have any of my readers gone through the Wellcoach certification program? What did you guys think about it? I have to make the decision quickly to enter into the class that I want, so stay tuned on this front.

The Worst Nutrition and Fitness Advice, And What To Try Instead

The internet and world of print are full of health and fitness “experts” who are trying to either sell your their latest product, or sell you on the latest trend that will change your life. There is a lot of really great information out there, but unfortunately, it can be hard to weed through all of the crap to find what you really need. Today let’s look at some of the worst (but widespread) pieces of health and fitness advice, and what you might want to try instead.

No Pain, No Gain– This is by far the worst piece of fitness advice that you can (try to) adhere to. True, when you first start working out, you will likely get sore. But if that soreness persists week in and week out, or causes you to limit activities in your daily life, here’s a news flash: You’re doing it wrong. At the very least, pain from working out is classified as DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. At it’s worst though, pain from working out can signal injury, something that can halt your progress all together. Progress with workouts is not measured by how sore you get or how much your trainer makes you cry. It’s about setting goals and systematically following a program to achieve them. I’m not sore at all after most of my workouts, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing the work. In fact, pain often leads to “no gain” due to inability to train. Doesn’t sound like good advice to me!

Try this instead: Train smarter and listen to your body. Learn to differentiate between muscle soreness and pain, and never try to “train through” an injury without giving it the proper care.  

You must work your muscles to failure. This kind of goes along with the above advice. Working muscles to failure can be a valuable part of training when it’s used in a very limited fashion. You should not be training to failure during every session, your muscles don’t need to “fail” in order to become stronger. In fact, if you do train to failure often, you are opening yourself up to a huge possibility of injury. Again, your workout shouldn’t take you backward, it should help to propel you forward.

Try this instead: Train with optimal loads and progressions, and take advantage of recovery time. 

Do “X” exercise to tone “Y” area! This is pretty much the mantra of every women’s fitness magazine out there. If you see “6 exercises for toned triceps!” or anything like it, do yourself a favor and skip over that article. You can not spot “tone” any specific area, in fact you can not actively “tone” your body at all. Do you want more visible definition? That comes from building muscle and decreasing body fat to reveal that muscle. There is no magic exercise that will “tone” any part of your body — humans are much  more complicated creatures than that.

Try this instead: Delete the word “toning” from your fitness vocabulary. Go for a whole body approach with both diet and exercise. 

Exercise in the morning before your brain figures out what it is doing. 

I know this is more hyperbole than actual advice, but still. It makes no sense, so why say it at all?

There are two reasons why this is horrible advice. First of all, you should work out whenever you want. Personally, I train much better and harder in the morning than the evening, so that’s when I choose to work out. But I know several people who are the opposite, and that’s ok too. Second, exercising before your “brain figures out what it is doing” is probably the worst idea when it comes to training. Your brain and your CNS have to be awake and warmed up in order for you to have an effective workout. Lifting without “waking up” your CNS first with a proper dynamic workout is asking for both a crappy workout and an injury. No bueno.

Try this instead: Always make time for a proper and thorough dynamic warmup before beginning any training session, and work out when it suits your body and lifestyle the best.  

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This one, like many other things related to nutrition and fitness, depends on the person. Some people don’t eat until noon and have beautiful results. Some people need to have breakfast or they end up binging all day. The point is, figure out what works for you and stick with it. Paleo folks telling you that you should be eating chicken and sweet potatoes for breakfast but you can’t quite stomach that idea? No big deal. Don’t get hungry for a meal until well after 11 or 12? That’s fine too if that’s what works for you. There is no magical time of day to eat, and there is no magical meal. Health is determined by the whole picture, not the existence (or not) of breakfast.

And don’t think you need to eat breakfast just to “rev” your metabolism for the day. Metabolism isn’t that finicky, and unless you under eat for a long period of time, you won’t change it. In fact, there are many people (including myself), who believe it can be good for people to go relatively short amounts of time without eating.

Try this instead: Eat mostly whole foods, eat when you’re hungry, experiment with nutrient timing to figure out what works best for you. 

Never eat carbs after 7 pm (or any other arbitrary evening time).  This is such an old piece of advice, but it seems like it will never die. Oprah Winfrey convinced America that carbs eaten after a certain time were exactly what was making us all so fat, and we ate it up (like a big bowl of carbs after dinner). In reality, there are many people that believe now that carbs consumed at night can enhance your fat loss (imagine that!). Plans like Carb Back Loading and Carb Nite Solution encourage carbs almost exclusively at night, and I have honestly seen some pretty impressive results with these. These kind of plans are not for everyone (I failed miserably), but there is something to be said about fueling your glycogen stores at night if you train in the morning. Carbs at night can help to fuel your next gym session, leading to better workouts and maybe more fat loss. So regardless of whether you follow CBL, let’s stop demonizing carbohydrates after sun down.

Another approach that can show great results is timing your carbs around workouts. This can be a little bit easier than CBL for the average person to stick to successfully, and for that I endorse it whole heartedly. If you happen to train at night, please don’t be afraid to try this because of Oprah Winfrey and her shenanigans. Nighttime carbs are just like any other carbs. They are not the enemy.

Try this instead:  Eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates, concentrating the majority of them around the times that you train*. 

*And when you do eat carbs outside of this timeframe, don’t allow that to become an added sources of stress in your life. Really, is it worth it?

Good Eats In Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

I know that people love looking at pictures of food, and trust me, I ate plenty of food while on our trip to Mexico last month! I promised you guys a post with some of the delicious things we ate, so here we go.

As I mentioned before, breakfast and lunch was always at the resort. Since we were staying at an all inclusive resort, we wanted to make the most of what we payed for. We did travel off of the resort several times, but during the day we generally had our meals there. One of the things I thought about going into the trip was whether I would get sick of the food, eating at the same places over and over again. Thankfully, the answer was no! I’m a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast, so that was no problem. And the main restaurant that we chose for lunch each day had so many options that getting tired of them would have taken a long time!

Another thing a lot of people worry about when eating at a resort like this is going overboard. It definitely takes a certain awareness to know your own food limits and not stuff yourself silly when you have endless options available to you at every meal. If you are someone who has problems with portion sizes and self control at meal time, a specific game plan might be a good idea when going into a situation like this. I knew that I would want to keep most of my breakfast and lunch options lighter, especially because I didn’t want to lie around the beach all day with a belly full of heavy food. Most of my “vacation indulgences” happened around dinner, with the exception of the drinks from the swim up bar at the pool, of course 🙂

Breakfast and Lunch:

I’m not a huge hot-breakfast person, so the choices here were easy for me. I generally had a bowl with plain yogurt, fruit and granola, with some bacon on the side. I don’t eat bacon every day in real life, but bacon every day on vacation? Yes please.

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Lunch was often a plate with bunch of random things in some form of a salad, often with grilled veggies on the side as well. Chips and guac somehow ended up on my lunch plate a lot, and once I discovered the chicken fajita station, it was all over. Basically for lunch I ate a lot of jicama, a lot of grilled veggies and grilled pineapple, and a lot of tortillas and chicken.

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Those chicken fajitas… So good and the perfect light but delicious lunch!

Dinner – At The Resort: 

Our dinners at the resort were all delicious! There were several different types of restaurants — Mexican (of course), Italian, Japanese, Indonesian, French, etc. We started the first night with the Mexican restaurant — exhausted and delirious from our travels, this was a wonderful and relaxing dinner. I didn’t get many pictures at the resort restaurants, partially because lighting wasn’t great for photos, and partially because I was just trying to enjoy everything, not worry about photos of food.

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Waiting for our table at dinner the first night… The only picture I took at that meal!

We also ended up having great dinners at the Japanese and French restaurants — and believe it or not, the French was probably the best dinner we had at the resort! It also happens to be the one I got the most pictures of. The food was beautiful as well as delicious, and believe me when I say we ordered a true 5-course meal here.

Frenchfood

Mushroom mousse on a crostini, stuffed sea shells, french onion soup, and filet with potatoes. 

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And of course we finished this meal with a flaming dessert! (Baked Alaska)

Off The Resort – 

Even though we were staying at an all-inclusive resort, and could have truly had 100% of our vacation food and drink paid for, we wanted to go into town to have some authentic, local Mexican food. We went into Playa Del Carmen 3 separate times, always coming back stuffed and happy!

The first time we went into town, our food mission was tacos. When in Mexico, right? But we didn’t want some americanized tacos that we could get at home, we wanted some true, authentic Mexican tacos. We decided to go away from the super touristy area in order to really get an authentic food experience. We ended up at a little street-side place called El Fogon, and we knew we were at exactly the type of place we wanted when there was no English on the menu — or anywhere for that matter! I ended up getting a delicious Sangria, along with 2 chorizo and one pork taco.

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That’s the pork that was being roasted by the brick oven fire behind it– YUM! 

The great thing about tacos there is that they are not covered in all sorts of things to create different flavors, they really let the meat speak for itself. There were no extras needed — no lettuce, sour cream, etc. All I put on these was a little bit of extra salsa, and they were absolutely amazing.

A couple nights later, we went back into town with the goal of getting dinner at a small Venezuelan restaurant, Kaxapa Factory, for some Arepas (we both love arepas). We ended up making a pit stop before dinner at a small restaurant/bar called La Perla for a drink, but when we saw Roasted Grasshoppers on the menu, we couldn’t resist a “snack” before dinner.

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Mezcal… Mmmmmm 

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We ended ordering a bowl of the grasshoppers by themselves, which came served with cactus, and then a bowl of grasshoppers over guacamole with chips.

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I know, I know, the grasshoppers look pretty atrocious. And the first bite for me was pretty difficult to get over the mental aspect. But believe me when I say that first bite was amazing! They really are just a tangy, salty, crunchy snack — and mixed in with the guac they were even better. We ended up eating all of both bowls of grasshoppers, plus the complimentary bowl of chips and salsa that we got at the bar. Oops, so much for just a snack!

Honestly though, the grasshoppers were so good we even ended going back a second night to get more of them! We also ate a full dinner there on the second night, which was just as delicious. Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos of our meal the second night because it was just too dark in there. It did include more grasshoppers, stuffed chiles, squash blossoms, and some other new-to-us foods!

We did finally end up making it to the Venezuelan restaurant after we left Perla and the grasshoppers on the first night. The food here was great too, although by that point, we were too full to enjoy it as much as we should have. We still wanted to try a few things, and the waitress and her father, who owned the place, were just delightful. It was so hard to say no when they kept trying to feed us more food! Hence the reason why we both ended up over-stuffed and uncomfortable that night, but for all that amazing food, I’d say it was worth it.

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Arepa con pollo and queso (chicken and cheese). If you’ve never tried Arepas before — put them on your list! 

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This was very good too and I wish I remember what it was called. It was basically a “sandwich” where the “bread” was made out of mashed plantains. We were so full, but had I been hungry I would have been all over this! 

Overall, the food in Playa del Carmen was wonderful. I was so happy that we got to try some authentic Mexican food off the resort, and I was also happy to be able to try some very new-to-me foods! One of my favorite things (besides the grasshoppers of course) was a little snack we bought while walking in town one day. It was called a Rollito, and was basically a very lightly sweet, airy dough formed into cylinder, and coated with cinnamon sugar or coconut. We chose coconut of course! This thing was so good — especially when eaten alongside some cappuccinos.

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Readers: What’s the best “strange” food you’ve eaten on vacation? Have you ever had roasted grasshoppers — do you think you could try them? Are you an adventurous eater when you are in a new culture, or do you stick to your favorites?