For much of my youth I was fortunate (and unfortunate) enough to live across the street from my school. So, rather than stay at the building and eat lunch with my peers, I would go home and enjoy my lunch there. From Noon to 12:30 for the vast majority of my elementary school years, the Flintstones would keep me entertained while I scarfed down whatever food was waiting for me. One of the episodes that I found to be the most unfair had Fred trying to lose 25 pounds in a month in order to win $1000. After trying and failing a number of diets, Fred joins Food Anonymous and never gets to eat a meal again.
Like Fred, I am also trying to lose some weight. A few years ago I had a problem where I couldn’t keep the weight on and subsequently reached my lowest recorded body weight in over a decade. Last year about this time I discovered, to my horror, that I was almost pushing 90kg again. I wasn’t happy about it, so started exercising more and watching what I ate. That worked for a time, but I could never drop below 85kg. Now here I am, fluctuating around 87kg every morning and altogether unhappy with the gut I see every time I look down. I dislike sounding like a broken record, but this needs to change.
Over the last seven days I have been working pretty hard to increase the number of steps I take as well as control the amount of food that I eat every day. The thought of using a calorie-counting application had long seemed foolish to me as I would never know exactly how many calories are in the foods I’m eating but, the more I thought about it, the sillier it seemed for me to want to know precisely how many calories I was consuming in a day. Does it matter if I discover that I actually consumed 93 kcal of energy from a product when a cloud-based database of foods says it’s closer to 100? Not in the least. Of all the things to be super exact about, this was not one of them.
Since making the switch to an iPhone 5S, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a pedometer with me everywhere I go. For the longest time my goal was to take 5,000 steps a day regardless of whether I was at home, work, or out with friends. Eventually that number was bumped up to 6,500. This past week I decided to go for broke, leave the bus pass in my pocket, and walk home from the train station every night. Depending on the weather, I even walked to the station. This is in addition to taking Nozomi out every morning for a longer-than-normal walk and walking more when in town.
I’m quite happy with the results.
On the left MyFitnessPal is showing the number of calories I’ve consumed this week. On the right, Pedometer++ shows the number of steps I’ve taken. Last Sunday was great for food, but terrible for steps. Monday and Tuesday saw me pig out on cookies and bread like an idiot. Thursday saw me break my record for most steps recorded with the phone1, too! All in all, I’m quite happy with the numbers here.
My goals are quite simple: keep the number of steps per day above 6,500, and consume no more than 1,500 calories in a day. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Sadly, the second goal is going to be the hardest to temper.
Do I Love Food, or Just Taste?
Walking is something that comes naturally to many of us, and it’s when I go for a long walk that I get to think about whatever happens to be the topic of the day. Controlling calories will be a whole different monster, though, as I tend to crave food like a chain smoker craves their next cigarette. Like many, many people around the world, I take great pleasure in putting great-tasting things into my mouth. Now I can’t … I must show restraint. Not just for the duration of this diet, either. If I am serious about keeping my body weight between 75 and 77.5 kilograms for the rest of my life, I’ll need to learn to not eat.
During my walks I typically pass by a dozen or so vending machines. Depending on the route and whether I’m with Nozomi or not, I may even pass by convenience stores and other small shops full of wonderful little snacks that provide a quick hit of energy. When taking a power walk, who doesn’t want to grab a quick hit of energy? Sadly, it’s a self-defeating and expensive proposition.
I’ve recently learned just how few calories are consumed by walking. If I want to eat a single Lotte Crunky chocolate bar, I’d best be ready to walk 6.4 kilometres to work off the cheap calories contained within. 6.4 kilometres works out to about 50 minutes of walking. 50 minutes I could be spending on other things more important than working off the energy in a 120円 snack. My time is worth more than the chocolate … as is my health.
But this made me think. Why do I want to eat the chocolate bar? Why do I want to consume chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies? Why do I want to have a nice café latte every so often? Is it the sugar? The caffeine? Effective marketing?
Do I really want to eat? Do I really want to drink a dairy-heavy product?
Maybe what I actually crave is taste.
I eat a lot of gum. Xylitol Spearmint gum is my go-to, and I consume between eight and ten pieces a day. This isn’t only to prevent old-man breath from escaping my mouth when working in a classroom, but to provide some stimulation for those sensitive tastebuds that line the tongue.
I brush my teeth a lot, too. Between five and seven times a day depending on how many breaks I have throughout the day. Sure, this is doing more damage than good to my teeth2, but I love the taste of toothpaste.
In high school I used to draw a lot of pictures. I would design entire cities that would grow from a central point, a massive skyscraper that would curve, twist, and dominate the skyline. These drawings could take anywhere from five to twelve hours. During this time I would have a cigarette in my mouth. It wouldn’t be lit, because I didn’t enjoy the smoke … but I did enjoy the flavour of the air that would pass through the filter and find its way across my tongue before becoming fuel in my lungs.
Eating is great, because there are so many wonderful foods to enjoy. But, the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe that I can keep my weight in check by walking excessive kilometres, measuring my portion sizes during meals, and keeping myself stimulated with 0 calorie gum … so long as the aspartame doesn’t kill me in the meantime.