“More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.”
-John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society
The weather’s warming and we are beginning to attack our health habits with that same “Spring Cleaning” attitude as the rest of our Winter worn homes. This is awesome. To this end, I’ve been asked what simple steps a person can take to drop some pounds. I’m still getting used to people asking me about that (see a future article on embracing a new personal identity) but I’m surprised at the passion that I’ve stoked around something that I call Adaptive Eating.
Adaptive Eating, as part of Adaptive Living, is a practice of mindfully adjusting your eating habits to your world or your world to your eating habits with personal health as the goal. It is a practice because it is, in essence, never over and always fluid; adapting to your changing life. The goal; personal health, never changes but you will adapt your method will over time. This is the essence of successful Adaptive Living.
Through Adaptive Living you can learn to swap out that which holds you back and drop so much more than just the pounds which weigh you down. For life.
First a Good Stretch
“The one way to get thin is to re-establish a purpose in life.”
-Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave
Take a look at the image here. You have three zones, Comfort, Stretch and Stress, though some call this zone “Panic”—which I find a little too exaggerated but surely evocative. We tend to naturally settle into the comfort zone of everything. In some aspects of life that’s easiest and just fine. No one really needs to “stretch” their wardrobe choices or bathroom practices every day. The constant small and gradual effort of Adaptive Living requires a way to measure it that takes into account the value of longevity over a “burst and burn out” mentality.
Think of your efforts as lifting a weight or running a race. You want to be able to consistently build, so exert some effort, but not hurt yourself or most important, burn yourself out. Adaptive Eating is for life; therefore making small steps that you can maintain is vital. Long term Adaptive Living builds confidence and continued Adaptive Living.
Therefore, take one or two ideas from the list below and work them into your daily life. When you get them down, add a few more or some of your own. Praise successful adaptation and be eager to add more, but always be mindful to keep stretching—feeling yourself needing to exert some effort—but never stressing yourself. The world is always waiting to welcome you back to the comfort zone with a cushy couch and bag of chips; you must always have some energy left for the fight to come.
We Love Food
“To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to
make a body want to go and do that very thing.”
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876
Adaptive Living is never giving up what you love; it is prioritizing and balancing your loves, not glutting on them. Adaptive Eating prioritizes what you love about food while adapting the calories involved in having it. We swap out food items. Again, do this as a stretch. Some of these ideas involve the miracles of food science or synthetics which some people find too much of a stretch. Go at your own pace.
The simplest and most powerful swaps are in oil, cream or sugar. Oil can have more than 100 calories in a tablespoon and 100 calories can go a long way toward helping you be full, but a tablespoon of anything will not. Ditching oil means a quick drop in calories that I find unnecessary to my love of food because I still get to love the taste and function of oil. Cream and sugar are both similar to oil in that they are rich in calories, but low in volume. The fewer calories you put into them, the more food you can put in your belly for the same cost, thus, the less calories you’ll eat in a day to be even more well fed. It’s a win! Here are some suggestions for oil, cream and sugar swaps in each of our three zones. Remember, if you find that some of these Comfort Zone swaps are already a part of your life, or that the Stretch Zone swaps are not a stretch, then just move up in effort and praise yourself for already being more adaptive than you thought.
Non-Stick Sprays of olive oil or butter flavor are a pretty much 1:1 swap for butter or oil in the pan. Wanna stretch a little bit? Try spraying the Olive Oil spray on salad with some Balsamic for a nearly zero calorie oil and vinegar blend!
Hot Sauce and Flavored Vinegars are items that if you already love them, there’s very little stretch involved. If you don’t, I’d just encourage you to play. Try many mild hot sauces or exotic vinegars—they’re both calorie and cost cheap, so there’s no reason to avoid splurging. If you find ones that increase your love of the food you eat and decrease the calorie cost by giving it more bang, pleasure or a feeling of exotic indulgence, it’s worth the adventure.
I enjoy the process of finding a pump-style butter spray for use on toast, bread, waffles, potatoes; whatever. The cool part is that by not spending the calories of butter on those items, I’ve already reduced my calorie intake, keeping waffles and potatoes on my personal love menu. If you’re interested, I prefer the Olivio pump-butter but the Parkay is okay. Avoid the Omega 3 brands if you want it to taste most like butter.
For a peanut butter freak like me, PB2 is awesome. Picture this: One peanut oil factory worker asks another “So, what do we do with the dust after we extract the oil?” Light bulb! PB2 is simply powdered peanuts, salt and roasting agents. That’s it. Add water (or maybe some butter spray) and you have anything from an all natural peanut butter, to a peanut sauce for Thai to a topping on ice cream for 22.5 calories a tablespoon! What?! Why are there not parties in the streets and altars in its honor? Salt and sweeten to taste.
I’ll balance many things, but touch my morning coffee and I just may punch you in the face. However, if it’s not a stress zone item for you yet, try swapping out your Cream and Sugar.
There are at least 10 different sugar alternatives on the market. Anything from powders like all natural Stevia (My favorite is Truvia), Splenda or Equal to syrups like Agave or Monk Fruit, Sugar Free Coffee Syrup or simply honey. Some cautions: Do research and personal trials of any powder. Some may give you belly or headaches. Also, you will always need less of a sugar swap as the amount of sugar to achieve the same sweetness.
For Cream that’s a dream, try both powdered creamer and the liquid creamer cup varieties. Be mindful of the calories involved in some of the flavored ones (since there’s no point in swapping for something of equal or even higher calorie) but aside from that, have fun with it. Land o’ Lakes Mini Moos are my favorite, but there’s more every day. You can turn your coffee into a coffee house experience, or be nutty like me and grow comfortable adding powdered or liquid creamer to mashed potatoes or sauces just like cream.
From Swapping to Dropping
“When we lose twenty pounds…we may be
losing the twenty best pounds we have…that contain
our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty!”
Yes, I was asked about dropping pounds, and oh yes, the stretching swaps above will help you mindfully drop pounds. But the weight is secondary. The most important thing to drop in our Adaptive Life is anything that is hurtful to you.
Drop the hurtful inner-voice. Do you say “No” in a loving or unloving way? A loving “no” is one that you agree with, that you gave yourself as a healthy boundary, such as “no more unbalanced eating.” That doesn’t mean “no more chips, Fatty!” That means, love it, balance it and leave the guilt, the self-downing and the years of being told that you were a bad person for loving any food product behind you.
Drop the feeling of being weak or punished. There is no “I can’t” in Adaptive Living. There’s no “I can’t eat that” because there’s an “I don’t choose to eat more than X calories of that…” which is more loving to ourselves. There’s no “I can’t do that” because there’s “that’s a stress zone thing for me, I love my stretch right now, but I may get to that one day.”
Drop the heavy history. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have a “heavy history” full of weight struggles. You have my permission to drop those pounds right now. We’ll wait…Really, let go of the years of failure or the moments of success in fear of the first uptick on the scale…breathe and release it all. Adaptive Living is future-focused. We use our trials and mistakes as guidance for the next, stronger step forward. Drop. The. History.
See? You’ve already dropped a few pounds where it counts most.