Monday, May 31, 2010

Unshaped thoughts

  • I wasn't planning on writing much about this, but since it's my weight loss blog, I guess it's relevant to mention the fact that I'm below 200 lbs. for the first time since I genuinely can't remember. I doubt that I was at this level for much of college (maybe freshman year?) and I definitely haven't been living a semi-healthy lifestyle like this ... perhaps ever.
There's growing pains, though. For one thing, when you're an ex-fatty fat fattily fat, it's a bit difficult to truly understand who/where you really are once you've dropped down to perhaps just overweight. I mean, by no means am I a string bean. Instead, I'm sort of a weird mixture of skinny parts and chunky bits. It's going to be a while, if ever, before I really feel completely "sound."

That being said, it's interesting to be ... "relevant" again. Not just with women (whom I could still use a little more finesse courting, or at least a little help finding ones who aren't batshit fucking insane), but even with people of my gender. There's something defiling about having some dude look down his nose, dismissively, at your bloated torso. I will never fucking miss that feeling. Ever.

  • This blog might become a bit of a repository for random thoughts, not just food stuff. Frankly, I'm not a health expert and not quite "healthy" yet. I could still use less salt and meat in my diet and I could still subject myself to more strenuous exercise. Despite that warning, I'm going to throw stuff up from time to time when I'm restless or have a day off from my day job blog. Probably products/foods/tricks that are helping me work my way from "overweight" to "normal." (Man, fuck the BMI. Bunchadicks.)
  • The one exercise I've been willing to commit to is walking. The problem is that I'm getting wildly committed to it. Like twice a day for an hour at a serious (for me, at least, as I'm a natural stroller) pace. Tonight I really had trouble stopping at 1 hour and 15 minutes. Inevitably I push things too far on crappy shoes.
The problem is I hate shopping for shoes. Seriously, I fucking hate buying shoes. Everything about it. They never feel comfortable, really. They always seem exorbitantly expensive, even if you can argue - quite successfully - that they're probably worth it.*

* - Sorry, female readers, but your shoes often break the "worth it" rule. Especially if they hurt your feet. Strange to see random traditional bits of masochism stick around through all of society's innovations. I think you're all overcompensating for your perfectly wonderful as is calves and maybe sporting a stray Napoleon(ette?) complex here and there.

But, seriously, if someone shot me with a "Kill Bill 2" truth serum dart and asked me:

David Carradine pre-horrifyingly funny masturbation death: "So, James you have two choices.

1. You could practically bathe in beautiful women, healthful and delicious foods, creature comforts and security. Pure, unadulterated hedonism, though you obviously still have to work and such ...


2. Your life would be relatively the same - bank account where it is, car the way it looks, blah blah blah ...

... except, in this scenario, you'd never have to deal with errands or mundane tasks ever again. Never another lawn mowed. Shoes expensed to your bank account, fitted in advance, in your home. So on and so forth.

I have to say, if I was around a group of people I wanted to impress, I'd probably go with choice 1. So decadent. So full of women I could swim in and such. Totally the manly answer, right?

Yet, really, I'd almost trip over myself for #2. I imagine this a lonely stance. Maybe. If nothing else I imagine there are some militaristic types who would despise me for such a view. In their eyes, the things I treasure - rare moments without thought or, conversely, with a downpour of unexplainable new ones - are the very portions of life they'd call "fat." In their minds (I'm really guessing here, completely) the tedium is the true "meat."

Well, fuck them. Bull-shit time is my steak.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lesser evils: Beef Jerky

Let me paint an unflattering picture for you.

It's 3:00 a.m. and you've been drinking heavily. The aforementioned wobbly behavior keeps you from getting into a car (and really, at this time of night you'd probably make a big mistake beyond drunk driving ... food choices are usually pretty awful at that time of night). You open the fridge and realize that you have nothing but spent milk, bottled water and more beer.

So you stagger over to a 7-eleven or gas station convenience store and you're met with some really bad options.

You could barely satiate your hunger with a sugar-loaded calorie-dense candy bar or a carb-loaded, calorie-dense bag of chips. Or, if you really want to shit fire, you decide to get some Spicy Roller Trash Meat Concoction like a taquito or a who-knows-how-long-it's-been-there hot dog.

And let's be honest, most of the "healthy looking" food really is packed with sugar and might not have any nutritional value whatsoever. Perhaps you can get lucky and nab some fresh fruit. Maybe a little bag of almonds could do the trick.

But sometimes the Call of the Booze will force you to take more drastic measures.

To my surprise, Beef Jerky isn't a horrible option when faced with this dilemma. According to the nutrition facts of a bag of 7-Eleven Teriyaki Beef Jerky, an entire 3-serving bag contains 270 calories, 3g of fat, 24g of carbs and 33g of protein.

Now it's not all rosy, though, since the 1800mg of sodium will account for a whopping 75% of your daily recommended intake. The snack is also disturbing for a person who needs dental insurance like myself, as the chewier pieces tend to make my jaw snap more than The Incredible Hulk.

Still, nutritional beggars cannot be choosers. The jerky has a relatively simple list of ingredients (only 3 or 4 things sound like Frankenstein monster concoctions) and will satiate your hunger with that heavy dose of protein.

Obviously, the focus of this blog is to be healthier and jerky is by no means a healthy food. That being said, another aim of this blog is to find practical solutions; when you're drunk you're far less likely to want to scramble eggs or make an elaborate salad.

Remember, kids: you don't have to be perfect. Being better is pretty good, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cereal Killer

There are a lot of foods that seem like they're healthier than they really are.

Take, for instance, granola. The hippie food staple is often thought of as an end-all be-all of nutrition but those typically food-savvy folks will lead you astray; it seems that granola really isn't that great for you after all.

One food that ranges quite wildly is cereal. Oddly enough, my old standby site Eat This, Not That (which I haven't checked in a while) highlighted a list of the Best and Worst cereals.

That list can give you some really good, practical options. This post highlights the things I've learned and how I purchase cereal (although, admittedly, I don't buy that much in the first place).

1. Don't base your purchase on the front of the box

Read the nutrition facts, not just the front of the box I'm super cereal.

The only thing you should care about is a) if there's a cartoon character on the front (to easily eliminate that option) and b) if it looks like something that will taste decent. After all, you can have the healthiest cereal in the world but why not eat something that you enjoy while not being a Count Chocula'd idiot?

2. Keep your sugar low

While I recommend finding cereals that you enjoy, there are a few that should be eliminated. Be mindful of your sugar intake.

One of the tastiest healthy series is the Kashi "Go Lean" cereals. I quite enjoy their berry cluster variety (I believe it's called "Go Lean Crisp.") If you're feeling especially spry, you can just get one of those really bland cereals and throw some fruit in there for sweetness. For me, it's baby steps, though.

3. High fiber

Fiber content is the #1 priority after keeping sugar low. Since you'll be eating this for breakfast, you want something to keep you full until lunch.

4. Protein is good too

It's not quite as important as having a high fiber cereal, but a high protein breakfast will also be very helpful in keeping you fuller, longer.

5. Vitamins are solid too

Admittedly, I've been getting my vitamins from fruit and vegetables but the Total line does provide a lot of nutrition. Honestly, I'd rather have a scattering of 35%'s than 100%'s because sometimes you can get too much of a good thing.

That being said, if you can get a high-fiber, high-protein and vitamin enriched cereal with low sugar and moderate fat/calories then you're doing a great job.

It's also worth nothing that you should try to eat cereal earlier in the day, so it's easier to work off all those carbs.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snack survival guide: Super Yogurt

Luckily, Greek Yogurt isn't useless and awful like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

One of the main habits that separates the fat and the merely out of shape is manic snacking. A little pressure rolls your way or you miss a meal and all of a sudden you're mainlining bacon grease and raiding your children's Lunchables.

It may sound difficult, but the trick is to eat meals that fill you up, drink lots of water and when you do snack make sure it provides a true benefit.

That's why I've come around to a few healthy snacks that can be combined to form a Justice League Task Force of kick-ass delicious nutrition.

Snack suggestion:

Individual packs of Greek Yogurt (warning: it - or at least the Oikos brand organic stuff I bought - is kind of smelly and weird at first. You have to stir that sucker up or things might fall apart.)
Real blueberries
Raw walnuts and/or almonds
Optional: flaxseed powder, other nutty add-ins

Review: I've only had the chance to try Oikos, which come in work-friendly little yogurt packs. It can be difficult to pack the blueberries and nuts with much finesse, but sometimes you simply have to sacrifice cool points. If you're like me, you're already far in the "negative" column so fuck it, right?

Ultimately, it's not good to "midnight snack" but this combo beats my hunger to death. Give it a try for breakfast as well since it will give you a nice combo of vitamins, healthy fats and protein. Jackpot, son. Jackpot.

Blueberries (Nutrition facts) are one of the most ideal snacking fruits. They give you that horrific food shoveling rush normally covered by potato chips or what have you. Blueberries pack a nice array of vitamins and fiber, plus they're pretty tasty and don't get your hands sticky. I eat a cup of them almost every day.

Walnuts (A goober-tastic gushing post about Walnuts) are considered to be among the most useful nuts (besides my own, HEY-OH!!!) and they provide a solid crunchiness to boot. It's best to eat these in their raw, unsalted form. In this yogurt or even munching on a small handful, I must say I didn't miss the evil addition of sodium. If nothing else, it can be covered in creamy yogurt to distract you from the lack of cheating.

Almonds (The "World's Healthiest Foods" entry regarding Almonds) might not be mandatory, but provide a crunch that can be great for stress eating. I usually sprinkle both walnuts and almonds in the yogurt concoction to provide a nice, crunchy counterpoint to the blueberries.

The nuts also make the meal quite a bit more filling, so that's a nice bonus.

Flax seed (Nutrition facts) are added when I feel especially risque.

The mixture of nuts and nutty products might make this a bit of a fatty meal, but the yogurt and blueberries are calorie-friendly. I'd recommend only putting a small mixture of the nuts/flax seed and a generous helping of blueberries. It keeps this treat varied and healthy.

Feel free to leave your impressions on this snack and similar concoctions of your own.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making the correct stops at Subway

When you don't do your homework, you might assume that whatever you stack on your Subway sandwich is good for you as long as it's one of the 6 grams of fat subs. Bad news: that measurement comes without all the globs of mayo, pounds of cheese and horrible salami you stack in there.


Before I get into the tips, here's a quick guide to Subway's $2.49 Sub of the Day deals so you can know when to go. (Note: I'm not sure if these change from region-to-region, let me know if these are different in your neck'o'the woods.)

Sunday: Oven Roasted Chicken
Monday: Turkey and ham
Wednesday: Turkey

Every other day: bad, bad, bad!


So, after giving you Chipotle tips it's time to review some of the important Dos and Don'ts for what can be another choose-your-own-misadventure.

1. $2.49 Sub of the Day > Five Dollar Foot long (hell, even a DOUBLE MEAT 6-footer is better than a FDFL!)

A five-dollar foot long will be costly in bread (and therefore unneeded calories and carbs). Apparently, it's actually a better choice to double the meat on a 6-inch sub instead if you need more sandwich.

2. Choose your bread wisely

The range in calories isn't big, but Honey Oat and Wheat bread provide far more fiber.

3. Condiments change everything

The dressing is where you can really ruin your sandwich, though.

I recommend: Mustard, Honey Mustard (my favorite compromise), Sweet Onion (whatever the fuck that is), Red Wine Vinaigrette (a little too sweet IMO) and maybe another sauce or two.

Stay away from ranch, mayo and generally anything creamy. Also, Oil & Vinegar is a bad move because you're likely to get a heavy dose of oil. Stick with less dangerous options.

3b. Be stern

You really have to stay on them if you do get ranch or another unhealthier dressing. Tell them "just a little" and blurt out a stop message once they start pouring it on haphazardly as they'll forget since they hate their jobs and don't care that you're trying to lose weight. The dicks.

(It's actually surprising that Subways actually do vary in quality even though their food tastes eerily similar across the country. Why? Better, more attentive staffs means less itchy sauce trigger fingers.)

4. No chips, no soda

You know you've done this before: you buy a decent Sub but then you get a 32 oz. Coke and Cheetos. Well, guess what? You fucked up.

My recommendation is to pick up a sandwich if you can.

5. If you must have a combo:

Get Unsweetened Iced Tea and Apple Slices. Or, if you must, Diet Soda (really don't recommend Diet though) and Baked Lay's.

That might sound hard, at first, but ask yourself this: how much do you taste fries/soda when you're eating lunch? If you're a fatty like me, you usually barely even chew your food enough to actually taste anything.

If you hate Baked Lay's (the BBQ, Sour Cream and Onion and their weird pepper or Chipotle varieties are solid) then go with Sun Chips. Sun Chips are still pretty high in fat (usually 9 grams, possibly more than your sandwich) but they add a decent amount of fiber.

6. Veggies make the sandwich

The other day, I finally had a cheese-free sandwich. I did so by stacking my sandwich with an impressive array of veggies: tomatoes, lettuce, green and yellow peppers, black olives, pickles and onions. It was delicious.


So, those are my Subway tips. It's not a perfect place to eat, though. These meals still tend to be pretty high in sodium (the monster I'm still fighting) and the veggies can be a little shaky sometimes.

Still, Subways are everywhere and can really allow you to control your caloric intake while eating something satisfying. Just make sure to avoid the dreaded Health Halo and channel your inner Jared.

See Also:

Subway Official Nutrition Information (they also have some really good "weight management" advice that you should take a look at.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adios, French fries (or the importance of a good side-kick)

It's all about the company you (and your entree) keep.

While I'm personally trying to pack nutrition into every meal, it's quite possible that many of you just want to cut some calories each day. That's cool, brahs and brahettes.

There are plenty of ways to do that, but one thing that gets overlooked is what surrounds your heaping portions of meat (or vegan main course?). You already know this, but if your cross hairs aren't necessarily aimed at the ceiling, you'll marvel at how much you can save by (take a deep breath) cutting out french fries, potato chips and their fried kind.

(Another way? Cut back or completely cut out empty soda calories, but that's another post for another day. Although I will prematurely sing the praises of unsweetened iced tea, as diet soda is kind of bad for you too.)

Just to give you a quick comparison, I've been combining Chick Fil A's Chargrilled Chicken sandwich (a quite tasty 300 calorie sandwich whose only sin is a high sodium count) with their side salad instead of fried chicken and fries yet still ending up with a VERY filling meal. In fact, I'd argue that the meal ends up appeasing my hunger for much longer.

Let's compare some of the side options at the wacky Mormon (they're Mormons right? I know they close on Sundays ...) chick joint, with the fruit cup being another great option, although I doubt that it would be enough to keep me full through the day. You may disagree, and good for you, because it's even better for you than the salad option.

Anyway, let's compare and contrast.

Grilled chicken and a healthy salad make a dynamic duo. (G-get it?)

(Oh, and Chick-Fil-A has its own calculator, so you can mix and match to your heart's content.)

Bad move:

Fried chicken sandwich, medium Waffle Fries and a medium Coke:

Calories: 980; 38 grams of fat; 1575 mg of sodium; 131 carbs; 7 g of fiber; 54 g of sugar; 35 g of protein

Comments: The sad thing is that this is a relatively decent meal in the fast food world. It just shows you how much damage you can do when every move you make is a bad one. Horrible sugar, carbs and calories. And, again, there are burgers alone out there that can cause similar caloric problems.

Intermediately Bad:

8-piece nuggets, medium Waffle Fries and a medium unsweetened tea.

Calories: 650; 33 grams of fat; 1190 sodium; 57 carbs; 5g of fiber; 2 g of sugar; 32 g of protein

Comments: Still a bit costly, but if you're going to be bad this isn't a catastrophe. Bump it up to 780 calories and 38 grams of fat if you go with the 12-count of nuggets.

My choices:

Note: for the side salad, there's three options: a reduced fat berry balsamic vinaigrette, a low fat Italian and fat-free Honey Mustard. In this case, I chose the berry balsamic, but that's mainly because of the high salt content of the Italian (which sports less fat and calories) and because I'm already using mustard as a Ranch-killer.

The Meal
  • Chargrilled Chicken sandwich (make sure to get the regular one, which I think was #2, instead of the Club - I believe #6 - which has bacon and cheese to ruin the value)
  • Side salad w/ a little less than half a packet of reduced fat berry balsamic V dressing [don't use the croutons, but I did throw in a bit of the sesame seeds they provide. You don't need the whole packet on a small salad, BTW.]
  • Unsweetened Iced Tea.
The Stats

440 calories, 10g of fat (probably 15 with the sesame seeds), 1390 mg of sodium, 55 carbs, 5g of fiber, 21g of sugar, 34 g of protein

Comments: A nice, filling meal that I typically augment by bringing a fruit cup for later in the work day. It's not perfect, but you save 200-500 calories by choosing a better side, better drink and grilled chicken. That way, you make the most of your calories and can avoid those dreadful mid-afternoon sugar crashes.

Keep in mind also that with chicken nuggets it's almost inevitable that you'll add some bad sauces to the mix, making the grilled chicken w/ salad shine through even more. If you decide on the chicken nuggets, maybe ask for one of the health(ier) dressings instead? Hmmm?


Going forward, I'll try to find more solid substitutes for French fries. If you're at a Subway, you might be surprised how decent the Baked Lay's are (even if they share the same un-filling problems as their fattier bagged brothers). But I can expand on that later.

Oh, and Chick-fil-A also has salads and other helpful suggestions if you'd really like to avoid carbs or just want a variety of options ...

Not sure you'll find much there if you're a vegetarian, though. But I'll try to look out for your interests whenever possible. No, really.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today's thoughts, including how to eat pizza like less of an idiot!

You might as well cremate yourself in the brick oven after eating this death 'za

Before I get to this, it's important to note that many of my "theories" and deeper findings come from scouring Men's Health outstanding Eat This, Not That Web site. Before that, I thought that my food selections would have to be greatly reduced in order to eat better. Once I started to really dig around there, I realized that I just would have to really do my homework.

Thankfully, this kind of homework can help you look better naked. And it can be delicious to boot.

Before I get specific, here's What I Learned about Lessening Pizza Evils

1. The thinner the better

Kate Moss is a good role model for your pizza. For your daughter? ... Not so much.

Unlike a human being, the general rule of eating health(ier) pizza is to look for less depth. Deep dish pizzas provide heavier doses of carbs but also have more space for more calories. The bread-to-good-stuff ratio should be as close to 1:1 as you can get.

2. Meat will be the only thing you'll be loving anytime soon ...

Apparently pepperoni is one of the worst things you can put on a pizza. It's probably worth noting that anything approaching "mystery meat" isn't great for you.

Abel won't like this, but Canadian bacon tends to be a MUCH healthier alternative than it's American cousin and most other ham-ish substances. Or whatever the hell goes into salami, sausage and pepperoni.

3. Find clever ways to give yourself less slices

Today, I cooked only half a pizza and gave a way a third of that half.

This means that I was able to eat approximately the suggested serving size of the Krogen brand Italian Margherita Pizza that was the centerpiece of a pizza and spinach salad dinner that blew my mind tonight.

If I indeed only ate 1/3 of the thin crust pizza, that means I only consumed a perfectly reasonable 290 calories and 12 grams of fat. While it wasn't greasy with processed meats, it provided a delightful little mixture of cheese, tomatoes and fancy spices. If nothing else, it scratched that eternal pizza itch.

The spinach salad helped me to refrain from heating up the other half of the pizza, but simply not having that other half of the pizza to temp me with its sad "take me" stare really helped make my dinner a fairly reasonable meal.

Which brings me to a few products I've been using lately.

Now, keep in mind I'm not a doctor and the stuff I'm using is far from perfect. Still, I've been able to find some half-decent substitutes that either have some nutritional value or greatly reduce the harm normally associated with given foods.

The Margherita Pizza is a good example, as its crust is thin, its calories are limited and the ingredient list seems pretty simple (a very important factor in judging foods). If you eat the whole thing, you're looking at a little under 900 calories and 36 g of fat ... but it could be even worse.

(Don't eat the whole thing though. You don't need it. I promise.)

Anyway, here are two other nice little options if you cannot live without their fattier or less beneficial brothers. (And they're all approved ... by my taste buds, at least)
  • Ken's Steakhouse "Healthy Options" olive oil & vinegar dressing
Stats per serving: 50 calories, 4g of fat and 240 mg sodium

Comments: I imagine there are lighter options for Italian/vinaigrette type dressings (feel free to leave recommendations in the comments), however, this dressing tastes just as good as any full-fat Italian dressing with minimal harm.

Advice: I've always found it difficult to "eye-ball" the right amount of dressing to put on a salad, particularly with the most common wide open lids. I always Peter North my salads in a sad eruption of oils and salts. So I just made it simple enough that even an idiot like me can figure it out: I simply drop two tablespoons (the recommended serving) on the salad and it works fine.

If you're really picky you can try one tablespoon, but for me, I just want to enjoy the bejesus out of a spinach salad and that's happening every night. I'll take 4g of fat to make spinach a part of my daily life.

Drawback(s): Not much nutritional value, aside from the salad you're covering. That being said, it's made from virgin olive oil, so it might be comprised of "good" fat. Bonus ... unless I'm wrong. *shrug*
  • Mission brand Carb Balance PLUS! Flour tortillas (small tortillas)
Stats per tortilla: 2g of fat, 80 calories, 12g carbs, 7g of fiber, 3g protein and 220 mg sodium

Comments: I haven't done much comparison shopping with tortillas, either, but this is a very impressive little wrap. You truly might be able to threaten a day's worth of fiber intake merely by throwing a heaping portion of black beans in this bad boy.

An inventive Chipotle alternative?

My friend Tyler was skeptical about going with a Burrito Bol, but what if you brought Chipotle back home and put a bol's worth of goodness in a couple of store-bought tortillas? After all, consuming 44 extra carbs late at night - not even counting rice and other fillings - is a recipe for disaster.

For the sake of comparison, I'd say that two Mission tortillas could be a reasonable (though still not as large) answer to one Chipotle monster burrito. If nothing else, it could be a decent compromise.

Humor me and take a look at how they compare:

2 Mission brand tortillas: 4g of fat, 160 calories, 24 carbs, 14(!) g of fiber, 6g of protein, 440 mg of sodium


1 13" Chipotle tortilla: 9g of fat, 290 calories, 44 carbs, 2g of fiber, 7g of protein, 670 mg of sodium

So, the two Mission tortillas cut the fat in half, cost 130 less calories and a considerable 20 less carbs while giving filling fiber and less salt. You lose 1 g of protein in the deal. Considering the crazy amounts of protein in Chipotle's meat, beans, guac, etc., you're almost better with less protein.

To me, that's an obvious substitution if you just can't live without a burrito. If you try this option, I think you'll find that Chipotle is delicious because of its fine meats, sauces and accessories. Not what holds it. And maybe you'll move on to a more logical, less tortilla-heavy existence.

Note: even if you did three tortillas, it would still cost you less calories, carbs and fat. And you'd poop like nobody's business.

Drawback(s): The ingredients list is a little longer than I'd like to see. Be careful to not eat TOO MANY of these, as 7g of fiber per tortilla can add up and be a bit much.


So, feel free to share your thoughts. How do you avoid scarfing down pizza? Any other grocery store Italian-ish dressings you'd recommended? Tortillas? More?

I'd love to hear feedback so don't be shy folks.