White Coat Underground

BMI TMI Update #2

So, Dear Readers, I’ve been “dieting”, that is, changing my lifestyle now for nearly a week, with some success. Lots of people have their own advice, their own stories, their own beliefs. One fascinating discussion is about whether one must or will necessarily be hungry when eating right. My contention is that most overweight people feel hungry, defined as a desire to eat more, if they have a negative calorie balance.

BUT….

As one super-hot physiologist has pointed out, there are ways to mitigate this.

I say “mitigate” because I really think that there are some people who, if the follow the evidence and do everything right, are still going to feel pretty hungry. The evidence does give us hints at how to help, though, and I hope Isis will lead me in that direction.

My writing, and hers as well, is an experiment—one between two professionals, one of whom hopes that making his struggle public may inspire or help others—but there are pitfalls to this type of writing.

Nothing in this exchange is aimed at you. Everyone is different. Not everyone who’s BMI is above a particular number needs to lose weight, and their are many safe and unsafe ways to approach diet and exercise—in other words, find your own professional, cuz me and Isis, we ain’t it.

So I did pretty well today. My back was screwed up, but I did the stupid thing and took some medicine, lay down for a while, then acceded to PalKid’s demand for a bike ride, which was long and involved actual physical work.

My lunch was a yummy salad with a hard boiled egg on top and some local cantaloupe. I had a snack of a some low-fat mozzarella cheese when I got home, but unfortunately, I did something wrong, got really hungry, and ate a pretty big (albeit healthy) dinner. Kiddo wanted Japanese, and most of the local Japanese places are run by Koreans, and I had some rice noodles stir-fried with lots of veggies, which was surprisingly short on oil (but still an overly generous portion). I’m also having a nice, cold beer tonight.

Still, overall, I’ve eaten far less, and exercised far more than I normally do, and hopefully this will be the new normal.

There’s been some chatter in the blogosphere about what type of exercises achieve what goals, but my current exercise goal is to just do some, improve my strength, endurance, and self-esteem. If it doesn’t help me lose weight, I can live with that for now.

Comments

  1. #1 Russell
    August 7, 2009

    My own view — two cents, for what it is worth — is that it is important to distinguish between a) the simple feeling of hunger, and b) not getting enjoyment from how one eats. The former is no more a problem than sometimes feeling thirsty before you drink or tired before you sleep. But you have to enjoy how and what you eat. It is one of the basic animal pleasures. When my partner and I changed how we ate, we became more interested in food. Yes, we cut out the junk food. But we also expanded our range of cooking real food, went shopping more often, started growing our own herbs, and ate out much less. We simultaneously tried more wine and developed our own preferences for it. I look forward to a lot of our favorite dishes, from chicken curry to shrimp sauteed with grape tomatoes, and get more satisfaction from eating them than most of what we used to eat.

    At the same time, almost every day I get hunger pangs before lunch and before dinner. It seems a perfectly normal thing, something that before would have caused me to grab a snack from a vending machine or convenience store. Now, the junk food seems like something no sane person should eat, and the pangs just mean I anticipate the good and satisfying meal soon coming. I’ll still sometimes have an afternoon snack of an apple or some grapes or unsalted nuts.

    I suspect that part of the junk food cycle is that it is high on immediate gratification, but low on real satiety.

  2. #2 Donna B.
    August 7, 2009

    I’m quite fond of boiled eggs on top of a salad… stir fry veggies and shrimp are also one of my favorites.

    However… I’m really fat :-)

    Just stay healthy, OK?

  3. #3 Don in Rochester
    August 7, 2009

    LOTS of baby carrots is what I use — if I have the muchies, that’s what I reach for. Filling, but not fattening . . . .

  4. #4 Russell
    August 7, 2009

    A follow-up. My goal was just to eat healthier, not to lose weight. That just happened as a side effect. But a diet needs rules, right? So I’ll formulate some.

    1) Eat as much as you want of anything made only from fish, shellfish, fowl, game, vegetables, fruit, legumes, peppers, seaweeds, roots, leaves and flowers, other spices, vinegar, and olive oil. This is real food. It is a broad world of food, and includes everything our ancient ancestors or recent hunter-gatherers had to eat. Be careful, though. Most of what you buy prepared in groceries or restaurants, even if it sounds like real food, will have all sorts of other stuff in it. Ingredients matter.

    2) And beef or pork, twice a week.

    3) And up to two glasses of wine each evening.

    4) And whole grains (oat meal, shredded wheat, any whole grain cereal without added sugar, molasses, cane juice, etc.) for breakfast.

    5) Any calorie-free drink.

    Yeah, I know, that eliminates most of what modern man eats, from chips and ice cream and breads, to most restaurant food. At the same time, it is a cornucopia compared to how people have lived at most times in most places, and allows some really scrumptious eating. Try it for some weeks, and see if you don’t feel better, lose some weight, get more interested in how your food is made, and improve your serum lipids.

  5. #5 Russell
    August 7, 2009

    Another follow-up, on the medical side. I was motivated by the fact that my cholesterol had snuck up over the years. I wanted to avoid statins or other medications. My partner was motivated by the fact that she had a bad reaction to her ACE inhibitors. Commercially prepared food is universally salted, so we had to start making most of what we ate from basic ingredients. Three years past, my total cholesterol was 215, LDL 144, triglycerides 110, and HDL 49. Today, they are 161, 95, 53, and 55. Eating well is cheaper than statins, is more pleasant than taking a pill, and has only pleasant side effects.

  6. #6 Nic
    August 8, 2009

    I’m a fan of making sure I have fat and protein in every meal. Many people still are eager to cut out the fat but I find that it keeps me satiated for longer. Nuts and seeds are a good snack. [not promoting high fat here]

    Do you feel it is more worthwhile to measure body fat % instead of BMI? I usually encourage people to lift weights/do body weight exercises while dieting in order to maintain lean body mass. This can cause weight to stagnant, when in reality, body composition is changing.

  7. #7 Gabs
    August 8, 2009

    I’m an advocate of the South Beach Diet for over a year now. You see, I am a little overweight before because I am fond of eating more carbs. At first, it was very very difficult to stick to the diet because my body has been craving for carbs ever since. But after 2-3 days, I accepted my fate.
    Veggies and eggs are a part of the diet of a South Beach Dieter. There were times that I ate eggs 3x a day. I seem to lose some weight though. If you could only stabilize on your cravings… it will work. You will lose weight on the long run.

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  8. #8 BaldApe
    August 8, 2009

    On whether you should feel hungry, maybe part of the issue is exactly what does it mean to say that you “feel hungry?” If people only ate when they were truly hungry, I think a lot fewer of them would be overweight.

    If I eat when I’m bored, I eat when I watch TV, I eat when it’s mealtime, I eat when I celebrate, I’m going to be eating a lot when I don’t need to. When I have the urge to snack while watching TV, I may report that I am “hungry,” but I just ate a healthy dinner an hour ago.

    The best general nutritional advice I’ve heard was on NPR concluding a story about studying all the advice- low carb, low fat, high fiber, whatever. They said “Eat food [in the sense of avoiding processed stuff], mostly plants, not too much.”

  9. #9 Diane
    August 8, 2009

    Doing the lose weight thing too, just a bit.
    Portion sizes key for me–size of my fist is one serving of whatever. Exercising again, anything to get my heart rate up for a while and my body moving.

    Those two things usually do the trick, along with avoiding high-fat and trigger foods (pizza, can’t stop eating it until it is gone!).

  10. #10 ERV
    August 8, 2009

    Technically you can be on a very low calorie diet and not be hungry. 10 pounds of carrots are only ~1500 calories. 10 lbs of spinach is about 1000 calories (and ~130 g protein!).

    Though if you want to eat normal volume foods, you should ditch the cornflakes/granola bars/other crap. There are real foods more nutrient dense and more filling (steel-cut oatmeal + fruit + ground flaxseed?). Youll just have to try various things and see what works for you!

  11. #11 natural cynic
    August 8, 2009

    There’s been some chatter in the blogosphere about what type of exercises achieve what goals, but my current exercise goal is to just do some, improve my strength, endurance, and self-esteem. If it doesn’t help me lose weight, I can live with that for now.

    If you exercise more and maintain your body weight, you are changing your body composition – which is what is more important than pure weight loss. In any weight loss program that does not include exercise, a significant part of the weight loss will be lean body mass. The older you are, there will be a higher proportion of lean mass to fat mass in the total weight loss. If you do a significant amount of strength training, you will see a gain in lean mass and a fat loss with a stable weight. In this situation your body has actually had a net loss of calories since a pound of fat contains a lot more calories than a pound of muscle. Peopled that have had this happen will proclaim that they haven’t lost any weight, but their pants aren’t as tight. Your body becomes denser with a pound of muscle taking up less volume than a pound of fat.

    Just don’t overdo the strength training. It is almost impossible to gain a significant amount of muscle with a net loss of weight. For strength training, first consult with a PT for safety do’s and don’ts to protect your back and consult with a personal trainer for specific exercises and programs. Make sure that you include safe “core” exercises to learn how to stabilize the back. The amount of calories expended during strength training is small compared to the calories expended in the same amount of time with cardiovascular exercise. However, with doing purely cardio for weight loss, you can also find a loss of lean muscle in the parts of the body that are not used for exercise [the upper body]. So, do both.

  12. #12 BikeMonkey
    August 8, 2009
  13. #13 red rabbit
    August 8, 2009

    @Russell: that’s more or less how I eat but still tubby :(

    Though the chocolate may actually be the issue here… mmm…

  14. #14 Perky Skeptic
    August 8, 2009

    Re-learning portion control (or learning it, as the case may be) can be SO hard! Cheers to you for your lifestyle changes.

    The first three weeks I started cutting my portion sizes to what they should be, I was STARVING ALL THE TIME, and I only had like 20 lbs to lose! I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for folks who have to lose over 100!

    Anyway, my big trick turned out to be celery. Whenever I felt empty but I knew I didn’t need more calories for the day, I munched celery until I felt full. It is still my favorite snack! :)

  15. #15 Isis the Scientist
    August 9, 2009

    Here is my tale of two diets to help you see the error of your wicked, wicked ways, Pal.