May 12, 2005

Why I Hate Dieting

I ate an orange for breakfast, and they had closed the excellent salad counter by the time Sara and I had gotten to the campus center.

I scrounged some lunch food in my office including some old surimi, some canned tuna and a handful of dry frosted mini-wheats. And some wrinkled grape tomatoes. And a handful of Bac-Os.

So I am low on fuel. Diet Vanilla Coke does not a lunch make.

If anything remotely appetizing comes within reach, I swear I’m going to eat it.

Posted by James at May 12, 2005 4:14 PM
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I'm currently trying the same thing and I feel your pain. My average lately is about two or three days adhering to the way I should eat followed by a day of binging. I need to work on that.

Posted by: Mike at May 12, 2005 4:36 PM

Yes. I'm trying ot maintain a sensible eating level, but when your plans go awry and you plan as poorly as I do, suddenly you could be venturing out into the scary world looking for food... and driving by numerous temptations.

I think that when you diet, you have to replace food with other interests. That can distract you. But at work, you're stuck.

Posted by: James at May 12, 2005 4:45 PM

The thing about dieting is that we've probably all eaten right and had it work for us at one time or another, and then you get into a bad eating pattern, and nothing but your own "thing" is going to get you back on track.

I was just watching Oprah, as I was standing in line in a waiting room, and she was preaching from her skinny face to a chubby lady about how she doesn't love herself, and I thought, "Lady, haven't you learned by now that when you're fat you're fat, and when you're thin, you're thin?"

Anyway, that said, what worked for me very well once was a good amount of exercise coupled with eating what I thought I should eat for my health. I didn't consciously try to lose weight, I just thought "I should be eating a fruit right now, I should be eating more veggies..." that kind of thing. So when I was hungry, I'd have what I thought I should have, rather than what was easiest or what I really wanted. And I very slowly lost weight -- 2 pounds a month -- but it was steady and there was no binging. Because, just like you Mike, I can starve myself for a few days and even lose up to a pound a day that way, but then I'll binge. I can't keep it up. I think, especially when you run (at least for me), that you need to keep up a certain amount of calories to ward off the binge.

Also, some other tips:
* Forget about food. Just pretend that eating isn't an option. Don't think about food, don't look at it.
* Drink a lot of water. It's good for you and it helps to fill your stomach.
* Eat really small portions when you do eat. Tell yourself to wait twenty minutes. I find that I get used to feeling satisfied, rather than full. I just as easily get used to feeling full, rather than satisfied.

Good luck!!

Posted by: Maggie at May 12, 2005 5:40 PM

They actually sell bite timers that try to help you eat more slowly, to allow the full feeling to register before you overeat.

Hacking the digestive and nervous systems.

I remember being pretty smug about weight loss back when it was easy. Those were the days. Somewhere in there I lost muscle mass and my metabolism slowed down. And I got used to eating a lot.

I remember the last time I was fit, not too long ago, and it gives me hope. I didn't gain this weight overnight, so I wonder, what the hell happened, and why did I let it happen?

Oh well, working towards giving myself yet another chance.

Posted by: James at May 12, 2005 5:56 PM

Love yourself, James. Love yourself.

Posted by: Maggie at May 12, 2005 6:40 PM

In some ways I've as fit now as I've ever been, especially after walking so much this winter, but I've found taking in fewer calories affects my weight more than increasing exercise. I'm now concentrating on eating smaller portions. A simple journal on my PDA helps keep me aware of what I'm taking in.

And reading the free online book The Hacker's Diet (MT-Blacklist won't let me hyperlink it) was a great way to remind myself about the simple 'calories in < calories burned' formula behind successful weight loss.

Posted by: Mike at May 12, 2005 7:13 PM

I agree, Mike, exercise does not equal diet. That's because, I think, people think they're burning more calories than they are, plus it makes you hungrier. I just think it's essential because it does give you a few extra calories to work with, it builds muscle mass, and muscle tissue burns more calories than other kinds of tissue, and because it gives me, at least, more respect for my body. Plus it's just plain good for you.

I don't think the simple equation of calories in

Sometimes I wonder how much about us is universal, and how much is individual. We all need food, I'm pretty sure about that. After that... :-) I'm not so sure!

Posted by: Maggie at May 12, 2005 7:35 PM

Watch out for those pesky less-than signs.

Movable Type's "Allow HTML in Comments" setting thinks they indicate the beginning of an anchor tag (<a>) so it pulls out a fork and knife and rudely devours the rest of your sentence. I use & l t ; (no spaces in between the letters) when I want < to appear.

Posted by: Mike at May 12, 2005 8:05 PM

Yes, I don't know how many times that's going to burn me before I learn. In fact, yesterday morning I typed "slap, slap!!" with the angle-brackets that we used to use for stage directions pre-HTML, and it didn't show up, so you'd think I'd have learned my lesson!

Now what the heck did I say...

Basically that I don't think that equation is so simple, because you don't know how many calories you're burning. And I think this is where "metabolism" comes in, although I've never read anything truly scientific about metabolism and weight loss. I've read things like "exercise increases metabolism," and "dieting slows down your metabolism." Whether this is true for some, true for all, or completely false, I don't know. I've certainly read about people who claim they gain weight when they diet, I've read that some people simply can't lose weight, they're just heavy and they should exercise to be healthy, but whether all that is true, I have no idea.

Posted by: Maggie at May 13, 2005 7:29 AM

I'm not one to follow the Food Pyramid or the associate dietary guidelines, but when the new one came out, I did read an article in the Boston Globe about it. I recall a discussion about 1/2 a cup of cereal for breakfast is the optimal amount, and the comment "You'd be surprised how small a cup of cereal is."

Well, after that, I realized I had been eating a huge bowl of cereal every morning! I now eat 1/2 a cup, and I'm full. I swim twice a week and I walk a lot (my pedometer shows I average about 10 miles a week (I just checked my ped and it shows 7.12, but I'm going to run some errands today, so I know I'll make 10 easily). I also almost always bring my lunch. The benefits of bringing your own lunch:

1. It's cheaper than buying lunch every day (I'm surprised by how many other employees here eat breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria).

2. It's an easy way to control your portions, if that's an issue for you.

3. You know what's in it because you made it yourself.

I had bulked up over the past year, due in large part to pushing through the last of my classes last summer (I had no free time and got very little exercise). Part of my ability to drop down to my normal weight was due to our lack of kitchen. When you have your kitchen gutted and cook with a toaster oven, rice cooker/steamer, and microwave, you lose weight (parly because you can't sautee anyting or make a cream sauce!). Even though we ate take-away with frightening frequency, we tried to make healthier choices from the options we had and we didn't eat tons of fried food.

Anyway, my point is this: eat less of a variety of good foods, throw in exercise, and you'll be ok. Don't obsess over weight--I think this is a mistake. I rarely weight myself at the gym, because I don't think a person will lose a measurable amount of weight week to week. If one does, there may be a problem--weight loss should be gradual, otherwise, the body may be harmed. Weighing yourself so frequently will show you a similar weight week to week, and you may feel that you're just spinning your wheels. Weigh in, say, once a month instead.

Note, too, that some medications we may cause us to gain weight and affect our ability (or inability) to lose it. If you suspect meds may be a contributing factor--or you don't know or you're curious--read the product information that comes with the Rx, read it on the product's website, or talk to your doctor.

Posted by: Patti M. at May 13, 2005 9:22 AM

Note, too, that some medications we may cause us to gain weight and affect our ability (or inability) to lose it.

This is true. But many of us are also over 30. Even at the same level of activity, you lose muscle mass every year over age 30, which means your ability to burn calories decreases. SO what might have worked 5 years aog mya yield less benefit, unless you're maintaining your muscle mass thorugh some sort of strength training.

I went on Prilosec a while back for stomach complaints and even though weight gain is not a listed side effect of the drug, it's clear to me that not having heartburn all the time means I might be predisposed to eating more often.

Heartburn was probably acting as a natural limit on my eating. Once that's gone, it means a natural limiting factor has to be replaced by a conscious one.

On the effect of more exercise vs. less eating:

Yes, the actual amount exercise you do is not burning as many calories as you'd like. The benefits of exercise linger throughout the day (higher metabolism, for example) but extending a run by 20 minutes means, perhaps, you can eat 2 more slices of bread. That's not much, but a slice of bread is around 100 calories!

So even cutting out a little food means MANY calories you don't have to burn.

You have to find the rhythm that works for you. For me, it's when I start seeing results and I don't want to waste them. I'm finally seeing some results now, so I hope that means I can sustain.

We'll see.

Posted by: James at May 13, 2005 9:48 AM

30 day running averages are a great way to ignore frustrating fluctuations in weight and concentrate on the bigger picture.

I don't mind weighing myself every morning. It keeps me honest.

Posted by: Mike at May 13, 2005 10:01 AM

Good advice, Mike.

Weighing yourself is important if you're trying to lose or maintain your weight, and Mike's suggestion of moving averages is the only way I know to make sense of daily weighings. You see whether there is a trend of weight loss or gain and can adjust your habits accordingly.

It's explained very well here.

The last time I had really successful weight loss, I used a similar method. I need to know if what I'm doing is working, and this tells me.

Maintaining a weight is a little different. Once you get down to a target weight, you no longer need to be motivated to lose weight. You can eat a little more (in fact, that's one of the incentives of weight loss. Once you've successfully lost the weight, you get to increase your eating! a little. )

I'm actually pretty good at losing weight with htis method. I'm not as experienced at keeping it off. That's because losing weight is a temporary thing, and there's a lot I can put up with for a limited period of time. Keeping it off is a different situation.

Posted by: James at May 13, 2005 11:14 AM

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