September 3, 2013

Shrinking Boy, after 30 days

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So it's been 30 days since I went on my nutritional diet / weight-loss program, and I thought I'd do an update with my experiences and thoughts.  Let's start with the headline number...

Weight lost to date: 2.3kg.
Actually my lowest weight during the 30 days was a week ago, when I was down 3.1kg from my starting weight.  Unfortunately my 2½ cheat meals since then - including that 3,000-calorie dinner - have pushed me back up.

Some people have been surprised at how little weight I had lost, as there are plenty of other "diets" around where one loses a lot more weight very quickly.  My thoughts on this is that I prefer to do things gradually, without putting my body through shocks, and this would enable me to sustain and continue to trend.  This isn't just a short-term thing to drop my weight down quickly - it's more of a lifestyle change.  The key is to be able to maintain it and keep the weight off.

You don't have to starve to lose weight
The question most often asked is "Do you feel hungry?"  The answer is NO.  Believe it or not, I'm eating A LOT of food.  It's just that the food has very little fat.  My 5 portions of grain for lunch amounts to 3 large slices of toast, 1 2/3 bowls of rice, 5 short cobs of corn or 2½ large cans of corn.  Add a little protein and the vegetables that I would normally eat - and keeping in mind that you're asked to drink 8 glasses of water a day - and you can see how there is very little time during the day when I actually feel the hunger pangs.

I started with just regular wheat toast and soon switched to wholemeal bread, which has a lot more dietary fiber.  The fiber keeps me full, especially when it soaks up the water, but gets passed through the system without being absorbed.

Cutting intake is the key
With one exception, my weight went up every time after a cheat meal.  My weight went up even after I went out for a 45-minute jog, because the calorie intake of one of my outings is just staggering.  While I have no way of accurately measuring the exact calories, and not every meal is going to be the same, it's not inconceivable that I'd be taking in 2-3,000 calories for these dinners once wine is included.  Given that I would have already consumed a total of around 1,000 calories for breakfast and lunch - and that's by following my current program and not dining out at regular restaurants - my total intake for the day could be 3-4,000 calories.  That's 1-2,000 calories more than what I am probably burning on an average day.

To be able to burn off the extra calories from a single meal like this, I would need to jog at a slow pace for 1½ to 3 hours.  Just to get back even.  If I wanna lose weight and actually burn off the fat that's already in my body, I would have to exercise even more.  How many of us have 2-3 hours a day to spend on exercise?  Better off to have fewer of these big dinners...

When I lost 5kg in the space of 7 months after moving back to Taipei, it wasn't because I exercised more.  In fact I exercised less because I gave up my gym membership.  The simple reason is that I stopped eating out so much - I had very few big meals out with friends, and for the first 5 months I mostly ate mom's cooking at home.  I was taking in a lot fewer calories, and certainly a lot less fat.

Exercise is still important
Having said all that, I realized that I'm not going to be able to get my weight down without upping my exercise schedule.  My weekly session with the personal trainer wasn't having a visible impact, although I'm sure it helps over the long run by firming up my muscles.  I've now started to jog twice a week for 45 minutes at a time.  That may not be enough to burn off my excess fat stored in my body, so I may need to work out even more.  Time will tell how much I really need to do.

So what exactly have I been eating?
Canned tuna - on many days this has been my source of protein.  It's not exactly delicious, but it doesn't need any preparation.

Lots of vegetables - typically I take in half a pack or about 150g of fresh veggies per meal, and just steam or blanch them with no seasoning.  The natural sweetness of kailan (芥藍) or choy sum (菜心), for example, is good enough for me.

Fruit - I have a daily fruit ration, so I'm eating fruit everyday - and most of it has been an apple a day.

No fat / low fat dairy products - no fat yogurt and low fat processed cheese… not quite the same.

Almonds - I need to take some fat with each meal, and 6 almonds provides me with 1 portion of fat.

Other than my cheat meals, I've really not eaten out very much, since it can be a real pain trying to figure out how to stay within the boundaries at restaurants.  There's simply too much salt and oil when dining out, and tough to order dishes while keeping the ratio of different food groups in check.

Something I've managed to figure out is that doing the set lunch at Linguini Fini works well, particularly on days when I'm cheating at dinner.  I start with a simple green salad with no dressing, and then get the pomodori pasta.  The pasta is made in-house, cooked al dente, and served with a delicious tomato and basil sauce.  I'm sure there's a good amount of olive oil in there somewhere, but I don't mind going over the limit a little with this.  I hit my grain, vegetable and fat quotas with this, and leave the protein count at zero.  As my cheat meals will surely have a lot of protein, I simply reallocate my quota from lunch to dinner.

Well, I've got 2 more months to go in my weight-loss phase, so I'll do another update in another month or so.

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