Every Calorie Counts

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Photo by cgiraldez at Morguefile.com

There’s been a persistent problem with me for quite some time. For many years, I’ve had to deal with weight issues. These issues were with me for a very long time, as my lifestyle was largely inactive.

For a while, my weight has remained in stasis around 256 pounds. I always knew I had to do something, but I always pushed it aside in favor of other issues.

One problem at a time. Take care of other stuff first, then come back to my weight.

At the time, this was a valid concern. I had many pressing issues and concerns that dwarfed my concern for weight loss. Not that I couldn’t devote any time to it, since it’s certainly possible to care about more than one thing.

But now, those concerns have largely been dealt with, and I am now confident in my ability to handle things that are thrown my way.  So where do I even start?

My doctor informed me that I should lose some weight, and this was not advice I dismissed. For one, I am absolutely terrified of the prospect of diabetes. I knew full well that I had to make changes for the sake of wellness. But, I had to be smart. I had to be effective.

Despite my major in Mass Communications, I am still heavily scientifically-minded. I believe science can help me because out of all options, science has a proven track record of effectiveness.

Others may turn to fad diets, with the rules of the day ever-changing. One day it’s South Beach, next it’s Atkins, and the day after it’s Paleo. Something else will come around the corner soon after to make promises about the silver bullet of weight loss.

But when the rules of the game start shifting in the middle of play, it’s usually a good sign that something is dreadfully wrong.

There’s a scientific law that I learned from high school chemistry that’s as true today as it was when I first heard it: In a closed system, energy cannot be created or destroyed.

That applies to calories, as calories are units of energy. The kilocalories, often spelled as the capitalized “Calories”, are the first thing we see on the nutritional information. A “small” calorie is enough energy to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere.

Kilocalories, based on their prefix, are equal to 1000 small calories.  Upon consumption, any leftover energy in the body is stored as fat.

I have an advantage of good metabolism due to my youth. I also have an overworking thyroid, which will need to be addressed once this weight loss campaign comes to a close. Nevertheless, for the time being, it will give me an additional advantage.

I did go to a personal trainer at my local Y, and surprisingly I was told that my diet was going to have a bigger impact than exercise when it comes to weight loss.

There are obviously other aspects of nutrition that I could focus upon, but I stuck with calorie intake.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

The first thing I did was start tracking calories on a smartphone app. It was then that I realized exactly what I was consuming and its impact on me. I quickly discovered that my portion sizes were out of control. It was a leftover habit I took from college, where I could consume a whole pizza on my own without much difficulty.

My diet was far too heavily meat-based. I needed to introduce fruits and vegetables to the mix. Most importantly, I had to cut down on the snacking and introduce breakfast. My app additionally warned me of other nutritional hazards that I could obtain by simply scanning the barcode.

I began to ask myself if others did the same. The nutritional info is there, it has to be there by law unless it’s a traditional restaurant.  But how many people actually pay attention? I’d assert that probably not many, since I was pretty shocked at the results I received.

That’s why data collection is so important. I had a vague understanding of what was going on, but with a specific quantity attached to it I could better understand what was happening.

Step Two of A Thousand Miles

So far, my results have bore fruit. I have successfully lost my weekly goal of 2.52 pounds this week. In fact, I’ve lost a bit more. Not enough to be alarming, but it’s good to know that what I’m doing is working.

My next step is going to focus around cutting out energy drinks from my diet and replacing it with the lower calorie coffee. This is going to be a personal challenge to me, as I mostly use energy drinks due to their convenience. But there’s good reason to switch, and calories is definitely one of them.

All I have to do is stick with it, and before I know it I’ll be able to say that I have a healthy weight.

4 thoughts on “Every Calorie Counts

  1. kudos to you for attempting to CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE..don’t think of it as dieting. we go off of diets but a lifestyle change is permanent. you don’t want to get to your ideal weight and then yoyo back up again. I found counting calories to be far too time consuming for me..but then I don’t have an app or anything computerish to assist me. I simply limit carbs now and have had a steady loss per week of 2.5 pounds since I started. I was ridiculously close to diabetes and was even put on a preventive med to lower my a1c. (for those that do not know an A1C is a blood test that shows your average daily sugar content over a six month period and is ‘normal” at under 5.0 mine was 4.8 and extremely worrisome) I dropped sodas, margarine and most red meats from my diet, limit breads and pasta and rice to a bare minimum and eat what I want with those limitations. Good luck to you and let us know how it is going. sometimes the only thing that keeps us trying is the support of others on our journey to health.

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  2. I’m quite scientifically minded despite my comms degree, and I’ve had a weight problem too. Once I decided it was time to get fit, I started watching what I ate as well. It simply boggles my mind the amount of rubbish we put into our system without actually realising it. Now I can’t look at food without breaking down what it is made of. A lot of people think that’s a bad thing because you ‘stop enjoying life’. I’m still undecided on that one.

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    • What those people are getting at is that “ignorance is bliss”. I strongly disagree with that sentiment, because I was never happy with myself for it. I felt miserable, like I needed to do something but I didn’t know what. Counting calories gave me a measure of control. Instead of me just getting food and consuming it at will, I could make an informed decision about what I could eat. That’s empowering. It may be small, but it is still empowering.

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