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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Wednesday August 13, 2008
06:10 AM

Losing weight, work, and what I've been up to

[ #37170 ]

Hi everyone. Been a while. I've been busy with day-job-work but not doing anything really worth blogging about. This is good and bad. I haven't been solving hard problems, just cleaning up, testing, writing tests, nailing down the dangley corner case specs, fixing bugs, integrating, and so on, and moving towards pushing a version two out the door. I have some ambitions of, once this is out the door, doing some stuff that's blog worthy.

I moved out on my own a while back, hence the necessity and ability to log more hours. Photos and stuff about the world is getting posted on http://scrottie.livejournal.com. Between there, here, and Twitter -- http://twitter.com/scrottie -- I'm kind of straddling three blogs.

A few things have been on my mind lately. One of them is losing weight... not thinking about doing, but reflecting back on having done it, and observing my habits. I guess I'm still not quite done. A few things participated this. I'm back in the dating pool, so I want to be marketable meat. Also, I fucked my shoulder up in Jujitsu, so I can't do rock climbing or martial arts. I thought that if I was ever going to be able to climb again, I was going to have to lose a lot of weight first. I eeked out a 5.11- once in a gym that tends to be technical and intentionally slightly harder, but at 180 plus pounds, my fat ass was really keeping me down. Okay, so I wasn't huge. I was reasonably active, but pretty porky for my activity level. I guess I had the attitutde of I can eat whatever I want and I'll just work it off because I enjoy being active anyway.

Cooking my own meals now, I have control over what I eat. When half the time someone else was cooking, we were going through a pound of butter a week. We'd shop every week, and we always needed butter. I used it sparingly, but somehow, it was snuck into everything. The food was good -- gumbo, white lasagna, all sorts of things. I'd counted my calories in the past and after a lot of frustration, got good at looking up calories for all of the ingredients of something I cooked, adding them up, then estimating what fraction of the dish I ate in a sitting. It's a pain, but you eventually memorize the calories for things you eat often, or drink.

I guess what was interesting was not the gradual weight loss, but the gradual process of learning how to lose weight, and the gradual process of re-calibrating my body. I started with cutting back drastically on one thing -- butter -- to the point where I'm on my second pound of butter in these six odd months. Otherwise, I did things pretty much like I always had been, except I was writing down my calories.

Depending on the day, I'd eat between about 2000 and 3000 or more. Bad days were parties, hang over recovery days, or days after a lot of physical exercise. I didn't do anything radical to alter this at first -- I just became mindful of it. If I had tried to go cold turkey, my body would have freaked out, and my survival instinct would have easily overpowered my will.

Logging calories, it became pretty clear that I was going to need to get the average down. The strategy of trying to eat exactly within target bounds all of the time is a bad one. First party, or next time you're invited to a meal, or you eat out, you're screwed. It's easy to go to a party, have beer and pizza, and suck down 3000 calories.

I guess I should mention that 3500 calories roughly translates to a pound. When I blow my calorie budget and hit 3000 rather than 2000, I've basically put on a third of a pound right then and there. A common guideline is to cut back 500 calories every day and lose a pound a week (7 * 500 = 3500). Any more than that, the body panics and starts to conserve, so you just find yourself with no energy. That's no good. Then you're not really losing weight and you feel like crap.

Our ancestors routinely walked hundreds of miles a week and had a calorie expenditure that puts us to shame. We're built to burn fuel. But it's still easier to just not eat it, up to a certain point.

One bit of advice I read was to start eating the same few things over and over. When something is a treat, you're going to eat more enthusiastically, and the way we behave, almost every meal is a treat. This kind of explains the Subway Jared thing. I heard a story about a guy who ate at McDonalds and lost a pile of weight, but he switched from the burgers to the salads. That all kinds of doesn't sound appealing.

I'm preoccupied with code and don't want to be cooking a bunch of different things, and I don't really do fast food except for Subway now and then, I'm opposed to eating out at finer establishments by myself, and eating at the bar and drinking too is too expensive so I try to just drink when I hit the pub. Those bits of resolve put me in a prime place to buy ingredients to make a few simple things and eat those over and over.

Knowing how to cook also helped immensely. If you don't know how to cook, buy a fire extinguisher, a kitchen timer, and order up a bunch of Julia Child (The French Chef) and Alton Brown (Good Eats). If something looks good and fun to make, try it! If you walk away from the stove, set the timer. Don't close the door so you don't smell the smoke. The worst that'll happen is you'll have some pots to scrub and no food.

So, one week, I'd eat veggie reubens every lunch, and another, vegetable soup. Cabbage tomato soup is easy to make, tasty, and healthy. I started to pick out things that I could make that were I enjoyed eating, were reasonably filling, and started favoring those. But obviously you can't just go to veggie soup like that. A favorite is mayo (measured 1 tablespoon, ugh, I hate measuring my food but with some things like mayo and peanut butter, ya gotta), tomato, pickle, sprout sandwich with ketchup. It's a long, slow adjustment period to getting used to getting less fat, less sugar, fewer carb-rich grains, etc. I started weening myself off during lunch and then having a normal dinner, then later started to simplify my dinners too. This was a natural process of optimizing away from food items that "cost" a lot of calories but didn't go far enough in filling me up. Some things are clearly empty calories -- soda doesn't fill you up. Eliminating things like that is natural. At first, I was still eating vast amounts of ketchup. I adore ketchup. But even the 30 calories a tablespoon thanks to the corn syrup started to become unattractive and salsa got substituted for a lot of things. Rather than mayo on tuna, I'd used BBQ sauce, but all of the ones at the grocery store had tons of corn syrup in them, so I got some stuff from Sprouts. Your local health food store probably has a similar deal. I love tomatoes, and I can get lots of tomato but without the corn syrup, so that's what I do. As far as what foods you substitute for what other foods, and how often or under what circumstances you make that substitution is up to you. If you entirely get rid of the foods you really enjoy, you'll fail, but you'll probably find that you can find purer forms of your favorite food that you like almost as much.

My stomach "shrunk" (perhaps this is a literal phenomenon, I don't know). Unless I'm nursing a hangover, I can't stomach a whole soda -- it's just disgustingly sweet. It would be like a person used to drinking trying to chow down on nice bowl full of sugar with a spoon. I can eat only very small amounts of fatty, rich foods. It feels rich in my stomach, and too much doesn't sit.

I'm not eating meat except for some seafood, leaning towards what can be sustainably produced and not eating anything intelligent enough that it can be trained to plant bombs on enemy vessels. This bit of resolve was also helpful. You can get full on veggies and not eat too many calories, but watch out for the cereal grains (aka carbs). As to whether you want to try to do an Atkins thing is up to you, but grains pack a lot of calories.

Another habit I developed that helped was favoring higher quality foods. Rather than getting the ten pound block of cheese, I'd rather buy a small wedge of one of those cheeses they sell for serving with wine. One thing I was doing a lot was getting these little wheels of Mexican cheeses, especially Panela, and frying up about a hundred calories worth of it along with bell peppers, serranos, and whatever else, and eating it with black beans and salsa on toasted mini corn tortillas. Sometimes I substituted a small avocado, which is also kind of a calorie bomb. But by buying the more expensive version, you'll enjoy each calorie more, and it just won't be practical to enjoy vast amounts of it. Don't shop at Walmart. Shop at the upscale grocery store, if you can, or specialty stores, like the Asian market, or Indian market, or so on. The health food store is awesome but sometimes they try to pull fast ones on you. Get smaller amounts of better quality everything. Learn how to cook vegetables. While veggies are cheap, they're the most expensive calories you can buy. Here's a very, very simple thing you can do: buy greens and cook them down in enough water to cover them, in a covered pot, for a couple of hours on medium low heat. Don't use iceberg lettuce -- that would be stupid. Spinach will work, but they have all kinds of greens at the grocery store. Get anything that seems robust. Mustard greens, kale, collard greens, any of that will work. Salt it a bit if you please but you don't have to add anything else and you have a delightful little side dish.

Your body craves protein, especially if you're getting exercise. Tuna has a good protein to calorie ratio but not many foods do. Don't think that only meat has protein. Cereal grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice, etc) all do too, and so do nuts and lots of other things. But your best bet is to get the protein shake mix that body builders get. The health food store sells it in all kinds of varieties. Find the one you like. Beware -- some are loaded with sugars, but most are pretty sane.

One crutch I used was to tell myself that I don't have to eat any given thing I really wanted to eat that day. Yes, I really want to eat cookie dough, but cookie dough will still be there tomorrow. I'll eat it, just not now, later. If I had something kind of naughty, it's easy to put other naughty things off until later with that crutch.

I said that parties normally blow the whole deal when you shoot for an exact calorie amount each day. Well, I did 1500 on a lot of days, and then permitted myself 2500 or even 3000 days now and then. It's about the average. Honestly, my average was never very good -- I average very near 2000 calories. If I averaged 1800, I'd have lost a lot more weight by now, or lost it quicker, or whatever. 1500 calories is hard to do. It basically means no beer and some upsettingly non-caloric food. I've had many meals of black beans with salsa on it, or hominy with salsa on it, or vegetable soup, or raw carrots. Oh, I have to have a latte every morning. I have a used espresso maker from Goodwill, and my stomach can't handle black coffee any more. In fact, I have to pour lots of milk on it to buffer it, preferably whole milk. So that's 150 calories each morning right there. One thing I've not done is go hungry -- at least not very often. But I do have the attitude of it won't kill me to miss a meal. Being hungry isn't a disaster. Still, I'm not trying to arrange that situation. Trying to each a tiny peace of lasagna then just stop eating, especially when there's a whole pan of it left, seems doomed to failure to me. It's easier to just eat carrots.

Okay -- the sites. calorieking.com was handy for not just getting calories for various foodstuffs, including averages when you have no idea, but also for calories burned for exercise. I didn't subtract exercise calories and try to run a baseline anyway. I did pick up my cardio and start doing a lot more biking, especially since only the lower half of my body is functioning properly right now. But I did that, ignored the calorie implications, continued to log calories, not shooting for anything in particular, just trying to optimize for a lower number. But still, it feels good to think, they, I biked hard for two hours there -- that's good for 1400 calories!

http://www.diet-blog.com/archives/2007/04/26/what_do_300_calorie_meals_look_like .php -- totally awesome.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-200-calories-look-like.htm -- totally f'n awesome.

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/archives/2007/01/what-does-200-calories-cost-the-econ omics-of-obesity.html

I guess it boils down to a few things: not defining hard success/fail conditions but just working on improving; slowly acclimating to less rich and less sugary foods and not trying to force the matter; learning about the food value (nutrition and calories) not only of the foods you presently eat and like to eat but of alternative foods and strange things you might never have heard of, like hominy; learning about your own habits and mechanisms and how you relate to food and different foods so that you can optimize intelligently.

Not really much to brag about after all of that fuss and bluster, but I went from 185 to 165.

Tonight, I was in Walmart. I didn't buy any food, but I gave the Ben and Jerry's a baleful look, and salivated at the cookie dough tubes. I think I need to actually pull off a couple 1500 calorie days so I can schedule a small amount of that stuff in. I did have bread pudding the other day, and I still have beer. In fact, it's the beer calories that necessitate the hominy-and-salsa and carrots-for-dinner scenarios. If I just stopped drinking beer, my calorie intake would drop radically and I wouldn't have to adjust my food, but I know myself better than that.

Here's one thing that's hard: I'm biking from Phoenix to Tempe, joining a group, then biking to downtown Scottsdale for beer, and coming back. A couple bombers is good for 600 or a lot more calories. I'm ravenous after the ride -- especially when I first started doing it. So I'm doing the carrots-for-dinner type thing before the ride so I have calories left for beer.

Something I'm going to start paying attention to here is getting too efficient. I'm not sure at what point I started really effectively losing weight. If it was before I started eating really obnoxiously, I'd like to scale back a bit. I don't want to try to lose weight *fast*. I'm not going to a high school reunion or anything like that. In the interest of buckling in for the long haul -- I'm thinking of going for 155, which is 5 pounds over the center of the range for my "ideal" weight -- I want this to be sustainable. In the really long haul, I want to know how much to eat to sustain my weight.

I'm bloated and over budget right now. Did a bit of a drinking bender last night and was hung over and dehydrated. Desperately wanting to feel better so I could do my ride today, I kept drinking soda and gatoraid, and eating canned Indian food. I'm pretty good at only having a couple when I got out, but I also don't like people out drinking me =P

If you (if anyone) read all of this, I probably put you off of a determined, controlled weight reduction by describing these serious bike rides and then eating carrots. Well, if you don't have the latte-and-beer habit (which are empty calories) that I do, it'll be easier. On the other hand, there will probably be not-very-optimal calorie foods you won't give up. But I like to think that there are some good tips for slightly altering things such that you're better off in general with little or no suffering. Simply learning to cook with veggies and weening yourself off of quite so much sugar and fat and getting used to less rich food could go a long way.

-scott

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  • I think those are good tips. I'm trying to do a similar thing this year, gradually change certain habits in order to get in better shape. I think I'm more out of shape than you are, though.

    Something I try to do more now is drink a lot of water. You hear that said a lot, but it's really important. I started out actually by just drinking water at dinner. I had been drinking apple juice for lunch and dinner (instead of tea or pop...), thinking it'd be healthier, but then I noticed the calories are even higher