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September 20, 2011 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm back to exercising but my weight is at a standstill. What's worked for you? I'd love to lose 30 pounds. Also...any ideas for controlling your diet for someone who really enjoys the culture of food?

I'm a 5'9" guy, currently weighing in around 195. I'm not too broad but a little thicker than I would like. I've had a reasonable but annoying belly for the last 15 or so years.

Even when I was doing crazy vinyasa yoga 5 times a week, I never really got rid of the belly. I was probably eating too much, as is my pattern.I would feel pretty good about being 160, but even in my yoga days (6 years ago) I never got below 165.

Currently I'm trying to do 20 or so minutes of a grueling HIIT routine (4 short sprints around a basketball court, jumping rope on one corner, 10 burpees the next corner, medicine ball slambs the next corner and squats with a 50lb sandbag on the next corner. I've been at it a couple of weeks.

I don't feel like I'm eating all that much, but I guess the evidence is there. I'm also a nurse, and work 12 hour shifts and end up eating a fair amount of Lorna Doones during work to keep from getting mental. Also...I confess to a daily hot chocolate from D&D. It's a long damn shift. I also really, really love to cook. It's hard for me to imagine sticking with some diet that sees food as units and doesn't really allow me to have some freedom in what I cook.

Any thoughts? I'm thinking maybe cutting out the hot chocolate in the morning would be a good start, maybe replacing it with tea. What's worked for you? I'm tempted by a paleo kind of diet, but the idea of eating that much chicken really grosses me out.

Thanks!
posted by sully75 to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Portion control. Eat slower. Let your body process the food you've taken in before you decide you're still hungry and go for more. Give up alcohol, if you're drinking any now. Drink plenty of water, and only water.

Ask about the nutritional information of the hot chocolate at D&D next time you're there. I didn't find any readily available information on their website. I found out yesterday that a Chick-Fil-A large chocolate shake has 113g of carbohydrates. Knowing that is enough to make me think twice about getting it the next time I'm there.
posted by litnerd at 10:08 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Substitute the Lorna Doones with something that has a high caloric density, and eat less of it. Maybe granola bars? Chew gum instead of eating on the job, if possible. Drink water instead of eating cookies. Put a little lemon in your water if it's too bland, or try tea. A cup of tea, even with a teaspoon of sugar, instead of a packet of cookies, is great (that's 15 calories instead of 140).

I don't think your hot chocolate is the problem, I think it's the all-day snacking on cookies. They don't fill you up, but they have a lot of calories. Instead of skipping the hot chocolate, have them make it with skim milk. A large (20 oz) nonfat hot chocolate from Starbucks has 320 calories. A self-serve packet of Lorna Doones has 140. It's the cookies that are getting you, not the cocoa.

Also, logging what you eat for a week or two will really help you get a handle on "this is what I am eating that I don't need to eat" or "here is a place in my diet where I can substitute something that has a low caloric density for something with a high caloric density." I'd start there.

Also, it takes up to six weeks for exercise to have a visible effect. Keep at it.
posted by k8lin at 10:10 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Estimate how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight. There are a number of calculators that will help you do this. One formula is Harris Benedict. There are others, too, but whichever one you do, usually attempt to underestimate your activity level. Once you have an idea of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight, come up with an eating plan that comes in under this amount by around 3500 calories/week (roughly one pound of weight loss) to 7000 calories/week.


You can fill your allotment of calories however you want, although you'll probably notice the best results if you take in a lot of protein and vegetables, and very little added sugar and other refined simple carbs. So, getting rid of Lorna Doones and hot chocolate would be really good ideas, since you get hardly any nutritional value out of these calories, and they're simple carbs that are quickly converted to fats if they go unused.

In short, the important information you need is: (1) how many calories you need to ingest each day to maintain your weight (although this will at best be an estimate); (2) the caloric value of the food you're eating. Once you know those things, you can eat any kind of food you want, provided you come in below your maintenance level.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:11 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am not a dietitian --or your dietician. But what works for me is making sure I get enough fiber each day before indulging in nutritionally empty sweets. I still indulge, but in smaller amounts. I like high fiber cereal mixed with slightly sweeter medium fiber cereal.

12 hour shifts as a nurse are unforgiving---patients often wonder why nurses are overweight (at least in the US) -- but work rules stack the deck against you. You are literally sacrificing your own health for other people's.

I suggest making healthy nuts your treat during work--maybe with a chunk of dark chocolate. You'll get protein for energy, and the healthy fat will make you feel satisfied.

Try to drink only half your DD hot chocolate.

When you eat sweets--pay attention to whether or not it's "worth it". For example, would half a Godiva hot chocolate made at home taste better than the DD? I find it easier to say no to cheap treats when I realize "that didn't taste as good as I thought it would".
posted by vitabellosi at 10:14 AM on September 20, 2011


I like diversity in food and am not good at eliminating things or creating random rules. I am good at internet access and being a slave to the computer and documentation and arithematic. After having read about how effective food diaries are, I started one on fitday and picked a target per-day calorie count.

In order to beat the game, some things naturally get cut out (pasta, bread), but others are surprisingly well within target (cheese, chocolate, in reasonable portions) and others can fall within the rules if cuts are made that day somewhere else (McDonalds, Subway).

So far, I have found it surprisingly easy and even fun to stick with this. I can say it has been effective and that I will continue to do it, but cannot give any specific numbers because I don't keep them (it's part of the game, for me. I play by the "zipper rule" of how the clothes fit). I have found that if I am not entering the data that day things get fuzzy and I may when I finally enter that data found that I lost the game on a couple days especially while traveling.

Also, FWIW, I don't have any intense exercise right now except a lot of walking.
posted by whatzit at 10:15 AM on September 20, 2011


Yeah, the snacking thing is probably what's doing you in. It's so hard though when you are working a crazy shift to not just throw your hands up and eat Lorna Doones.

For me, Weight Watchers really, really worked. You can still have Lorna Doones, just not as many. It really teaches you to look at food in terms of its nutritional value. One thing I loved about WW, too, was that veggies were 0 points. Total free pass. So, pack some veggies and maybe some low-cal dip and when the Lorna Doone monster strikes, eat some of those. Plan your meals ahead of time also.

A lot of it is just having discipline. You know what you have to do, but doing it is what's hard.
posted by Leezie at 10:16 AM on September 20, 2011


Cooking at home is one of the healthiest choices you can make! But you have to use that hobby for good rather than evil. Look up healthy recipes with lots of veggies and whole grains. It shouldn't be difficult to get creative with this and still appreciate food for what it is, rather than making it into a bunch of "units," as you say.

Avoid making desserts, casseroles, or pasta dishes. And when you do, take the high-cal stuff to work for everyone to share. Better they get fat than you.
posted by angab at 10:21 AM on September 20, 2011


Fix one thing at a time.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:29 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


MyFitnessPal is what I use to keep track of my calories. If you have a smartphone, you can use the camera on it plus the app to scan barcodes of anything you eat, plus it has a tab for recipes where you put in all the ingredients and it does all the nutrient/calorie math for you. It's very informative and enlightening, or it was to me, anyway.
posted by KathrynT at 10:31 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Portion control. Eat 10-20% less than your normally would, and dial down the snacking. Worry about the other stuff later. Paleo is a great way of eating (and doesn't require massive amounts of chicken, not sure where you got that) but is a big change, you're likely to do better with small steps.
posted by schroedinger at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2011


I agree with Leezie that Weight Watchers might be a good choice for you--you have plenty of flexibility in how you "spend" your points. And you can fill up on a ton of low-point veg so you don't feel hungry. This website has lots of veg recipes (with points), plus zero-point veg soups; maybe you could have that as a snack?
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:58 AM on September 20, 2011


Cut out carbs, sugar, and fruit. Eat as much as you want of everything else. Forget counting calories. Lose weight.

You can cheat a little bit, but when you do, only cheat a little and really savor it. You'd be surprised; you can get as much enjoyment out of two pieces of chocolate as you can a whole bar.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2011


You sound like a prime candidate for the "No S" diet. You can eat any kind of food you like, and no foods are off limits. However, you cannot eat Sweets, Snacks, or Second helpings, except on days that begin with S. Cook whatever meals you like, eat the foods you enjoy, don't worry about calories or nutrient ratios or cutting out whole food groups. But don't eat multiple portions, skip dessert most days, and don't snack between meals.

You might modify it a little if you work on weekends and have other days during the week, making your days off your S days and your workdays your no-S days. Basically, you need to find ways to deal with work stress that don't involve eating crap food. Whether that means using your breaks to go outside and walk around the block, or playing music you enjoy, or whatever, do that. And honestly, if your work schedule is making you "mental" to the point where the only way to get through it is to distract yourself with snacks, perhaps you ought to think about finding a way to transition to a job that better suits your personality. But using food as a reward for working is not a good habit to get into.
posted by decathecting at 11:02 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cut out those cookies! Excess carbs will make you stay fat. If you must snack, snack on veggies, meat, or cheese.

Seems like the word paleo gets thrown out around a lot but not everyone is on the same page as to what it means or what you should and shouldn't east, so while my diet is pretty close to a paleo diet, I just call it "low-carb, high fat".

I'm 5'6" and used to weight 220 lbs at my fattest. At first, I did the usual. Hit the gym like crazy and eat less, while taking standard nutrition advice "Stay away from fat, eat your whole grains, eat your fruits and veggies." I restricted calories and lost weight.

It worked for a while, and I went from 220 to 170 in a year. I was slacking though after I hit my goal weight and that number started to rise again. I really felt like I was on a diet and I kept "rewarding" myself with terrible foods.

But then I started reading more about nutrition and what makes us fat and I changed my diet completely. I was stunned at the rate I lost weightfat, and I didn't even have to go to the gym.

For reading/viewing I reccomend 3 things. Robert Lustig's lecture "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" available on Youtube. Tom Naughton's documentary/educational film "Fat Head", available on NetFlix and Hulu for free and finally Gary Taubes "Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It".

All of these things contributed to what is now my "diet". I actually don't even want to call it a diet because its just the way I eat, and how I'll probably eat for life.

From Mr. Lustig, I got scared away from sugar. It really hit home when he compared the side effects of drinking too much with almost the same consequences of excess sugar intake. Hell, even the American Heart Association says males shouldn't have more than 100g of added sugar a week. Some people do that in one hour of one day.

From Tom Naughton, I learned that fat is nowhere near as bad as most people think it is and actually very beneficial. Finally, from Gary Taubes I learned the how terrible the carbohydrate can be in terms of retaining and making new fat.

Since you love to cook, I recommend finding some low carb cookbooks. Particularly, Dana Carpender's series on low-carb cooking. If you find the low-carb lifestyle restricting, remember the 80/20 rule: Follow the diet without fail 80% percent of the time, and don't worry about cheating the other 20%.
posted by d1rge at 11:14 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am with whatzit - all about food diversity and my own little form of gamification. I lost a little over 30 lbs this summer by cooking my own food using healthy recipes from Epicurious (e.g. Self on Epi), Eating Well, and similar sites. When I come across a recipe that doesn't already have nutrition information calculated for me, I use the recipe analyzer at Nutrition Data. I started a tumblr with pictures and nutrition analysis of what I ate, but got bored and stopped updating it after a short while (message me if you would like the link). Basically, I didn't ever want to feel deprived of any type of food or flavor, so I made sure my portions were reasonable (i.e. under my calorie limit for the day, when added up) and took everything in moderation, including the moderation! I use the loseit app for iphone to track the calories of what I am eating on the fly - I think that the ability to look up calories/nutrition information is key for whatever diet you are undertaking, and that the constant monitoring and recording (not as onerous as it sounds!!) really works wonders. I barely noticed it after a couple of days. Finally, loseit has a very nice web community, and I would recommend joining it to get some encouragement and accountability regardless of whether you have a smartphone (you can also message me if you'd like to be loseit buddies).

It sounds like you really have the exercise part down - congrats and keep up the good work!
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forgot - I very very rarely buy premade sweets. If I indulge, it's almost always because I am being social at some event or because I have made something indulgent from scratch. Maybe you could bake yourself some cookies and bring them in to work (added bonus - if you feel like sharing, all the compliments from starving co-workers are a non-food reward that you can enjoy).
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 11:30 AM on September 20, 2011


Exercise is good for your health, but weight loss is all about caloric deficit.

Get rid of all the mystery and just track your calories. I use fitday.com, although it is starting to feel kind of dated.

Unless you're very unusual, you can eat whatever you want, as long as you maintain a deficit, and you'll lose weight. You can have hot chocolate and cookies and you can cook whatever you want. It's just about the total calories. Once you get a handle of how much you are taking in, you can decide where you want to cut.
posted by callmejay at 11:43 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might just be too soon for you to really see much in the way of benefits but you should also measure yourself. You could be losing fat and gaining muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat so you could be getting thinner without losing any weight.
posted by VTX at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2011


Echoing others' advice to track what you eat, and holy moley does your new workout routines sound intense! Kudos! But I think the fact that you love to cook is really going to help you out here. I wouldn't see it as "No, I can't cook this, it's too carby/fatty/sugary/whatever", but rather "This dish is delicious. How do I make it so that it fills me up with less calories, but without sacrificing the tasty?"

Some examples might be:

- making chicken and mushroom marsala, minus the chicken, swap in some swiss chard or other green to bulk it up. You still get that chickeny/umami taste (from the broth and the mushrooms) plus the decadence of a marsala sauce. But you're also upping fiber, which is good for you plus keeps you full.

- try a pureed vegetable soup. Oh man. I just made a huge pot of cauliflower soup with chicken broth, roasted garlic, sauteed onions, and bacon. Yes, I used 6 strips of bacon in the soup, and yes, I fried those onions in the bacon fat. But there is also a whole head of cauliflower in there, and it made like 12 cups. Once pureed (immersion blender), it was silky, comforting, bacony, hearty... you can sip that all day at your station (assuming you're allowed to eat there?) and supplant your cookie habit. Split pea with smoked pork, and Navy bean w/ mushroom, bacon, and a dollop of tahini are great too. They cook up fast, and you can keep a big container at work for a few days.

- when you make something indulgent, portion it out more. So, a rack of lamb? Eat that over 3 or 4 days, and pair it with a big crunchy salad, some quinoa (cooks fast & mixes well with whatever chopped up roasted/sauteed veg for a quick side), etc. That way it still feels like you're eating really awesome things (because you are!), but you're again getting full on the less-caloric stuff, while enjoying the "bad" food as a highlight.

- Expand your spice rack, if you haven't already. Smoked paprika is my new favourite thing. Also, a lot of Asian grocery stores will sell intensely-flavoured pastes/sauces that can bring a whole new dimension to your typical steamed green beans or new potatoes or whatever.

I think this kind of thing works for me because I love tasty vegetables only a little less than I love meat, and because I don't have a huge sweet-tooth (instead, I am a salt-fiend). For a sweet kick, maybe try bringing fruit with a dessert-y sauce? Apple slices with caramel sauce, or a banana with some Nutella? (Obviously, the key is to portion out the sauce before hand so you don't go crazy.) You get the sweet kick, with the bonus of the fruit which should fill you up more than cookies. And I don't think it's much more difficult to eat "on-the-go" than cookies or other prepacked snacks would be.

You can definitely do this. Good luck!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:19 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like you, I hate tracking 'units'. Honestly, it makes (my) life miserable. I can avoid calorie-counting and portion control by following a low-carb diet and I've lost 35 pounds of extra pregnancy weight this way over the past year. Whatever diet you choose to follow, it really is the food. I do a difficult workout that lasts over an hour at least three days a week with a whole lot of other ladies. If exercise were enough, we would not be carrying extra fat, and sadly, that is not the case.

I want to second d1rge's recommendations of both Gary Taubes' "Why We Get Fat..." and Dana Carpender's cookbooks (at least one is available for kindle). And I would also recommend Tim Ferriss' "4 Hour Body" at the very least for his eating plan and the way the book makes you want to get shit done (his self-discipline and enthusiasm for some wacky self-experimentation are actually really cool and inspiring). Get that on kindle too, if you can. Way cheaper. You get a whole cheat day! (as a dude, at least. I've gone with one cheat meal). You'll find that the once a week cheats are all the goodies you need.

**Just thinking about your work situation - go ahead and follow what I call the 'naughty' low-carb diet before taking a look at Ferriss' diet plan. Have whatever you want, so long as it's low carb. Have bacon and pepperoni. Eat nuts and cheese sticks at work. Buy smoothies and protein bars (I look for the bars that have 30 grams of carb or less. Avoid sugary smoothies). Basically, don't try to go with an extremely strict diet right off the bat. You'll lose some weight, then you'll stall, and that's when you'll find the motivation to transition to a better diet.
posted by kitcat at 1:46 PM on September 20, 2011


while working in the hospital, i also fell prey to the sinister call of lorna doones (and saltines, and graham crackers). instead, i now grab a carton of skim milk, another hospital 'nourishment station" staple. actually has some nutritional benefit and is reasonably tasty. in the pediatric wards, they have chocolate milk.
posted by genmonster at 1:57 PM on September 20, 2011


I love food and eating and cooking. My cooking now centres around savoury dishes, with occasional excursions into rice or dairy-based desserts that are only lightly sweetened. Being really into cooking is helpful, not harmful, because I really enjoy making things from scratch.

I had to look up Lorna Doones. Dude. Yeah, if you eat half a packet of shortbread every shift, it's going to be hard to lose weight. Your number one challenge has to be to find something that compensates that isn't as energy dense and doesn't spike your blood sugar. Crazy thought here -- do you like hard boiled eggs? Especially, does peeling them do anything for you? (A little break, a little interesting thing to do with your hands). There's less energy in a hard boiled egg than a shortbread biscuit but I guarantee you can't eat a dozen hard boiled eggs in a shift.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:58 PM on September 20, 2011


I'm also in a job where I end up eating to pass the time and I'll nth the value of a food diary. I just use the notepad app on my iPhone. It seems that writing it down is all that it takes for me. But definitely do it each day; the day after its just a blur. Write down every packet of chips and cookies. You'll be amazed how much extra food you eat.

For snacks stick to nuts and dried fruit w/ a bit of dark chocolate. Stay away from refined flour and sugar. I find cans of fizzy water are a great substitue for a snack. It still feels like something that you shouldn't have b/c its in a can (if that makes any sense) also seems to fill the void spaces.

Which brings me to the South Beach Diet. My sister lost 70 lbs using this diet and after I read the book I literally stopped eating refined flour and sugar (and beer, DAMN). I don't touch bread or pastries anymore and I don't miss them AT ALL (and I live in France and used to be addicted to both pastries and fresh bread). Those calories are empty. Don't eat them. I still feel hungry if I follow the South Beach recipes (and I suspect you would too at 195 and active) but I try to follow the spirit of the book, I just eat bigger portions than the author recommends.

By the way, quinoa truly is a miracle food. The wife has been getting me to cook more of it and it really fills you up. Something like twice the protein of brown rice.

Good luck
posted by pandabearjohnson at 3:04 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You long shift coupled with snacking on sugary carbs to survive it is probably not so great for your metabolic response. Replace the cookies with protein and some fat to keep you sated and don't go long periods without a snack, eat every 3 hours even if it's just some string cheese or nuts or yogurt. Then you won't have sugar crashes and binge on unhealthy snacks. It might make you nervous at first--eating constantly in a steady timed manner made me uneasy at first because I felt like I was ingesting too much food throughout the day total--but if you give it a couple weeks and do it faithfully you'll likely find it smooths out your cravings and you'll actually get leaner (at least, that's what happens to me). As soon as I slide back into skipping meals/snacks every 3 hours (which paradoxically makes me eat less overall, or so it feels) The weight comes back, even if I don't particularly binge or ingest more calories overall. It's really weird. But seriously. Try eating 6 times a day at regular intervals.
posted by ifjuly at 5:17 AM on September 21, 2011


Buy some powdered protein and make a couple of shakes to taste with various ingredients (milk/water/yogurt/oats/milled flaxseed/peanut butter), refrigerate, and sip throughout the day. Eat a good dinner that includes a good protein portion. You might want to start the day with a muffin or a couple of hard boiled eggs if just drinking your meals doesn't fill you. Figure out your calorie limit, and don't go over it.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2011


I know that paleo eating, and low-carb high-fat diets are the cool thing right now, but I don't believe they are healthy.

I think you should get the book 'Eat to Live' by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He recommends a vegetarian diet, but one high in green vegetables, and low in carbohydrates, particularly white/refined carbohydrates. One nice thing about his recommendations that is nice is that he doesn't ask you to count calories, or units or anything like that. Instead, he gives a big list of foods from which he encourages you to eat as much as you like.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2011


Anecdotally, I recently decided to force myself to incorporate a fresh veggie (okay, sometimes it's frozen or comes in the food I get at restaurants) in my lunch and dinner. (yeah, I'm BAD for disliking all but a few veggies--anyway...)

If I was unable to do it at lunch, then I made myself eat an apple. I found myself less hungry/craving sugar than normal; my sugar cravings before bed also went away. Apparently, apples help regulate blood sugar and are one of the better fruits to have on hand from a carb perspective; they store well, too.

I work out doing cardio and that's pretty much it; I don't eat MORE food, but lately, my weight crept up a couple pounds (3, specifically) and extra exercise didn't take it back off.

Strangely, eating this new way made the weight go back down to normal after about a week. Then I got busy with family stuff and work, stopped my new eating regime and did what I used to do, which is eat what was there or not eat at all and have a huge dinner. My weight crept back up last week.

I'm back to the forcing veggie/apple thing again and I've lost 2 of the 3 pounds again since Saturday. Is there science behind it? Nope. But I'm not measuring or tracking or whatever with food/calories/carbs/sugar/oil, either. And I'm pushing 40 and have a mega-sedentary job.

My layperson understanding is that I wasn't getting enough fiber before and eating too much processed refined sugar; it's easily stored as weight and digested much faster without extra carbs/protein to slow your digestive system down. When I added back the fiber, my body took longer to break down the carbs/sugar in the remainder of what I was eating, and my blood sugar was more evenly regulated. I couldn't even finish a cupcake yesterday at 4 p.m. because I was FULL from my apple at lunch!

Also, soup keeps you much fuller for longer. If you're a nurse, why not take soup and an apple to work for awhile? It's easy, stores well and if you end up not eating it, you can have it the next day.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:06 PM on September 23, 2011


Just wanted to say thanks! There's a lot of helpful stuff here.
posted by sully75 at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2011


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