Energy Zen—The Top Ten (Cont.)

Jan 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

6. Eat Foods That Take Up Space
Any effective food plan has to leave you satisfied. The good news is that studies in satiety—the science of dietary satisfaction—show that we subconsciously determine if we've eaten enough based on the volume and weight, rather than the tastiness, nutritional content, or caloric count, of what we eat. In a 1998 Penn State study conducted by nutritionist Barbara Rolls, subjects eating foods of differing density until satisfaction repeatedly chose to eat the same amount of food by weight or volume, not by calories. The group eating a vegetable casserole ate the same amount as a group eating a calorically denser pasta casserole. Thus, the second group ended up consuming more calories to arrive at the same level of satisfaction. "In the past, the approach to diet has been focused on balancing fat, carbohydrates, and protein," says Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan. "But now we know that water and fiber, which control a food's weight and volume, have a much bigger impact on the amount of calories you take in." Rolls's tips: Avoid foods that are calorie-dense. These include all the usual suspects (fats and sweets), and some not-so-obvious ones like bagels and dried fruits. Don't cut them out completely, but know how they affect you. And meanwhile, eat more foods with high levels of water and fiber, including raw vegetables, whole grains, water-based soups, and whole wheat al dente pasta.

7. Understand the GI
The glycemic index, or GI, was originally developed for diabetics—it ranks foods on a scale of 100 by how quickly a given carbohydrate is converted to blood glucose. The higher the number, the faster the carb becomes blood sugar. Foods with a high GI rating rush sugar into your bloodstream and initiate an excessive insulin response wherein more carbohydrate is stored as fat, and you feel less easily satisfied and hungrier sooner. While some nutritionists debate the usefulness of the GI, many agree that unless you have just finished a hard workout, at which time a high GI carbohydrate is great for recovery, high-glycemic foods are simply too potent—like filling your Zippo with enriched uranium instead of lighter fluid. As a general rule, when at rest, seek out foods with a GI rating below 80. The University of Sydney's GI Web page ( has more information on how the index works and includes a database listing the GIs of most foods. For staples, pasta is fine if it is cooked al dente. Rice is okay if it is of the parboiled (Indian, or non-sticky) variety. Be careful: Most non-whole-grain breads rank high, as do many popular breakfast cereals. See our chart below for more substitutes. 8. Separate Your Social Life from Your Stomach
In a perfect world, meetings, gatherings with friends, and dinners out would jibe perfectly with your new six-meals-per-day schedule. In the real world, meetings delay lunch by hours, that nice couple next door pushes dinner back to 8 o'clock, and your favorite restaurant doesn't have a reservation until 9 p.m. Nutritionists call what happens next the what-the-hell effect: Having decided that we've blown our plan already, we subsequently abandon all good habits for the remainder of the meal. "You're running up against the psychology of going out," says Karas. "In the old days it was a treat, a time to break the rules, and so people are still treating it as 'special time,' off the books, when in fact we eat out more than ever." If your week includes a lot of special time, approach meal dates as social events. Eat before you go out, and at restaurants try sharing an entrée, since upscale establishments tend to serve large, decadent meals, not rice and beans.

9. Eat a Variety of Foods (the Truest Cliché)
Energy intake is jacked up by palatability, that is, the tastiness of foods. Being predisposed to nosh scrumptious items like sweets, meats, and deep-dish pizza is another attribute left over from our Cro-Magnon days, when hoarding fats was important for species survival. But some of the most nutritious foods taste terrible at first. In fact, studies have shown that it is the very bitterness of phytochemicals in low-density foods like brussels sprouts and spinach that signal their cancer-fighting properties. The good news is that you can develop a taste for a variety of textures and flavors—just like you did with beer and coffee—thereby consuming less fat and calories and more nutritional variety. Every time you go to the grocery store make a point of buying foods like vegetables, fruits, and fish that you haven't tried before. Drawing a blank? Try spending a greater proportion of your budget in the bright, leafy outer aisles where the whole foods are, rather than the dark, tempting inner aisles where the processed foods and microwave dinners hold sway.

10. Believe in the Existential Payoffs of Balanced Energy
When it comes to energy balance, good habits beget healthy metabolism, lean muscle mass, and less body fat. Rapid weight loss inevitably means lost muscle tissue and subsequent metabolic slowdown. Putting weight back on gives you a higher percentage of body fat than when you started losing weight. For all these reasons, change is necessary, and should be permanent. Fortunately, these ten principles are lifelong goals, not an entrance exam, and if you can adhere to just a few of them over time, the subject of weight will no longer be an enigma. Not only that, but by keeping your energy supply stable throughout the day, you'll be less grouchy at four o'clock, less susceptible to cravings, and less at the mercy of the runaway schedule of your life.

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