Home > Health > Overeating: What I wish I had known sooner

Overeating: What I wish I had known sooner

March 7th, 2011

I made the tag line of my blog “Photography, Application Development and Falafel” because I wanted to talk about taking photos, programming and losing weight.  I have not talked about losing weight yet and since I’m losing a bunch of weight now then it’s appropriate for a post on the subject.

I chose ‘Falafel’ as the word that represents losing weight because of my partial Lebanese ancestry but also because when I have a kebab I always get the falafel kebab with tabouli.  No cheese, no crazy three animal meat etc.

But I digress …

My strategy for losing weight is portion and calorie control.  I realised not too long ago that the amount of food I was eating was the main cause of my weight gain.  Don’t get me wrong!  What I was eating was also a problem.  Lots of ‘fast food’ that not only had plenty of calories but also full of bad nutrients that caused non-weight related health issues.

I’d always get the large size of anything.  I’d finished my friends’ meals when they were done with it.  I’d order an extra burger along with the large meal deal.  I’d have second and third servings.  I’d stuff myself to the point of feeling bloated and awful yet still trying to cram more food in.

The first glimpse of the truth about my overeating was when I read the nutrition information on a box of cereal.  I never measured out my cereal before; I just dumped how much cereal I wanted into the bowl.  I’d get five breakfasts out of a box of cereal and usually bowl number five was small because the first four had been so large.  When I saw that the box should contain 17 servings I was shocked and thought “They’re out of their minds if they expect me to eat such a small amount of cereal for breakfast!”

It took me years of denial and subtle comments from friends about the volume of food I eat to finally accept that the amount I eat is the most significant factor to my weight.  The final straw on my denial’s camel’s back was when I listened to a lecture about physics that was designed to be taught to lawyers and political science students.  It was a brilliant course because it taught people that weren’t into science the basics of physics and energy as a general subject.  The lecturer said that the course was designed to teach the country’s (USA) future leaders enough to help them make good decisions.

The lecturer talked about how energy works and how it’s stored.  There was talk about petroleum and nuclear power and how energy affects politics.

In one of the lectures he talked about energy used by organisms, particularly human beings.  He talked about the fact that it’s incredibly easy to eat a lot of calories yet to work it off takes much more time than it did to eat that food.  The energy expelled while doing one hour of exercise can be completely eaten back in 5 minutes if you eat something with that much energy stored in it.  He even said that the exercise machines in the gym over report the calories burned because obviously people want to use the machine that burns the most so it’s even easier than you think to eat up to and beyond the calories burned in the gym.

At the end of it he simply said “If you want to lose weight, eat less calories”.

Now I realise that it’s an oversimplification and that exercise is very important but there’s a very important message here. No matter how well you do in the gym if you do not watch what you eat you can easily negate all that hard work.  Especially with the number of calories I was eating.

I’ve been going to the gym on and off for nearly ten years now and I’m still overweight.  Up until recently I didn’t take care of my diet and that’s why I hadn’t lost weight.  I did a lot of work in the gym but it meant nothing because I was over eating, undoing all of that good work.

Right now I record everything I eat into a calorie counting website.  When I started calorie counting I was shocked to see how many calories there are in certain foods.  Rice and bread were so shocking to me!  One cup of rice has 200 calories.  I used to have five cups of rice at least!

Two slices of bread have 180 calories.  Add 160 calories for the margarine and that Vegemite on toast becomes a near 350 calorie meal that doesn’t fill you up at all!

One large serve of chips from KFC or Red Rooster is over 500 calories.  I don’t even want to know how many calories there are in the burger!

Those numbers don’t seem that bad until you realise that someone my  weight should be eating maybe 2,500 calories a day.  Less than that to lose weight.

Five cups of rice with what ever curry or casserole on top of that would easily make a 2,000 calorie meal.  That leaves 500 calories for the rest of the day. Yipes!

When visiting my mum she’d make me chicken tortilla’s for dinner.  I’d eat 5 tortillas with marinated chicken, lettuce and grated cheese.  One tortilla bread is 200 calories.  So that’s already up to 1,000 calories just for the bread.  Add to that the chicken, the marinate and the cheese (the lettuce would be 20 calories total) and you’ve got yourself 3,000 calories easily.  If I didn’t eat anything else that day I’d still be over my daily energy intake.

These numbers are just mind blowing! No wonder I’m overweight!  My ideas on how much to eat were so way off.

I’m going to post about this more but I’ll end this post here.  I haven’t provided any concrete numbers but I hope I’ve conveyed the general gist of what I think the reason is for most people’s obesity.

  1. March 7th, 2011 at 13:51 | #1

    This is probably going to surprise you but I’ve actually been through this. Find some old photos of me from 2006/2007 if you can and I’m about 15kg overweight. Then one day, I bought a bike. I figured that it would be good to get some more exercise. Being able to dual-use my transport time for exercise was pretty good, but as you’re finding out now, it was only half the battle.

    I remember the day I looked over at the mirror in Hype in the mall and I just looked like shit. Double chin, stomach poking out with the classic late-20s pot belly, man-boobs poking at my shirt. I had to look away. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen myself as I actually looked in the years leading up to it, but I did that time. Not too long after that, my car blew up, my girlfriend broke up with me, my band broke up, one of my friends died and my job turned to hell. I felt like shit, in every way.

    I was doing more exercise, and getting a lot fitter, but I wasn’t really losing weight. I did a lot of experiments to see what did more for my performance (I decided to focus on that, rather than fat loss as I’d decided fitness was a more respectable goal). Alcohol intake, sleep, food, exercise levels, all of them were variables, and eventually I discovered that I could continue to eat less and less with no effect on my performance. I still had the energy required to do all my riding, swimming and gym work whilst continually cutting back food.

    And dear god did the kilos shed. I lost 11.5kg in 12 weeks. I’ve had to go through this whole thing again now since January when I discovered I looked like shit from putting on an extra 6kg.

    It’s just so simple; eat less, exercise more. Oh, and buy a bike :)

  2. March 7th, 2011 at 15:05 | #2

    The irony is I discovered this back in 2008. I was on a health kick and lost 12 kilos until that dreaded project at work (you know the one). I started working late and even took up smoking!

    11.5kgs in 12 weeks is good weight loss. about 1kg per week is the general, rule-of-thumb good rate to lose. Any quicker than that and you’re losing lean body tissue too.

    I have a bike but recently I’ve taken to running. I’m going to the Couch to 5K programme which progresses you to running over 9 weeks. I’ve always wanted to be able to run but I was always scared of it. Now I’m able to run for longer each week and I am noticing an improvement in my fitness. I recover from bursts of physical activity a lot quicker now!

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