Checking in for Day 5 on my 70 Day Challenge– hold me accountable at youtube, pinterest, and twitter. I totally didn’t go to the gym yesterday, felt lazy and a bit out of it, though it was not an excuse. I should have gone. I can only make up for it by making sure I go today.
Like any normal, reasonable, socializing human being I first tried to develop a plan of action on loosing weight by asking people for advice, the simple question was: what can I do that is healthy and constructive to loosing weight? The responses I got are pretty standard- exercise, watch what you eat, cut the junk food, go to the gym, weight training, eat at the right time. The thing I heard consistently boiled down to the notion of “eating right.”
The way I interpreted that was “watch your calories” because calorie counting rests on the notion that eating and metabolism are a perfected science. The simple equation is that the stuff you eat is storing what are called calories, which in turn are the way that scientists measure how beneficial or nutritious the food is. The simplicity of the formulation of this type of “dieting plan” is very attractive. The assumption is that if you can cut down on all your non-essential calorie intake and simultaneously burn off calories you will be loosing weight. I was hooked with the prospect and for the first four months was tediously tracking my calories.
In the beginning, because its always at the beginning, this science was fun and it presented results. I used a website to log in my food intake and measure up my progress over time, however, the honeymoon was not meant to last. It was tedious and also it wasn’t the exact science that it was made out to be. Sure I had one serving of Biryani with chicken, riata and salad. Have you seen a “desi serving”? There is no way to track how much calories was in that serving unless you drop it off at the lab and they do the analysis for you. With ethnic food its not as easy as saying “oh I had one slice of ultimate meat pizza from pizza hut” so it definitely has x calories.
What really worked against me was also the fact that it wasn’t just girls who were calorie counting. You hear about football players “carbing up” and marathoner are really picky about tracking calorie intake as well. This is a legitimate training tool, but the problem is this tool requires such high degree of diligence that its not possible for an everyday Joe like me to have benefitted from it. Worse was that its addictive, I began calorie counting everything so would spend time reading labels- again not a bad thing- and ask at restaurants about “calories in x food” to the point where friends were starting get annoyed by my behavior.
In that way calorie counting was a misleading science for me. Worse, the exact science it was made out to be stopped making sense to me because I soon realized that some days I burned more calories then others, that on some days I needed more calories in my body to get physical work done and the limitations that calorie counting diets placed on its practitioners were just unrealistic to my lifestyle. Then there are those things that you eat and forget about- the midnite snack, cup of coffee and piece of muffin in the morning staff meeting, birthday cake slices when you went to your cousins party- these things add up and even with mobile apps, its not always logged. When its not logged its not accounted for and if its not accounted for, I feel, your cheating yourself.
Scientifically speaking, your body burns calories- thats metabolism- in 3 different types of phases. The first is the thermic effect of eating. Believe it or not what you eat results in your burning calories and possibly could result in A LOT of calories being burned. So the science says that when you eat something like protein it burn more calories then when you eat fatty foods or carbohydrates. You burn 25 calories burned for every 100 calories consumed; versus an average of 13 calories for every 100 calories of carbs you eat. Huge difference right? The second type is what you burn through activity and exercise- which is pretty standard because every diet tells you about the calories you burn when you exercise. Finally the third type is called basal metabolism and its the calorie burning that happens without you really doing anything- when your sleeping, sitting and reading- basically its the base level of calories used to sustain your body function.
To me the way I see the point of calories is not so much “calorie intake”- which I think is still really important- but in that there is a strategic way you can use your body to burn calories. Example would be to go to work but instead of the elevator you use the stairs, instead of parking right next to the door park further away and walk a little; go do some physical activity for an hour during your day and throughout your day eat foods that will help burn more calories and not foods that will just add more fat to your body- so eat protein by itself rather then with the rice or pasta’s, eat nuts, or things RICH in fiber like oatmeal. All in all your using your body to burn fat, so when you sleep, sit and type stuff up the metabolizing affect adds to your basal metabolism allowing you to loose fat.
There is much more to this, but the way I felt when I was calorie counting was that there just was nothing I could eat that wouldn’t drastically affect that formula. In the end I just wanted to break free and behave in a way that was totally reckless and had little regard to my goals of loosing weight and getting healthy. I believe folks who are OCD are a perfect match for the calorie counting regimen, and to be honest, they probably are already so disciplined that they don’t fit the category anyway so they don’t need to loose weight.
In the end, I believe that loosing weight is a lifestyle choice. You choose to eat healthy, live healthy and feel healthy. If you choose to do so whatever gets you to those goals you have must fit into your lifestyle in order to help you take the steps you need to get to your goal. Calorie counting requires such drastic lifestyle change that for me after the initial fun of it, I couldn’t make it fit into my crazy work/life balance without having to starve myself all the time. Which was the first major failure I faced on my journey- I would fear eating the wrong thing so much that I would go without food all day and in the end I del to tired to go work out and burn calories, so I would tell myself that I already did a good job and I should eat something to sustain myself. That first bite would cause so much temptation that I pretty much ended up eating two to three times the allowed calorie intake for the day. Calorie counting in my weakest hour worked against me more than helping me.