Ten Days Of Counting Every Calorie

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Food is one of the hardest addictions to quit, because there’s no way to go cold turkey. (Mmmm, turkey.)  Even if you manage to remove, you know, food from the equation – which I tried to do with tasteless-yet-nutritious food replacement Soylent as a test – you walk into a world that’s literally advertising all the goodness of food on every corner.  New strains of food are being made every day, with commercials exhorting you to taste everything. Serving sizes have swollen to vast proportions.
Scant wonder so much of America is fat.
Now, I don’t mind “fat and healthy” – which is, actually, a thing, as I’ve known 250-pound women who regularly run triathalons.  But for Mister Former Triple-Bypass, any extra weight is risking death.  And I’ve been creeping up the scale over the past year, and though I’ve amped my exercise looking in the mirror is still an unpleasant process.
So for my health and my self-esteem, I’m trying some new approaches – with technology!
And for the past ten days, I’ve logged every calorie I eat in into myFitnessPal, which is…. surprisingly enlightening.
The thing I like about myFitnessPal is that it makes it super-easy to track my goals.  I tell it I want to lose a pound a week, and it tells me how many calories I have.  It logs into my iPhone and counts my iPhone steps, and adds those calories to my daily total.  I can scan in foods by their bar code, pretty much every major restaurant chain is included, and I haven’t been able to find a food that’s stumped it yet.
The main benefit, as it turns out, is not counting calories.
The main benefit is tying “food” to “exercise.”
Because I don’t much like having only 2,000 calories to eat a day, but I can up that by taking the dog for a walk or getting on the elliptical.  I frickin’ hate exercise, always have, always will – and don’t tell me “it’s just finding the right exercise,” because what I hate is that sweaty tired feeling – but doing it so I can have an extra glass of milk in the evening incentivizes me to get off my ass.
(And carry my iPhone everywhere so I don’t miss a step.  Every step could be food.)
The other aspect, which I did predict, is that seeing how much of my day is consumed by snacks forces me to consider whether I actually want to eat it or not.  My mother counted calories back in the day, but that was in the 1980s when you had to carry a book around with you, and look things up, and guess a lot because the book was in tiny print and still didn’t cover all the food (also see: America having food everywhere), and then write everything down in another book to do math.
Counting calories now is as trivial as it’s going to get, for the time being.  (There’s talk of an app which can calculate calories by your Instagram snapshots, but that’s not gonna work well for years.)
And being so easy makes you be honest.  I was at Jersey Mike’s the other day, and I saw those little chocolate chip cookies.  They’re tiny, and delicious.  They’re also 190 calories apiece.  But 190 calories doesn’t seem like much, except when you have the math right there to put in three of them and see that it’s basically a quarter of my allotment for the day, and would I enjoy them that much?
Which isn’t to say that I don’t.  I love chocolate milk. A big glass of chocolate milk is like 630 calories, a huge proportion.  But I fucking love it, so some days I have all that milk and am shameless.  But I’m doing so consciously.
But the end result is that I’m forced to consider, which is good.  Being thoughtful about food is good for heart patients, even if it’s not fun.
And I don’t know whether I want to do this long-term.  In September, I know that I’ll be going on a big ol’ book tour soon – visiting Seattle, Portland, San Diego, and San Francisco, all foodie places – and visiting their finest donut shops.
Will I be able to splurge on my vacation and put that shit in the myFitnessPal?
Can I look my own unhealthy happiness in the eye and enjoy it?
And honestly, I believe that you deserve to go nuts every once in a while.  I want a Voodoo Donut when I visit Portland, and I don’t mind if I don’t lose my pound that week, but I’m not sure I can enjoy a Voodoo Donut knowing that one of them is literally a third of everything I’m supposed to eat that day.
That’s the horse you fall off of.  Sometimes, there’s this hard conflict between “The enjoyment I seek” and “The restrictions I’m under,” and it’s really hard to enjoy yourself on lockdown.  Part of the reason some alcoholics go off the wagon is not that they can’t have a single drink and stick to that, but they want to have the enjoyment of not worrying about their inebriation level all the goddamned time.  And so they go on benders because why the hell would you give yourself an evening where you’re luxuriously not counting beers and not pound ’em down?
So I suspect that myFitnessPal will become like my exercise – something I do for periods of time and better myself, then stop it and be shamed, and then start it up again.  And it’s not as good as exercising and calorie-counting all the time, but it’s better than never doing it, so you wind up with a net benefit even if the net benefit isn’t full-throttle.
But for right now, I had a glass of orange juice.  It’s full of Vitamin C, myFitnessPal tells me, and it was also 143 calories.  I can burn it off with a walk around the block for 167 calories.  Which isn’t even a full Pop Tart.
But combine it with the possibility of hatching a Lickitung in Pokemon Go, and it just might be worth hauling my fat ass out the door.

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