When you sit down to have a meal, portion control is key. Portion control is important for weight management, loss, and controlling your calorie intake. Having portion control is not over eating or under eating, you eat until you are satisfied. In the end portion control results in a healthier and more balanced way of eating.
We are all busy people with things like school, work, family, friends, significant others and on top of trying to stay in shape and get to the gym. With that said it’s not everyday you will have the time to use measuring cups, pack and prepare food so I wanted to give you some good tips on how to portion control without the scale.
* Deck of cards= 3-4oz. of chicken
* A fist size= 1 serving of pasta, rice, cereal, beans
* Hockey puck= 1 small bagel
* Tip of your thumb= 1 tablespoon of salad dressing and oils
* Cupped hand= 1oz. nuts
* Computer mouse= 1 small potato
* Baseball= 1 piece of fruit
* Coffee mug= 1 cup milk, almond, milk, yogurt
Other good tips are to use a smaller cup and plate. This helps to portion out how much food you serve yourself. Then when you serve yourself, sit down to eat and finish your meal you will most likely not get up for seconds. Portion control takes practice, but next time you want to go for seconds ask yourself this, “Am I still hungry or do I feel just right?
How do you know if you are at a healthy weight for your body? or what that might be?
You’ve seen the ads: “Lose 20 pounds in 30 days!,” “Eat whatever you want and lose weight.” If you haven’t already figured it out, fad diets and nutritional gimmicks are not the way to achieve a healthy weight and keep it for the long haul.
Running is a great calorie-burner–depending on your weight, you expend roughly 100 calories per mile–but many women start running to lose weight and get frustrated when the pounds don’t melt away. That’s because exercise alone doesn’t lead to successful weight loss. It’s better to aim for a lean, healthy body through a combination of fitness training and smart eating habits. Here’s the complete guide to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, without the gimmicks.
Find Your Healthy Weight
Before starting to lose weight, make sure you really need to. Dr. Carol Otis, author of The Athletic Women’s Survival Guide and a sports medicine physician, stresses there isn’t a perfect formula to determine a woman’s correct weight, because every body is so unique.
“No tables exist for listing the weight you should be, and there’s no specific number on the scale you should aim for,” she says. “Your age, height, hormonal status and the thickness of your bones, as well as your body type–factors that are genetically predetermined and not under your control–affect your weight, including the ease at which you lose body fat and build muscle.”
Be honest about what you hope losing weight will do for you. Don’t assume your performance will automatically improve, especially if your body fat is already at a reasonable level.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, no additional benefits to sport performance occur when body fat drops below 16 percent for women under age 55 (20 percent for those over 55), but health risks such as eating disorders, osteopenia and other health problems related to poor energy and nutrient intake increase.
Most female runners reach and maintain a leaner weight only after they develop a more positive body image. Disordered eating (erratic eating habits such as “forgetting” to eat, being compulsive about only eating nonfat foods or eliminating entire groups of foods) driven by body dissatisfaction is an indication you struggle with respecting your body.
A Ball State University and Arizona State University study found as many as 72 percent of female athletes do not eat enough to sustain them, taking in 1,500 calories or fewer when they likely need 2,700 to 3,000 calories a day.
“The scale is either a tool or a weapon,” says Emily Edison, a sports dietitian and certified fitness trainer in Seattle who works with the University of Washington’s NCAA women’s cross country team. “Use it, if at all, only as an occasional check, and not to measure self worth.”
To find the weight that’s healthiest for you, first assess your daily caloric needs. Based on your exercise level, the following formulas (for both women and men) give a ballpark estimate. The moderately active to very active range means you consistently train or work out at moderate or higher intensity five to six days per week. Most active females should use the lower-to-mid ranges:
Less active (20 to 30 minutes two to four times a week): Body weight in pounds x 13.5 to 15 calories = daily calories
Light to moderately active (45 to 60 minutes a day of purposeful moderate intensity exercise, most days of the week): Body weight in pounds x 16 to 20 calories = daily calories
Very active (60 to 120 minutes or more 5 to 6 days a week): Body weight x 21 to 25 calories = daily calories.
Whether you maintain, gain, or lose weight is a matter of energy balance. To lose a pound, you must create a deficit of 3,500 calories–by eating less, moving more or preferably, a combination of the two. Slashing 500 calories a day to lose a pound per week is too much for most female runners, who end up consuming too few of the nutrients needed for good health and performance. Trimming 200 to 300 calories a day is more realistic.
Make Your Calories Count
You have to eat in a way that allows you to train well both physically and mentally, says Edison. This type of diet, often referred to as high-performance eating, prepares your body for exercise without loading it down with unnecessary calories.
High-performance eating leaves you physically and mentally prepared to exercise, and it’s not just for elite athletes or those planning to run a marathon. It’s a common misperception that high-performance eating leads to weight gain, but it won’t if done properly.
It’s crucial to get balance and variety from a wide selection of foods. Figuring out exact percentages of carbohydrate, protein and fat isn’t necessary. In fact, even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has realized one-size-fits-all diets don’t work. Its 2005 dietary guidelines (available at mypyramid.gov) include 12 versions of the food pyramid, each slightly different, depending on a person’s age, sex and level of physical activity.
In general, you should aim to eat enough fruit, vegetable, protein and grain servings every day to fuel your active lifestyle. Female runners need at least two cups of fruit, three cups of vegetables, six ounces of grains (make at least three servings whole grains), three servings of dairy, six ounces of meat or the equivalent from beans/ eggs and soy foods, and a minimum of 25 to 30 grams of fat (five to six teaspoons) daily.
“Eating to fuel yourself adequately not only enhances your running performance,” says Edison, “it’s the best path to a leaner, stronger body.”
At every meal, eat lean protein-rich foods. Besides being nutritional powerhouses, foods like eggs, fish, poultry, lean red meat, beans or soy and low-fat dairy help sustain a steady blood sugar level, which decreases the desire to snack every hour or two.
Also include healthy fats like avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds and low-fat salad dressings as they help quell cravings that can spiral into binge eating. Eat fruits and vegetables daily to get the antioxidants you need to repair exercise-induced damage.
Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition researcher at Pennsylvania State University and the author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, found the nutrient density of the foods is key to feeling satisfied sooner. As a general guideline, the higher the moisture content of a given food, the lower its energy density.
In other words, you can eat more of it–a satisfying portion–for a very reasonable amount of calories. You’ll also feel fuller for longer after consuming it. Rolls found if you begin a meal with either a salad or soup, you’re more likely to consume fewer calories during the meal.
Use sports foods wisely–sports drinks, gels and energy bars serve a real purpose when used to supplement carbohydrate and energy needs; otherwise, skip them. It only takes 100 extra calories a day to gain 10 pounds in a year. That’s one high-calorie pre-run snack or bottle of sports drink you didn’t need.
Plan to eat every few hours during the day– three balanced meals and two to three snacks daily–and coordinate meals with your running schedule so you’re fueled before you go and to speed recovery afterward. Otherwise, losing weight healthfully and keeping it off is impossible.
And don’t forget to build in a few “fun” foods. We eat sweets, treats and salty snack foods because they taste good, not for their nutritional value. Allow yourself a few treats in moderation so you don’t binge.
“Eating too much pumpkin pie does not make someone a bad person,” says Edison. “So often, women feel guilty about their ‘mistakes’ with food and punish themselves, sometimes by vowing never again to eat the item. Unfortunately, this only sets you up for overdoing it again.”
Build Fitness and Muscle
In its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 60 to 90 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise most days of the week if you’re trying to lose weight. Running more miles (more minutes) per week is an option, of course, but the intensity of workouts is a key variable.
Fast-paced training such as tempo runs and interval workouts builds maximum fitness and burns more calories per minute than low-intensity running or walking. For example, a 10-minute-per-mile runner who improves her fitness and becomes capable of clicking off eight-minute miles for an hour will burn almost 150 calories more per hour of running.
Spending quality time in the weight room is also important, especially if you’re over the age of 30.
“Strength training balances your body, which reduces your risk for lower- body injuries, especially of hips and knees,” says Otis. But it also helps you lose weight: The average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and lose nearly four pounds of fat, according to studies by Wayne Westcott, Ph.D.
The bottom line is if you want to lose weight, combine healthy eating with daily exercise. But that doesn’t necessarily mean running every day–your body needs rest days to recover and repair. On days you don’t run, choose a cross-training exercise, such as swimming or stationary biking, which are non-weight-bearing exercises. Or simply walk your dog or go for a hike–the key is to keep moving.
Keep It Off
You’ll need an action plan to keep pounds off permanently. Edison reminds her clients that autopilot isn’t always the best strategy. “Continue to listen to your body,” she says, “and always keep plenty of fruit and vegetables on hand for easy snacking.”
Last but not least, maintain a consistent but varied activity schedule. “Even runners need variety,” says Edison. Remember: Whatever it took to lose the weight, keep it up.
Suzanne Girard Eberle, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Endurance Sports Nutrition-Second Edition, is a board-certified sports dietitian in Portland, Oregon. Find her at eatdrinkwin.com.
Most of us don’t stress about a bit of belly fat hanging over our waistbands during the winter—after all, damage control is just a body-shaping undergarment away. But now you’re headed to a place where not even Spanx can save you: the beach. The frustrating reality is that the midsection is one of the trickiest areas to tone. That’s why even women dedicated to regular exercise often can’t iron out their abs. Fortunately, with expert help, we’ve come up with the ultimate tummy—flattening plan. Not only is it super effective, but it’s likely loads easier than the agonizing ab workouts you’ve been putting yourself through.
Get Flat Abs
Rule #1 – Attack your hidden core muscles
Crunches target only superficial muscles, so they aren’t the most efficient way to work your abs. Hard fact: To burn one pound of fat, you have to do 250,000 crunches, according to researchers at the University of Virginia. That’s 100 crunches a day for seven years. Uh, no thanks.
Instead, you need to target the muscles that lie beneath the superficial ones: your transverse abdominis, multifidis, and internal obliques. Strengthening them pulls in your middle like a corset, keeping the area looking flat and toned. “Not only are these muscles weak in many women, but most of us don’t have a clue about how to engage them,” says celebrity trainer Valerie Waters, whose clients include Jennifer Garner and Elizabeth Berkley.
The core moves here target these “hidden” muscles. To practice engaging them, try this drill from Waters: Lie on your back and place your palms just below your navel. Exhale and allow your tummy to expand as far as you can, then focus on pulling your belly button toward your spine, drawing your abdomen toward the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Rule #2 – Move your butt
Your booty and your belly are unlikely partners in crime. Here’s why: Over time, sitting around too much renders your glutes practically useless and causes your hip flexors—the muscles that connect your hipbones to your legs—to become stiff. This couch-potato combo tilts your pelvis forward, which increases the arch in your back and puts stress on your spine. From a cosmetic standpoint, it pushes your abdomen out, making even a relatively flat stomach bulge. That means that to lose your gut, you’ve got to work your butt.
The glute bridge march and hip-thigh raise will help you get a stronger behind. Combat tight hip flexors with this stretch: In a lunge position, lower yourself so your back knee is resting on the floor. Push your hips forward, keeping your back upright, until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and repeat. Switch legs. You can increase the stretch by reaching your arms over your head.
Rule #3 – Eat flat-belly foods
You can’t see ab muscles if they’re buried under a layer of fat. Excavate them by following these easy dietary guidelines.
Pump up your protein intake Substituting meat, fish, dairy, and nuts for carbs can reduce the amount of fat around your middle. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada assessed the diets of 617 people and discovered that when they exchanged carbohydrates in favor of an equal amount of protein, they reduced overall belly fat.
Eliminate added sugar The average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar daily in the form of processed foods like soda, baked goods, breakfast cereals, fruit drinks, and even flavored yogurt. That’s about 325 empty calories every day. All that sugar increases insulin production, which slows your metabolism.
Don’t fear fat Research shows that diets containing more than 50 percent fat are just as effective for weight loss as those that are low in fat. “Fat is filling and adds flavor to your meals—both of which help you avoid feeling deprived, so you can stick to your diet,” says Alan Aragon, M.S., a nutritionist in the Los Angeles area. Eat foods rich in monounsaturated fats, such as olives, nuts, and avocados; research has even found that it’s OK to enjoy whole foods that contain saturated fat (including milk, cheese, and butter) in moderation.
Beat the bloat No matter how much ab fat you lose or muscle you tone, if you’re bloated, you won’t look (or feel!) your best in a bikini. Carbonated beverages, and even good-for-you foods such as beans and broccoli, can make your stomach swell. And keep your sodium intake in check: Nutritionists suggest you stay under 2,000 milligrams to avoid retaining excess water. (Most of us get closer to 5,000 a day.)
Rule #4 – Stop stressing
Your stock portfolio. Your in-laws. Your never-ending to-do list. We get it—life is hard. But anxiety can produce extra cortisol, a hormone that encourages the body to store fat, particularly in your belly. According to researchers at Yale University, your midsection is four times as likely as the rest of your body to store stress-induced fat. Help keep anxiety in check by taking little breaks from work every 90 minutes. “It’s almost like recalibrating your body—reminding you to breathe and relax,” Waters says.
Another way stress sabotages your abs: When tension runs high, we reach for fattening foods. To keep your hand out of the office candy jar, keep it out of reach. In one study, participants who had to walk six feet to reach the candy ate up to seven fewer chocolates per day than when the jar was conveniently located at their desk.
7 Ways to Eat Smart and Lose Weight
By Chrissy Wellington M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N., C.P.T
With fall right around the corner, how can you stay consistent in the months ahead and maintain your beach body?
The weight-loss industry confuses us on a daily basis. Many diets have been created and promoted that drastically differ from one another. These diets have gained popularity even with very little research to support their claims. Weight loss should be as simple as addition and subtraction. To lose weight, burn more calories, eat your vegetables and pass on the dessert. Yet, the component of weight loss we often forget is not necessarily the “what” we are eating, it’s the “how” we are eating.
The A-Z Diet study compared the Atkins (extremely low carbohydrate), Zone (low-carbohydrate, high protein), Ornish (very low fat), and USDA Guidelines/LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships and Nutrition) (high carbohydrate/moderate-low fat) diets for one year and results show that all dieters lost weight over the course of the yea. Yet Atkins seemed to hedge out the most weight lost. Theories about why this group lost just a little bit more are very clear: when these folks eliminated refined foods and sweetened beverages from their diet, they also eliminated empty calories.
The bottom line when it comes to weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. You can easily do that by shaving extra calories from food and beverages and increasing caloric burn through physical activity.
How much should I weigh?
A healthy weight is defined as the weight you would attain after a sustained period of time, (12-18 months). During this time you must eat the best that you can eat, and exercise to the best of your ability.
Take Care of Your Metabolism
Eating breakfast is a daily habit for “successful losers.” Insulin sensitivity is higher after eating breakfast. Insulin is a hormone released in response to eating. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the body responds to the hormone insulin. When you eat more earlier in the day, your total caloric intake throughout the day actually decreases. Wake up with protein. When consuming lean protein in the morning, don’t forget to add omega-3 rich eggs or egg whites; low-fat, organic dairy; lean and clean breakfast meats; as well as high protein, whole grains like steel cut oatmeal or quinoa.
Calories are the energy in food. Regardless of where they come from, the calories you eat are either converted to physical energy or stored as body fat. If you eat 100 calories a day more than your body needs, you will gain approximately 10 pounds in a year. About 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat. For a one pound weight loss, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in or cut 500 calories from your daily diet each day.
Choose satisfied over stuffed. The sizes of your portions affect how many calories you’re getting. Double the amount of food equals double the number of calories. Most Americans underestimate how much they’re eating, especially when dining out. Always plate your food. Eating out of the box or bag gives you no sense of what or how you are eating. Serve foods with measuring cups, or spoons to see how much you are actually eating. The average woman, with moderate daily exercise should be consuming approximately 3 to 4 oz. of lean protein per meal, half to 1 cup of whole grains per meal, and 1 to 2 cups of brightly colored fruits and vegetables per meal.
Fiber comes from plants, particularly legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods which are high in fiber are usually low in calories. More of these types of foods can be eaten without consuming too many calories. Fiber rich foods can be quite satisfying. They need a longer amount of time to break down. Fiber slows the rate of digestion helping us feel full longer. Aim for 25 to 50 grams of fiber rich foods daily. Be sure to balance the intake of the soluble and insoluble forms (i.e. fruits, vegetables and whole grains.)
Although snacks are part of a healthy diet, they can become a source of extra calories. Always keep moderation in mind. The goal for snacking is to limit snacks to 150 to 200 calories. Always include the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Always understand the ingredients, avoiding anything artificial or refined.
Small meals consumed approximately every three hours can contribute to stable blood sugars throughout the day. Choose treats that are high in fiber (5 grams or more per serving) such as, bean dips, fruits and vegetables with peanut butter or hummus, and low-fat dairy. Choose whole grains that have a low glycemic index and include a small amount of protein with them to keep your cravings in check.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 63 percent of American adults are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. When afternoon hits, most people are confusing fatigue with hunger. The trip to the vending machine is justified. These foods do make us feel better, because they quickly raise blood sugar due to the large amount of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation can elevate levels of ghrelin, which is our appetite-stimulating hormone, and lower levels of leptin, our appetite-suppressant hormone. As a result, we take in more calories throughout the day leading to ultimate weight gain.
The key to successful weight loss and improved overall health is making physical activity a part of your daily routine. The key to weight control is balancing your intake with expenditure. Exercise along with cutting calories helps to improve your weight loss. A 2011 JAMA article shows that approximately 150 to 200 minutes of exercise each week regardless of duration or intensity may result in weight loss.
10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
By Jaylin Allen
There are obvious things that can derail your diet and exercise plan. Over-eating, consuming too many calories via foods loaded with sugar, fat and carbohydrates, or skipping breakfast are certainly behaviors we know can contribute to struggles in your weight loss and fitness plan. But, there are hidden, unlikely culprits that can stagnate your healthy lifestyle.
1. “Health Foods”
Now, this sounds like an oxymoron. Since when have healthy foods caused problems in a diet? Well, since every major chain restaurant has adopted a “healthy foods menu” it has confused the average person trying to change his or her eating habits for the better. It’s easy to think that choosing a salad over a steak is the better option. However, when that salad is loaded with cheese, croutons, bacon, and heavy dressing, it can rival any high calorie food on the menu.
Instead: When choosing a salad option, choose to hold the dressing on the side and be sure that you don’t request all the trimmings that can easily take your low calorie food into high calorie, high fat territory.
2. Skipping Meals
Many people think that eating less over time is the way to lose weight. That’s only partially true. If you skip too many meals, over time your body begins to hold on to every calorie you consume. In short, your body begins to hoard and store the calories you put in because it is convinced that you may be going into starvation mode otherwise.
Instead: Eat more small meals throughout the day. Instead of one or two large meals, eat five or six small meals that consist mainly of fruits, veggies, and protein.
3. Being Cold
Admittedly, if you’re anemic you can’t help being a bit chilly most of the time. But, when you are chronically cold, you run the risk of wanting foods that are warm, soothing and hearty to help warm you. However, most of those hearty foods are also high in calories.
Instead: This is an easy fix. First, find the real reason for your constant cold condition. If you’re anemic, see if you need to supplement your iron intake. If that’s not the case, then layer up. Carry a sweater and make sure you dress for the weather. If you live in a colder climate, add a workout to your normal routine and eat more calories in the form of a high protein snack.
4. Not Getting Enough Sleep
When you don’t establish a regular sleeping pattern, your body is sent into a hormone wreck. Your leptin levels, which reduce appetite, are lowered and your ghrelin levels, which increase appetite, are raised. The result? Your lack of sleep contributes to overeating and indulging, when all you really need is more sleep.
Instead: Go to bed 30 to 45 minutes before you normally would and continue building more sleep into your nightly routine.
5. Eating Too Fast
Eating too fast is a major culprit in over-eating. Once you begin eating, you need at least 15 to 20 minutes to begin to process food and feel somewhat full. Scarfing down a meal in under six minutes may have been a great thing for frat guys to brag about in college, but it has no place in the food habits of the healthy.
Instead: Take time to savor your food and slow down. Be sure to enjoy a meal away from the computer or television to ensure you reasonably pace yourself.
And speaking of television and computers…
6. Munching In Front Of A Screen
Regardless if it’s a computer or television screen, when you are distracted by what’s being shown it’s easy to lose track of how much you are eating.
Instead: Sit at the dinner table and allot a decent amount of time (usually 30 minutes will do) for your meal.
7. Using Large Plates
Using large plates are a recipe for disaster on your diet. The problem with large plates is that most people feel the urge to fill those plates with food. Larger plates means larger portions and larger portions mean more calories and more chances to over-eat.
Instead: Use a medium to small size plate for all your meals. You’ll consume less calories and your eyes won’t notice the difference.
8. Scale Back
When you weigh yourself daily or worse, several times a day, you create an environment where you are constantly in turmoil over every fluctuation you see. While it is helpful to maintain your weight with some monitoring, constant monitoring is more harmful than helpful.
Instead: Set a day and time to weigh yourself and stick to it. Know that your weight will change throughout the day so weighing yourself at the same time weekly, will give you more accurate and comparable results.
Some people respond to stress by eating less and others respond by eating more. Either way, stress is a surefire derail to your healthy habits. Cortisol is raised when you’re stressed and that can lead your blood pressure and sugar levels to become out-of-whack. Once that happens, the chances of over-eating increase.
Instead: Indulge in things that help you relax. Reading, listening to soothing music and yoga are excellent ways to de-stress after a long day.
10. Your Friends
When you hang out with people, do you tend to eat more? Do you eat different types of foods? Monitor your eating habits when your environment changes and notice if you’re the type of person who’s eating habits change dramatically with the company that you keep.
Instead: Don’t turn into a recluse in order to keep to your diet. Do choose your foods wisely and, when possible, bring your own food to dinner parties—share your healthy and delicious dishes.
When you take all things into consideration, maintaining a life-long healthy lifestyle takes work. But, when you are mindful of all the big and seemingly small things that can take you off-track, you will be well on your way to coasting into a great, healthy lifestyle for years to come.
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Eat enough to Lose fat!
I see it all the time. . .
People (usually women) who think they should only eat 1200 calories in order to lose weight. After we have a session and I explain their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and calories needed to increase lean muscle (which will help them burn more fat), and they agree (after much convincing on my part) to increase their daily calories and they finally start losing weight!!!!!
Now let me explain: An occasional low calorie phase or cleanse or even a fast can be beneficial. But in the real world, it seems that when we try to stay below our BMR, we might be able to do it for a day or two, but then our body says, “Enough!” and we overindulge (sweets, chips, alcohol- pick your poison!). We feel bad about our inability to control ourselves and we swear to get back onto our 1200 calorie (or whatever ridiculously low number) diet. Most of the women I’ve seen this with also admit to having low energy and trying to keep up with their workouts, but let’s be honest- it’s hard to make it through the day, much less a workout, when you are not getting enough fuel!
Another thing: We really want to lose FAT, not “weight”. When you eat too low of calories on a regular basis, then overeat, your body uses muscle for fuel and preserves FAT. Talk about counterproductive!
So, how do you determine your daily caloric level? Start with your BMR. To determine your BMR, a simple estimation is to take your goal weight (be realistic, people) and multiply by 10 (just add a zero).
So, if your goals weight is 135, your BMR estimate is 1350 calories per day.
THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD ONLY EAT 1350 CALORIES PER DAY!
It means it’s your BASAL metabolic rate= the calories your body needs for a day AT REST.
You should add in calories for activity, exercise, etc. to reach the proper daily caloric goal for you.
Just this week, after her private session with me, B agreed to eat 1600 calories per day instead of 1200, and in just 3 days, she’s already lost 2 lbs.
You can’t fool Mother Nature.
Sleepiness makes fatty foods extra tempting
Jill Chen / Getty Images stock
Sleepyheads, please refrain from licking your monitor.
By Cari Nierenberg
Slacking off on shuteye could make it harder for you to resist high-calorie treats and fattening foods, new research found.
Feeling drowsier during the day because you didn’t catch enough ZZZs at night may make it easier for you to give in to temptation, suggests a preliminary study to be presented at the 2011 meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
In this small study of 12 healthy adults, ages 19 to 45, participants were shown photographs of low- or high-calorie foods over a four-minute period as images of their brains were scanned. Volunteers were told they would be given a memory test afterward to make them focus on the visuals.
Every few seconds new images would flash before participant’s eyes including such healthy fare as salads, fresh fish, an apple or orange. They also saw more enticing edibles from strawberry cheesecake and french fries to cheeseburgers and chocolate cake. As a control, researchers sprinkled in shots of trees, rocks, and flowers.
Volunteers also completed questionnaires about how drowsy they were during the day as well as their food likes and dislikes and typical eating habits.
Scientists found that “the sleepier you are, the less the prefrontal cortex — the inhibitory area of the brain — is activated when it’s shown high-calorie foods,” says William Killgore, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
In other words, if you’ve skimped on sleep, you’re less likely to put on the brakes when you’re around fattening foods. And you’re more likely to reach out and grab that bacon double cheeseburger or dig into a pint of Chunky Monkey.
In the research, participants were not chronically sleep-deprived. They had the usual tiredness that comes from staying up past their bedtime by an hour or two a night. Even this was strongly correlated with less activation in the inhibitory areas of the brain when shown calorie-rich foods.
When you don’t get the rest you need, “you might not have the ability to say no to that extra cookie or dessert,” points out Killgore, and you’re a little more likely to take in a few extra calories a day.
“Even subtle changes in sleep could be having larger effects in ways we hadn’t considered, such as appetite, body weight, and food choices,” explains Killgore. A little bit of sleep loss adds up and may influence your body shape.
“It’s entirely plausible that with less inhibitory control, you reach for less optimal foods, and this may lead to a lot more weight over a lifetime,” Killgore says.
And a fatigue-induced lack of inhibition can extend to behaviors beside eating. Other studies have suggested that being sleep deprived affects a person’s ability to plan and think ahead, and skews judgment when assessing risk.
When you’re tired during the day, are you more likely to go for junk food?
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