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Dieting. - Ed's journal
OK, so dieting is a subject that some of you gits won't be aware of, being quite able to stuff your face with pie all day, and never have to care.
For everyone else, the need to 'manage' the body becomes relevant.

So here's a few things that's useful to know if you're planning to try and control your weight.

All the diet plans out there boil down to 1 thing.
Energy in = Energy out.

Daily at rest, the _average_ man uses 2500 calories. The average woman uses 2000.

It's as simple as that.

Well, actually not quite.

All the diets you'll see out there have a kind of 'don't eat this, do eat that, count how much' kind of system. It works, but frankly I find that a little too ... well dumbed down.

You see, imagine a fire. You pile it with fuel. It blazes up, and then dies down.
But the embers can last all night, and as fuel runs low, it burns more slowly (and gives out less heat).

Your body is a quite advanced mechanism that's very good at not dying.
When 'fuel' is low, it throttles back. You'll be tired, and low on energy, because it's 'conserving'.

So basically, if you cut back too far on your energy intake, you won't lose weight (much) - your body'll just save energy, meaning you're using less overall.

Worse still, is your body is really very efficient - it can use fat or protein as 'fuel' for energy conversion - fat is available from fatty tissue, protein is available from your muscle mass. So you will lose muscle tissue as well as fat.

Now, muscles _at rest_ use energy. Pretty much all your muscles 'oppose' each other or 'balance'. So at rest, there's a small amount of tension, burning energy. (That's why even when laying comatose, you need energy to keep going - your heart obviously needs to keep going, but so do all the other muscles).

If you starve, then your body _will_ convert all that handy protein into energy. That'll reduce your weight, short term (muscle tissue is actually fairly heavy). Problem is, you'll also reduce your 'resting' energy usage, meaning you'll probably end up replacing the whole lot with fat.

The other problem is your body likes to store surplus energy. If you eat a sugar cube or two, your blood sugar will increase quickly. You'll be a bit hyper for a short while, and then your body will 'stash' those sugars for later use. And annoyingly, go back to 'conserving' energy too.

Carbohydrates all suffer this problem, to a greater or lesser extent. Sugar and alcohol especially, can be converted quickly, and then get 'stashed' right afterwards. "light" carbohydrates such as white bread, normal pasta are similar - they are slower to convert into glucose to run the body, but they're still 'quick' in the grand scheme of things. Fibrous carbohydrates (brown bread, wholegrain pasta, bran) are slower releasing, meaning you 'run' at an even pace.

Fats and proteins are actually better still from that point of view - they release slower, again, giving a steady fuel to the day to day operation of your body.

The reason diets have 'no fat/low fat' in them is two reasons. One is general heath - fat tends to include cholesterol, which in quantity is bad. The other is that fat has a very high energy density. One of the reasons that your body stores energy as fat, is exactly that reason. It's about 9kcal per gram of fat. (Yes, if you eat that 500gram block of lard, thats 4500 calories, which is enough to live for nearly 3 days)

(Carbohydrates and Proteins are about 4kcal/gram)

Now, if you're keeping track of calories, that's just another number to add in. But the problem is, if you do that, you'll probably feel hungry. In general terms, per mouthful/bellyful you get _way_ more energy out of a greasy pizza than you do from cucumber slices.

But other than that, it doesn't matter. So whilst a lovely chocolate mousse might appeal, then by all means eat it. Just balance the 'rest' around it (eat some protein beforehand, for example).

The same is true of beer unfortunately (much though I wish it wasn't). Whilst technically calories wise, beer has a reasonable amount, they're all fast-ish releasing. Worse still the 'energy density' is actually fairly high too (It's fairly easy to consume a day's calories in a few hours at a pub).

OK, so basically, that should probably make clear to you why 'diets' don't actually do a lot of good. Reduce your calories, costs you muscle tissue, reducing your energy levels, and 'conserving' calories. A reasonable amount to 'cut back' by is 500kcal or less.

Sugary stuff, and 'light' carbohydrates (and beer :/) are good for a swift boost of energy, but don't help 'sustained' activity (e.g. a day at work) unless you want to run on a drip.

Fiberous carbohydrates/Protein and to a lesser extent, fat is a much better 'fuel' to run your body on.

And if you want to make it easy? Well, remember what I said about muscle tissue. More muscle tissue means more energy used at baseline. He-Man gets to eat all the pie. But even if that image doesn't appeal, there's still a lot of scope in the average person to develop muscle tissue - change squidgy bits around the body to firmer bits.

Building muscle isn't all that easy, especially when trying to lose weight - exercise damages the tissue. Your body has to repair. If you're low on 'fuel' it has a harder job (or may just not bother, to save energy).

Now, exercising regularly is very useful for this, and ... well it's also good to feel healthy. Problem I always have is frankly, 90% of the 'do stuff in a gym' forms of exercise are just too boring. The 'run around in a field' kinds of exercise are seasonal. (OK, you _can_ go running in the driving rain, but your odds of not doing so are considerably lower).

The real important thing, beyond 'muscle groups' is to find something that involves sustained activity that you enjoy. Or at least can 'get along with' well enough that you'll be able to do it several times a week. It doesn't have to be intensively either - 6 hour sessions in the gym don't actually do an awful lot of good. A half hour to an hour is generally enough, provided you 'actually work out'. That means 'things that gets your heart rate up', and generally ends up with you being hot and sticky. (one of the reasons I like swimming, is because you're water cooled during your activity)

Exercise just after eating will make you feel unwell. But similarly, exercise if you don't eat won't work either - you'll just be too tired. If you're going to the gym in the evening, a moderate lunch including plenty of protein, and a steak for afterwards really isn't too bad an idea. You have energy that'll 'run' you for long enough to go afterwards, and then when you're rebuilding the muscles you have a ready supply of protein. (A reasonable guideline is 3 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight)

And then of course, on fridays I go out to the pub and drink beer. But on average, since the start of the year, my weight has been dropping steadily, albeit slowly.

Oh yeah, scales are good for this kind of thing. However it should be remembered that they're a) not very accurate and b) your weight will change up and down from day to day, even during the day. I am almost always a kilo or so heavier in the evening than I am in the morning. So just aim to do the measurement at the same point each day. I find just before showering, first thing in the morning is a good point.

And then learn to ignore your scales - cutting back food because it told you you'd gained a kilo is counter productive. Grab a spreadsheet, and track a weekly rolling average (Average over a block of 7 cells, and fill that cell down should mean you're averaging over a 'rolling' block) if that number is going down, you're doing ok. If it's not, then review your balance of calories/exercise.

The same applies, in general terms, if you're looking to gain body mass. Just kinda the other way around :).

Oh, and don't neglect vitamins and minerals. They're easiest to gain from fruit/veg, but vitamin supplements are an option. (Actually not a bad default option, if you're not entirely sure if you're getting enough)
30 comments or Leave a comment
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: February 22nd, 2006 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I shall pimp once more my favourite method of increasing calorie usage: turn down your thermostat. As a mammal your single biggest energy consumer is maintaining a constant bosy temperature, if the place you're in is a couple of degrees cooler you'll burn a hundred or so more calories each day. For free, while sitting on your arse. Your body is entirely capable of being comfortable in around a 17 degrees temperature even while doing nothing, yet the average house in the UK is maintained at 20-22 degrees. Ease it down slowly and you won't even notice the change.

Plus you'll save money and help the environment.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a good point. A couple of degrees extra temperature diffence, for every kilo of water in your body adds up quick quickly.
velvet_nothing From: velvet_nothing Date: February 22nd, 2006 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
My, that was a long post! I'm dieting at the moment, and have lost about five pounds so far, which is nice :o) I'm just doing the eat-less-calories kind of diet, which is the only one I've found to work. Am hoping to shed the 2 stone I somehow put on over a three month 'stressful' period last year (I had exams). Can't believe I ate so much in so short a time! Especially since about two years before that I'd been really good and lost a total of three stone.

The alcohol thing does make things rather hard, and I'm sure when I'm on a diet about half my calories are dark red and come in a glass. But if I lost the weight once, I can lose it again.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not convinced that's a healthy, or sustainable approach. Every diet is an "eat less calories" diet. There's two problems that you've got - alcohol is terrible if you're trying to lose fat. Quick release of energy in a high energy density form, means you'll tend to retain it as fat.

Then, by 'counting' that for a daily limit, you'll also probably find that you're more tired and sleep more, reducing the amount you use overall. And probably end up converting muscle tissue into energy in preference, so whilst weight loss is happening, the ratio of fat is actually increasing.
pinkzhazha From: pinkzhazha Date: February 22nd, 2006 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Rule one
Diets don't work.

What needs to be done is an entire alteration of the attitude towards food and the reasons behind it. I work with a lot of people wanting to loose weight and once we get started it is always about issues, food is a very compliated matter that represents many many aspects of a persons life and is one of the greatest symbols, it comes to represent security, activity, wealth, love, comfort, obediance, the need to be seen or not seen, to be kept safe, and well to be honest the list goes on and on. You never know until you start working with someone. The trick is to identify what eating represents for the individual and take it form there.

A couple of tips to help are never eat after 7pm and ALWAYS leave a little bit of food on the plate even if it is just a forkfull. The worse custom we have in the west is "clearing your plate" in a society where the larger the portion you give a person the greater your generosity (and wealth) and the "nicer" person you are, this is the greatest culprit fo over eating and obesity .
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you mean a "diet" as in a 'weight loss program of eating' then I would agree entirely. You can lose weight in that fashion, but it's short term and unhealthy. However if we refer to diet in the general sense of 'what you eat' then I am increasingly of the opinion that being more aware of what we eat and why is important in being healthy.
From: feanelwa Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Coo, what a fantastic post. I like it even though it took up most of my friends page. Nicely written!
purp1e_magic From: purp1e_magic Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's really useful, because this is just the kind of comprehensive understanding I've been trying to reach. I can now apply this to the whole host of other problems with excersise, diet and health to see if there's a way out of the hole I happen to be stuck in.
wolflady26 From: wolflady26 Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Excellent post! Can I reprint it in readers_list? It would be credited to you, linked to this post, and comments would be turned off, so people would come over here if they had something to say about the article.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
By all means.
absintheskiss From: absintheskiss Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
" I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke - Joan Collins"

I think I've done 'em all by now. Slimming World, Herbalife, Low Fat, Low Carb, Low Calerie, Cabbage Soup....

Still over 15 stone.

However thanks to a visit to a certain hypnotherapist my latent bulemic tendencies (which came up when I was very stressed) were blown out the water, which helped alot, I just had to deal with everything else.

'Diets' make me bloody stressed and I can't cope with 'em.

I am now following the infamous habits of thin people, which is being truly in touch with what your body NEEDS, and learning the difference between physical hunger, and emotional hunger, ie when you are sad, bored, stressed etc. Going well so far but time will tell.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, that sounds interesting. I've always been a little skeptical of hypnotherapy, but I still find the concept of 'mind over body' fascinating.
pinkzhazha From: pinkzhazha Date: February 22nd, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Remember diets are are a multi billion dollar industry, they need to not work in order to keep that industry afloat, so there is a lot of subliminal conditioning going on out there.

With this in mind something else to be warey of is the use of the actual words "diet" and "loss".

Diet implies depriving the body of food which can make the subconscious panic and rebel by boosting cravings so you eat more.

Loss means to loose something. When you loose something you generally want it back so telling your subconsious that your "loosing" weight makes it a little jittery.

So thinking along the lines of "new eating patterns to rid yourself of excess fat" helps reprogram the brain.

sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, good point. OK you all now owe me £10 each for reading my really important 'secrets of dieting', which of course you agreed to by clicking on my journal at any point. It's in the license terms, it's not my fault they're really really small.
veremit From: veremit Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
*books holiday to read the post*

How's about some tactical lj-cuts?!
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
LJ cuts are for people who don't have anything to say.
mcnazgul From: mcnazgul Date: February 23rd, 2006 12:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Or people who have much to say but wish to take it 'outside'.

Good post BTW.
fitfool From: fitfool Date: February 24th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice post. Followed through to here from readers_list and got a kick out of people talking about how many stones they weigh. I thought it was fun anachronistic language until I Googled and realized it was a measure of weight I hadn't really heard before. Cool.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: February 24th, 2006 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bah, Stones and pounds are the _real_ imperial measurements ;).
I tend to work in kilos these days though, simply because I like working in base 10
30 comments or Leave a comment