Sunday, July 24, 2011
Today was my church's annual Service in the Park, preceded by Breakfast in the Park. This is a wonderful social event where long term members get together and chat before worship, and have a breakfast featuring scrambled eggs, coffee, orange juice, and of course muffins, cinnamon rolls, and sometimes bagels. There is always plenty of food. People are encouraged to eat as much as they like, and sometimes to take leftovers home.
Social eating is one of my problems. I've known this for quite a while.
I'm new to tracking food, today being my 14th day at it. The safest thing to do about Breakfast in the Park would be to not go--either skip church this morning, or don't arrive till after breakfast. That didn't work, because I had agreed to sing and needed to be there before breakfast to rehearse. So, this year's Breakfast in the Park was a test of my ability to negotiate a social eating situation with no limits on portion size.
I took a guesstimated 2 eggs worth of scrambled eggs, and a guesstimated 2 ounces of ham. I planned on having 2 mini cinnamon rolls, then broke down and ate a third. After the second 12 ounce cup of coffee (virtuously taken black, as opposed to with creamer in prior years), I switched to drinking water. Magically, the glass of water in my hand filled the social need to have something!
After the service, I got the nutrition data for the cinnamon rolls. The breakfast added up to an estimated 519 calories, out of a daily range from 1870 to 2220 suggested by the Spark. If I'd managed to skip that last mini cinnamon roll, it would have been 429, not that much higher than my typical self-prepared breakfast in the 370 to 390 calorie range.
Then I got to thinking. What would I have eaten if I weren't tracking? I would have had multiple helpings of scrambled eggs with ham, and the first helping would have been bigger than what I had today. I wouldn't have counted mini cinnamon rolls. There would have been mild or half & half in the coffee. And there would have been another muffin or two after the service. I wouldn't have come in under 1500 calories, and I might have gone as high as 3000. Of course, I would have been full enough that I wouldn't need to eat lunch . . . but "breakfast" would have been more calories than my breakfast and lunch put together were today. There's a good chance it would have been more than my actual total eating today.
If Breakfast in the Park had been the first Sunday after I started tracking, I might not have been as successful. That second week was important for getting used to tracking everything, and the natural adjustment to being more mindful of what I eat *because* I am going to track it.
And if I don't blog about it now, I might not be as successful the next time I'm in a situation like this. Writing about it helps firm up in my mind what I did that worked, so I have a better chance of repeat success, or even a modest improvement. If I remember this morning well enough, perhaps the next time I'll be able to resist that third mini cinnamon roll in favor of using those calories for a serving of yogurt later in the day.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
A few years ago, I wanted to lose some weight. I was totally unwilling to track what I ate, so I focused on exercise and training. Of course, the groups that I found dedicated to training told me stuff I didn't want to hear, like, "You can't out-train a crappy diet."
Still in denial, I tried to clean up my diet a bit without keeping track. One of the things that I ended up doing to save money was take my lunch to work. It had to be cheap, portable, something I would actually eat, and keep for a half day without refrigeration. The healthy part of my most common lunch was a hard boiled egg, a quarter cup of almonds, and a third of a cup of raisins. (Let's not talk about the pop-tarts, okay?)
Fast forward, and I found SparkPeople. I bought the pictured food scale, which is probably the best $43 I've spent this year. And I weighed my standard almonds that were sitting in baggies waiting to be part of future lunches. They came in at 1.5 or 1.6 ounces. I trimmed them to 1.5 ounces and called it good.
Another week, and I set a weight goal. Implementing that on the site, my recommended calorie range dropped from the maintenance range I was given when I didn't have a goal. So, how to bring the actual consumption down? Well, the standard serving for almonds on the site seems to be 1 ounce. My sister uses a half ounce. How about if I trim my portion size, since I usually end up munching almonds longer than I want to at lunch?
Thursday I adjusted all my baggies of almonds down to one ounce. Friday the first one ounce bag of almonds went to work in my lunch. Munching the almonds seemed to take a more appropriate length of time, and I didn't even notice the difference in hunger level. Wow.
Let's do the math. A half ounce of almonds (pictured above) is 81.9 calories. 20 work days in a month, times 12 months a year, times 81.9 calories is 19,656 calories. At 3500 calories per pound of fat, that's about 5.6 pounds.
That's more than half the weight I gained from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
I also noticed that the site says there are 24 whole kernals per ounce of almonds. I'm seeing more like 27 or 28; I guess the almonds I buy are a little smaller than the ones used to compute the average. Did I mention that the food scale was the best $43 I've spent this year?
A half ounce. Not enough almonds to notice on the hunger scale. But enough to make a difference, over the course of a year.
Measure. Everything. You. Eat. Absent measurement, you can't make intelligent adjustments, and some of those adjustments are going to be really important.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Two weeks ago, I was on vacation. I spent some time outdoors in the summer, and the time I spent in air conditioning was in places that only cooled to 80 or 78 degrees. I got used to it.
This week, I felt COLD at work. It wasn't really any colder in the office, I'd just acclimatized to a warmer temperature. The last couple of days, I ended up taking breaks to walk around the block so I could warm up.
No so coincidentally, my vacation coincided with starting on the SparkPeople site and starting to track, in detail, what I eat. I was so not looking forward to this; but it's hard to argue with my sister's results, as compared to the erratic results I'd had just trying to get more exercise and not eat totally stupidly.
The first few days, there was no calorie limit. IIRC, the first day I tracked on the Spark I ate over 3900 calories. Big day eating out. The next two days I came in close to the top of my maintenance range, on the road eating fast food. After that, it was eating at home where I have more control . . . but did not have the best pantry for eating well.
Then a few days ago I actually set a weight loss goal. Bit the bullet, and blew away what I'd tracked so the goal would work with the Spark. Of course, my target calorie range went down by a couple hundred calories per day. But a funny thing happened; it wasn't all that hard to adjust to the new calorie range.
I had acclimatized to eating less, under the discipline of recording everything. Of course, this discipline also changed what I ate; I became more conscious of "expensive" foods and picked what I thought might be filling enough on the calories I had left in the day.
Yesterday, it changed a bit more. I had to go to the store for more skim milk anyway. (Who'd have thought that I'd be able to acclimatize to skim milk in a week?) I'd been having trouble getting my protein grams into the recommended range, so I wanted to look at low fat cottage cheese and chicken breasts. Aldi had decent prices on both, so I bought some. I hadn't bought cottage cheese in maybe three years, and I hadn't bought chicken in longer than that. And I only had one meal left in the day, anyway. But I did it. Bought the cottage cheese, bought the chicken, and dutifully recorded the nutrition data in my favorites. Had a bit of cottage cheese to make my protein numbers yesterday, and baked the chicken breasts yesterday evening.
Today I used the first part of that chicken. I built an experimental chicken burrito out of a flour tortilla, 40 grams of chicken, a half ounce of shredded cheese, and a tablespoon of Taco Bell hot sauce. I had chopped up 75 grams of chicken as a serving, but 40 grams was what looked right on the tortilla. You guessed it; I've acclimatized to weighing and measuring my food. I don't know whether I could have started this before I became an empty nester; but I can certainly do it NOW. (No, it wasn't the best chicken burrito in the world; but it's a starting point for learning to build a better one.)
The tools are ever so much better than they were in the late 1980s, the last time I tried to monitor food intake and follow a plan. The internet didn't exist then, everything was paper and pencil, and portion sizes were a mixture of guess and mystery. Now, I have a lot of nutritional data on SparkPeople, plus the ability to enter my own; a web program that automatically calculates the numbers for servings that don't match the standard size; and an electronic food scale that measures to the tenth of an ounce or in grams, whichever I need. Absent these tools, I would not be ready to track stuff. The fancy tools don't make easy; they make it *possible*.
I'm not yet acclimatized to the idea of buying fresh fruits and veggies. In my old world, they were a terrible idea because I wouldn't use them before they went bad. But I did buy some baby carrots today. I understand them, and I will use them. The time for fresh fruits and veggies is not yet, but the idea has move from the realm of "That Will Never Happen" to the realm of "I Need to Figure a Few Things Out First." I've got some ideas on how I could make some selected fruits and veggies work for me, but the ideas still need some development.
In the past two weeks, I've also acclimatized to more exercise per week than I had for the first half of the year; but that part was easy. I've been there, and I understand exercise. Controlling the diet is totally new, and acclimatization there is the surprise.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
When I signed up for the SparkPeople site, I knew I needed to lose some weight. I didn't have a clear idea of how much. Never mind, you can change it later. So I started without a weight goal.
10 days later, I've done my reading and thought about it. I weight 155 in high school, 165 as a young single guy, and my weight went up from there after I got married. In high school I was a totally non-athletic type with no upper body strength. At age 49, I took up weight lifting, and even after a year of no regular lifing I'm stronger than I was at any time prior to my 49th birthday. So I have some muscle mass that I didn't have when I was thinner, and I don't really know where I can go down to.
Read some more, thought some more. Top of healthy guideline for BMI would be 182 for me. I got down to 185 last year, and felt pretty good. I could also still see a small roll of fat around my waist at 185. Looked at some ideal weight pages on the internet, and found two methods that calculated my ideal weight at 170 or 177 for medium frame, which is probably what I am.
Okay. My goal is 175. I can change it later if I need to, but that gives me something to shoot for. Never mind that I bounced off 190 once, and failed to maintain 185 another time. I wasn't tracking food then. Give this a shot. From today's weight, that would be losing 19 pounds. I know I can do the first 9, because I managed that before.
Got that far, and couldn't find how to set a weight goal on SparkPeople. The FAQ pointed me at a link that didn't exist to change my weight goal. Dig further. To set a weight goal when I don't have one, I have to reset my goals. Fair enough. But this also blows away the food and exercise I've tracked to date. Dumb design, but if that's the way it is I'd rather do it before I have a long time period tracked.
So I reset my goals, accepting that it would blow away data I'd rather keep. Did it twice, because it turns out that I can't have a weight goal unless I change my focus (on the site) from "live a healthy lifestyle" to "lose weight." That's a psychological blow. The health comes first, the weight is a side effect. I could not care less how I look in a swimsuit, and I view shopping for different clothes as a disadvantage of chainging weight in either direction.
Went through that dance. Got to keep my favorites in nutrition and my food groups. Lost my favorites for exercise tracking. My Other Goals, which consisted solely of tracking steps by day, remained. At least that's something. I re-created today's food and exercise from memory, so at least I won't have the issue of the program thinking I didn't do anything the first day because I happened to sign up in the evening.
Time to stop lying to myself about how much muscle mass I gained by lifting weights. I'm not a body builder, and I didn't add 20 pounds of muscle mass. I might have added 10. I remember being 175 and thinking I was overweight; we'll see whether I still have some flab around the middle when I get there again.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
When I went on vacation, I left a pair of two liter bottles of soda in the fridge for my daughter, who was feeding the cat while I was gone. I expected it all to disappear. A couple days after I got back, I noticed that most of the last bottle remained; she had put it in the door, where I don't normally keep soda.
Today I finished eating with calories to spare, and didn't really feel a need for more food. Fair enough; I don't need to eat more if I'm not hungry. I'd had all the water I need for the day, and I decided to have a glass or two of soda to use it up.
Well. Two glasses of diet soda later, and I was craving something to eat. My sister had pointed out the relationship between soda, even diet soda, and eating more a few weeks ago. I'd confirmed it through personal observation, pre-spark. Now I had done something dumb, knowing what I already knew.
So I did something that was hard for me to do. I opened the bottle of soda, and poured what was left down the drain. I rinsed out the bottle, and I'll claim my nickel the next time I go to the store. Childhood training sticks with me. It was hard to waste more than half a bottle of perfectly good diet soda.
But I really, really don't need to artificially feel like I should eat more. Even one liter of diet soda was more than I should drink just to use it up. I ended up eating a bit more this evening, even knowing that the feeling was artificial; I don't need to do that two or three days in a row.
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