I’m home for the foreseeable future, so it’s time to stop blaming being on the road for getting the right food down my neck, and not exercising.
It is difficult to get high quality, low sugar, low GI foods in the USA. There is a myth that everything is high fat here, but it’s a myth. Sure, there are heart attacks on a plate, but you have to go find them or make them yourself. I think the bigger problem is serving sizes and high sugar content, rather than the fat content.
A good example is butter. Butter is the devil here – it’s practically impossible to get real butter at a sandwich bar. You can get butter at the supermarket if you look hard, but the stuff put out at restaurants is rarely butter. A customer I visit regularly has a cafeteria at which it’s hard to eat badly at … except it is easy to get lots of mayo, ranch dressing and other tasty condiments slathered on your sandwich which are far, far worse than butter. Tuna salad is not precisely “salad”, but full fat mayo and tuna. Most sandwich stuffings have a creamy, high fat texture.
We were at the supermarket earlier tonight, doing the first weekly shop for my new food choices. It took a long time, and cost a lot of money. I was a bit shocked at the check out. Sure we bought a LOT of things you don’t need if you buy pizza every night. I now have the hugest collection of spices and seasonings I’ve ever owned at any time in my adult life. Our shop came to $320. That’s close enough to $AUD 350. I hope that future weeks will not be so expensive as we will not be buying 20 or so spices.
Shopping took nearly as twice as long as our normal shop. A typical example is searching the nutrition panels on about 20 different margarines, I found the lightest, least sodium enriched margarine with no sugar (hard!). You have to be careful to avoid buying things with unnatural sugar additives content – “normal” US butter is churned with sugar (to create “whipped” butter), and pretty much all the bread is sickly sweet with sugar. That row in the supermarket literally stinks to my Australian nose, even after nearly a year of being exposed to funny tasting bread. Tanya threw up there tonight – the first time she’s puked in the supermarket.
The margarine folks don’t use “margarine” – they use “spread”, but it’s margarine. I found a “lite” version of ICBINB, which had 85 mg sodium and 50 calories per tbsp. I then compared that to the full strength butter we normally use, and it has 85 calories and 85 mg sodium per serve. That actually puts our full fat butter in the lower end of the various margarines, and only a bit worse than the probably less than pleasing “lite” spread I nearly bought. For the amount of butter I use in a week (about 2 tbsp), it’s just not worth it to take the hit in taste. I took the same view with milk (4% fat is “light” for most foods) until I started having breakfast every day. Now, I am on 2%, and there’s only a minor taste difference.
I think cost and serving size is the reason why US folks are a bit chubbier overall than most countries. It costs a lot more to eat healthy here than it does to buy a “Man sized” frozen dinner, or to go out and buy a massive serve at the local diner or chain restaurant. Despite this, most US folks are not that fat, despite the constant bleating in the media and the impression we get back in Australia. I think there is one other person in my company of a comparable size to me. The rest are skinny and lead active lifestyles.
Serving sizes are killer here. You can easily buy a meal, cut it in half and take half home with you. Most restaurants have an ample supply of boxes to do exactly that. Considering how litigious the US is, I’m surprised the lawyers don’t step in and stop places from doggy bagging stuff so as to prevent lawsuits from customers who take food home in a white foam box with no reheating instructions and subsequently get sick.
My problem has always been serving sizes. I don’t have an “off” switch. I will eat until I am physically incapable of eating any more – I feel awful for hours afterwards. I ordered a 12 oz steak tonight. I have no idea how big that is in real measuring sizes. So I’ve bought a set of precision Salter scales, good for +/- 0.1 g to 3 kg. That will help immeasurably as I work in metric and all the stuff I buy are in legacy units and my recipe books (and my brain) are in metric.
Talking about scales, I nearly bought a set of Weight Watchers digital scales at Bed Bath and Beyond. I’m still thinking about it. This scale is a lot more accurate (+/- 0.1 kg calibrated to 180 kg) than my current scales, which only go to 150 kg and +/- 0.5 kg after 100 kg. I think I’m heavier than 150 kg as my barometer pants no longer fit. But my scales read 150-152 kg all the time. There are scales at the gym, but I don’t know if they reach my current weight (probably) or if they are calibrated (probably). Worst of all, I’d have to convert back from the legacy “customary” units they use here to metric. The last is the most likely reason to buy scales. But whilst I am so heavy, I think weighing myself is a moot point unless I start eating well and exercising.
Last week, we bought more shorts and t-shirts for me, so I can go to the gym the entire week without having an excuse not to go. I walked 25 minutes yesterday, and we were doing shopping for nearly three hours today. It’s my plan to go to the gym initially three times a week for an hour (which equates to about 40-45 minutes on the equipment), and walk 20-30 minutes two more days. I’ll bump it up when I feel I’m no longer feeling out of breath.
So, there you go. I have a week’s worth of expensive, healthy food. Two days of exercise down, and two days of following the eating plan with only one minor blow out (too much meat tonight). Let’s see how I go next week. As weight loss is not the current focus of this blog, if you want to follow my travails, use the “Weight loss” page tab above.
5 thoughts on “No more excuses – weight loss starts now”
Hey Andrew – best of luck.
Re the bread, additives, etc, I’ve found the best place to buy non-sweet bread is at the organic grocers – try Wholefoods, Roots, or Trader Joe’s. Nothing that I’ve found in those stores contains high fructose corn syrup (yay).
On spreads…I gave them up long ago for use in sandwiches. Try it, you won’t miss it. If you need something to wean yourself off with, low fat Philly works great. I do keep butter in the house for when I have the very occasional toast craving (once every couple of months).
The serving size one is hard. In some ways it’s easier here because they are so large for me that I have no hope of eating the whole thing, hence I’ll stop when I’ve had enough. (I have more trouble if it’s say 20% more than I want to eat, rather than 100% more.)
I wish you all the best with your new program 🙂
I’ve managed to drop about 3 kg in the last fortnight or so, by cutting back to three square meals a day.
Have you thought about asking your skinny(er) colleagues what kinds of food they eat? Perhaps there’s sources for decent food you won’t find in an ordinary supermarket. Be worth investigating.
Re not many fat people over there, I’ve two comments to make:
1. When I was Stateside, I founf that people were either frightenly obese, or scarily skinny. Precious few in between. (And I’m not counting the people I saw at the geek conference, who generally fall into one of the two categories)
2. Since I;ve lost weight, I’ve noticed a lot more fat people. The converse may be that if I were to regain weight, I’d notice far fewer fat people, ie peoples’ sizes are measured relative to the viewer frame of reference.
Minor blowout on meat => not bad
Minor blowout on a dozen lamingtons, custard tarts, and an entire tray of hedgehog => bad
If I ever feel a blowout coming on, and feel as though I can’t stop it, I dive straight for the rice crackers and blow out on them. A packet is 4 points (how much is a Mars bar?) and then I get thirsty and have to drink and then, well, then I am generally not hungry any more 🙂
I sympathise – the labeling is confusing. Yogurt is the one that gets me – if you go for no fat you have loads of sugar and vice versa. My doctor pointed out that the best thing is to look at the overall calories. In the end that is what matters – energy in
The US doesn’t seem to have it’s priorities right:
Or more of a visual representation:
The local eating culture makes soooo much difference. Here in Bangkok I’m eating out twice a day. Provided I avoid buffets and western restaurants (with western size portions) I lose weight slowly but surely. I’m quite happy with a Thai size portion but will happily devour a huge meal if it is put in front of me or I was silly enough to go ‘all you can eat’.
Then I go to the US for two weeks of work and buffet meals and put the 4kg it took months to lose back on in 2 weeks 🙁