Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why I miss my walk to work

Well, it's like this. I'm about 30lb (2 stone) overweight. No point denying it.

For my lifestyle, I need about 2000 calories a day. I'm eating about 2500, so I'm gaining about a pound a week. So, either I need to cut down to nearer 1600/day and start losing a pound a week, or, more realistically, I need to cut down to 2000/day and start taking some exercise.

Significantly, when I lived in Cambridge, my daily walk to work and back was just enough to burn the right amount of calories to balance what I actually ate. It's not the good Southern food that's done me in. It's sitting on my butt all day and going everywhere by car.


Will Shetterly said...

Welcome to the USA!

I don't know how things compare to England, but our meal servings tend to be larger than the rest of the world's. So it may not just be that you're not walking, but the US really needs to do more to make it practical for people to walk.

Matt Kelland said...

I've been wary of US portion sizes, and I certainly have eaten bigger meals since being here. But to be fair, I lived on large, rich meals back at home.

I've compensated to some extent by not drinking anything like as much, and not eating nearly as many chocolate bars, potato chips (crisps), or other snacks, so my overall calorie intake hasn't gone up as much as you might think.

John Molloy said...

We've been eating at home and keeping around the 1600 calories a day. Seems to be working. I am down from 250 pounds to 220 and falling. It was hard at first with my diabetes medicine as it seems to actually encourage weight gain. When it actually warms up again I will get the bike out of the garage and start cycling which should also help.

anaglyph said...

I'm facing a similar situation now that I'm working from my studio at home, but I do try and get in an hour's bike ride every morning.

There might be something a little more sinister at work for you over there Matt, though. I'm currently reading The End of Overeating by David Kessler and there is some unsettling stuff about modern processed foods - especially American foods - that has made me really look at what I'm buying and eating. It's not only the amount of added sugar/salt/fat that is the problem, but the actual kinds of those items that are used; for instance, these days corn syrup is used widely as a a sweetener and it has a much greater caloric load than sugar. It is therefore desirable on two counts - it tastes 'better' and it is cheaper for the manufacturers to use. There are similar situations with fats.

Kessler gives an example of how appealing these kinds of high caloric loads are:

An experiment with rats found that they would traverse an electrified floor as necessary to obtain food when they were hungry. In other words, they'd weigh up hunger over the mild shock and eventually put up with it to get the standard rat pellet food.

BUT when the food was replaced with the some of the kinds of things you'd find in an American supermarket - donuts, for example - the rats would just keep on going back for more. Despite the shocks, and despite their satiation point having been reached. It's rather frightening. The food makes you want to eat it...

Matt Kelland said...

Yeah, it's evil like that.

We're pretty good at staying off the foodcrack though: we mostly cook from scratch, and we don't often use processed ingredients.

However, I've become very much more conscious of what that one slice of Papa John's pizza or cheese sandwich is delivering. (Half a pizza = the entire day's required calorie intake. Adding garlic bread, dressing, or wings is straight into overkill.) A typical snack is 250-400 cal, which is a sizeable proportion of my daily allowance. So instead I'm snacking fruit, which is usually under 100.

Interestingly - and scarily - "healthy options" often aren't. The Taco Bell Taco Salad clocks in at a whopping 980 cals, while their Soft Taco with Chicken is a mere 200. Not that I eat at Taco Bell, but you take the point. That's truly evil - you think you're doing the right thing, but you're making it worse.

anaglyph said...

One of the very interesting things in the Kessler book is the mindset of the people who run the big fast food chains (he talks to a number of people from these places who seem eerily forthcoming with scary data). They quite calculatingly sit down and work out exactly how they can get people to eat more, or more frequently. One example: Starbucks realised that during the afternoon, all their cafes experienced a serious lull in sales so they invented a product designed for that period -selling it as an afternoon 'pick-me-up' (some kind of shake, as I recall - I don't have the book to hand). So, where people previously felt no need to consume calories, now there was one. And there are many other examples of this kind of consumer manipulation. Now that it's been pointed out to me, I see it at work everywhere (for instance, as it's coming on Easter here, the supermarkets are already full of chocolate. So by extending the 'Easter' period, treats are more acceptable at a time when previously no-one would even have thought about them. It's insidious.

The 'salad' example you give is typical too - hardly any of those fast food chain 'healthy' meals are actually healthy. People who grab the Caesar salad because they think the lettuce is doing them some good are often better off eating the burger - especially if they avoid the cheese. The salad dressings are by and large way worse than mostly everything else!