Will these small changes to my diet make me healthier?
July 19, 2007 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm not fat, I'm just kind of.. fat. Are these choices making me healthier?

So, I'm 6'4" and I weigh around 250 pounds. When I was a kid people used to tease me about being a string bean. They do not do this anymore. Instead of being a string bean, I guess I now resemble an oak tree - I'm a little thick in the middle. I'm not obese, but I'm not at a weight I'm proud of, either - I'm kind of...a little round. My pants are a little tight. My thighs rub together when I walk. My breasts kind of bounce a little bit when I go up and down stairs, and I'm a guy, so that's not as sexy as it sounds.

Why? Well, a couple things. I'm taking some anxiety medication that my doctor tells me isn't doing my weight any favors. I'm also not so active (I spend a lot of time in front of the computer), and that's not doing me any favors either. The big one, however, is how I eat. Any time you're stopping at Taco Bell and Burger King in the same week, you're probably not going to be rocking a six pack.

Well, look, I'm a reasonable guy - I realize that my best chance to drop some of the weight around my midsection is to take small, measured steps. I notice that when I undertake huge, drastic life changes, I have a tendency to not stick to them.

So, I've started exercising a couple a couple days out of the week. I've started taking the stairs instead of the elevator. And I've tried to improve my diet.

So what am I asking?

Well, this question is chiefly about my diet. I eat out a lot, which is another strike right there - but that's something that's not going to change over night, so just humor me and accept it as one of the basic premises of this question.

Normally, let's say I go out to eat for lunch at work - I'd order, maybe, depending on the place, two coney dogs, an order of fries and a greek salad. Or a bacon cheeseburger, and order of fries, and a greek salad. Yuk, right?

Let's say that, as a place to start, I try to force myself to order things that have, say, turkey!

Turkey is healthy, right?

Let's say I order a turkey club, or a turkey rueben, or a turkey roll-up? Or instead of getting a lamb gyro I order a chicken gyro?

I mean, I know these things still have cheese, and dressing, and things - but are these choices actually improving my general well-being at all, or am I just fooling myself?
posted by kbanas to Health & Fitness (75 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'd say drop the fries. And while a Greek salad may seem like a healthy choice, every 1-inch chunk of feta you're looking at has more calories than the lettuce, vegetables, and olives *combined*. Dressing is usually the killer on salads but cheese is way worse. How about a house salad instead of greek?
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:19 AM on July 19, 2007

Drop the meat and dairy and the pounds will follow.
posted by trueluk at 8:19 AM on July 19, 2007

If you're looking to lose weight, you need to focus on foods that are low in fat and calories. Some foods that "feel" healthy are anything but- women's magazines do layouts on this all the time, they compare a McDonalds salad to a McDonalds sandwich, and it turns out the salad has more calories and fat. Restaurant food, in general, has more calories and food than food you might bring from home- could you possibly make yourself a turkey sandwich for lunch? Even bringing a big bag of carrots and trying to eat as many as possible will fill you up with veggies and leave less room for the crap.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:20 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's the cheese and dressing and things, and the fries, AND the greek salad that's a problem. Get a sammich with no dressing and cheese and stuff. Cut out the fries. Get a chef's salad or a make your own salad without all the oil and dressing and all that.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:20 AM on July 19, 2007

All of the little steps help. Take them one at a time, and stick with them.

Soon those little steps (taking the stairs, picking a leaner meat than beef, etc.) will turn into strides. Take your baby steps with the idea of incorporating all of these things into an overall lifestyle change that includes better nutrition and more exercise. Take it slow, give it time, and you should (sooner than later) be in much better shape. It's sort of a snowball effect.

As for your food choices, you may want to try cooking lunch and bringing leftovers to work. Not only will it save you money, but it will undoubtedly be healthier. The health gain between a bacon cheeseburger and a turkey ruben ain't much. So try to consider how to eliminate these incredibly unhealthy food choices from your life, one baby step at a time.
posted by dead_ at 8:22 AM on July 19, 2007

Response by poster: These are all great suggestions, but they all sound... really tasteless!

A sandwich with no dressing and cheese? I... erk....
posted by kbanas at 8:22 AM on July 19, 2007

You just need to reeducate your tastebuds, kbanas. Do you like smelly cheeses? A little of those goes a long way. Roast beef, a little mustard, a little cheese, some tomato and pickle and lots of lettuce on whole wheat? Yum! Just put 1/3 the amount of meat on that a deli would give you and you'll be fine. Don't try and do everything all at once. I would actually go for portion control and cutting out the more egregious fats than putting a cheese (for example) moratorium in place.
posted by gaspode at 8:27 AM on July 19, 2007

Sorry kbanas, but dude. You're eating hot dogs AND fries AND cheese on a salad? I think you've got the guts to pick two things you find tasty and have the salad plain. Or have that salad, but swap fries for carrots. You had the guts to put the question to us, after all ;)
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:30 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, a lot of those suggestions sound disgusting. A sandwich without dressing and cheese is a salad with a side of bread. You have the right idea with the baby steps.

Buy your sandiches at Subway or a deli, not McDonald's. Get light mayo and look at the nutritional content of the bread. Whole wheat is usually better, but not always. Don't cut out meat and dairy completely, otherwise you'll need to get a lot of protein from other sources, which don't taste as good. Drink skim milk instead of 2%. Eat cheese in moderation. Turkey, chicken, and fish are all good sources of protein with low-ish fat content. French fries are terribly fatty; don't eat them.
posted by smorange at 8:32 AM on July 19, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry kbanas, but dude. You're eating hot dogs AND fries AND cheese on a salad? I think you've got the guts to pick two things you find tasty and have the salad plain. Or have that salad, but swap fries for carrots. You had the guts to put the question to us, after all ;)

I know, having you type it out like that makes me feel, actually, physically disgusted with myself - which is maybe what I need!

But I'm a big guy! With a big appetite!

These are great suggestions, everyone. I really, really appreciate it!
posted by kbanas at 8:35 AM on July 19, 2007

A turkey sandwich is a fine choice, but get it with lettuce, tomato and mustard. Also, if they usually give you a five-inch stack of turkey, ask them to put half the normal amount on your sandwich. Cheese is fine as long as it's not piled on. Hold the bacon and thousand island dressing, which add tons of fat and have no nutritional value.

You're a big guy, and you need a lot of calories, even if you're going to lose weight. Your temptation is going to be to under-eat, and then you'll just fill up on junk food. A turkey sandwich (without the bacon and thousand island dressing) and an undressed salad are not going to be enough for you for lunch. That's not enough for me, and I weigh half as much as you. I think the Greek salad is probably fine. I wouldn't worry too much about the cheese. Feta cheese is pretty good for you, and you need the calories.

Probably the easiest thing you can do is to substitute something more nutritious for french fries. Can you think of any good, non-friend french fry alternatives?
posted by craichead at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2007

Dropping the fries (or eating half) and ordering a diet soda cuts fast food calories to almost 1/2. This is at best damage control. I suggest packing a lunch more often. Try once and week then up it to twice a week.

You can google this stuff, but im pretty sure a gyro in any flavor is still going to be pretty nasty. Ideally you want to focus on real meats. Like a chicken breast instead of a chicken gyro. A turkey sub instead of a meatball sub. Avoid mayo unless you really want it.

I dont think you need to go crazy and eat only dry turkey, but shifting to slightly heathier foods helps quite a bit in the long run. I think you are eating a bit lousy now and any little bit helps. Dont be turned off by advice that more or less equates to eating like a 14 year old 100lbs vegan girl.

Lets say you have 3 cola drinks a day. Thats roughly 600 calories. In a week thats 4,200 calories! A pound of very real fat on your body putting extra strain on your heart is 3500 calories! Just switching to diet cola can save you a pound a week.

Make baby steps. Start slow and work your way up to healthier eating. Good luck!
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:37 AM on July 19, 2007

Oh, it's not about feeling physically disgusted with yourself, cos that's a downward spiral from which no one emerges. You just have to look at it and think, "y'know, I can do better." And then do it! Which I totally think you can. For starters, you know what a salad is. That's a good place to start.

I'd also say, have whatever meat you're going to have, but have it on top of that salad instead of in the bun. (And this from a vegetarian!)
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:38 AM on July 19, 2007

kbanas, I have a suggestion for you. You're going to look at me weird, but let me back it up with an explanation.

Join Weight Watchers.

Speaking as a guy, very, very much not as gynocentric as it used to be. They even have "eTools for Men" so you (pardon the upcoming sexism, ladies) don't have to wade through fifty threads on water retention.

More importantly for you, this would address two concerns brought up in your post.

First, the plan makes it really easy to measure the effect food has on you. You're assigned a "points value" -- points are essentially a function of calories, fat grams, and fiber grams in a piece of food -- which you need to stay under each day. All foods have a point value. From there, it's just like a checkbook. You start with a balance, you make sure you don't overdraw, and in the interim, you're good no matter what you choose to eat. You can say, "Sure, I'll have the Quarter Pounder." But maybe that means you have Cheerios for breakfast and a bowl of broth-based soup for dinner.

Second, and here's the other nice thing: if you attend meetings, many meetings serve as big ol' brainstorming sessions where you learn about how to develop low-cal versions of foods and tastes you desire that don't have the heavy fat-gram hit, but still taste pretty damn good.

My e-mail's in my profile if you want any further information.
posted by WCityMike at 8:41 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try and cook more of your own food, it is less fatty and it will save you money. Also the above suggestions are good regarding what you should cut out. But you need to remember that you can substitute fats, for example you can replace cheese in salads and sandwiches with avacado, which is good and a lot better for you. Or you can have your sandwiches be simpler, such as lean roast beef with tomato spicy mustard or horseraddish and maybe onion, it will definitely not be bland, and its a lot better for you then what you were eating before.

Also try and work exercise into your day, you are doing a very good thing by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, take it further by walking to places more and biking whenever you can. Its not exercise that is pointless as it gets you somewhere and you will save money on gas or transit.

You are on a good path, so just buckle down fatty and follow through.

p.s. good for you for addressing this before it becomes a big problem!
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:42 AM on July 19, 2007

Drop the meat and dairy and the pounds will follow.

I disagree. Drop the refined sugars (soda, etc), and the carbs (hot dog buns, french fries, pasta), and the pounds will follow. At least for me. I lose weight easily when I do a revised Atkins - cheese, dairy, meat, veggies and fruits only.
posted by tristeza at 8:43 AM on July 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Probably the easiest thing you can do is to substitute something more nutritious for french fries. Can you think of any good, non-friend french fry alternatives?

Pretzels. Baked chips.
posted by Bonzai at 8:45 AM on July 19, 2007

By the way, re: item one — you can elaborate on this. They do teach and encourage nutritional alternatives (fruit/grain/etc. servings) and healthy habits. Generally, I've found it to be a very supportive and useful atmosphere, and not at all what I imagined it to be prior to first joining. You do have to find the "right meeting" — shop around if you dislike where you end up first.
posted by WCityMike at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2007

Feta cheese is pretty good for you

Apart from the calcium, which I sincerely doubt he's short on, there's not much of note in feta apart from, obvs, the flavour. He'll be getting Bs and similar from his meat, and two reasonable pieces of feta gets you all of your daily sodium in one (admittedly tasty) go. I'd spend my fat and salt on something more bulky, personally.

I grew up in Tarpon Springs, where the word "moderation" was all but unknown in relation to the amount of cheese on a Greek salad. YMMV.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2007

Solid advice from the folks on the Men's Health forums:

So you want to lose fat?
Clean Eating

The former is a good introduction to a healthy lifestyle. The latter is considerably more detail about food, originally intended for a particular "challenge" on the forums (which basically amounts to "meet exercise and nutritional goals for 52 days") but is good reading anyhow.

But all this "a place to start" business is going to lead you nowhere. You're not going to see results, and if you don't see results you're not going to keep up any of it. Decide up front what results you want to see. If you want to lose fat, aim to lose 10 lbs in two months. Then try to meet that goal, and in two months you can see if you've met or exceeded or not quite hit it.

You'd be surprised how much tasty stuff you can eat even when you're watching what you eat and exercising: for instance, you'll probably have a hard time getting enough protein. Meat! Cheese! Smoothies with protein powder! None of this "well, let's leave the dressing off the salad" that produces little gain with lots of misery.

You spend time at the computer, which means you probably have an office or technical job, which means you're probably adept at managing projects. Treat yourself as a project.
posted by mendel at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2007

Oh, and if you can stand the girl-centricity, Hungry Girl is an amazing clearinghouse of tips and tricks. They review all the new products pretty comprehensively and come up with a lot of good, normal swaps for things you probably like eating.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2007

1. Buy the South Beach Diet and follow it. It lasts between 6 - 12 weeks.

2. Stop watching tv.

3. Any exercise, minimum 30 minutes a day. Weights are pretty good too, after 30 minutes of swimming/jogging/eliptical, etc.

Never get the idea that it is easy. The actual eating/excercise is easy, but in the United States you are assaulted daily with bad choices. It may take a year, but if you stick to it, results will follow.

My routine is yogurt for breakfast, salad for lunch, random cheese stick during the day, no bread for dinner but anything else is ok. Run 3-5 miles a day, and do weights/gym for .5 - 1 hour after run. 5 days a week, taking off the weekends for vodka, pizza, etc.
posted by four panels at 8:57 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


You are going to receive a lot of differing nutritional advice in this thread. Much of it will be suspect. One thing to remember, however is that a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fats and refined sugar is the best diet for your body. Use this as a rough guideline for your choices, and avoid fad diets.

This is trusted, tested advice that everyone knows--and has known, forever. As mom always used to say, "eat your veggies." It is banal advice, and yet still holds true today, and you can see it repeated across populations worldwide: those who are most healthy are indeed the ones eating their greens, and moderating their fats and sugars. Sometimes the simplest answer is best.

posted by trueluk at 9:02 AM on July 19, 2007

I have a friend who swears by a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Lost 25 pounds that way....because he stays full and doesn't binge out on carbs and junk at lunch. So don't necessarily cut out on meat and dairy. Eating protein and fat at the right time can help you make better eating choices at other times of the day.
posted by availablelight at 9:05 AM on July 19, 2007

How discouraging would it be if I said that is actually my ideal body type for guys? :D

Hi, I'm Jim. I live in Vancouver and I like cooking, snarking and Scrabble. How you doin'?

To the OP: portion control, buddy. Eat whatever you want -- just eat less of it. Switching out the bacon cheeseburger for hummus and pita isn't going to save you significant calories and may well slap more pounds on your frame, as I've learned this year to my chagrin. Eating one burger instead of two? That'll do wonders.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:05 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Drink more water. You said nothing in your post about how much water you drink, but if you're not drinking so much water that it would seem noteworthy enough to tell us, drink more! Water makes you feel healthy. Being dehydrated can make you feel like you're hungry (when, really, you're actually thirsty). Drinking water will also make it easier for you to avoid any sugary liquids you may like.

I also suggest saying the following thing to yourself whenever you have to decide what side dishes to get or how much mayonnaise to put on that sandwich: "This is just to get me energy. My life will not revolve around food." In other words, stop thinking about meals as the best part of the day. I know how hard it is. I know how great it can be to look forward to a delicious, delicious meal -- to expect a meal to be the most noteworthy and fantastic part of the day. You seem to have that sort of viewpoint, considering your follow-up posts in this thread. And, well.. that attitude is not helpful. You have to concentrate on how food is just a means to staying healthy, that's it. If you can get past the idea that food is something to look forward to, it becomes a whole dang lot easier to accept a healthier but less tasty meal.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2007

Don't force yourself to live off of turkey - unless you're prepared to make a major life change, it's going to be too hard to keep up. If you're ready to make a huge change, great. Become a vegetarian, keep carrot sticks in your pockets, cook your own food, and all the other great things that people are suggesting. All good stuff. But if you're not ready to make that big a change, there are still things you can do. You can eat the things you like, you just have to moderate it so that the calories you're taking in aren't so extreme. In your example meal, try ordering a regular burger (no bacon no cheese) and a salad (no cheese) with a light dressing. There's no reason you can't have a burger, but cheese, bacon, and fries really push it over the edge. Rather than the 2 coneys, salad and fries, try one regular hot dog, salad (no cheese), and a cup of chili (no cheese). This isn't a seriously restrictive way to live, and it's not neccessarily going to cause instant weight loss, but it will definitely make some difference.

I used Fitday's built in calorie list for this, so the numbers won't perfectly match what you're eating, but here's a rough example:

2 hot dogs with chili, 1 cup greek salad, 1 cup fries, 12oz cola = 1,132 calories.

1 hot dog, cup of chili on the side, green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, 1 Tbsp light italian), diet coke or water = 622 calories

The one great thing about fast food is that most of the chains put their calories online. Take a minute before you go grab lunch and assemble your meal on their website first. As mentioned already, some of the things that seem like healthier choices sometimes aren't necessarily lower calorie choices. If you're eating at a local place, drop or reduce the sauce/spreads and cheese, and get a diet cola or water (If diet coke tastes bad to you, try filling the cup mostly with diet coke and adding a tiny bit of real coke at the end - comparable to putting sugar in your coffee in calories, but it improves the diety taste somewhat). Avoid fries unless you want them to be your entire meal.
posted by waterlily at 9:07 AM on July 19, 2007

The secret to eating out a lot and not getting all fat is to eat little and, particularly if you're in one of those restaurants that offer gargantuan portions, not clean your plate. (Seriously, it sounds stupid, but this is the secret provided to me by a French cultural historian who has done extensive research on the sociohistorical consequences of the rise of restaurant/cafe culture.) Next time you're out order one coney dog and pass on the fries. If you order the reuben only eat half the sandwich and eat the rest tomorrow. Yes, it's tough and somewhat irritating to restrict yourself but this is what it takes. People who eat out a lot fall easily into a kind of mindset that doesn't really appreciate food because obtaining it is just so easy and convenient. A good bit of self-control thus becomes necessary.
posted by nixerman at 9:08 AM on July 19, 2007

I second everyone who said making your own food/lunches is healthier. If you're worried about lack of flavour on sandwiches, try hummous -- it's got tons of flavour, is yummy, is healthy, and makes a great sandwich spread. I also love it with carrot sticks.

I just started on a packed-lunch routine a few weeks ago, and it's actually pretty yummy - a typical lunchbox includes:

A wee box of raisins
Carrot sticks and hummous
Tuna and sweetcorn wraps (with yogurt instead of mayo)
A big dish of fruit, sometimes with yogurt

I also bring along pretzels, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc., to snack on during the day.

The other thing is, eat less but more often -- it sounds like you're eating really big portions when you don't need all those calories - after a few weeks of eating smaller meals more frequently, you'll stop feeling "hungry" for bigger meals.
posted by ukdanae at 9:08 AM on July 19, 2007

Drink water. Nothing but water. Keep a bottle with you at all times.

If you have to go anywhere less than a mile away, don't drive. Walk or ride a bicycle. I don't know about food--what I eat doesn't affect my weight at all--but walking 1-2 miles a day (some of it carrying groceries) instead of driving to the supermarket or wherever makes me 10-14lbs lighter than if I drove everywhere. Taking the stairs is good but what you really want to be doing is exerting yourself and burning energy over a longer period of time.

Don't think of water, undressed salads, cheeseless sandwiches as boring and tasteless--they are acquired tastes that you can acquire just as you (or most people) learned to appreciate coffee, beer, wine, etc. After you develop a taste for healthy eating, junk food will seem a bit rich.
posted by Martin E. at 9:09 AM on July 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who swears by a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Lost 25 pounds that way.

If diet coke tastes bad to you, try filling the cup mostly with diet coke and adding a tiny bit of real coke at the end

Feta cheese is pretty good for you

I lose weight easily when I do a revised Atkins

Whole wheat is usually better, but not always. Don't cut out meat and dairy completely, otherwise you'll need to get a lot of protein from other sources, which don't taste as good.

Like a chicken breast instead of a chicken gyro.

As long as everyone is giving out nutrition advice, I would like to add some of my own: there is really only one food choice you need to follow, and that is taking all of the above with one, massive grain of salt.
posted by dead_ at 9:14 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Swapping the beef for turkey won't make much difference, given all the other crap you're eating. Instead, ditch the fries for some kind of healthier vegetable, something not deep-fried, and get a salad with no (or less) cheese and dressing on the side so it's not swimming in the stuff. Or a fat-free dressing if there's one you like.
Also: you don't mention the quart of sugary soda you're swilling down with this stuff, but cut that out and you will see a huge difference. Water, seltzer with a slice of lemon, or black coffee are all delicious and calorie free!
Speaking from experience, these changes will have you out buying smaller clothes within weeks.
posted by nowonmai at 9:15 AM on July 19, 2007

What are you drinking with lunch? Sometimes your beverage can have as many calories as your entire meal. Stay away from soda pop and juices with high fructose corn syrup.

Also, a normal Greek salad is a meal in itself. Have burger/fries OR a Greek salad. Not both.
posted by mds35 at 9:20 AM on July 19, 2007

You're used to yourself as a big guy, and eating portions that correspond to that image. You want to be a thinner guy, so you have to eat portions that correspond to THAT image.

In other words, learn how much food it takes to satisfy your hunger, NOT how much it takes to make you feel "full".

If you're concerned about feeling hungrier sooner because of a lighter lunch, then choose something as a reliably filling snack for mid-afternoon. Way better to do this that stuff yourself in anticipation of feeling hungry later. If you choose your snack well and stick to a consistent portion, the difference in your lunch choices should help almost immediately.

Stop thinking of this as a diet. This is simply the food and portions that people that are your target size eat. If you are eating a thinner person's diet, you'll find that later, when you actually ARE thinner, you'll be satisfied with what you get.
posted by hermitosis at 9:22 AM on July 19, 2007

PS: I'm like you.
posted by mds35 at 9:22 AM on July 19, 2007

To the OP: portion control, buddy. Eat whatever you want -- just eat less of it. Switching out the bacon cheeseburger for hummus and pita isn't going to save you significant calories and may well slap more pounds on your frame, as I've learned this year to my chagrin. Eating one burger instead of two? That'll do wonders.

I agree with this. My husband and I are working on eating healthier, and while I'm okay with eating tons of fruits and veggies, it isn't always his thing, so really, portion control is our best friend. Instead of taking two sandwiches, a soda, and some chips for lunch, he takes one sandwich, some fruit, and a bottle of water, and maybe a few chips and crackers. Eat when you're hungry, but don't eat until you are stuffed.

Other things we've been doing:

The first thing we did was to cut out soda; we bought some sort of crystal-light knockoff brand of iced tea and we drink that, mostly, and water. We also made sure to keep most junk food out of the house, but we have tortilla chips and homemade salsa (as we've been doing this, our love of cooking is growing more and more, so thats a bonus, too!), and I like to keep chocolate graham crackers around because they are a pretty low-cal way to get a chocolate fix every now and then. Like others have said: find other things to eat that are still appealing but more healthy, and control your portions.
posted by nuclear_soup at 9:22 AM on July 19, 2007

Making small but important changes to your current eating and activity habits that you can live with for the rest of your life will take you a long way.

1. Eat when you're hungry.

2. Don't eat out of habit (as hermitosis said above).

3. Don't eat because you're bored.

4. Don't obsess over counting calories, fat grams, carbs or any other unit. This will become either drudgery (putting you off healthy eating), or will eat up too much of your time and energy.

5. Don't try to eat a perfectly healthful diet (whatever that is) all at once. Spend a week or two targeting one change until it becomes an easy to maintain habit. For example, add 1-2 more servings of veg and fruits a day FOR NOW, and once it feels good, work your way up to the recommended 5-10 servings. (A serving is a small apple/pear/plum/etc., half a banana, 1/2 cup of most veg and cut fruit, or 1 cup of leafy greens.)

6. Allow yourself a cheat day. Don't decide to gorge that entire day, but do have some stuff that you enjoy and really, really appreciate it as a true treat.

7. Add ONE simple/fun/workable activity that can become a permanent part of your life. Walk, rollerblade or cycle as part of your daily life, not just as "exercise". Start slowly -- you may feel great, say, walking 60-90 minutes each evening when it's cool, but that way lies the risk of such fun stuff as stress fractures. Once this has become a regular part of your life, see what else you feel attracted to -- weight training? Martial arts? Swimming?
posted by maudlin at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2007

For everyone advocating diets, do you think the OP will be able to follow a rigid diet for his entire life? Losing weight isn't something that you can quick fix, and neither is your health. One needs to take small steps toward an entire lifestyle change that will promote healthy eating every time you sit down at the table.

The only thing for certain is exercise + veggies = a healthy person. So cut out the soda(immediately and completely), try to lower your portions(gradually), increase your exercise regimen(gradually as well), and then slowly make a move towards cooking for yourself.

posted by trueluk at 9:48 AM on July 19, 2007

I follow a simple code: More calories going out than coming in. That's it. Do that and it is impossible not to lose weight. But that means there are tradeoffs. More exercise, less food, or both. Deep inside everybody knows that. Everything else is just moving the shells around the table hoping more peas appear underneath. Everyone makes their own decisions. It's just that if you make the decision to eat whatever whenever, you have to take the unhappiness of what it does to your body. At the same time, if you get yourself into shape, you have to trade off the sheer joy of gluttony. Try to mitigate the downsides as best you can, but deep inside you really know what you have to do. The only remaining question is how important is it to you? Not kidding yourself is incredibly emancipating.
posted by lpsguy at 9:50 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

When you do fast food, get the grilled chicken sandwich. It's not the best choice on every menu but it is on most and it is always far from the worst. If you're drinking soda, substitute something else with the idea to switch that to water eventually. Iced tea might be a good start.

Greek salads are not greek. It's lettuce, two slices of tomato and a bunch of feta. In Greece when lettuce (Romaine) is served in a salad it is served by itself with dill, lemon and olilve oil for dressing. The typical Greek salad has no lettuce and is tomato, cucumber, onion and green pepper. Sometimes other raw vegetables are tossed in as well. The only dressing is olive oil, and for some, red wine vinegar. Start cutting and taking that to work with you and the feta won't be a problem. Avoid eating salads that consist mostly of lettuce. They certainly won't hurt you but they aren't doing you any favors either. Even if you don't want to cut up a bunch of raw vegetables to take to work, don't spend your money on lettuce. It tends to convince some that they have eaten their needed quantity of vegetables. They haven't. Save your money. Maybe buy two grilled chicken sandwiches and throw away some of the bread.
posted by BigSky at 10:12 AM on July 19, 2007

I'm not an MD or a nutritionalist, but I've done a lot of research on diets based on research done by people with those titles, and after a few years of sifting out contradictions and bunk from truth, I've come to the following conclusions (which mostly agrees with trueluk). They're off the top of my head, not my notes (I'm at work), so I'm probably missing a lot, but:

Things that are bad for you no matter what:
- Saturated fat, found in high quantities in red meats, fatty dairy products*, and fried things. In addition to promoting high cholesterol, the most pressing reason to avoid them is that ultimately, your cell membranes and many other critical things besides are composed of lipids. These aren't synthesized from no where, and as such, a diet consisting of a lot of saturated fat ensures a decline in overall health as your cells begin to lose elasticity and durability.

- High fructose corn syrup, which has many negative health consequences even besides those normally caused by excessive sugar intake.

If you have any concern for your health and your body, you will avoid them at all cost.

Things that you really need to eat in moderation:
- Simple starches: A lot of tasty things have them, but like all simple carbohydrates they wreak havoc on your blood sugar, resulting in general discomfort (one that many don't notice, as they are so accustomed to it) and increased risk of diabetes.

- Sugar: again, tasty, and much better than HFCS, but for reasons listed above, keep it down. Your main source of sugar (and carbs in general, more on this later) should be from fruit, where the fiber will help moderate its effect. Another thing to note: there is a lot of research (email me for a link, unfortunately I'm at work) suggesting that drastically reducing one's sugar intake correlates undeniably with reduced levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood, on par in effectiveness with the liver-busting statin drugs that are usually used for this purpose. There's probably a reason this isn't more well-known, but I don't want to get into tin-hat territory.

- Animal and dairy proteins: This is different from the others, in that its conditional on something. It doesn't apply, really, if you don't have kidney problems of any kind. Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't aware of kidney problems in the early stages, and for these people, animal and dairy proteins (animal proteins more so) CAUSE MORE KIDNEY DAMAGE. Even given that my kidneys are currently okay, there's something about that fact that makes me want to limit them in my diet as much as possible, replacing them instead with proteins from sources such as legumes and nuts. That may be superstitious of me, but I don't really care.

Things that are good:
- Unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated fat more so): these are found in many of the healthier oils and meats (olive oil, fish), and contribute to the increase of HDL (a type of cholesterol that promotes arterial elasticity and the reduction of LDL). Avocados are also a good source. Generally, things that are natural sources of unsaturated fat are good for you, and you'll see a certain commonality to these foods, but again, more on that later.

- Fibers: found in fruit, whole grain and vegetables, they promote regular bowel movement (a fact that reminds me: your current diet as you describe it most certainly doesn't. As strange as it sounds, I promise pooping at least once a day makes you feel so much better), as well as moderating blood sugar.

As I mentioned before, the general dietary aesthetic that these items all point to is essentially that of a Mediterranean diet. I know you're afraid of having things that aren't as tasty, so basically what I'm saying is that you don't need to worry, unless that sounds utterly horrible to you. To me, it sounds like heaven, and I can't imagine a tastier diet. Maybe it will require some recalibration of the old 'buds, but it's worth it. Hell, even if it weren't as tasty, the general image that comes to mind is one of a giant saturated fat chain holding a gun to your head screaming, "YOUR TASTEBUDS OR YOUR LIFE!" I know which I'd choose.

On the fruits as best carb source point: it relates to something I've come upon which I haven't yet made a decision on, given my unfortunate lack of medical/nutritional training. There seems to some research out there that suggests that many grains (even whole grains) ultimately have the effect of limiting the ability of the body to absorb other nutrients fully. That would suggest limiting all grain forms, not just simple carbs, and replacing them with other carb sources like fruit. Again, I haven't read enough on this, and it seems drastic, and to that end I'd be really happy to hear from someone more knowledgable than I on the veracity of that. Still, it's something to keep in mind.

* Cheese should be limited, but who can stop eating cheese? Just use it smartly. It's not terrible for you.

Finally, some good foods to stick with:
dark leaf greens (romaine and the like have little nutritional value aside from their fiber content), soy, beans, nuts, whole grain bread, olive oil, wine (a cup a day keeps the doctor away :)), fish (watch out for high mercury fish like tuna and swordfish), some cheese, avocados, turkey, chicken, tomatoes, sweet potatoes (possibly the most healthful food ever), fruits, vegetables, you get the point.

Good luck and good eating!
posted by invitapriore at 10:16 AM on July 19, 2007 [13 favorites]

One of the easiest first steps, is to always leave something on your plate, leave something behind. That's a form of portion control.

You might also want to stop and pause 2/3 of the way through your meal, wait 5 minutes before finishing, you'll feel fuller and have less desire to keep eating.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:20 AM on July 19, 2007

- High fructose corn syrup, which has many negative health consequences even besides those normally caused by excessive sugar intake.

Sources? Everything I've read on HFCS's supposed health dangers has been from a scientific perspective, bunk.

The only danger is that people are eating too damn much of it, which has the same effects as eating too damn much sugar.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:33 AM on July 19, 2007

This may or may not be doable for you but a protein shake in the morning could help, in the same way as the bacon and eggs comment suggests - the protein keeps you full. My boyfriend loves his french fries too and found, to his surprise, that he really was less hungry at lunch if he had that protein shake. They can vary from disgusting to not-terrible, so it might not work if you can't get past the taste, or if you need to chew to feel satisfied.
posted by cabingirl at 10:36 AM on July 19, 2007

chrisamiller: I can't find it now, but there was an article about a study either on here or slashdot a few months ago that showed a correlation between HFCS and some serious health condition, I forget which. It seemed well-conducted, but of course you never know. Either way, good point.
posted by invitapriore at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2007

What do you drink? Someone mentioned above that a soft drink can be equal or greater in calorie content than your meal, and this is very true. Soft drinks are sugar water with flavour, nothing more, despite what their marketing is trying to tell you.
About a year or two ago I abandoned soft drinks, except every now and then when eating out (and even then only rarely, why spend $3 for sugar water when I'm eating really tasty food and regular water is free?). Without any other change - no exercise increase, no portion control - I started to lose weight. Adding a swim session twice a week only fueled the weight loss. Do I miss pop? Hells no. Now that I've stopped drinking it so much, it's nice when I have it every now and then. But even then, it's just way too sweet. My body has adapted to a less sugary diet. Your body will adapt eventually too.
Water's not your thing? Try tea, iced tea (home brewed, not Nestea). Not juice, that's just natural sugar water. Don't fool yourself by using diet sodas, not only do they always taste weird, but the recent aspartame study only reinforces what I thought beforehand. Plus, water is what your body wants, so carry around a Nalgene bottle and fill it up throughout the day. As a bonus, drinking more water will make you feel more full, so you'll eat a bit less.

If you're serious about losing weight, understand that it's a life change. All these diets, Atkins, South Beach, &c, may be able to help you in the short term. But deprivation only leads to more wanting, eventually you will cave and eat a "forbidden" food, at which time the diet will crash (you berate yourself for eating that food, try to continue with the diet, but cave again and ultimately end it). Moderation, not deprivation, is the solution.
Eat less, spend more. The Hacker's Diet (lifestyle change, not an actual diet) does a really good job of explaining the principles and necessities of weight loss. This diagram should be mandatory learning for every dieter in the world. Weight loss is nothing more than eating less and burning more calories! Weight Watchers is just calorie counting with smaller numbers and a support group.
Also understand that these tasty foods are tasty for a reason. Our bodies are still programmed for ancestor-like scenario: food is rare, so store it up and eat fatty things if you can find them. There's been some experimenting regarding the existence of a calorie-taste link, which is basically what the Shangri-la diet is about. By denying your body calories (by not eating cheese, etc), you're going against the entire purpose of eating. Your body doesn't understand why you're doing this, and it will put up one heck of a fight to get you to go back to your old ways, but eventually it will adapt. You just need to stick to your guns. When your stomach growls, don't think of it as your stomach telling you "I'm empty! Fill me!". Think of it saying "I'm empty. Are you going to give me food, or do I burn this fat over here?" Drink some water, that'll calm it down for a bit.

So to answer your questions, yes your suggested food switches will only fool yourself. You're not going to lose weight by eating out for lunch/supper as much as you do. It just doesn't work - yes some places have calorie listings, but often they don't include dressing/cheese which you know by now are where the fat and calories are, not to mention the fact that food preparation is not consistent and your meal will err in the side of MORE calories than listed. Use some of the suggestions mentioned in this thread, or read the Hacker's Diet link above, which I highly recommend - even if you just read the first few chapters about how weight loss works and ignore his suggestions on calorie control.
posted by Meagan at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Drop the meat and dairy and the pounds will follow.

Bad advice. Worry about the sugars and fats. Carbs are fine as long as they're complex.
posted by j-urb at 10:59 AM on July 19, 2007

Meat and dairy are fats, mostly, j-urb. You mention that my advice is bad, and yet it is a widely known fact that eating less meat and dairy is one of the most important parts of maintaining normal blood cholesterol, lowering saturated fat, reducing sodium as well as improving cardiovascular function, circulation and calcium absorption. These are all things that a nutritionist will happily inform you.

Now then, let's consider what you said. "Worry about fats and sugars" Not a bad idea at all. I'll again suggest that our OP start with the fattiest part of his diet: the bacon double cheeseburger he is so fond of. Cutting out all of that fat starts first with the meat and then with the dairy. I think we agree on this.

posted by trueluk at 11:27 AM on July 19, 2007

There's a lot of conflicting information about diets. I like the nutrition-density approach, where you try to get the food with the most nutrition value per calorie. Take a comprehensive look at what you eat, and try to maximize healthy foods, like vegetables, whole grains, protein without too much fat, fruit, and minimize empty calories like white bread, sugar, fat. Make sure you drink enough water.

Try to reduce your overall calorie intake by 5% or more. Then start an exercise plan both for burning calories and strength training. Exercise has a huge effect on your general level of health.
posted by theora55 at 11:50 AM on July 19, 2007

I'd just like to say that I'm generally in the same boat as the OP (not quite as tall, not quite as heavy, but similar BMI), and I just got back from a physical where my doctor told me that I should lose some weight. So I'm finding this thread useful. Thanks to the OP for posting this, and thanks for all the responses so far.
posted by malthas at 11:51 AM on July 19, 2007

Meat and dairy are fats, mostly, j-urb.

No, meat is mostly protein. Most people don't get enough protein, and someone that's exercising to lose fat needs more.

There is meat that is not a bacon double cheeseburger.
posted by mendel at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2007

Some tips for restaurants if you eat out a lot (as I do):

- Order a half-sized or kid-size portion. Many restaurants will do this for their normal menu items, they just don't advertise it

- If you get a salad, get no cheese if you can or ask them to go very light on the cheese. Get your dressing on the side and dip your fork tongs into it before spearing your lettuce. You will eat considerably less dressing but still get the taste of it.

- Sauces that are creamy or cheesy are generally bad. Tomato based sauces are good. The rule of thumb to not eat anything that is white is probably a good one, with a few exceptions.

- Make yourself eat fruit or veggies before your main meal. This will fill you up a bit so you eat less. The best choice is SOUP (veggie or tomato based - no cream). Studies have shown that soup is one of the best foods to fill you up and most every restaurant will have soup as a starter.

- Ask them not to bring bread or have them take it away if they do bring it. While bread is not necessarily a bad food, it can be a diet killer.

- If you have no choice but to eat fast food, you can find options that are better than others. As someone said, order the grilled chicken sandwich without mayo. If you need some sauce on it try BBQ sauce. At Taco Bell, I usually get one or two bean burritos WITHOUT CHEESE, which is not that bad a choice, as far as fast food goes. Though keep in mind how much sugar (amongst other things) is in fast food, so it is best to just try to avoid it altogether.

- Fish, chicken and turkey (without breading) are usually healthier diet-wise than red meat. If you must order a steak or something, get the lean cut, like a filet.

I'm no expert, these are just a few things I do to help me when I am eating out. I think if you keep an open mind you'll find that there are quite a few healthy options on all menus, or options that can be tweaked slightly to make them healthy (and they still taste good). Hope it helps!
posted by triggerfinger at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2007

Every little bit helps, so it's worth doing.

Realistically though, everyone is different. The best thing to do is look at where the calories are coming from in your diet and decide which are the easiest to cut back on.

Try keeping a food diary for a week, then use nutritiondata, google and packaging to work out roughly what the calories are. Then find the easiest things to cut back on. It may be coke, it may be sugar in coffee, it may be snacks, it may be dessert, it might be beer, it may be fries. You really have no way of knowing till you look at it in an organized way.

My experience is that people who've never kept a food diary tend to greatly mistake where the calories are coming from. In particular, people tend to:
  • Hugely underestimate the calories in soft drinks.
  • Overestimate the effect of subsituting healthy items in meals.
  • Underestimate the calories in snacks

posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:20 PM on July 19, 2007

Oh, it's not about feeling physically disgusted with yourself, cos that's a downward spiral from which no one emerges.

Au contraire. I only got serious about exercise and diet when I looked in the mirror and was disgusted by what I saw. I've lost 12 pounds so far (slowly and healthily over the course of about three months) and I feel terrific. I know body image is a tricky issue, but it is possible for a person to find their body disgusting without that being the start of a total collapse into a nightmare of depression, bulemia and death.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:28 PM on July 19, 2007

Mendel, thank you for correcting me. I will revise my statement. Meat and dairy are mostly fat and protein, which, consequently, are two things our OP doesn't need any more of.

I am certain that our OP gets plenty of protein. In fact, Americans already eat much more protein than necessary. Much, much more. Eating too much protein not only increases the risk of coronary heart disease, but also the risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer kidney and liver disorders as well as osteoperosis. No, getting enough protein will be the least of the OPs worries, and cutting down the meat and dairy will be nothing but a boon to his health and waistline.

Check the American Heart Association's website for a citation, if you like.
posted by trueluk at 12:38 PM on July 19, 2007

Lift weights. If you see yourself as a Big Guy, you might as well be a Big Guy, yanno?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:44 PM on July 19, 2007

Only one thing to add that hasn't been said: change your meds. I was you, only worse. 2 inches shorter, 10 pounds heavier, no desire to change how I eat or how little I exercise. I changed my meds. I'm still you, only now there's about 30 pounds less of me and falling and losing the weight has made me want to lose more, so I've (slightly) improved my diet and exercise.

Talk to your doctor about this. There are some great new meds out there, some of which actually make you lose weight instead of gaining it. If your meds are fucking with you all the turkey in the world isn't going to help.
posted by The Bellman at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2007

I'm not advocating the Atkins diet, just providing some anecdotal evidence....Mr. Adams decided to try the low-carb thing a few years ago. He didn't follow the strict Atkins plan, but he did cut out a major amount of carbs. I thought eating so much cheese, meat and eggs was dangerous, so I didn't follow suit. However, for three years running, his blood tests were almost perfect, according to our doctor. Previously he'd shown signs of fatty liver and high blood sugar and marginal high cholesterol. And he lost a nice amount of weight.

So, if you're so inclined, my suggestion for when you're dining out is that salads are OK (even with creamy dressings), but have them hold the croutons. If you get a gyro, have them hold the pita - just eat the fillings. Skip the fries and drink either water or diet pop. When you go out for a "fancy" meal, instead of potatoes, order extra vegetables and skip the bread basket.

One additional note: Mr. Adams was and is a computer geek by profession, and spent most of his waking hours in front of the screen. Exercise appealed to him about as much as root canal surgery. However, since he's been low-carbing, he's been extra-energetic, and a nightly walk together has become part of our evening routine.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2007

Kbanas... what do you eat for dinner? Could you skip it or replace it with a big salad? Personally I have a hard time passing on the rest of my food at a restaurant, I work on it but I still end up finishing it most of the time. Once I get started it's hard to stop and I also hate the waste (and the money - terrible cheapskate am I). Instead I try not to overeat more than one meal per day and fill the rest of my day with fruit and veg. It also helps me get my "daily 5".

I think if you're going to eat all that at least it's not at the end of the day. I read one diet that just said, "don't eat after 4pm". Going to bed with a light hunger seems to be a good indicator of losing weight. You sound fairly fit to me and the workouts are going to help too.

Good luck!
posted by MiffyCLB at 2:04 PM on July 19, 2007

What do you want? Do you want to be healthy or do you want to be skinny? It's really *not* the same thing and confusing your motivations could have you going round in circles.

If you want to be healthier it seems like all the things you are doing are making a difference. Check out the blog Junk Food Science for a moderate and critical perspective. Exercise is good, varied diet is good, a full night's sleep, etc etc. A little bit more (ie one extra trip up the steps, one extra head of broccoli, etc) is always worth it - every little thing helps.

If you want to be skinny, well, there's a gazillion diets and programs, and pretty much everyone can find something that works at least in the short term.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:32 PM on July 19, 2007

For small steps..

Get a turkey club or grilled chicken - have mustard, lettuce, and tomato on it. No mayo or dressing or cheese.

Make a burger, but get a whole-wheat bun, use lean beef, don't put cheese on it, add as much spicy mustard as you like, and cook it on a foreman grill so the fat drains off.

You can have fries - buy the precut potato wedges or crinkle fries and put them on a tray and bake them in the oven or toaster oven. Or cut up potatoes yourself and add olive oil and a little salt and rosemary, and bake them.

If you get a taste for spicy food instead of fatty/sugary food, that can really help. You can cook about any kind of vegetable or saute chicken or turkey with a little oil (not too much oil) and lots of garlic and crushed red pepper, and it's good.

Spicy mustard, jerk seasoning, crushed red pepper, garlic, ginger - all this kind of stuff, you can put as much of it in your food as you like (as long as your stomach is OK with it!) and it won't make you fat.
posted by citron at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2007

I've lost about 15 pounds in the last couple of months, and here's what's working for me.

1) Having a goal. For me, I have a number, which is based on getting to a healthy BMI...by the 25th anniversary of my dad's death from a heart attack.

2) Figuring out how many calories I need and doing the Hacker's Diet thing of fewer calories in than out. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how many calories I can eat. And even more so at what my healthy range will be once I get to a healthy weight.

3) No forbidden foods! All things in moderation, and lots of adjusting. As almost everyone has said, ditching the soda makes a huge difference. Same with smaller anything.

4) Calorie cheat sheets from the chains where I eat most often. There's a McDonald's near my office, and I eat there often enough that I needed to know what I was eating. (I've switched to kid's meals, mostly.)

5) Consistent tracking. I LOVE physicsdiet.com. Just seeing that chart go down makes me happy.

I've still got a ways to go (30 more pounds) but I'm feeling good about myself and positive about the future.

Good luck!
posted by epersonae at 4:21 PM on July 19, 2007

Meat and dairy are mostly fat and protein, which, consequently, are two things our OP doesn't need any more of.

I'd be really, really surprised if he's getting enough protein. The Men's Health forums get a half-dozen newbies a day just like this poster and no-one ever gets enough protein.

For example, even a BK bacon double cheeseburger with fries, with 52g of fat, 73g of carbs, and 37g of protein, is giving you 468 fat calories, 292 carb calories, and only 148 protein calories.

It's not hard to find protein, but it's hard to get enough protein relative to the other macronutrients. I need to plan snacks of cottage cheese or deli meat or a smoothie with whey to come close on a 40p/30c/30f split.

Even if you're not planning on a radical diet change I recommend doing the calorie and macronutrient calculations at the first MH forum link of mine up there and compare it to a few days of eating just to see how far off it is. And if you do end up considering a bigger change -- and you're exercising regularly, preferably with weights -- then basing your meals around getting a really good source of protein is a good way to force yourself to keep the fat and carbs numbers reasonable, especially compared to just simple calorie counting.
posted by mendel at 5:25 PM on July 19, 2007

I lost about 80lbs in just over a year, and unfortunately it took a complete overhaul of my diet... instead of the usual fast-food lunch, I had to make better choices. Homemade sandwiches instead of takeout, etc. Exercise helped me get stronger but it didn't really make the pounds fall off the way the dietary changes did... but the exercise is good for heaps of other reasons.

Reading the GI Diet gave me a good understanding of how we process food and it also has a good section on eating out and how to do so in a healthier way. It's not a diet but rather a pattern for how to eat for the rest of your life. Don't be discouraged, because it's more than possible for you to lose all the weight you want, but IMHO it will entail more than having just one cheeseburger instead of two.
posted by glip at 8:55 PM on July 19, 2007

Well, at risk of skimming the thread a bit too quickly..
At your size (and mine), it is amazing how much fat distributes around.. You think it is mostly your belly, but.. In the last two years I've gone from 265lbs to 210lbs, and I still have 10s of pounds to lose before the spare tire goes away. I used to really suspect BMI calculators that said I should be under 200lbs... Turns out they are just about right - go figure :P

Don't be too worried though, maudlin's approach is exactly right. Think of it as growing up a little, rather than going on a diet..

Along those lines, but with a few too many numbers..
You'll be amazed at how little is enough to fill you. 100g (about 4oz, I think?) of meat at dinner is satisfying, believe it or not. Also, I've found that I can just go crazy eating carbs, if I let myself. I can keep packing more away, and still want to keep going. This can be mitigated by whole grains and lots of veggies (just like your mother told you :P).

If you can't do anything else, stop drinking extra calories! You can learn to be happy with water easily enough. Make sugary drinks a special occasion. In a restaurant, get them to give you some lemon with the water. Also, I make home brewed iced tea - one tea bag to 1 liter of water, and half a lemon.

Let's say that, as a place to start, I try to force myself to order things that have, say, turkey!

Turkey is healthy, right?

Sorry, but switching from lamb to turkey is just fooling yourself. Try cutting out the fries.
posted by Chuckles at 9:08 PM on July 19, 2007

I've never been substantially overweight at all by any standard, but at one point in high school i lost 15 pounds by simply changing what i ate.

The first thing to go was the bottle of pepsi and the skittles or starburst that i had been having every day after school.

Then i switched from coke to sprite at lunch, because (last time i checked) sprite has fewer calories.

Then i went from the sprite to unsweetened iced tea. That one may be a bit hard, but when you figure that sprite has 100 calories per 8 ounces, the calories that you are not consuming really add up.

I also stopped eating anything produced by Hostess or Little (yeah right) Debbie - anything creme filled, glazed, chocolate coated, or twin wrapped.

And i cut out or cut down on things that i thought were unhealthy - too much sugar or too much fat and saturated fat.

Another tip is to put down your fork between bites. Chew each bite, and swallow it before putting anything else in your mouth. You WILL eat less.
posted by itheearl at 9:29 PM on July 19, 2007

There's a lot of great (and conflicting) advice here, but, while it goes against the "everything in moderation" advice (which I agree with!), I know several people in your position (looking to lose a bit of weight without big changes) who have done well by eliminating fried potatoes and desserts/sweet snacks from their everyday diets. Both kinds of food are essentially delivery systems for fat and simple carbohydrates and bring relatively little pleasure per calorie. Sure, the first fry or bite of cake tastes great, but the 20th? The 100th?

In fact, my belief in the taste-calorie connection (your body thinks that high-calorie foods taste good, regardless of how they actually taste) stems from thinking about French fries -- why does an essentially flavorless vegetable doused in essentially flavorless fat and (if you like ketchup) a sugary syrup "taste" so good? When I started Shangri-La (mentioned by Meagan above), fries went from being a favorite food to tasting like grease with a hint of dirt.

(Shangri-La's great so far -- I'm down 55 pounds in six months -- but it's probably overkill for what the OP is trying to achieve.)
posted by backupjesus at 4:36 AM on July 20, 2007

I'd be really, really surprised if he's getting enough protein. The Men's Health forums get a half-dozen newbies a day just like this poster and no-one ever gets enough protein.

Mendel, the Men's Health Forums are hardly an authoritative source on the protein-eating habits of Americans. That is, they aren't the American Heart Association and they are wrong: Americans eat way too much protein.

Now this might sound like a derail, but it is very relative, because overeating on protein is exactly what adds inches to your waistline. Excess protein isn't used unless you are doing some major exercise and muscle building (which I don't think our OP will be doing any time soon. It sounds like cardio is probably his path). This means that most of his excess protein will simply convert to fat and be stored around his waist. I would actually posit that the extra protein he is getting coupled with limited exercise is one of the main reasons he has become overweight and unhealthy (above, someone described the health problems associated with eating too much protein).

You mention that he is not getting enough protein relative to the rest of his dietary intake, then use the example of a Burger King menu item to illustrate this relative lack in protein. You suggest fixing it by snacking on more fatty dairy products like cottage cheese. Perhaps the solution here isn't to add more protein on top of that unbalanced BK meal (as you mention, it has less calories from protein relative to carbohydrates and fats), but to actually start eating a balanced diet to begin with.

Adding more protein is not what this person needs, and I'd like to just add again, after reading this thread, that the OP should definitely go see a nutritionist, because half of the advice on here is unfounded, anecdotal, and based in fad diets. These are the things that confuse people and frustrate them during a weight loss program, and ultimately lead to them giving up.
posted by dead_ at 6:52 AM on July 20, 2007

then basing your meals around getting a really good source of protein

Also, couldn't resist, but you must know that animal products are not a "really good" source of protein; nuts and legumes are.
posted by dead_ at 6:59 AM on July 20, 2007

dead_, animal products are a really good source of protein, but many are also really good sources of saturated fat, while nuts and legumes contain (good) fat and/or (good) carbs that, while good for your health, still add calories. It's hard to beat a skinless chicken breast, an egg white, or a can of tuna for protein per calorie.

The actual scientific evidence on the ideal amount of protein is slim, so saying someone is eating too much/too little is a subjective thing.
posted by backupjesus at 8:07 AM on July 20, 2007

Well, since we're talking about weight loss here, I figured it might be good to advise against eating a "really good source of saturated fat."

And as for the subjective opinion on protein intake, I'm just going with what the American Heart Association says.
posted by dead_ at 10:54 AM on July 20, 2007

Well, if you're going by AHA research....

Seriously, I can find the AHA saying that high-protein diets (e.g., Atkins) are bad, meat should be eaten in moderation, etc., but I cannot find information about how much protein to eat. Since I've been following the Harvard guidance ("make sure you get 1g/kg of body weight, and, uh...."), I am genuinely interested in contrary evidence-backed advice that would allow me to replace some eaten-to-meet-the-minimum chicken and tuna with beans and lentils.
posted by backupjesus at 12:02 PM on July 20, 2007

Just from a quick Google, I found this page on the AHA website.

Most Americans already eat more protein than their bodies need. And eating too much protein can increase health risks. High-protein animal foods are usually also high in saturated fat. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods for a sustained period raises the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. People who can't use excess protein effectively may be at higher risk of kidney and liver disorders, and osteoporosis.

Also, this page specifically says to eat less meat, and when eating meat to stick with fish or lean meats. Not to mention this bullet point:

Eat more beans and tofu and less meat.

I'm not trying to argue here, but just saying that all of the fatty/high-protein meat should be reduced or replaced to really aid in the weight loss, and there's plenty of research to back it.
posted by dead_ at 12:45 PM on July 20, 2007

When you write "all the fatty/high-protein meat should be reduced or replaced", why not just write "all the fatty meat"?

You're really overreading what I'm saying, _dead. I don't mean that American diets are all low in protein, or that everyone reading this should consider a Zone-style diet. I mean that this person's particular situation and goals sound familiar to me.

I don't want the poster to start eating chicken breasts by the box, but if he's a bit overweight, eats like he described, and is starting a regular exercise regimen, he needs to make sure his protein numbers are OK to make sure he can maintain muscle while losing fat.

And those links I posted up in my initial post in the thread have good advice, guidelines, and formulas to figure out the right balance of macronutrients. It's obviously really easy to get things wrong when trying a diet change because so many people get it wrong in the same way.

The AHA doesn't like high-protein diets, but they seem to be concerned about the fat, especially saturated, that comes with the protein. Nothing wrong with that advice, but they're clearly lumping everything that's protein-centred in with Atkins. They're saying that high-protein diets aren't a silver bullet. I'm saying that when you start to "eat light" and exercise more you have to watch your protein numbers.

(And cottage cheese is not high fat: 100g of 1% cottage cheese has 1g of fat and 14g protein. There's a reason cottage cheese is something of a miracle food amongst weightlifters.)

And yeah, hit the weight room! Not only does more muscle burn more fat while you're just standing around existing, but it makes you more... guy-shaped, too. A small middle is good to have, but so are broad shoulders.
posted by mendel at 1:30 PM on July 20, 2007

« Older Help me bbq better!   |   Didn't properly season my new cast iron cookware.... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.