Counting Calories

In my last post I briefly discussed my recent weight loss. My wife and started the process when she decided sometime in January that she needed to lose some weight. I followed her down the path a couple weeks later. I have struggled with my weight since I was in college. In my teen years I was extremely active. I was a competitive swimmer and we practiced twice a day for about six months out of the year from October through April. I swam 7,000 to 8,000 yards a day during these months. That averages out to about 4 ½ miles. When I wasn’t swimming I was running and lifting weight through the summer in preparation for football in the fall. During these years I was always hungry. I actually tried to gain weight for football, but it made no difference what I ate I weighed in at 160 pounds. I recall the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was determined to gain weight to make myself a better football player. I ran a lot, but I spent time each day in the weight room at the high school and drank these high calorie shakes a couple times a day. Between May and August I was able to gain about ten pounds and was a very fit and very strong 170 pounds on the first day of practice in mid August. The first week of practice was always two a days with a ton of running and drills in the morning with more running in the afternoon. After the first week I weighed 160 pounds. I have no way of knowing for sure, but looking back I would not be surprised if I was consuming in excess of 6000 calories a day, probably a lot more with those shakes, and I couldn’t gain a pound.

All that changed when I hit college. I went to a small school that had no athletics that were of interest to me. My activity level dropped sharply, but my calorie intake did not. I had learned some horrible eating habits in high school and they have haunted me constantly in the nearly twenty years since. I had a plan to enter the Marine Corps which kept me active the first year or so I was in school, but I had damaged my left elbow playing football, which brought a premature end to my military career. With that motivation for exercise gone I broke 200 pounds for the first time in the spring of my sophomore year of college. What I wouldn’t give to see that number on the scale again.

Over the years since I finished college there have been three separate attempts to lose weight. All have been successful, but eventually led to a weight that peaked out higher than the last. I was in the 230’s the first time I decided to stop and lose weight. That time I was able to get just under 200 for a brief spell, but I worked by ass of to get there. Five days or more of each week at the gym and eating like a rabbit was all that worked. Eventually I made it all the way back up to 250 a few years after I was married. My wife and I both put in a lot of effort and lost significant weight. I was back into the 220’s when she got pregnant. That changed our entire lives, and with my son at 2 ½ I peaked out this time in the mid 260’s. After working at my calorie intake for the last part of the winter I have made my way back to 240. I was under but Easter weekend was not kind and the remnants lying around the house, read jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, have continued to sabotage me.

The struggles I have faced over Easter pretty well highlight my biggest challenges with weight loss. I am not sure addiction is the right word, but maybe compulsion? I feel powerless around food. If it is there I will eat it. I cant help myself. In the weeks leading up to Easter my mother in law bought my son a bag of the Starburst jelly beans. I couldn’t stay out of them and ate the entire bag in less than two days. Sugar is my kryptonite. We will often make my son a little bag of “trail mix” to take in the car for the trip to day care. Typically it is just Cheerios and raisins. I had a purchased a bag of Special Dark chocolate chips for baking back around the holidays, but with our weight goals in mind I had not made any cookies. My wife opened the bag to sweeten the trail mix a little for my son, but once the bag was open I could stay out of it. Before it was opened I didn’t have a problem, but as soon as that seal was broken I was constantly eating handfuls of chips.

The second challenge I face is that I genuinely like to eat. I don’t eat just to provide my body with the nutrients required to sustain life, but also as a recreation. I love the sensation of flavor. I crave it. I recently told a friend that the two most important activities in life were eating and sex. It was suggested that breathing might out rank both, but I replied that without food and sex there was little point in breathing. An exaggeration?  Maybe. But it makes my point.

At the end of the day for those of us lucky enough to be relatively young and relatively healthy weight loss boils down to a simple mathematical formula:

Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss

All the fad diets in the world don’t change the simplicity of the above truth. Sure it can be more complicated, but if you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. Of course anybody who has ever actually counted every single calorie consumed in a day knows that it is shocking how fast they can add up to that 2000 – 2500 recommended daily intake.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon as I write this and I have eaten everything I will eat today prior to dinner. I was bad at lunch, and will be at a meeting for dinner that will really blow up the daily calorie count. So far today I have consumed the following:

                ½  of a 20oz Can of Dole chunked Pineapple with half the juice also = 160 Calories

                6 Dove Dark Chocolate Eggs (more Easter Sabotage) = 220 Calories

                Subway 6” Chicken Pizzioli Sandwich with Provlone cheese =  550 Calories

                1 bag of Baked Lays BBQ Chips with the above sandwich = 140 Calories

                6 sticks of Extra Gum = 30 Calories

                Total Calories before dinner = 1100 Calories

Had I been good at lunch I would have had a 300 calorie sandwich without the BBQ chips making the total calories only 710. If we had a reasonable dinner to this you can maintain or lose weight pretty easily. I only drink water all day. It is shocking how many calories you can drink in a day if you stray from water. We often squeeze cut up lemons into our water in the evenings.

All this sounds so easy, but as most reading this know all too well it is not. When I eat what I listed above I am hungry all damn day. I do alright staying out of the snacks until the evening, but the hours between dinnertime and bedtime are the hours that destroy my weight loss. I find it frustrating that little additions can screw up everything. A couple hundred extra calories in the form of fruit or veggies is not likely to show up on the scale, but the same number of calories in cookies, meat, or candy will destroy and entire days healthy eating.

I hope to lose another 15 pounds and then find a way to keep my weight under 230 pounds indefinitely. It is a battle maintaining healthy calorie counts. The other problem I often run into is that if I allow myself a single day to cheat I cant shut it off. I had one of those Chicken Pizzioli subs for dinner about a week and a half ago and I loved it. The problem is that instead of my nice healthy 300 Calorie sandwiches I have had three of the 6” chicken Pizziolis in the last four days. I cant seem to force myself to go back to the healthier sandwiches.  The truth is even the 500 calorie lunch is significantly healthier than anything I was eating before. The problem is my weight doesn’t seem to ever balance. If I am good I lose weight pretty steadily, but if I am not quite as good my weight doesn’t just stay the same it goes up.

The bottom line is that a thinner waist equals a better mood, better health, better sex, pretty much better everything I want. The challenge will remain, as it is with everything, finding some balance that will work inside the complicated confines of my life for the long term. That is a balance that I have yet to find.

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2 thoughts on “Counting Calories

  1. I am struggling with my own weight. Actually, I haven’t started trying to do anything about it yet, but I’m thinking about how I should start. I’ve never been an extremely active person, so I need to take baby steps to keep from being intimidated.

    Anyone, I have a couple of the same problems with food that you do. If I’m bored and there’s food nearby, I can’t help snacking. Even if I’m not hungry sometimes. Also, it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind for me. A few months ago, I became addicted to Little Debbie caramel bars. I would eat 1-4 a day, and I couldn’t stop. I know I could have just not bought them, but they were too tempting. Well, when I visited my family during Spring Break, they weren’t readily accessible in the house. Now I’m fine without them, and it’s easier for me to avoid buying them. I won’t let myself buy them–I know that if I start, there will be another vicious cycle. I don’t buy Rice Krispies treats for the same reason. The last thing is that I’ve had a lifelong bad habit of eating when depressed. I know you don’t have that, but it’s another factor that definitely influences my weight.

  2. Hey! You changed your color scheme!!! I like! Well…this may not be helpful in the least, but, before I say anything, I applaud your efforts. That must be said.

    So, a few years ago I got the Celiac dx. To put it bluntly, major suckitude. The SAD (standard American diet) is largely based on the consumption of wheat and grains. It is the foundation of the food pyramid. I can’t consume *anything* with gluten–wheat, rye, or barley. Gluten is in just about everything except for plants, dairy, and meats. No breads of any kind, baked goods, gravies…you name it–for the rest of my life. And, I am a foodie. I was actually on my way to the Culinary Institute of America in my early 20s before I was derailed by unexpected circumstances. I can cook–well. But, I did it, and I watched certain health issues evaporate. I was never really overweight, but I had some leftover baby weight. That disappeared. What I have learned is that diet is the foundation of our health–more than anything else. I just recently learned that a permanent health condition has been completely reversed, and this is probably due to my being gluten-free. Then, I watched “Forks over Knives”. It’s streaming on Netflix, and I highly recommend it. I tried the diet for 40 days. Now, I can’t sustain something like that for life because I’m already tremendously limited–no gluten, and I can’t eat soy protein (major migraine trigger). But, I’ll tell you…I’ve never felt better than when I followed that eating plan. My anxiety disappeared. I slept better. Better energy. AND…my husband even noticed. Your efforts to turn it around using your diet? It’s not wasted. Keep it up. And seriously, “Forks over Knives”. Even if you adopted just a few of the ideas into your lifestyle…your health would be changed.

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