My husband and I went on a 3-week holiday to Houston, Texas and Costa Rica. We saw many things and had a great time with friends and family.
Although we did not deprive ourselves of the foods we love, we both leaned out. Note that I specifically chose “leaned out” instead of “lost weight”. In my book, and in our specific case, losing weight could mean a loss of muscle mass and an increase in body fat.
I see losing muscle mass as something like removing a Ferrari’s motor and replacing it with a Fiat 500’s. The car loses power. It may look impressive for a while but eventually you will see that it isn’t going anywhere fast.
Without getting into too much detail, simply see your muscle mass as your body’s fat burning motor: the bigger the engine, the bigger the capacity. So if you replace the motor with a smaller version (i.e. you lose your muscle mass), you won’t be burning as much as you used to.
So how on earth did we lean out during our holidays? Sounds like a feat? Well it wasn’t really. This is what I did:
We ate good foods
We had plenty of sleep
While in the USA, most of our breakfasts were eaten at our family’s home. Remco and I found the nearest WholeFoods where we bought eggs, veggies and blueberries. This became our breakfast staple. In Costa Rica we relied mostly on restaurants.
Breakfast at a restaurant usually included avocados, bacon, eggs and a cup of tea. Once we went to a place called Texas Grill, and did I ever dive into those sausages? I did stay clear of the sauces (no idea what they were made of), beans, rice and other staple foods that do not fit into my diet. Result? I was fuller for longer, did not get bloated and had no sugar cravings.
Lunch and dinner
When in The Netherlands we eat mostly at home. I value knowing what is in my food, and I like my organic meats, fruits and veggies. When we do go out, we make a big deal of it and indulge. Yes, I will get an entrée, a main course and a dessert.
While on holidays, I did not indulge in a 3-course meal each time. When we did, the whole thing looked like this:
Salmon salad with olives, olive oil and some lemon juice (no croutons, cheese, or sauce, please) or perhaps some Carpaccio. I always make sure to include some protein and fat.
You may wonder why I do not dive into the bread basket. Well, for two reasons: first, wheat and I do not go together well. Ever since I stopped eating it, any tiny bit I consume causes me a major stomach ache. Second, I have since learned that wheat has anti-nutrients, that it irritates my gut, making it very difficult for my body to absorb vitamins and minerals. Bread doesn’t sound that appealing now, does it?
Always a big piece of protein, loads of vegetables and good fats.
Protein: anything that once had a face. You know: cows, ostriches (yeah, I am an African), fish, chicken, etc.
Veggies: pretty much anything that tickled my fancy.
The fats I ate depended on the meal I chose. Coconut milk if I selected a curry, olive oil, or even a good old avocado. While in Costa Rica I made it a habit of eating one avocado per meal (yes, I said one whole avocado per meal). Fats and protein keep me satiated for a long time. This means I can enjoy my holidays and do not have to worry about the next snack every 2 to 3 hours.
I like fresh mint tea, but unfortunately it isn’t’ available everywhere. I also love chocolate and would on occasion indulge on some truffles or 85% chocolate that I had bought at Whole Foods. Have I mentioned that I love that store? Seriously, I am like a kid in a candy store, eh, well… without the high and lows of a sugar crash.
Most meals were simply a one-course meal that left me satisfied. I drank water most of the time. Why? Because I never learned how to drink in my early years (going out, getting wasted and having to be up for a training session didn’t go hand in hand). I do believe that if you like wine, then by any means enjoy a good glass of red wine.
In Costa Rica, I did enjoy my share of fruit. I did not go overboard because I found that eating too much fruit left me cranky (holy sugar crash), hungry and that it awakened my sugar cravings. Since I wasn’t interested in waking the sugar dragon, spiking up my insulin levels and consequently gaining weight, I ate small amounts of these tropical treats.
Life tends to be hectic. Or maybe I should just cut the bull and say that I have been guilty of not planning things well, of taking way too much work on, training too much and sleeping too little. “Run Forrest, run! “
All of these “lovely” ingredients contributed to my adrenal fatigue. Complete system failure. I had high cortisol levels and a tentative small muffin top to show for it.
Poor Cortisol, it gets a bad rep when in fact this hormone is also responsible, among others, for controlling inflammation. In my case, constant periods of stress (yes, exercise falls under that category too) led to a lowering of my testosterone and growth hormone levels (yes, women have them too!). This led to a break down of my muscle mass, slowed my metabolism and added the dreaded extra adipose tissue. EEEEKKK!
So I have changed my ways. I was already sleeping more, reduced the amount of exercise drastically, and started saying no.
During our holidays I slept until I woke up. No alarm clock. I spent a great deal of time in the sun and at the beach, I read several books and enjoyed the company of friends and family. Not having to be anywhere or do anything. . .bliss, just bliss.
I also decided to take time off of exercising. In fact, I took a 32-day sabbatical. No exercise whatsoever. That was new and scary! I was still somehow stuck to the idea that you have to exercise not to gain weight. Guess what? Not only did I not gain weight, I lost body fat!
I sleep much better and I feel rested for the first time in ages.
This was my formula: good foods and sleep. I avoided foods that spike up insulin levels (bread, pasta, potatoes, juices, loads of fruit, sugar, dairy) and opted for proteins, veggies and good fats. I slept a great deal and relaxed for the first time in ages. It really was that simple.
Does this mean we did not indulge? Yes, of course we did. We joined my family on their Christmas meal. Half of the family being Angolan, it mean that we were served Bacalhau com Natas, a very typical Portuguese dish with cod fish, heavy cream and fries, among other ingredients. I grew up with this recipe and the smell alone brings me good memories. So what the heck? I dove in, enjoyed and dealt with the bloated belly later.