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12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 9 – Are You a Closet Eater?

December 19, 2016 0 Comments

(This is Part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

Nutrition is a tricky subject. It’s not as simple as black and white and there’s a whole lot of gray where everyone can call themselves an expert. They don’t eat this because of what some “guru” spouted. They won’t eat that because they “read” that it’s bad based almost solely on pseudo-science. They steer clear of this because that’s what some best-selling book is preaching to all who will listen. But it doesn’t nor should it be that way. Who’s to blame and what needs to be done? The answer is simple. To blame is anyone and everyone whose sole purpose is to make moolah and a mockery out of people who are emotionally vulnerable when it comes to their waistlines or vanity. What can be done? Stop all the madness right now and truly understand that what you think you know about nutrition is most likely failing you.

Enter The Closet Eater

Not as the name implies, a closet eater is simply the individual that goes around boasting their supposed good nutritional knowledge, puts up the front that they’re a healthy eater, but in reality does more harm to themselves nutritionally and most times rather unintentionally. They feel good about the healthy things they eat, like salads, yogurts, green tea, organic products, etc. They’re proud of their avoidance of snacks like chips, pretzels, cookies, etc. and think that qualifies them as a healthy eater. What they quickly forget are the days they don’t eat for hours on end and the sometimes resulting binge eating that most likely occurs; the alcoholic beverages they drink throughout the week. They will never be caught in public being made to eat their words so to speak, but they’re nibbling on this and that behind closed doors all the while justifying they deserve a little treat because they’ve exercised or ate good all day. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that everyone is allowed to treat themselves from time to time and that exercise is not a free pass to eat whatever you want when you want. But let’s be real – none of this would be such an issue if we clearly understood nutrition and how it works for our bodies, not what we assume how it works for us based on propaganda.

Denying What We Know

Don’t eat carbs because carbs make you fat. Don’t eat fat because it will make you fat. Don’t eat too much protein because it will shut down your kidneys…and too much will make you fat. The only correct statement in that block is that too much – too much of anything can make you fat. Why? Because food has energy, better known as calories. Take in too many calories, you gain weight. It doesn’t matter where they come from. Utilize and burn those calories, you have a better chance of not gaining weight. But it’s not that simple and this is where some of the confusion begins. A calorie is simply a measure of how much heat (energy) is needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1° C. In laymen’s terms, low calorie foods produce almost no heat (energy) while higher calorie foods produce a lot of heat (energy). Low calorie foods may not produce a lot of energy but their energy contribution might not always be what’s lacking. For example, 100 calories of cookies brings the heat but no other value nutritionally whereas 100 calories of an apple brings the same level of energy BUT do to its nutritional package delivery (fiber, minerals, vitamins, water, etc.) winds up with a net loss in calorie punch, otherwise known as the thermic effect of food, or the energy cost of breaking food down for the body to use. The same is true with high calorie foods. 100 calories from a handful of nuts or an ounce or two of a beef filet has more bang for the buck nutritional value and a higher thermic effect of food then say 100 calories of French fries. What about blood sugars and its effect on insulin and the storing of body fat? All very true and important to understand, but if you don’t respect the simplicity of the energy balance equation, you enter into an endless cycle of moving from one crazy diet plan or gimmick to the next, each one telling you to eat this, not that and thinking the next best one is going to be the Holy Grail solution to a lifelong problem. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Not Always As Healthy As You Think

Today you can buy or have a whole meal without so much as lifting a finger. Drive up food; packaged packs to go; food to nuke or simply reheat. I really don’t think it will be that long before we can just add water to a capsule and BOOM! Voila dinner! Whatever the mode, you are left as the consumer to decide which is best for you based on deceptive marketing terms like organic, gluten free, whole grain, heart healthy, steel cut, artisan, etc. etc. etc. The government has even created a Food Pyramid or the most recent Healthy Plate to tell you what you need to eat not based on what’s healthy for you, but what the food industry would like you to think you need to eat. It’s enough to leave you scratching your head, confused, and frustrated about what in the world are you supposed to eat.

Successful Steps to Righting Your Nutritional Ship

  1. Forget everything you thought you knew about nutrition. Easier said than done I know but an absolutely necessary step. Unless you have a PhD in nutritional sciences, your knowledge of nutrition has come only from what you’ve read (mostly propaganda), what’s been passed down to you from others (where did they get their knowledge from?), or what’s been suggested to you by your doctor. (Note: as an exercise science student, I’ve had more nutritional science coursework than most MD programs.)
  2. Eat REAL food! Just about everything we eat has some level of processing to it, unless of course you live off of the farm that you cultivate. But if it comes in a box or wrapper and was once a real food converted to this packaged product, let that be the first clue to just how healthy is this food.
  3. Eat you fruits and vegetables. You cannot ever eat too much. #1 You’d be too full. #2 You never hear about anyone who gained too much weight from eating abundance of fruits and vegetables. (Note: Simply being labeled a vegetarian does not mean you eat nutritionally balanced.)
  4. Sugar is bad. Plain and simple, sugar is everywhere. Enjoy it where it naturally exists, not where it is added. Eliminate it or drastically decrease it and you will see a positive change.
  5. P-o-r-t-i-o-n control. If you and I were to go to dinner and order the same entrée, we’d both be delivered the same portion. Clearly, that’s not acceptable and you wouldn’t or shouldn’t do the same thing at home. Be mindful and aware of how much you’re taking in.
  6. Calories count, but… There’s always room for whatever you really enjoy but it all has to add up. Want a glass of wine with dinner? Sure. That’s approximately 110 – 300 calories per glass. Dessert? Why not? Does it all fit in?
  7. Focus on quality, not quantity. Good, nutritious food doesn’t necessarily need to be served in large quantities for chances are it will provide a greater level of satiety without an over surplus of calories. On the other hand, large quantities of food like those served on a buffet do not generally equate to healthy or nutritious.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better


Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods
Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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