Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Two Weight-loss Strategems:

There's been a lot of talk about dieting and losing weight lately. In my last post, I talked about my own lifestyle changes,At a bookstore yesterday, I was amazed at the size of the rack of diet books. "Your best body in some number of days!" "The ultimate weightloss codex!" and suchlike. The number of books all making the same claims amazed me, and so did another thing: for this big of a rack of weight-loss books to exist, they must be selling. And, yet, anyone looking around America will realize that nobody's really listening. My lady-friend and I have both slimmed down considerably lately, though neither of us was exactly overweight before, I thought I'd share how it worked. I'll start with hers, because if you're anything like a couple of people I know who always struggle mightily but fail to lose any weight whatsoever, my "weight-loss strategy" will simply cause you to whine a bunch that you cannot entirely change your life. Whatever. I now present the "ultimately impossible because you would have to change your life entirely and stop being a fat american slob addicted to mcdownholes and suvs and get off your lazy ass" lifestyle, and the "So simple it's stupid" diet.

She started at 5'7", 165lbs. Not exactly hefty, you might say, and that's true. But she's now a sexy and sustainable 125 pounds.

This strategy would make a very bad book, because it's "so simple it's stupid". It goes like this:

Take whatever you are eating now. Reduce that by one third.

That's all.

She's not a paragon of health and fitness. She's an American like the rest of you, and for the most part lives like one. If she can do this, you can. Sure, she says, she ought to exercise; maybe she'll get around to it someday. She even bought one of those fitness balls, a pilates video, and a couple of five-pound weights! In the six months or something it's taken her to lose the 40 pounds, I think she's used them twice.

She has a desk job, drives absolutely everywhere she goes, enjoys Taco Bell, Mountain Dew and Coca Cola (none of that diet garbage), and plays a lot of video games. It must be a serious non sequitur, because any time we go to a restaurant and she orders a Coke, the server is seemingly taken aback. "Wait, did you want diet?" And she just smiles sweetly and says "nope."

Her desk, in addition to a few Star Wars toys, sports an impromptu sculpture of Coke cans, and the drawers always contain some sort of package, preprocessed snack food. She's got those little mini goldfish, bite-sized chocolalate-peanut butter cups, "fruit by the foot", "cheez-its", pringles, and some fruit snacks, in some combination.

All of those things they tell you to do for your diet, like cut out sugar, or fat, or orangutan, or whatever? Not important.

A few comments she has on how this works. One, she eats breakfast every morning now, and she didn't before. This is a particular company's meal replacement bar, which is meant to be part of some comprehensive diet, but really she just eats that one because it tastes good and eating a bar for breakfast rather than oatmeal means another ten minutes' sleep. Add a can of Coke to that. Yes, that is regular Coke for breakfast.

She adds, if you're going to reduce your food intake by a third, the best thing you can do is cut out either all snacking, or an official lunch. She can snack all day on the aforementioned "junk food," a little bit at a time, because she doesn't take an offical lunch break. This also means getting more work done, for those who care about that.

Seriously, I don't understand how she drinks soda as often, but in as small quantities, as she does, but that's how it works. Of a twelve-ounce can, maybe half of it is consumed. When she gets a meal at Taco Bell, the quart-sized Mountain Dew they give her barely looks like it's had a dent made in it by the end.

And there you have it.

P.S. You will be hungry when you cut out a third of your diet, for a little while. Your stomach is stupid. Deal with it. You will adapt.

Okay, so, here's my version. I'll warn you: you won't like it.

I don't watch television, I don't smoke, I drink only the occasional microbrew or red wine, read lots of books by old dead guys. Why is this a "weight-loss strategy?" Because it's a lifestyle. I don't sit on my ass very often, and I try to walk, instead of drive, anywhere I can.

I am a paragon of "health and fitness." Look, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to brag, and I don't mean to be. Blame my genetics, or being brought up by a mother who believed that Honey Nut Cheerios was a "sugar cereal," and that if I wanted my plain ones a little sweeter, well, I could put some raisins on them.

I'm a vegetarian, and have been for thirteen years. That does mean I converted at the ripe old age of ten, when I considered the ethics involved with my ham sandwich way back then. At my heaviest, I weighed 160 pounds, and I'm a few millimeters shy of six feet tall. Like I said before, I was a skinny geek with a gut. I didn't exactly decide to cut the shit out of my diet, I just started riding bikes. "Riding" became "training," "training" became "racing," and now you've got a 138-pounder who consumes between 3,000 and 6,000 calories a day. Seriously, I did the numbers: even at 140 pounds, riding my bike at a "moderate intensity" for an hour burns about 500 calories. This quickly adds up when you ride for four, five, six hours. If you give me a box of cereal and half a gallon of orange juice, do not expect it to last until tomorrow. Climbing up hills and doing the hard work on the bike can crank it up to seven-hundred-fifty, maybe a thousand calories in an hour. On what I consider a middle-distance, low-intensity bike ride, I've burned more calories in those three hours than she will all day.

I cut out all "junk food" almost entirely; that means just about anything pre-processed and packaged, except for breakfast cereal, like I said, which is my favorite food in the world.

I started listening to my body's cravings a little more, and I find I actually crave all that stuff that the health shows tell you you're supposed to eat because it's got antioxidants and vitamins and shit. I'm a big fan of tea, blueberries, salads, orange juice, rice, espresso, carrots, whole grains, and, yes, since you're going to ask, I like tofu all right, depending upon how it is prepared.

I told you you wouldn't like it.

So, suck it up and work harder.

In conclusion, you can do it the easy way or the hard way, but you don't have an excuse any more. It can be hard but it is not complicated. Look, a calorie is a physics concept. It's thermofuckingdynamics, people. LET kCal(in) - kCal(out) = Y. IF Y > 0 THEN weight will be gained. If Y < 0 then weight will be lost. Pick your poison.


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