Generally, when a client is trying to lose weight, the question “How many calories per day should I eat?” will come up. The answer really depends upon a number of factors, including body size, desired body size, activity level, gender and body condition. That being said, it is generally accepted that one should not dip below approximately 1,200 calories per day when trying to lose weight.
Why? Anything less than 1,200 calories is so restrictive that it becomes quite difficult to get all the nutrients one needs in a day.
Why else? Anything less than 1,200 calories is so restrictive that it is difficult to adhere to and likely to result in failure.
Why else? Anything less than 1,200 calories is below the average person’s daily resting metabolism and will tend to lead to significant muscle weight loss in addition to water and fat loss. While you may hope to be long and lean, I doubt “skinny fat” is the look you’re going for...
Last week I had the privilege of trying, for 2 days, the NIM Diet (Nutrition in Motion). The NIM Diet is a daily diet delivery service currently available in Montreal, Toronto and the ROO (rest of Ontario... ha ha... just kidding - if you're Canadian, you'll know that Torontonians think we're the center of the universe). But seriously, they deliver throughout Ontario.
I got to experience what approximately 1,200 calories actually feels like. Ordinarily, 1,200 calories would be far too few for me on a daily basis, even while trying to lose weight (remember those factors we discussed in the beginning – activity level, body size, body condition, etc.). But for 2 days I was on a diet! I stuck to it as best I could – adding a pickle here and a glass of milk there to round out my pickle and calcium needs, but generally sticking with the prescribed diet.
So what did I get for about 1,200 calories? More than I expected!
Breakfast: spinach & cheese omelette
Snack: Terra Chips (about a handful)
Lunch: salad with chicken, red peppers & southwest dressing
Snack: curried chickpea & eggplant roll-ups
Dinner: steak, corn & coleslaw
Dessert: two whole wheat chocolate chip cookies
Breakfast: cheese frittata
Snack: roasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (about ¼ cup)
Lunch: hearty beef soup
Snack: turkey, hummus & lettuce roll-ups
Dinner: lemon chicken breast & roasted root vegetables
Dessert: flourless chocolate cake
Pretty good, right? I was a bit sceptical of the freshness level and flavours I would experience (or not experience) on a prepared diet... but the lettuce was green and crisp, the steak was a nice medium-rare, the cookies were crunchy... it really did taste fresh.
And who can complain about fresh food showing up at your door each morning AND calculated to total a certain number of calories which will almost definitely cause you to lose weight if you:
(a) Stick with the plan.
(b) Exercise so any weight lost is fat, not muscle, and does not pile back on when you resume eating a higher number of calories after losing your desired amount of weight.
I have had clients and friends who have enjoyed great success with meal plans like those of Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and the like. If you are pressed for time and good at doing as you’re told, a home-delivered diet might be the ticket to your weight loss goals. Along with a healthy dose of exercise 3-6 days per week, of course...
When I unpacked my food on the first day, Sweaty Hubby was impressed at the quantity and quality. It truly defied the definition, “diet food.” But the price tag, at $34-36 per person per day, is certainly out of the realms of budget reality for our household. If you already eat out 1-2 meals per day plus spend money on lattes, bottles of water and other consumables, you might easily swallow the NIM Diet price tag and save yourself some money wasted on that next diet pill you were thinking of trying...
As for me, I enjoyed my 2 days of pampering, but I’m back to a bit more than 1,200 calories per day now. There's no room on a 1,200 calorie/day diet for wine.
Well, in case you missed it, I'm on a 3-day juice cleanse.
Partly because I'm a bit of a masochist (that comes with the job, folks... jump squats, anyone?) and partly because I'm interested to feel for myself whether the advertised benefits of such a cleanse are really true. I'm suspecting they're not, but I might be a bit of a cynic. Eleven years in the fitness industry has wizened me to fitness & nutritional "programs" and "systems" with big promises. They usually don't deliver.
But I thought, since I always say that I don't believe cleanses are necessary, maybe I should see for myself it they actually work.
The jury is still out.
I'm halfway through Day 2. It seems the "cleansing" portion of the program has begun as I've been to the washroom more in the last 10 hours than my preschooler, who is motivated by a delicious Tic Tac at the end of each pee-in-the-toilet-wipe-flush-wash-your-hands triumph!
I would just about push her out of the way to get that Tic Tac.
I. am. hungry.
So here's what I've learned about myself and about hunger and appetite in the last 36 hours. It's taken me until this morning to fully realize this truth:
In my regular day-to-day life, I am almost never really hungry.
Take a minute and think about it... what was the last thing you ate? Were you actually hungry? I mean, were you actually hungry?
Not, could you eat?
Not, were you peckish?
Not, did you have a craving?
Not, were you bored?
Not, did you have an appetite?
Not, was it meal time?
I've realized that so many times in a day, I mindlessly put food into my mouth. In the last 36 hours, each time I've thrown out my kids' leftovers, handed my hubby a snack, prepared something for someone to eat, driven past a Starbucks (I love you and miss you, Starbucks, and I will be back very soon for a lot of coffee, delivered intravenously if possible.), I've realized how easy it is to eat or drink just for the sake of it.
So I'm not sure if my body is being cleansed. But I think maybe my mind is...
Have you ever tried a cleanse or fast? What results were you hoping for? What results did you get? Would you do it again?
A few weeks ago, I was approached by Rebecca Malen of Total Cleanse to sample a 3-day juice cleanse delivery service. That's her below, featured in a Toronto Star article last fall.
I like to eat, so I didn't reply for a couple of weeks. Plus, I get my fair share of offers and need to weigh each one (pardon the pun) to be sure I can fairly judge.
The more I thought about Rebecca's offer, the more interested I became.
If you are a follower of my blog (here or at www.fitfamily.ca) or know me, you'll know that I don't advocate or endorse the use of supplements, cleanses, fasts or other nutritional "programs" in general. There are a couple of reasons:
1. I'm not a registered dietitian. I am a personal trainer and my scope of practise is limited to exercise, motivation and common-sense nutrition.
2. I believe they feed easily into the patterns of disordered eating that plague many women and can encourage/help sustain eating disorders, extreme dieting & a negative relationship with food, despite their purported or actual health benefits. This doesn't mean they don't work. Let me clarify: I am not saying that cleanses, fasts & supplements do not work. I am saying I steer clear of them with clients and when advising people because they can be easily abused.
3. I don't use them and never have....
... until now!
While examining my feelings about cleanses since Total Cleanse approached me, I realized one major flaw in my ability to counsel. I have never tried one myself. I can't speak to their effectiveness from personal experience. And I believe wholeheartedly that the only place a personal trainer/coach/advisor can really, truly speak from is experience.
So I'm on Day 1 of my 3-Day Juice Cleanse. Aside from hot water with lemon, I am consuming nothing but 6 freshly pressed vegetable-fruit juices per day. The juices arrived at my door sometime last night - one soft cooler pack per day. Each bottle is numbered so I know which order to drink them in.
I'm happy to report: they taste like juice! Actually, they're quite good. They taste nothing like that juice from concentrate our mothers used to put on the breakfast table. There are tiny little chunks to remind me that these juices come from actual solid foods.
And since those chunks are the closest I'm going to get to solid food in the next 72 hours, I'll take it!
I'm just part of the way through Day 1 but so far I've learned:
I am a coffee JUNKIE. My eyes will barely stay open despite the fact I got close to 8 hours last night of uninterrupted sleep with an eye mask on and a cool breeze blowing in the window.
I like to chew.
I use coffee, tea, gum and food to keep me busy because I am a "workaholic" who needs to have something going on at every waking moment. Stripped of my crutches, I'm finding myself more introspective and a little bit antsy, to be honest.
Have you ever tried a cleanse or fast? Why? Did you get the results you were hoping for? Would you/did you do it again?