When I finally figured out that I needed to examine my eating habits, I decided to learn everything I could about calories. It’s the best way to improve my my choice of foods for weight loss. This can be a very frustrating endeavor. I drove my wife nuts. I started reading the back of boxes and cans, and before going to out to eat, I would go to restaurant websites and search out the calorie content of foods I liked. Then I would look for foods that weren’t as calorie-dense. It was a real eye-opener. What I discovered is that weight loss is, at its core, all about calories (energy). Furthermore, the math behind weight loss is quite simple. But, of course, we’re talking about my relationship with foods for weight loss. It’s not necessarily always about logic.
Foods For Weight Loss
Let’s go back to my earlier example about daily exercise and weight loss. When the light bulb went off for me, I was running four days a week, and had just finished training for a half marathon, so my running schedule called for a total of 20-miles that week. I weighed 215 pounds, so running at a 10-minute pace, I would have spent 3 hours and 20 minutes running that week, and, according to Health A to Z, I burned 3255 calories that week. That sounds impressive, until you spread it out over an average of 7 days per week. That means I burned an average of 465 calories per day. Again, it sounds great until you look at exactly what foods you can eat. It’s about the equivalent of a ham sandwich. Not much.
My Choice Of Foods For Weight Loss
I started a daily food diary. I religiously wrote down every bite of food I consumed for a week. At the end of the week, I looked at the trends. The following is an example of one day’s worth of food for me at the time…
- Breakfast – 1 bowl of cereal (1.5-2 cups dry + 2% milk)
- Mid-morning snack – One 12-ounce coke and a package of peanut M&M’s from the snack machine
- Lunch – (run days) Ham sandwich, chips, 12 ounce coke (off days) Chinese buffet – A coke to drink, 2 trips through the buffet, ice cream for dessert
- Mid-afternoon snack – One 12-ounce coke and a package of peanut butter & crackers from snack machine
- Dinner – Steak dinner with loaded baked potato and sweet tea. Dessert – Thick slice of chocolate cake and 2 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream
- Late night snack – potato chips and a glass of tea
The averages turned out for me that, on run days, I was consuming about 3200 calories a day. Add an additional 800 calories on the off days. Using any one of a variety of calorie calculators on the web, it became apparent that, for the number of calories I was consuming and my exercise level, they pretty closely predicted my weight.
It was apparent that I needed to cut calories to lose weight. I decided, in the spirit of taking baby steps, to cut out all sodas. I’ve mentioned before that I can’t stand the taste of artificial sweetener, so it was either lightly sweetened tea, milk, or water. Within a span of 2 weeks, I dropped ten pounds. I was shocked. And motivated.
After some more reading and reflection, I decided to set a goal for food consumption. I certainly never wanted to always feel like I was hungry or starving. (Who the heck does that?) So, I determined the following:
- To be at my target weight, at my exercise level, I could consume about 2500-2600 calories each day.
- Whatever changes I made should be both gradual and sustainable, otherwise I would quit. (I had proven this in the past).
- I would not completely deprive myself of foods I enjoy, otherwise I would quit. (Again, proven in the past).
- I didn’t want to walk around hungry all the time, otherwise (guess what) I would quit.
My reading led me to the subject of fiber. Turns out that according to most experts, adult men should consume between 25-30 grams of fiber each day. Looking back at my food journal, I was consuming about half that amount. Since fiber is associated with feelings of fullness, I decided I could eat anything I wanted during the week, as long as, at the end of the week, I averaged 2500 calories per day, and 25-grams of fiber, without supplements.
The fiber rule was what made the difference. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hit that 25-grams of fiber without taking stuff like Metamucil? This also gave me room for a “free day,” which was very important. It didn’t take long for the effect to be noticeable, either. I started dropping weight at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week, until I stabilized at 186.5 pounds. That put me at a BMI of 23.9 and 16.9% body fat. By unbiased metrics, I was considered at a good % body fat, and a healthy weight. And, the great thing was that I didn’t, (and don’t), starve myself. I try to hold true to those eating patterns today. Now my daily food consumption looks something more like this:
- Breakfast – A breakfast smoothie, (or 1 cup of high fiber cereal, I like Quaker Oat Squares + 1% milk) and 1 cup of lightly sweetened coffee
- Mid-morning snack – a high fiber protein bar or small banana
- Lunch – A ham sandwich + small serving of potato chips (sandwich made with double-fiber wheat bread)
- Mid-afternoon snack – Handful of walnuts or a package of peanut M&M’s + 4-6 ounces of Coke
- Dinner – half a chicken breast (3 ounces) + 1/2 cup of white rice + steamed broccoli
- Late night snack – 1/2 cup of ice cream
I’ve come to the conclusion that, to have the greatest success, the best option I have available is to improve my choice of foods for weight loss. It’s not necessary to “starve myself,” or “eat only cardboard.” As you can see, I’m definitely not denying myself foods that I enjoy, and I still fall off the wagon. I’ve written before about my DQ blizzard fetish, and the like. I still fight the demons of consumption, but I’ve learned to tame them – usually.
So, what do you think? Do you agree with my choice of foods for weight loss? I’m always looking for help on this, so I would appreciate any suggestions.