December 22, 2007

Are You Unintentionally Sabotaging Your Diet?

One of the hardest things when you’re first starting to try to lose weight is actually realizing your diet and exercise mistakes. Last year was when I started learning how to cook, and I thought the pounds would just melt away if I cooked for myself instead of eating out all the time. I went for about three months without touching fast food! I was never really a fast food junkie, but I drove by a zillion McDonalds and Long John Silvers etc all the time, and sometimes I would just get a really intense craving. I learned to make what I was craving, which was definitely better than just eating fast food. But how much better? Ah, that depends on the recipe.

You’ve seen me post recipes that are 600-700 calories, which for my diet is a little high. But what you have to remember is: that’s not even the real recipe. That’s the modified version. A lot of the recipes that I make actually use tons of sugar, olive oil, salty broths, etc. I substitute for these a lot, and also use alternate cooking methods to cut fat and calories. For example, the pork chop recipe that I posted the other day called for the pork chops to be sauteed in olive oil. I opted to grill them on my George Foreman, which not only saved me calories and fat from oil (375 cals and 42 g of fat saved compared to using the 3 tbsp the recipe calls for), but also, if you believe the claims of the “Lean Mean Fat Burning Machine,” helped more of the meat’s fat to be dripped away so I get fewer calories and less fat from that. (I don’t count that when I calculate nutrition, but hey, my body counts it, so it’s worth something).

Anyway, the point is, if you think you’re doing something healthy by just cooking for yourself, you are – certainly don’t stop. But try to think realistically about what you’re cooking.
The pork chop recipe is 1475 calories if you make it as-is. Fourteen hundred and seventy five calories per serving. That means one serving of the recipe as-is would be more than my entire daily allowance. For comparison, a Big Mac with large fries and a large coke is only 1386 calories (I can’t believe I said only with that figure). This does not by any means indicate that you should stop cooking and start eating at McDonalds; I definitely would not encourage that, especially since the McDonalds food is full of chemicals and other highly-processed ingredients. But it means you need to really think critically about the supposedly healthy choices you’re making and whether they really are healthy and make a difference. Is your recipe healthy, or does it use a bunch of cream? Try substituting low-fat yogurt for the cream, or chicken broth for the oil to sautee things, or applesauce for the oil in baking. See how healthy you can make your recipes – you’ll be surprised.

It’s very easy to unintentionally delude yourself into think you’re doing well with your diet, but then you wonder why it’s not working. It really is just SO easy to do that. The little calorie counter on the machine says you’ve burned 600 calories doing 30 mins of cardio, so you think you’ve got a free pass to eat an extra 600 calories. Stop! Don’t do it. Those calorie counters are wrong, and if you eat back what they say you burned, you’re going to be gaining weight and wondering why.

I was talking to a friend about this the other day. He talked about how he plays Wii baseball and counts it as exercise on DailyPlate, using baseball as the activity. When I inquired how many calories he supposedly burned an hour, he said DailyPlate told him about 600. Now, what I like to do when I think about exercise is compare it to running (a recent article in the Times did the same thing, which made me feel super-smart). Running is a fairly standard thing that running a mile burns about 100 calories (of course, up or down depending on your weight and how fast you were going, but it’s still a good standard). So what DailyPlate basically said was that playing baseball for an hour is the equivalent of running 6 miles. Excuse me?! I know baseball is demanding, but you do not run 6 miles in a game. A lot of the time you’re just standing there waiting for your turn at bat or for the ball to come your way in the outfield. As with any sport, I realize there is variation due to what position you play and how the game is going, etc, but I don’t think any player would burn 6 miles worth of calories in an hour. When I told this to my friend, I also pointed out that in Wii baseball, you’re not even running! You’re waving your arm around with a fairly light little controller in hand. Yes, you might get a little sweaty, but I wouldn’t classify two hours of that as a 1200 calorie workout. It’s an innocent mistake, but one that would cost you pretty dearly if you were counting on that 1200 calories as a workout.

Which brings me to the real point of today’s post: knowledge. The reason all those dumb fad diets are so successful? People haven’t learned that weight loss is calories in, calories out. Eat less, move more. It’s not miracle pills or five minutes a day on some revolutionary machine. It’s just plain hard work. It’s avoiding the sweets and then dragging yourself down to the treadmill (though hopefully you can find healthy treats that you like, and an exercise activity that you don’t mind). I like to read everything I can on health/fitness, and that’s part of why I wanted to have this blog: to share what I know. I’m not an expert; I’m not certified; I get my information from various sources, some of which may not even be entirely reliable. But if I read enough of it, I’ll learn what’s good advice and what’s not. What really is something cool to help you lose weight and what’s just some scam to promise you results and take your money.

According to Diet Detective, the drug company Alli is going to be providing free access to nutritionists from January 4 to January 8. You can call in between the hours of between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM, and either speak live with a dietitian, or hear prerecorded diet, nutrition, behavioral and exercise tips. I can’t vouch for how great these dieticians are going to be (if it turns into just one big sales pitch for Alli, I’m bailing), but it seems like a good idea. So think of some burning questions! Really think about why you are the weight you are, and what’s standing in your way of dropping to the weight you want to be. Try to figure out the silly things (“I cook every night with a cup of olive oil… I don’t get why I’m not losing weight!”) on your own and then use this to take care of the really tough questions that you just can’t get answered anywhere else. I may be putting too much faith in the Alli-sponsored dietitians, but getting to talk to an expert for free sounds awesome, so I’m going to give it everything I have!

Off-topic, I just want to announce that last night I went out drinking and had a good time, but only ended up 24 calories over for the day thanks to smart choices earlier. And me not drinking like a fish. I’m proud of myself 🙂


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