So, I might have lied to you about how much weight I’ve lost. You see, I keep saying that I’ve lost 60 pounds, but as of this morning it is actually 61. If you had asked me three days ago, however, it was actually 58. The human body is always changing, and even though I’ve been roughly the same weight for about three months, the actual number on the scale goes up and down quite often, usually a swing of about two pounds up or down. Sometimes this has to do with what time of the month it is, sometimes it has to do with me being more busy than usual and sometimes it seems to be for absolutely no reason at all. Sometimes, though, it has to do with what I’ve been eating.
A couple of months ago I told you about how I use portion control to allow me to eat all those yummy things I get to eat every day. The other big tool that I use all the time is compensation. In the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano talks about this a lot. No one eats all healthy food all the time. Even if I had the willpower, that is not something I would want to do, I like my treats way too much! Everyone should be able to go out to a nice dinner and just be able to enjoy their food without counting calories or watching their carbs. Plus, there will always be times that you will “mess up” or “cheat” on your diet. There will be PMS, there will be hard days when you need just a little extra chocolate, there will be birthday cakes and Thanksgiving and Friday night dates where you will want to splurge a little and get fancy. But how do you do that without feeling guilty, and without gaining weight?
There are right ways and wrong ways to compensate when you are talking about losing or maintaining weight. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way quickly, shall we?
First, you should never think about using exercise as compensation for food. You’ve done it before, right? I can eat three extra brownies today, I’ll just work out a little extra tomorrow. Sound familiar? The problem is that it just plain doesn’t work. Exercise is good and is essential to being a strong, healthy person, but the amount of calories you burn during exercise really isn’t as much as you think. It could take you an extra half hour to an hour of exercise to burn off just one brownie, so what happens if you eat three? People say it all the time and it’s so true, you simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet, it’s not possible.
Second, starving yourself is bad! Studies have shown that those who skip breakfast to try to lose weight actually end up weighing more than those who eat a good breakfast. If you allow yourself to get to hungry, you will probably make up for it later by eating more than you would have otherwise. There are also bad things that happen in your body’s chemistry when you don’t eat. I could go on and on about why starving yourself is bad, but I’m just going to tell you that it is. If there is enough interest into the whys, then maybe that can be a blog post (or two) for later.
Ok, on to the good stuff! So how do you compensate the right way? The trick is to find some really good food that you love, and that happens to be extra healthy and good for you. Let me give you some examples. My usual compensatory breakfast is a smoothie, you can find my favorite recipes here.
For lunch, I have discovered a new favorite that I eat all the time even if I haven’t been overindulgent lately because I just think it’s yummy! I simply top a salad with two poached eggs, and use the runny yolks as dressing. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the eggs and you’re golden.
Most salad dressings have raw egg yolks in them anyway, why not skip all that yucky processing and go right for the good stuff?
Another one of my favorite lunches is a big bowl of freshly made hummus with tons of veggies to dip in it; carrots, peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower, basically whatever veggies we have around. My favorite hummus recipe is here. It’s surprising how filling this can be! And the best part is that my girls love it, too, there is no faster way to see a whole bunch of fresh veggies disappear into their bellies than to give them some hummus to dip it in.
Soup is the perfect compensatory lunch or dinner. You want to stay away from the creamy ones unless you are indulging a bit, but chicken noodle, chicken and rice, Vietnamese pho, butternut squash, are all wonderful, and I could go on and on with all the delicious kinds out there. Soup is filling and yummy, and an excellent way to get in a lot of veggies. Soup also is easy to make and freezes well, so you can always have some at hand.
And that brings me to perhaps the best way to compensate. Eat more! If I tell myself that I’m starving myself to lose weight, I get miserable. If I tell myself that I can eat as many fruits and veggies as I want, then I never feel deprived! If I get hungry, I eat, it’s that simple! I just make sure I have plenty of fruits and veggies that I like hanging around so that I’m not reaching for the other stuff.
The foods I use to compensate are not going to work for everyone, everyone needs to find their own foods. They have to be delicious and healthy, something that you won’t feel deprived eating.
I’m always looking for more ideas, so what are your favorite healthy meals that you can use on compensation days?