Monday, November 28, 2011

The Self Defeating Irony of Counting Calories

So there was this study where folks who had a simple task of holding seven digit set of numbers in their mind were significantly more likely to make high calorie food choices. Once you read the study, you'll see why it's a good idea to write down what you eat if you're counting calories instead of trying to hold the info in your head.

Researchers split graduate students into two groups..."One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad."

"Here's where the results get weird. The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Professor Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain — they were a "cognitive load" — making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation."

As it turns out, the rational part of our brain that says "GAH! Wait! Don't eat that piece of pizza! You've already had five slices!" gets distracted pretty easily. For example, if you hand it 7 digits to remember, it's too busy juggling those numbers around so the Id takes over and heads right for the chocolate cake.

Seven digits is enough to shut down the rational part of the brain that controls your impulses.

Now imagine you're on a diet that explicitly requires you to hold numbers in your counting calories. Seems pretty self defeating in light of this research, eh?

This is exactly why I've started writing down what I eat as soon as possible, either on paper or somewhere online. I want to get those numbers out of my head and recorded somewhere as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oh My Sweet-Sweet Beer, Why Must You Betray Me?

Eeeech....what a mess.

I had forgotten about leftovers and visiting family and beer. The beer, even the whiskey, tears right through the calories. I had anticipated doing great yesterday, dietwise, but I didn't. Nor did I do great on Thanksgiving. Nor did I do great the day before Thanksgiving. Three days in a row of adding to what I worked so hard to subtract.

Addition is so much easier. Especially when you're a fan of beer, like me. I do enjoy the beer. That's probably how I got into this big fat situation in the first place. Mmmm....beeer.....

But alas...I just need to keep reminding myself that beer and any alcoholic beverage is, by nature, horrible for the diet.

Basically one of those airplane sized bottles of hard liquor is a bit over 100 calories more or less depending on the type of booze. It's slightly larger than a "jigger" or a 1.5 oz shot. But those tiny things are a bit easier to envision if you've ever encountered one. They're tiny. But they pack about 120 calories.

There are those who are going to suggest that there are "diet friendly" booze choices: some say wine, some say low carb beer, some say hard liquor is the way to go, but hidden deep within any of these choices is the cold hard fact that pure alcohol is crazy-high in calories. And there's no getting around it. It's like saying there are "diet friendly" chocolate bars or "diet friendly" hollandaise sauce. It doesn't really exist. Not really.

Pure alcohol contains 150 calories per oz. If you're having trouble envisioning 1 oz, it's basically 2 tablespoons.

Incidentally, we're talking more calories than pure sugar:

Calories Per Tablespoon of sugar: 45
Calories Per Tablespoon of pure alcohol: 75

That's nuts.

So....**sigh**....moderation and all that. A hard concept during the holidays when playing Apples to Apples or Uno late into the night with family.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Day After Mean Thanksgiving Day.

Yesterday being Thanksgiving and all, I gave a lot of thanks. And by "Giving Thanks" I mean I "Crammed Food Into My Face." I gave thanks all afternoon and into the evening. I'm not exactly sure how much thanks I gave, but I know that at one point my tummy felt as hard as a rock, and not from my bulging abs (which I don't have) but from being crammed with turkey.

My brother and I sat around thinking up alternative names for Thanksgiving that more accurately reflected the nature of the holiday:

"ThanksFeasting Day"
"FoodEating Day"
"FatGiving Day"

FoodEating Day brought to you by Stove Top.

I don't regret a bit of it. I didn't even bother recording the food I ate into my usual calorie counter. I just ignored it. It's a single black void in my month long consistent streak of tracking every food item that goes into gut. And that's okay.

My first impulse today, being the day after Thanksgiving, was to have a day of fasting. But that seems a bit on the silly side. I'm trying to establish a routine, healthy eating habit that I can live with for the rest of my life. Not some Frankenstein diet hell bent on punishing myself for having a single day of gluttony.

So today I'm back to trying to establish a normal, healthy eating habit with sane portions. Sane portions is the key, I think. I'm trying to teach myself what sane portions are.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stick to Workouts You Like: Such As Attacking Things With an Axe

I hear it's important to find an exercise plan that you actually enjoy and that's why I've given up running.

I can't stand it.

The whole world of weight loss seems somehow festooned with self deceit. Convincing yourself you enjoy rice cakes. Convincing yourself that fat free dairy is actually food. Convincing yourself that tomorrow you'll do that super-healthy thing, or stop doing that horribly unhealthy thing.

I seem to have an easier time with it when I stop with the lies. And one of the lies I told myself was that I was going to become one of those running guys. For the longest time I told myself I was going to become a running guy. I'd get up at the ass crack of dawn, put on my Speedos and running shoes and I'd run around the neighborhood waving, all grins, at my neighbors. All summer long I planned to become that guy.

It never happened.


Because I HATE running. I HATE it.

It's not the exercise. It's the running.

Do you know what I like? Like splitting wood. I love it. I love to beat the crap out of massive logs with a maul, and hear that satisfying crack as the massive stump finally gives in, the high pitched pop as the smaller segments fly apart. I love bearing down on oak and beech with as much force as I can muster.


Yessir...There really is nothing more satisfying or stress relieving to me than attacking things with an axe.

I hope the FBI doesn't take that out of context.

Plus, chopping wood burns about 600+ calories per hour. And stacking and carrying it takes up about 500+ calories per hour. Not sure how many calories cutting up logs with a chainsaw is, but dang that chainsaw is heavy.

The point is....when you're working out, stick to the stuff you enjoy. Or you'll never do it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh the Wisdom of Yoda: "Do or Do Not, There Is No Try"

This morning I'm feeling weary of counting calories. WEARY.

As I put some of my homemade bread into the toaster, I dreaded for some reason going to my computer to tabulate the caloies........what?

Why YES, I DID day "homemade bread"! Why do you ask?

Oh it's very delicious. What the recipe, you ask?

Well, perhaps if you guys are REALLY GOOD, some day I MAY share with you my GLORIOUS bread recipe.

But where was I? Something about calories?

Oh yeah, I'm getting weary of counting calories. I think what's going on is I want to eat without contemplation. I just want to enjoy the food without reducing it to contemplation of energy in and energy out.

This could very easily be where I slack off. Where I say "Oh geeze, one day won't hurt." And one day turns to two. And two turns to a week...all the while I feel like I'll get back into it. Get back to keeping track until the idea is far in the distance.

I could think about how I'm tired of being fat, and there are two swirling blue portals in front of me. I can pick to enter the portal where I continue on as I have, or I can pick to enter the portal where I could actually lose weight and be done with it.

The second one is really what I want. I'm SICK of TRYING to lose weight. I'm sick of feeling heavy and tired. I don't want to TRY.

It's times like these I seek the advice of Master Yoda Do or Do Not.

There is no try. I know what I need to do. I know that if I keep counting calories, get myself acquainted with healthy portions, and keep going, I will succeed. I need to do it, or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The trickery of water weight and the hard second month of weight loss

So yesterday I weighed myself and was pleasantly surprised.

I had lost 15 pounds. In just 25 days!


Flattering, but it's impossible I lost 15 pounds of fat. By my own calculations I should have lost between 5 to 8 pounds (of fat). NO WAY did I blow through 2100 calories per day for 25 days. I would have had to have been fasting on an orbital machine to lose that much fat so fast.

That sill leaves an extra 7 pounds unaccounted for -- this is where we enter the murky world of water weight and the false sense that SUPERFAST weight loss is something that can be maintained over a long period of time.

Here's an interesting article on the subject.

During the first few weeks of weight loss due to dieting, a rapid drop in pounds is normal according to the Mayo Clinic. When you reduce your caloric intake, your body gets its needed energy by releasing and utilizing its stores of glycogen, which is a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and the liver. Glycogen holds onto water, so when glycogen is used and burned up for energy, it also releases the water it holds onto. This is about 4 grams for every gram of glycogen. This results in the initial "water weight" loss that accompanies early weight loss from dieting and calorie restriction.'s what I'm afraid of. I've been here before. I've lost weight super-fast in the first month, then hit a brick wall and got discouraged at how slowly or not-at-all I was losing weight compared to my first month...then I went back to eating fried butter smothered in maple syrup with a side of beer sauce. The end.

So if you're out there and you're reading this, I want YOU to know and I especially want ME to know...that sustaining such a rapid pace of weight loss is just NOT going to happen unless you're into some really unhealthy eating disorder mojo.

There's a LOT of weight in water: 8.3 pounds in a gallon. Even if you're losing a cup of water per day due to water weight, you'll drop 8.3 pounds in just 16 days. 8.3 pounds of pure water.

It's a good sign. Don't get me wrong. It means we're on the right track and doing the right things. But we simply can't sustain that rate of weight loss.

So, you aware of it, be ready for it, and be ready for the next month to be much more slow going. I'm trying to psych myself up to be prepared for it, too.

Did the Gym Yesterday. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

I managed to go to the gym yesterday where I did, in fact, work my pecs. RRRR!

The horrible irony: now I can barely lift anything. I feel stronger while being almost incapable of lifting a cup of coffee to my face.

That's okay. I used to be an avid gym goer. I know for a fact my body will get over the shock of having to do...*gasp*

Ow. Ow. I'm hoping the statement "No Pain, No Gain" is not true. I'm not trying to gain. I'm trying to lose.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Morning - Thoughts on GETTING RIPPED

Like every morning when I'm awake and alert and not hung over I wake with enthusiasm:

"I'm going to eat a healthy breakfast of celery and carrots and then I'm going to the GYM! I'm going to work my PECS....RRRRRRRRRRR!!! YEAH! My PECS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ROAR! I'm going to work my triceps and biceps and my monoceps and quintupleceps. ALL my ceps will be WORKED and I'll be RIPPED!!!"

And that briefly sounds awesome when I wake up in sort of a vague, I'll do it some time later today, sort of way.

But then I think "Ah geeze, I WOULD get ripped and stuff but I have to go to my son's student conferences." and "Oh yeah! I have that deadline I need to meet"

And little by little the day gets chipped away with responsibilities and excuses. This happens every day and by the end of the year I've never gotten ripped, and only spent a slight one nighter, or brief two-week fling with the gym. likely no exception. I'm all prepared to get RIPPED today. But I actually do have student conferences to go to, and I actually do have to pick my son up from school early, and I actually do have a deadline I need to meet....and gosh the gym seems so far away.

But maybe....

Maybe I'll just do it. I'll just DO it and see if my world collapses in on itself like I imagine it will. I'll get this tiny boy dressed, take him to his pre-school, and head to the gym to get RIPPED.

By the way...I work from home. I do web stuff, and I write stuff. This type of going to the gym is probably a quadrillion times harder for people who can't make the decision just to go but have to work around a job or two or three...a commute or two or three...and then getting home to have to make dinner for the kids, read them stories, pay attention to them, make sure they're not falling behind at schoolstuffs or suffering any type of drama-drama.

Exercise is hard. Formal exercise at least.

There are things like walks if you're in a safe or convenient neighborhood for it. There's also, and I'm not kidding about this: fidgeting. It's true. Be a fidgeter if you can't do anything else. I've got that part down. I fidget. And fidgeters burn more calories

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Losing Weight

I've been counting calories for about three and a half weeks now using this free site:

Everything I eat, drink, breathe is entered in there. Every tiny amount of exercise I do is entered into there.

It's worked so far. But then again so have all the other times I've decided to get down to a more healthy, long term weight. I lose ten to fifteen pounds and then I get abducted by aliens or something and wake up with all my weight back, plus a few more extra pounds as a warning from my body or from alien life forms that I should never, ever try to lose weight again.

I'm pretty sure that's how it happens.

And like any alien conspiracy theorist or bigfoot hunter, I'm going to record the actual point at which I lose control of my weight loss and spiral into stuffing my face with cheeze puffs and beer night and day until I've gained everything back.

If I write about it every day, I'll be able catch the exact moment my body is overtaken by gremlins or demonic possession. And maybe you will too.

Stay tuned. Or better yet...lose some weight with me.