There has been a lot of talk about calories needed to sustain life and activity levels. I have a friend who is a nutritionist and decided to quiz her a bit on the subject.
“All calorie guidelines are just that – guidelines,” she said. “Heredity, activity level, height, body build and age all need to be taken into consideration.”
“As we age, our caloric needs go down. Our activity level is usually less, too.”
All of this makes perfect sense to me. I’m out of peasant stock, northern European farmers – easy keepers. Centuries of subsistence living, wars, famines, plagues, etc. culled the hard keepers out. My grandmother was 4’9″ and about 90 lbs. She was a fiery little one, always moving and keeping everyone fed. My mom made it to 4’11’, not that she is that tall now, and also full of energy. Off the farm and better nutrition in the ’50s and ’60s and all of her children are taller than her and much heavier. But she still fed us like we were working on the farm.
So, mom is eating between 500 and 800 calories a day, very active for a lady her age – still drives a 4 WD truck and goes out to the farm everyday – and is just about right at 100 lbs. or less. And her hobby is cooking! She is a taster rather than an eater, but she loves to feed other people.
I’m 20 years younger, 6 inches taller, walking 1 to 2 miles a day on the treadmill, fairly homestead bound and eating about 1,500 calories a day and maintaining 25 to 30 lbs that I don’t need. According to the guidelines, I should be losing weight.
I know why I gained the weight. After the strokes and car accident I was basically bedridden for a while in recovery, but didn’t adjust my eating habits. And as I’ve aged, I’ve seen a definite shift of weight toward the middle of my body – thickening, yup. Normal as you age, but uncomfortable. I’m not alone. I look around at other men and women my age and they too are thickening and most have put on a few extra pounds.
So, what do I do?
Both Bob and I have noticed that we no longer have the desire to eat large portions. We can share a steak or even a meal out and feel plenty full. When we do go out to dinner, which doesn’t happen often, we now order one entree with two plates and maybe an appetizer for variety, or split a dessert. Even at the drive thru a $1 cheeseburger is plenty filling and I can’t eat a whole Big Mac in one sitting. And I always ask for a glass of water instead of a pop.
The old chef’s adage is “You eat with your eyes first”. With that in mind, I do try to make anything I serve appetizing, but I have been switching to smaller plates and bowls too. The old Fire King ware of the ’50s is about perfect, but hard to find at a reasonable price anymore. New salad plates actually make wonderful dinner plates. And small, colorful bowls are perfect for my morning breakfast packet of maple brown sugar oatmeal.
In fact, I am now using my old dinner plates as serving platters for just the two of us.
I’m also not prone toward spicy foods anymore, but I am using a lot more spices to dress up the smaller portions to have more taste and variety. Plus, what is a garnish of a dash of parsley on a bowl of tomato soup worth – not much, but it sure makes the soup look more appetizing.
And then there is soup, even as a first course to fill you up before the main meal. On New Year’s Day I shared that I would like to lose some weight. Carmen shared the all you can eat soup diet. She lost six pounds in one week – sounded great to me! So I immediately started the diet and was pretty faithful to it for a week. I felt full and satisfied and “lighter”. There is so much variety with soup that I didn’t get bored at all, but I only lost two pounds.
These dry soup mixes are “just add water” and make a half gallon each!
Above is a collection of dry soups from my pantry. These are very, very good tasting. The tortilla one is more like bean with bacon soup. ALL are thick and hearty. They could easily be thinned to 3/4 of a gallon and be more soup-like than stew-like. They aren’t cheap at $3-$4 a package, but perfect for a survival pantry and just to have on hand if guests appear unexpectedly. Add contents to boiling water and you have a meal to feed 4-8 people (depending on serving size) in less than 30 minutes!
So what does that tell me? That I would probably maintain a healthy weight and feel satisfied on a Survival Soup diet. Soup can be made from almost anything that you have available, from garden vegetables, to potatoes, to almost any meat or fish. And soup is absolutely perfect for the beans and rice we all have put up. Lots of seasonings for flavor and soups can and freeze well.
Soups and stews can easily be made over a one burner camping stove, over a fire, or in a crockpot – my personal favorite. You can eat until you are full, no need to worry about portion sizes, and feed a lot more people with what may only feed two or three with the ingredients fixed other ways. And it is easy.
And then there are the people who just don’t have an appetite and start losing weight as they age. Whether over weight or under weight, 6 small meals a day may be a way for you to get the appropriate amount of calories needed for proper weight maintenance. One tip my nutritionist friend did give me, “Forget Ensure and just by SlimFast – less expensive and it does the same thing if you look at the can.”
I sometimes wonder if we have forgotten the basics with all of our new knowledge. I occasionally wonder if going back to what worked for generations would not be more healthful and satisfying than chips, cookies, cakes, and drive thru “Would you like to super size that?”