Need to Lose Weight?
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Published by the Penguin Group R.R.P £6.99 ISBN: 978-0-141-03850-6
In his new book ‘Fat Bloke Slims’ Bruce Byron (D.C. Terry Perkins of ITV’s drama series, The Bill) tackles slimming for men head on and tells the story of how he lost 3 stone. This extract talks about calorie counting, food diaries and the useful tools offered at Weight Loss Resources
During my internet searches, I keep stumbling across a website that is essentially a tool for counting calories. It offers quite a lot of free information, explaining how that calorie deficit works, and promises that its food-diary tools makes keeping track of calories easy. It also offers nutritional information, charts your goals and weight loss and has recipes and tips and a forum for members to chat on.
It looks quite interesting, and I decide that I’ll do a twenty-four-hour free trial, put my day’s menu through the counter and see how it stacks up. After all, it can’t do any harm, and knowledge is power. I’m curious now to find out how my self-made diet fares.
I sign up for my free trial and the site asks me to fill in my basic details.
Height: 5ft 7 inches
Weight: 14 stone 13lbs
Activity: moderately active. The site tells me not to count specific exercise at this point, as I’ll put that into my exercise diary.
The calculator tells me that my ideal weight range is 9 stone 12lb to 11 stone 5lb, based on – you guess it – the Body Mass Index. At 14 stone 13lb, my BMI is 32.7. You know how I feel about BMI – I’m distinctly unconvinced. I may not be the tallest bloke in the world; but in my time I’ve been very muscly and fit, and I can tell you that if I ever got down to 9 stone 12lb, I would look ill. My frame isn’t like that. Being that thin just wouldn’t suit me.
But the calculator also says it’s up to me to find the weight I feel happiest at, which is reassuring.
At the next stop, I’m asked if I want to lose weight, or maintain weight. I choose lose weight, of course, and then it asks for my target weight. I put in 12 stone 12lbs. Now I’m prompted to say how fast I want to lose it. The options are: 0.5lb, 1lb, 1.5lb, 2lb.
I put in 1.5lb. That seems sensible and probably not too difficult to cope with.
Instantly, my daily calorie allowance appears. It is 2,177 calories per day. Well, maybe that isn’t so bad. I’ve got it into my head that the daily rate for men is 2,500 so that’s only 323 calories less than that. So it can’t be so hard, can it? I wonder if I’ve been eating a lot more calories than I’ve realised. That thought is faintly depressing.
To see my experiment through, I enter everything I’ve eaten today into the food diary. Here goes…The site has a food database, which is a bit fiddly to use at first, until I begin to learn how to find my way around. There are lots and lots of branded products, which must make your life easier if you do all your food shopping at the supermarket and eat a lot of ready-made products. If you don’t, you need to find the basic version of your food and then work out what kind of portion you’ve had. This means – yuk – weighing it. Something I vowed I’d never do. But, in the interest of the pursuit of knowledge, I decide that I will do this and, actually, I’m quite interested now to find out what my calorie intake is. I have to do some estimating, of course, as I can’t weigh food I’ve already eaten, but I decide to err on the side of caution and overestimate rather than underestimate, so that I don’t give myself a falsely optimistic picture.
All the foods you add are automatically filed in your personal database, so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. And another good way to work out calories is the recipe feature; if you’re cooking a casserole, you enter all the ingredients and how many servings you get from it, and the site works out what the calorie content is per portion. Basically, the more you use the calculator, the more use it will be.
I’m quite impressed – it seems like a useful tool for someone who is calorie counting and a much more cool and sophisticated way to go about it than I’d imagined. I also like the way your allowance per day is yours to do with what you will. If you want to eat cake or whatever, fine, just put it in. The effect on your calorie quota might make you think twice before you do that too often, but no one is going to criticise or judge or tell you you’ve sinned.
|Big Bowl of Oat Granola (100g)||410 Calories|
|Mug of Tea With Semi Skimmed Milk||19 Calories|
|Semi Skimmed Milk On Cereal (100ml)||50 Calories|
So breakfast comes in at 479 calories. Not bad. And, apparently, I have 1,698 calories left for the rest of the day, which seems ok to me.
|Medium sized banana||116 Calories|
|Two cups of coffee with skimmed milk||32 Calories|
That brings my tally up to 627, with 1,550 left for the rest of the day. That seems plenty to me.
|A tin of John West Light Lunch, Moroccan
I did have a very light lunch today, so I’m saving calories on that. I’m pretty sure my usual lunch would be more likely to be up round the 300 mark, probably more.
|Handful of dried figs||347 calories|
|Cup of coffee with skimmed milk||16 calories|
I’m surprised by the amount of calories in the dried figs. Apart from breakfast, they’re the most calorific things I’ve eaten today. I remember how much concentrated natural sugar there is in dried fruit – I’ll have to watch out for that. Still, I’m only up to 1,270 calories, well under my ration for the day.
|A medium filled of salmon pan-fried in olive oil||247 calories|
|Salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radish||71 calories|
|Big bowl of fruit salad: strawberries, blueberries, grapes
Kiwi, apple and clementines
|Big spoonful of organic, low-fat natural yoghurt||77 calories|
|Glass of lime cordial and water||22 calories|
My dinner totals 848 calories, which also surprises me, considering how healthy it looks on paper. The main course comes in at 427, and the rest if my pudding. Still, it’s my main meal of the day and provides me with a major helping of nutrients.
Well – what do you know I’m under my calorie allowance.
To maintain my current weight, I need to eat 2,929 calories. If I eat less than that each day, I’ll lose weight. If I eat at a rate of 2,177 calories a day, I’ll lose 1.5lbs a week, which is my goal. And guess what…today’s food comes in at a 2,120, 57 calories under my quota. RESULT!!
But I did have a very light lunch…what if I’d had a slightly heavier lunch, as I often do? Or the second small breakfast I sometimes eat after training? That would put me well over the desired quota. As for what would happen if I were still drinking, I dread to think. Just out of interest, I put in a large glass of white wine. A 175ml glass puts on 115 calories. A 250ml glass stacks on 165 calories. But a bottle puts on 495 calories – the equivalent of another whole meal – or two and a half times my lunch.
No wonder I was getting fat.
Thinking about my exercise, I go to the exercise section and enter my thirty minutes running on the treadmill, which I do on a couple of the mornings that I’m not training with Imran. I try and go at quite a whack. The site comes up with a figure of 500 calories that I burn off during that session, and promptly adds those calories to my daily quota.
Brilliant. On the days I don’t exercise, I can eat lightly and stay inside the limits I need to keep losing weight. On the days I do exercise, I can eat more heartily – and if I need to because I’m hungrier – and still keep losing the weight. Love it.
The thing that is appealing about calorie counting is that it us very straightforward. There are no forbidden foods or combinations. You could eat just crisps all day if you wanted. It’s very simple: if you eat fewer calories that your body expends every day, you’ll lose weight. But, as soon as you see how those calories add up, you want to make sensible choices, so that you can eat delicious and filling food but keep within your quota.
I remember those recipes I found in the slimming magazines – clever ideas for tasty dinners that don’t pile on wasted calories. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at a couple of those on a night when I don’t feel like plain fish and salad again.
Then I notice that, on the site, as well as the food diary/calorie counter, there is also a nutrition profile. I take a quick look at how my day has stacked up.
It’s laid out like a couple of pie charts, with the percentages in them. One shows the target nutrition profile recommended by the website. The other is my very own intake.
Hey Not bad! Pretty much spot on.
I’m chuffed, I never wanted to count calories, but I’ve always accepted that, unless I create a deficit between what I take in and what I give out, I’m never going to lose weight. I felt I could do that pretty much instinctively, and putting one day’s diet to the test like that has proved me right.
But it’s also taught me that I’m going to have to stay vigilant if I want to carry on losing weight. I don’t intend to start weighing my food now, or ever, and, to be honest, neither do any of the men I know. I haven’t got time for all that. But my mind is open to learning how to cook some meals which are a bit lower in calories, and to ways to trim out unnecessary calories which could be quietly but consistently pushing me over what my body needs and into fat-storage territory.
Using the calorie counter has been interesting, but it’s confirmed my belief that if I follow my instincts and keep in control of what I’m eating, keep off the booze and on the treadmill, a lower weight and better health will follow as naturally as night follows day.
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