My Advice About Losing Weight: Secondly, Calories

Eat salads if you like them. I don’t. So I don’t eat them.

This is a series of posts about losing weight. I broke them up so that I don’t produce an 8,000 word post you won’t read. Instead, it’ll be three or so posts that you most likely won’t read. I’m OK with that.

The first one had the intro and dealt with the basics. Read it first for a better feel for the context.

Calories Eaten

I was going to label this section “Diet”, as in the overall picture of the food we eat, but that word is banned. See, the key to long-term weight loss isn’t a diet. It’s not about detoxing or juicing or eating a grapefruit for breakfast every day (ahh, the 1980’s) or some “paleo” bullshit or low-carb or Nutrisystem or meal plans or any of that utter bullshit.

But they work!

OK, sure. Short-term, a diet works just fine. I know. I used to jump on the Atkins diet and lose 20 pounds in a month or two. I loved that diet. I ate that way for over a year at one point. So look at me, contradicting myself! OK, not really. The reason why diets and meal plans and all that shit don’t work is because they don’t simulate real life. Sure, you can starve yourself on the Water and Salt Tablet Diet to lose 15 pounds for your wedding, but I guarantee that during your honeymoon you’ll gain it all right back, plus 5 pounds more. Then you’ll look back at your wedding pictures and see yourself 20 pounds lighter, feel fat, and eat a quart of ice cream. Unless you plan to change your life after you finish the diet, you will gain the weight back. It’s what happens. Plus your significant other will get to makes cracks about how much weight you gained after the wedding and make you want to shiv them. You might want to avoid life in prison.

So fuck dieting. You aren’t on a diet. What you are doing is changing your lifestyle. You need to recognize just how many calories you’re eating in a given day, a week, a month. You can try to guesstimate, but I bet you’ll be estimating a lot lower than you think. So you’re gonna need to do some work. You’re going to need a food tracker of some sort, whether it’s through SparkPeople or Bob Harper’s site or Excel or whatever. Google it. You”ll find one. SparkPeople has a pretty big database of foods built in and a lot of members have helpfully uploaded stuff like Girl Scout Cookies and shit so that you can find what you’re looking for fairly easy.

So you’ve got your food tracker. Start recording what you eat every day for a week. No cheating, because you aren’t getting away with shit. It’s not like if you sneak a Ho-Ho at 3 am your fat cells don’t notice. So just be truthful. Record EVERYTHING you eat AND DRINK. Just because it’s juice doesn’t make it free. Record that shit. Every day. For a week.

But that’s so hard and boring and forever-taking!

Yeah. Yeah it is. My advice is this: Suck it the fuck up, cupcake. The equation we’re working with is Calories Eaten < Calories Burned (that’s Math Nerd for Less Calories Eaten Than Burned). If you don’t know how many Calories you’re eating, how will you know what you’ve burned? Yes, it’s sometimes a pain in the ass. I get it. See the Mental section in a later post. This is important. The reason a lot of people get those meal-plan deals is so they can avoid this step. Guess what? After they stop the meal plan, they have no idea how many calories they eat in their regular lives. Again, if you don’t know one side of the equation, you won’t have any idea if you’re burning enough calories to lose weight. That’s a problem.

OK, so you’ve started recording what you’re eating in a given day and discovered that the hamburger with cheese on a big-ass bun with ketchup and mayo is 75% of what you should be eating on any given day. You see the things that you like to eat and how much or how little they cost in calories. Now it’s time to start thinking like an accountant.

Oh, fine, take the plastic bag off your head, stop running the car in the garage, and put down the knife. You don’t really have to think like an accountant. But I will use a money analogy here. What we’re going to do is equate Calories Eaten with Money Spent. Hence, the calorie cost thing. What you’re about to do is budget. Look at what you’re eating. What are the biggest culprits you can eliminate and replace with a lower-cost alternative? You’re gonna have to make some sacrifices here.

And I mean SOME.

I talked in the first post about sustainability. This is key. You can look at what you’re eating, renounce it all, and pledge to eat ramen noodles for the rest of your life. You’re lying. So stop it. What you need to find are things YOU ACTUALLY ENJOY EATING, so that you’ll avoid freaking the fuck out and eating a truck full of Oreo Double-Stufs. Just cut back. Find other things that you actually like that are less calories. Don’t radically change what you’re eating, because you will freak the fuck out. Don’t do that.

Get a digital scale, not one of those lame-ass spring ones. Make sure it has a “tare” function. And can do ounces and grams. Bit long for a caption, really.

Next, buy a food scale. I’m serious. The only way to know how much you’re eating is to WEIGH IT. It’s not that hard, so don’t give me that look. I can barely keep my eyes open in the morning, I put the dog food in the refrigerator, I stumble around like the living dead, and I still manage to weigh out my breakfast every morning. It’s not that bad. I weigh out lunch too, since I pack it every day. Weighing is important because estimating how much a cup is works for shit, and pouring something like cereal in a cup measurement can end up giving you radically different weights. Weight is consistent. Volume measurements for non-liquids is not. Weight your shit. You’ll be happy. They aren’t that expensive, either.

Now, if you’ve identified the things that cost way too much in terms of calories, you need to get them out of your house. Period. NOT IN THE FUCKING HOUSE AT ALL. If your partner wants them, and you’ve explained that weight loss is very important to you and you’d like their support and they still want them, I hereby give you permission to quick them square in the crotch as hard as you can, because that person isn’t willing to give up something minor to help the person they ostensibly love, so fuck them. Fuck them in the ear. If they bring it in the house, throw it the fuck away. Tell them to keep that shit in their car or office if they really need it that fucking bad.

Same goes for your kids. Don’t let those little bastards try to guilt you. Kids don’t need cookies or cakes or high-calorie snacks either. If they whine and cry, guess what: that’s what kids do. They’ll get the fuck over it. No one ended up in therapy because they didn’t get to drink soda at 7 years old. That said, don’t be that parent that insists that no one can give your kids treats either, because people won’t like you. Let other moms and dads give your kids shitty food when they’re around them. Your kids will tell you that you aren’t as cool as Whoever. Respond by saying that at least you don’t have cankles and can chase down and beat the shit out of that other person, because you’re in shape and a caged fucking tiger.

Also, never take parenting advice from me.

Now, I HIGHLY recommend that you start packing your lunch. If you do, you will a) save a shit-ton of money, and b) actually know your calorie intake. Restaurants suck at giving you calorie information. Avoid them. They cost too much and make us fat. That doesn’t mean NO RESTAURANTS EVER, though, just that you’ll lose weight faster if you avoid them. I go to restaurants too. It’s OK. Remember: sustainability. There will be times you want a cheesesteak and large pizza delivered to you. That’s fine. Try not to do that too often, but don’t kill yourself over it. I’m not trying to get anyone to lose weight quickly. This is about a lifestyle change that you can enjoy as a spry old person. Trying to do too much too fast will just fuck you up.

And that’s it. That’s my advice about food. If you want to worry about your carb intake versus your protein intake and fat intake, whatever. That’s cool. Chances are, you already know if you do better with a lifestyle heavier in carbs or one with protein and fat (That’s me. I crave protein like crazy and know I need to have more of that and less carbs. Not no carbs or anything stupid.). Keep the same ratios you normally do, or play around and see if there is a mix you like better. Whatever it is, keep in mind this simple thing: Calories Eaten < Calories Burned.

OK, to be redundant, let’s sum things up:

  • Know how many calories you eat
  • Weigh your food
  • Pack your lunch
  • Get support from your significant other or cut them
  • Show your kids the back of your hand
  • Keep it sustainable

Next up: Calories Burned. Exercise. The fun part!

About Alan Edwards

Former cancer caregiver. Husband of the most magical and amazing person who ever lived.

Posted on May 17, 2012, in Health and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. “Now it’s time to start thinking like an accountant.”
    …so debits on the left? credits on the right?

    • Alan Edwards

      You’ve got it! “Stand up sit down FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT” being the rest of the saying, of course.

  2. Awesome. Seriously. This is pretty much the best advice I’ve ever seen.

    Sparkpeople is awesome. I used it for about a year. Now I can probably recite for you the calorie count of almost anything.

    And, for the record, the paragraph about kids is terrific. And advice I need to take. So I think maybe you *should* give out more parenting advice.

    Also, another way to sell people on the food scales is their application for the ilegal narcotics trade. That should get people scramblin’ for ’em!

    • Alan Edwards

      I still use Sparkpeople now and again too, when I need to get my act in shape. I credit it a lot for helping me realize what I was actually eating.

      I may just have to do a parenting post from an outsider’s perspective. It should be different and hopefully amusing.

      And that’s a brilliant point about the scale. Remember, folks, make sure your meth lab is profitable! Weight’s the only way to know!

  3. Oh, and +11 for the advice to pack your own lunch.

    Lemme put it this way, people. 9 out of 10 WotC employees eat out every day. 9 out of 10 WotC employees are at least 20 pounds overweight. Get it? Got it? Good.

  4. “Show the kids the back of your hand.”


    I would add, fool your kids. If they like snacks that are going to turn you into a beast (the not sexy kind) trick them. My kid thinks he loves chips and dip. He’s actually eating some crazy whole grain stuff dipped in Greek yogurt mixed with pesto. Tastes good, he thinks he is getting a treat, and I don’t gain ten pounds snacking on his snacks. 🙂

    • Alan Edwards

      See, as a kid, if I knew it I would have never eaten it. We did the same thing for us when we were looking to lose weight, and I LOVE IT now. Greek yogurt is awesome. I even use it as a sour cream replacement on everything. That’s good advice!

  5. Wow, I like your partner and parenting advice. Strong work!

    I bring in my lunch and I edit or write everyday. My coworkers think it’s sad… I think they are, generally, wider than I and I fear for their bloodwork.

    I’m also with Amber on deception. My son thinks yogurt is a dessert, and that a single hershey’s kiss is a special huge treat. Yes, he gets tons of food. He’s a giant. But I’m not against misrepresentation early on to set good habits.

    • Alan Edwards

      I get that at work too. People think I’m a shut-in or something because I don’t go to lunch with them. I’m a shut-in because I don’t like them.

      Being a good parent is all about deceiving your kids, I think. “Lie to your kids” will definitely be part of my potential parenting blog.

      • Oh, agreed, I too dislike most of my coworkers. Therefore their appeals fall of deaf ears.

        I’m brutally honest to my son about most things. The economy, how people die, how to kill zombies, what will happen to him if he runs with a butcher knife. I’m very detailed…and he takes good notes. But I don’t stock doritos or soda in the house. I don’t think he knows they exist. No…he discovered root beer last year, and was wonder struck. Has it only at school functions. We’re unable to get it at the house. They don’t deliver it here… uh huh…

        • Alan Edwards

          I think a mix of perfectly honest and bald-face lies are the only way to go. I approve of your parenting approach!

  6. These weight loss posts are very timely for me. Lately, I’ve been looking at what my family and I eat and thinking, “What the fuck are we doing to ourselves?” We’re vegetarians who don’t eat vegetables. The amount of processed food we put in our bodies is alarming. I love these tips, Alan. Seriously. For me, the most important one is to get rid of all the bad shit in the house, which is so hard for a chocolate/sugar junkie like me. I’m slowly moving that way. I have to fully embrace this whole “getting healthy” thing first, but I’m *almost* there. Dude, you rocked this post! Thanks for the kick in the ass.

    • Alan Edwards

      Woot! I’m glad that it’s in any way helpful. I was amazed at how much processed food I was eating on a regular basis.

      And hey, every little bit helps. Making slow changes that stick are way better than knee-jerk radical changes that last 4 days and end in a binge of chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.

  7. Growing up the ‘bad food’ I ate was hot dogs and maybe now and again I was allowed to have Kraft Mac-n-Cheese. We didn’t have soda, we had homemade lemonade that would probably send you into convulsions due to the lack of sugar.I honestly didn’t eat at a McDonalds until I was in 7th grade, although I did have Winky’s a handful of times around age 8.

    I digress… Papa made me love gardening so I couldn’t wait to try some new veggie that we grew together! It was a huge production, picking the seeds, reading recipes before we picked our new veggies of the year, it made eating the veggies awesome because we grew them. It was and is one of my best childhood memories. I especially loved finding a veggie I could eat that he thought was gross because the deal was if we grew it, caught it, killed it, or bought it – we ate it.

    To this day I can’t handle sugary things because without even trying he let me know that processed food and sugary crap wasn’t good for you, I never had access and therefore never developed a taste for it. I think I was the only kid in my school that would rather have biscotti than a Kit Kat. I sincerely believe if kids don’t have access they won’t develop a taste for that crud.

    • Alan Edwards

      I think it really makes a huge difference growing up where vegetables are something to look forward to. It wasn’t quite the same for me. I hated them growing up and have barely managed to achieve tolerance for them now. And seeing how you are with sweet things compared to me shows it makes a difference. Me: “Too sweet?! No such thing!”

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