Monday, 16 March 2015

Counting Crows

It started shortly after the new year started, but it had nothing to do with new year resolutions and everything to do with technology: I have been counting my calorie/KJ intake since early January, with great results to show for it.
Yes, I wanted to take control over my weight for a while now, but it wasn’t until I got to read about the release of a specific calorie counting app – CARROT – that I actually started doing so after a hiatus of several years.
The thing about calorie counting is that it is dead boring, it is depressing, and it is also repetitive: if you tend to eat the same things, roughly, the lure of entering the same pieces of information again and again diminishes rather rapidly. The tendency is to stop, because you already know what you’re going to get, but the sad reality is that the distance between that stopping and losing control over one’s food intake is very short.
Where CARROT fills the gap is attitude. As calorie counters go, CARROT is a very primitive one; where it shines is having a robotic SIRI with an attitude voice that tells you exactly what your smartphone thinks about your eating habits, meat bag!  I know, it doesn’t sound so special, but through this rather amusing behaviour CARROT makes it easier to surrender my food logs to. Even while remembering that here is yet another American company collecting tons of information I wouldn’t want to share with anyone (and almost certainly selling it to various data brokers).

My first insight, once I started using CARROT, was “no wonder I’ve been putting on weight”. As things were, I would go over or near my calorie intake limits just by eating my three regular meals. Add a bit of something on top, like a medium flat white, and boom – there’s weight to be gathered.
It hasn’t been easy to keep up with keeping my intake below the limit, but by mixing and matching from the following three strategies I have been generally able to do so:
  1. Decrease meal sizes.
  2. If one meal goes over, then the rest of the meals shrink.
  3. Exercise.
[21/3/15 update: I would like to add a fourth strategy of similar importance, which is - avoid eating out! Restaurant and even fast food meals tend to start at 3000KJ, which comes close to half the energy the average person should consume in a day.]
Yes, I know all eyes are on number three, and every healthy member of society should exercise and all that, but it is also the least effective of these strategies. Sure, exercising is good, but it is incredibly easy to overestimate the energy spent and overeat. The former two approaches are more reliable. And you know what the magical thing about them is? Once I got used to eating less, I am finding I do not feel the need to eat more. I am actually happy with eating just as much as I eat.
Case in point: the other week we made our way to a chicken parma place for our office lunch. I ate it all like a good boy, and it was yummy, but come dinner time I did not feel the need for yet another meal. It’s not just the chicken parma: Since I rarely consume sugary stuff anymore (part of my calorie intake regime is ensuring vile substances do not enter the system), on the rare occasion I do sample something like Cadbury chocolate it just tastes like foul sweet with sweetness on top. Other, less sugary stuff, tastes better than I could ever recall.
Where I’m heading for with this is the sense of appreciation I have gained for several foods. I know it would take you by complete surprise, but as it happens the food that’s more efficient at keeping me alive while not exceeding my recommended KJ intake tends to also be the more healthier food. There are exceptions, sure, but it goes without saying vegetables can be eaten all day and all night with minor repercussions whereas fast food comes bundled with heavy penalties.

So far, the results speak for themselves. I have lost several kilos (plus minus, since weight varies by the glass of water that I drink or the time of day). My clothes feel different, my belt buckle went up a notch, and I feel better. I will add that my efforts were given much extra support by a bout of antibiotics that seems to have empties my stomach, but on the positive side my newly earnt habits mean that I am not putting the weight back on right away.
No, I do not doubt my old ways will make a very successful comeback. But for now, I’m enjoying the ride. That said, if anyone could make hummus a bit less than the atom calorie bomb it currently is, I would greatly appreciate it.

Image copyright: Grailr LLC


wile.e.coyote said...

Your readers are looking for facts and figures to back up this post.

Uri said...

Sure, eating less - and healthier food - is great. But how will it damage your knees? Hurt your back? Split your shins?

No, I'm sorry. It just doesn't cut it.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Explain "split the shins".

Moshe Reuveni said...

Re facts & figures, I will politely refer you to previous posts discussing how to privately communicate with me.

Uri said...

it was supposed to be "splint". As in: