Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dieting Without Deprivation

As I indicated in the previous post on cardio, I am not an advocate of extreme low calorie diets. But the sad fact is, if you're a fairly lean 115 pounds and trying to even leaner, it's highly likely that you'll have to limit your calorie intake to somewhere between 1200 and 1500 calories per day on average even if you're quite active.

That's not a lot of calories. Occasional--or more than occasional--hunger is just about a given when you're eating this little, and hunger pangs are not much fun. Cravings too can be a problem, since when you're eating very little you really need to make sure that just about everything that goes into your mouth is on the nutritional A-list if you want to stay as healthy and keep having decent workouts. When all of a sudden you can't have that single piece of bacon from your partner's plate or that late-night-straight-from-the-carton spoonful of peanut butter cup ice cream, it can make dieting an agony.

Or not, depending on your frame of mind.

I have two main mental strategies for keeping myself on track. The first is to remind myself over and over again that I am not some sort of uniquely unfortunate, metabolically-cursed individual who has to work much harder than others to get that last bit of undesired body fat off. Losing the last few pounds is hard for everyone, and in fact I probably have an easier time of it than most women my age so really I have absolutely no business feeling sorry for myself. I'm just doing what needs to be done, nothing more or less.

The second is to cultivate a sense of abundance by trying nutritious new foods and preparation methods. Instead of thinking about the delicious foods that for now I can't have, I try to focus on all the yummy ones I can, and all the different ways I can serve them. I would honestly rather have a Cajun-spiced oven-baked sweet potato stick than a fast-food French fry. (Of course that probably makes me a weirdo, but nevermind.) Sushi is off limits for now because of the white rice, but I can still have sashimi at my favorite Japanese restaurant, or seared ahi tuna on a bed of greens with wasabi vinaigrette. I can have all kinds of vinegars and spices and mustards so my food is as flavorful as I like (which is very.) I can have most vegetables and quite a few fruits--apples, berries, melon, grapefruit, apricots, peaches and anything else that's lower on the glycemic index. I can have nuts and nut butters in moderation although most of my fat needs to come from fish oil and flaxseed. I can have poultry, fish, even red meat if I want it (which I never do but that's just me). For now low-fat dairy products are okay although I might need to reassess if the fat stops coming off. I can have oatmeal and brown rice and beans and winter squashes of all kinds, and I can have sweet potatoes and yams. I can broil and bake and roast and grill and saute and steam ... and I do :) I love to cook and that definitely helps because I don't mind putting in the preparation time. Chopping vegetables can be very meditative, at least until the chef's knife gets too close to your fingertips.

It's all a question of how you look at it.