glow notes

Thursday, May 05, 2005

On food

For most of us, it takes a conscious effort to eat less than or as much as we need. A situation the other day made me think of this.

One day, a friend (we'll call her Anna) tells me that she's gaining some weight and it's hard to take off, even though she has started exercising. "I don't eat very much," she tells me.

A few days later, we ate our sack lunches together. She ate two Trader Joe's tamales with sauce. I ate a big mixed salad with dressing and tuna fish. After, we walked to Starbucks. She ordered that yummy sounding Chantico drinking chocolate. I had green tea.

Being as I'm obsessed with nutrition, I did some quick calculations. Anna ate approximately 1200 calories in that meal (400 for each tamale, 400 for the chocolate - I looked that one up, yowza!). My meal was approximately 300 calories.

I'm not picking on Anna. If I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about this topic, I never would have expected that meal to be so calorie dense. It seems like a reasonable meal. And Anna is right, she's not eating that much food. In fact, she eats much less than I do, in volume and in number of meals per day. But the food she is eating is very energy dense. If she eats two meals like this a day and nothing else, she'll probably pack on about a pound every 8 1/2 days, and that's if she's exercising quite a bit.

The thing is, exercise is great and healthy and will do wonderful things for your body, but it doesn't burn that many calories.

Other important things: I'll bet my meal kept me full for longer. Plus, I'll eat another 300 calories in about three hours, so my blood sugar will stay stable, I'll have more energy, and my metabolism will be higher. I'm completely ignoring macronutrients for the most part, but Chantico? It has 20 grams of fat (not the good kind) and 10 grams of saturated fat. A ton of gylcemic-index-raising sugar. And very few redeeming qualities other than some antioxidants in the chocolate (though there are probably way more antioxidants in a 1-ounce Scharffenberger 70% bittersweet bar and only 170 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat).

The point is, it is sosososososososo easy to pack away over 1000 calories in one meal, when your body only needs maybe 1700-2400 per day (depending on your sex, age, level of exercise).

But that doesn't mean you have to go hungry or deprive yourself. You just have to budget. That means looking at each thing you eat, calculating relative worth, and being aware. It means eating 200-400 calories of high quality nutritious food every few hours, or an energy bar/shake if you can't get a good meal. It means educating yourself. It means that you can choose to drink Chantico, but account for it in your plan. And decide if it's worth it. After all, for that price you could have had two servings of ice cream, several cookies, a piece of chocolate cake, two pieces of peanut butter toast . . . or two bars of Scharffenberger.


  • At 3:34 PM, Blogger SurfWired said…

    I've lost a good few pounds myself, and, by and large, I'm less "hungry" now than I was. I occasionally feel deeply hungry for something, but my "feast" is often smaller, in caloric terms, than what I used to eat every day for lunch.

    Timing and awareness of what sorts of nutrients are in a meal keep me feeling better than I used to, despite my the limits I put on how many calories I eat. I think that everyone who believes it is impossible to lose weight because they can't stand the thought of depriving themselves of food needs to read this post!


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