How a Bread Eater Stays Thin :: Knowing YOU

I’ve always been active. I grew up on a block with thirty kids, mostly boys, and spent my afternoons climbing trees, playing kick ball, throwing frisbees and jumping from rooftops. I’ve always been a mover, and I know this gives me a big advantage over some other “types,” like my book-reader son, who can sit in a corner chair for hours, even days, without so much as walking across the house. (We boot him out of the chair from time to time to make sure he stays alive!) I’m sure my natural tendency to move has helped me stay trim over the years.

I think it’s safe to say: Knowing yourself, knowing your body is a great help to staying thin.  (And goodness knows, there are all sorts of thin! Your doctor–not visions of you being a print model– is the one who should point you in the direction of your optimum weight.) Knowing how to balance your life between how active you are, how much food you need to consume, and how much sleep helps you recover and remain healthy is harder than it used to be. Food is so blessedly plentiful in this age, but that means we need more self control than ever. Last year I thought it’d be interesting to actually test myself and quantify that balance. I signed up for an online health application that helped get me started, then over two weeks I catalogued every single thing I ate and recorded the activity of my daily life.

The application asked me all sorts of questions. My age, my weight, my goals, etc… I popped that app onto my phone to make sure I didn’t miss one thing that passed my lips. The app told me that in order to maintain my weight, no gaining or losing, at my activity level, I should be eating just a tad over 1500 calories each day. Wow. Not much.

I also utilized another program that helped calculate calories from my own recipes. This was a great tool that gave me real data, showing the difference between a simple rosemary roll (110 calories per slice), and how many more calories are in that delicious pumpkin bread (256 calories) that I like to make!

I embarked on the two weeks and here’s what I learned.

  • I shouldn’t eat chips and salsa for lunch quite so often :). The calories in chips add up way too quickly!
  • We eat fairly well, thanks to my husband and his lean meat/lots of veggies formula. It’s good that my cupboard is often bare of bread.
  • Herbal tea after dinner is the best. No second glasses of wine, no soda, no fruit juices or other drinkable calories when I’ve already eaten a days’ fill.
  • Good fat and protein help me eat less in the long run.
  • Don’t ever buy potato chips. I will eat them.
  • Even a short walk during the day is better than no walk at all.
  • I should keep up my five minute strength training that I do every other day. Push ups, knee bends, sit ups. All good! 🙂
  • Just because I’m thin, and active, doesn’t mean I still don’t have things to change.

At 1500 calories a day over those two weeks I lost weight. I figure the program simply doesn’t know that I run to the mailbox instead of walk–or that I have a John Ronan in the house. Even if I didn’t match up exactly to how they thought I should eat, it allowed me to see, in black and white words, exactly what I put into my body and how I spend my days. It was revealing.

Not only have I always been active, but I also lived in Europe for a string of years when I was young and impressionable. Folks in France, Italy and Switzerland, the three countries I was blessed to be in, truly don’t have a problem with obesity. They love to eat well, but they’ve learned over the centuries how to balance their love of food with the desire to be healthy, vital, and active. French Women Don’t Get Fat, a book written several years ago now, speaks to the cultural differences between French and American eaters. I enjoyed and learned from that book, and if you’ve struggled with weight loss, it might give you a new view of food that could help you turn a corner…

And the Japanese have much to teach us. My husband talks now and again of their 80% full principle. “Eat like a crane,” they say.

But I think the best models of eating come from the church. In the Orthodox Church we fast from meat and dairy almost half of the year. There is a consistent reminder to fill our minds and hearts with prayer, and not stuff our bellies full of food. I love this recent post on fasting from my friend, Katherine. And this article by Rita Madden, a program director for wellness, makes some very practical suggestions on eating and living well. Ms Madden also has a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio titled Food, Faith and Fasting. You can listen and/or download all of her podcasts that touch on various aspects of healthful eating (such as Sacred Eating, Managing Stress, Seasonal Fasting, and The Temptation to Misuse Food). I recommend starting with the first podcast Eating in a Spiritually Minded Manner, and listening to them in order.

So, that’s about ALL I have to say on this subject. From making changes in our home life and living at a slower tempo, to being watchful of how much bread is in our cupboard, to balancing my life between work, food, and activities… I am not an expert at all of this, but I pray some of these thoughts have been helpful.

Sending you all love., and now, back to the bread kneading board!