Melba Toast and a butterfly wing

Several times this week I have talked to people that I am working on their fitness goals with and time and time again the story is the same – people have been trying to lose weight but starving or becoming vegan with no education on how to do it.

A client mentioned an old saying last week and made me laugh, but it’s true – “You cannot get healthy living on melba toast and a butterfly wing.” Okay, I know that nobody really eats a butterfly wing, that’s what makes the statement funny, but follow along.

One lady in particular recently talked about how big her lunch was because in addition to a small piece of protein like chicken or beef she ate two cups of spinach. Excellent! Spinach is really good for you but I am afraid two cups of spinach is just 24 calories (butterfly wing). It’s wonderful, but you cannot live on it.

I spoke to another lady a while back who works out relentlessly but eats very, very little. Yes, she is quite lean but cannot sustain muscle and is getting weaker and weaker. Ladies, if you have lost your period and have low energy and cannot maintain your weight; you are starving to death. You need to eat. You won’t get bulky, you will get healthy.

Another gentleman went on a crash diet that had him getting vitamin injections each day and living on 900 calories a day or less (and we are talking about a big fella). He lost a huge amount of weight in around three to four months. Then started eating normally again and gained it all back, plus a bit. He has done this four times now.

Folks, I have said this so many times I actually worry you will stop listening, but maybe, just maybe, someone who needs to is reading this.

Your body (just like a car) requires a certain amount of fuel each day to run. When you wake up in the morning your fuel tank is empty, so you have to eat breakfast before you go anywhere (period, not optional). Then all day as you move along you need to fuel enough to support that movement. If you don’t, you starve and the body gets rid of muscle and stores fat, that’s just how it works. Starving has not, nor will it ever, make anyone fit, healthy or even lean. It makes you weak and skinny and as soon as you eat normally again, you gain fat, not muscle.

Yes, if you eat too much you get more overweight, that is the balancing act.

For this article though, I want to talk about eating enough to sustain your healthy body. Getting a body composition analysis will let your trainer tell you what your BMR is – your Basal Metabolic Rate or plainly how many calories you burn at rest. From there, a meal plan can be designed and it doesn’t need to be complex, but it needs to allow for your basic fuelling needs so that you can live a healthy, energetic life!

If you have decided to become a vegan or similar that’s fine, that’s your choice but understand something – regardless of your diet, you must get your macro nutrients in to be healthy. Macro nutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Many vegans get rid of protein and live off fat and carbs. That’s ok for a while, but eventually it leads to illness. You need to learn how to get creative and get protein in you from a variety of sources like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, etc. It’s complicated and time consuming and a lot harder but not impossible.

For the rest of you lot chicken, beef, dairy, seafood, etc., are some of your additional protein options to keep you lean and fit and healthy.

If you really like Melba Toast and a butterfly wing, fine. Add some butter, some chicken, a big piece of fruit or a plate of chunky vegetables. Now we are talking!

If you want to be fit, lean and healthy you need to eat enough to support your body (more than melba toast and a butterfly wing). It’s not optional. Anything less will create problems with hormones, energy and the length of your life. I see this as good news – you have permission to eat well.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.