Thoughts on Food and Exercise: Part I

A lot of the questions I get asked recently about my weight loss revolve around food and/or working out. I figure now is as good a time as any to share some of what I’ve been going through in regards to those two topics.

(Disclaimer: before I go any further, I want to say that I am in no way a professional, expert, or any other form of authority on the matters of food, exercise, and weight loss. I can only relay my experiences and opinions. I know -and stress- that these are my personal opinions and experiences and realize that in all likelihood they are unique to me and me alone. Since everyone is different, everyone can and probably will have a different experience and have success using what works for their unique circumstance)

Ok, with that out of the way, what I can say is that food has been and will most likely remain to be my biggest challenge. I have always been a “food guy”. I even went to school for a brief stint to study culinary arts and become a chef. That was a long time ago, and let me assure you, I am nowhere near being a chef in my chosen profession. But even though it’s not how I earn a paycheck, I never lost the love for food. My problem is I love pretty much everything about it; I love eating, I love cooking, I love tasting new things, and I love the social experience of it all. There are not too many things better to me than a nice dinner out (or in, for that matter) with friends, some great conversation and some bangin food. This can mean trendy and new restaurants, but then again it doesn’t have to be high-falootin’ or pretentious, even a backyard bbq with burgers, dogs and a couple beers can be a night to remember.

What I am realizing now is what I really lacked was the ability to know when to say when it came to eating and even if I did; I also lacked the discipline to actually enforce it. So needless to say, I have had to take a hard look at what & when I was eating and make adjustments to really affect any kind of change.

The app that I’ve been using has been instrumental in this, in more ways than what its function appears on the surface. What I mean by that is on the surface, myfitnesspal is an application for the iphone (and other smartphones, ipods, ipads, etc…) that is used to be a daily diary to log what you eat and count calories against a daily goal. It takes into account your height, weight, age, daily activity level, desired goal weight, and rate at which you want to lose or gain (lose 1 pound a week, lose 2 pounds a week, etc.) to calculate a calorie goal for you per day. It makes things easy by remembering all the items you enter so you can re-enter them again easily, and more importantly (to me at least) it adds the functionality to just take a picture of the barcode on any food and it will look it up through the magic of the internet and know what all the nutritional info is. So to add a meal, all you have to do is shoot the barcode real fast and you’re done. The theory behind it is that you burn X amount of calories each day just living your normal life. If you eat more calories than that, you gain weight, if you eat less, you lose weight. Seems simple, right? So keeping track of what you eat vs. the daily goal (ie-what you are supposed to burn) is what the app does at face value. It’s got a massive database of foods and it recognizes pretty much everything I’ve ever scanned, even random store brand foods. (Like cereal, popcorn, etc. -Wegman’s brand, not even name brand)

What it accomplished for me was much more than just what is on the surface though. What it forced me to do without ever telling me I had to do it was it made me look at what I am eating and when I am eating.

I’ll start with what. Once I really got into this I realized that I had 2 choices (assuming I was honest with myself and stayed within my calorie goal per day): continue to eat the way I had been before, only eat a small fraction of what I used to in order to stay within my calorie goal per day (and in turn, be hungry all day because it was so much less than I had been eating before), or find new foods to eat that I can eat more of and will fill me up and still allow me to stay within my daily calories. For example: They never say “you have to eat broccoli”, but when a whole bag of broccoli is less calories than one slice of pizza (less calories than a half a slice of pizza, actually), the choice is clear. Drastic example, I know, but it works to illustrate the point. It really comes down to a volume thing with me a lot of times. Do I eat a slice or two of pizza (and be left hungry and unsatisfied), or for the same calories do I eat a real meal with a plate full of food, meat, starch, and veg and actually be full?

The other thing I had to take a look at myself in regards to was when I eat. The most noticeable “bad habit” thing to me (that I had to lose) was the after-work, pre-dinner snacking. I would routinely skip breakfast, eat a huge lunch, and then still be hungry when I got home. Snacking would then commence. I would grab whatever I could get my hands on and eat till I was satisfied, then cook and eat dinner a little bit later. With this new plan, I’ve had to adjust when I eat as well, because if I’m going to only eat a certain amount of calories a day, I want to spread them out so I don’t eat too much early on and screw myself later and I also realized I would have to skip a lot of food during the day if I was going to have enough calories left over to snack when I got home and then eat dinner. Just not worth it to me. Instead, I’ve been eating a breakfast every day and a regular sized lunch (read: not a full size hoagie and medium sized bag of chips), along with 2 snacks, (one am, one pm) to tide me over till the next meal, and then I still have a decent amount left for dinner and it’s been working out pretty well for me. There are always times that things come up and you deviate from the plan, but for the most part, I’m re-learning how to eat on a regular, healthy, “normal” schedule. Again, this is just my take on things and what has been working for me; what works for anybody else may be completely different.

But taking a step back and speaking of re-learning, I’m also learning what portion sizes are. I would also say that’s another big change I’ve made, food-wise. I’m spreading things out, and eating smaller (more reasonable) portions. It amazes me how off base I was in regards to what I thought a portion was and what they ACTUALLY are. So it’s safe to say that I did change up a lot when it comes to the food that I’m eating and cut out some bad habits of when I was eating it. That being said, I have yet to sit there and be like “I’m starving! this is misery!” I’ve always been able to be full and good, and it’s given me a whole new world of food to really explore and get into cooking/ eating. Overall, not bad. Very different, but do-able.

Looking at things from a broader scale, I’ve cut down on a lot of the junk food, and really increased the amount of vegetables and less fatty meats like chicken and turkey. I really haven’t gone crazy and cut a lot of things out altogether; as a matter of fact, I can actually only think of 3 things that I dropped altogether: Fast food, which I’m fine with, the bad attributes of fast food are well documented and I know I’m pretty much better off without it, Pasta: just based on calories. One cup is typically a serving, (and the calories were on the higher side just for that one cup) and let’s be honest, I would be eating a hell of a lot more than one cup. It just didn’t make sense to me calorie-wise to eat a plate of pasta and then have to compensate by eating hardly anything else that day. The last thing is my morning coffee. I still do the coffee; I just drink it black now. That was the only one thing that took some getting used to. But again, when I look at how many calories the half and half and sugar added, I’d just rather use them on something else later in the day rather than burning them first thing. I’m used to it now and I actually like it, but it did take some getting accustomed to before I got to this place on the coffee front. I could go on at much more length but I’ll digress…

Wow, that turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. Sorry about the rambling, just had a few points to make and apparently it took me longer to make them than I thought it would there…

In the interest of time and manageable post length I’ll give Part II (the workout ramblings) on Fri. Catch you all then.

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2 responses to “Thoughts on Food and Exercise: Part I

  1. Pingback: My Name Is Andy, And I Am A Runner / Where We Go From Here- The Future Of Running My Ass Off | Running My Ass Off

  2. Pingback: Beginner’s Info: Running Plans | Running My Ass Off

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