As a runner you probably don’t consider the calories your eating or worry about your portion size very much. I certainly do not. Training for a marathon leaves me hungry almost every 2 hours. I’m not a big junk food eater and generally stick to healthy snacks, fruits and vegetables. I love my sweets but try to limit myself to one sweet treat per day. I do not drink multiple cups of coffee per day or have a soda habit. I like my water. The habit I do succumb to is large portion sizes. I probably do not need a full plate of food at dinner or a large bowl of pasta but I’m hungry and training for a marathon so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that runner’s underestimate how many calories we are consuming by about 20% and as much as 50% after a tough workout according to the article, Size Matters on Runner’s World. I was shocked, but then I stopped and considered the meal I ate last night after a 4 mile tempo run. Turn’s out, I’m one of these runners. Luckily the article gave some insight as to some of the reasons why this may be happening. I considered each of these and came up with some ideas to prevent myself from doing that.
Labels and Portions- Restaurants often give us two to three servings per plate, and the meal at one restaurant is often more than our daily calorie count. I’ve read in numerous magazines that you should request that they package half of your dinner to go and only serve you the other half. I’ve never done this but if you are actively trying to lose weight it’s a great idea. You can eat your whole plate, not feel bad and have leftovers for lunch! Additionally labels are deceiving, one package may say that a serving size is about 16 potato chips where as another may say 14 potato chips is a serving. Our labeling does not account for caloric density so there is no easy way to compare options of similar foods. Furthermore if we buy an economy size bag of chips we believe we can eat more chips in one serving just due to the size of the packaging. I often pack crackers for lunch, I actually count out how many I put in the zip-lock bag so I know I’m only getting one serving. I need to take this one step further and only put one serving of cheese and one serving of crackers on a plate while I am relaxing at home or making dinner and want a snack. When it’s gone it’s gone and I won’t spoil my dinner.
Overeating External Factors- In a perfect world we would eat just enough to feel satisfied and then stop but today we deal with numerous external factors. This article talks about how low-lighting makes us eat more. I’ve read in other places that cool temperatures also makes us eat more. Also our dining companions can impact how much we eat. If you go out with a friend who orders a salad and water you are much less likely to order a steak and potatoes dinner with a cocktail. Also the more people you dine with, the more likely you are to eat more during that meal. My suggestion is to get those who you regularly dine with to join you in trying to cut back on portion sizes. If you all are trying to work on portion control you’ll be less likely to give in and order that second appetizer for the table. Many of us have heard before that reading or watching television while we eat will cause us to eat more. When you’re at work give yourself 15 minutes to turn away from the computer and sit and eat, even better go to the cafeteria or another location away from your desk and enjoy your lunch. If you live alone use dinner time as an opportunity to relax, listen to some music or just enjoy the peace and quiet while you eat. If you live with someone or a family its a great opportunity for some uninterrupted time to converse and talk about your days. Have you ever considered that the size of your plate or the serving spoon in that tray of lasagna may impact your serving size? Large plates and utensils tend to encourage us to fill our plates more and take a bigger scoop of food. Try putting the healthier parts of your meal in a bigger serving dish and serving your dessert on smaller plates.
Calorie Count and Exercise- Do you know what your recommended calorie count is based on your age, height, weight and activity level is? I certainly do not, but encourage all of you to take a look and find out what yours is. Knowing this number may help you rethink eating one of those brownies your coworkers brought in. Also consider how many calories you burn during exercise. The important number in this is your net calorie count. I’d never really thought about this but it makes sense. If you burn 500 calories on your run but would have only burned 125 calories in that time relaxing and watching television your net energy count is 375 calories. And consider that you may burn 3,000 calories during your 20 mile run but if you lay around all day you’re not burning nearly as many calories if you were to do a 10 mile run but spend the day doing errands or another physical activity. If your running to lose weight this is certainly worth considering. A food and exercise journal would be best for someone who is running to lose weight. This way you will be able to accurate count of your calorie intake and exercise. For those who just monitor their weight you may want to think about what your eating versus what your burning. If you eliminate one snack per day you may find that losing a couple of pounds will be easier than you thought.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to food. Even if you take away two things from this article and my input you may find you drop a pound or two pretty easily. I know plenty of runners who would like to drop that final 5 pounds, wouldn’t it be great to do that without dieting? Join me in giving these tips a try to see what happens!