The 30-day experiment, Part II


So. About a month ago. I told you all that I was going to keep track of whatever I ate for 30 days straight. Part of this was an attempt to lose weight. I know from long history that I’m faster and stronger when I’m lighter, so I thought I’d give this a go. Also, my food-scientist husband has long barked that I’m not allowed to complain about a little extra pudge if I don’t do everything I possibly can to fight the pudge, and he claims that keeping a food log will help with that on top of the exercise.
I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with exercise. Like anything, I hate knowing that I *have* to do it. (Think back to when you were forced to read anything for British Literature 101. I mean, didn’t that make you want to rip your hair out?)
But the love part of it comes when I’m with friends, or when I’m feeling strong. There was a time when a male friend would say, “Going for a quick seven-miler, wanna come?” And I’d say yes, and keep up. Those days are long gone and I miss them.
So I thought I’d see what happened if I exercised on a minimal basis and just kept a food log. How would I feel? What would happen? I’ve never even tried such a thing before.
Well, I did it, for 30 days straight.

Photo: About.com

Here is what I learned:

  • A lot of food manufacturers ask you to prepare the food with way too much oil. Prime example, popcorn. The package asks for three tablespoons of oil per 1/3rd cup of unpopped corn. People, this is an obscene amount of oil. In fact, it’s 420 calories worth and 45 grams of fat worth. That’s way, way too much. I used a massive pan and 1/3rd cup of unpopped kernals and got away with a tablespoon of oil, and it was delicious. I eat a lot of popcorn, so this matters to me. The same with rice and couscous. You don’t need the oil at all if you get the prepackaged mixes.

image: simplyrecipes.com

  • What does a tablespoon of oil or cream look like? Now I know. I used to consider myself a pretty good eyeballer, but I’m much better at it now. Also, a tablespoon of hummous goes a long, long way.
  • Fruit and veg is very, very low in calories. I knew this ahead of time, but I was shocked by how few calories there are in a navel orange (64!) or in salsa (15 per 2-tblsp serving).
  • One pre-packaged chicken breast is actually two servings. People, growth hormone is a scary thing. The chicken breasts we have in our freezer right now are HUGE. They’re easily two servings, so I adjusted our dinners to correspond to true servings.
  • It is HARD to count calories when you’re out. I must confess to skipping a few of those things. One night, Jim and I were out while he was getting an award at work, and I stopped after trying to figure out whether or not the meatball I ate was small, medium, or large.

Photo: SturgisJournal

Okay. So here’s what happened. I kept track of fat grams and basic calories. The results were fascinating

  • In the first few days, I way overdosed on fat grams and came in way under in terms of daily calorie count.
  • I grew to like looking over the days and calories. It became like another way to organize myself.
  • But then I got tired of it.
  • I also got tired of not exercising. And then I had to work extra hard just to find the calories to make up for the exercise. (I was shocked to see that the US RDA for calories assumes a totally sedentary lifestyle. I guess it’s the easiest baseline, but…)

In the end, I didn’t really get anything out of my 30 days. In fact, while my weight did redistribute itself (I noticed a narrower waistline after just a couple of days), I actually gained three pounds over my 30 days.

I won’t be doing the food log thing again. But I am much more cognizant of what I’m putting into my mouth.

I also think that’s the end of the 30-day projects for a bit, although today I’m trying something called the Pomodoro method (work for 25 minutes; take a 5-minute break; repeat until four cycles and then take a 15-20 minute break).

Maybe I’ll check in on that a little later.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

8 Responses to The 30-day experiment, Part II
  1. Kristene Richardson says:

    Hello! Loved your blog today! I want to know more about the Pomodoro work method.
    I too did the calorie count thing – liked using cute apps on my I phone but like you I lost interest. I’m now to asking my self questions – will I exercise to tday? Do I want to eat that? And drinking lots of water. Maybe I’ll burn a few extra calories with all the trips “down the hall”. I’ve gained 10 lbs since last summer and I’m determined not to look like my relatives did when I hit 50 (3 years for those who want to know) – so I gotta loose it!

    • Yi Shun Lai says:

      Kristene! Thanks so much for coming to read through this pile of words! I did Pomodoro for exactly one day and got so much done that I was totally exhausted by the end of the end. Think I need to ease into that, but it was super productive! And good on you for taking the time to ask yourself questions. As you know, questions will get you everywhere. Good luck, and keep me posted! Maybe sign up for a sports event, missy-poo? Call me some day–it’d be great to hear your voice again. xo

  2. mary says:

    yi shun, i never looked at your blog/website before. It’s great. I am now a fan of yi shun! And, in case you’re wondering about me contacting that guy from Shelter box, i don’t know if i told you that i’m getting radiation treatments right now, so it’s gonna have to wait until i’m not so exhausted, if then. i still really want to do it. and i still love my bracelet! and i’m fine, not dying.

    • Yi Shun Lai says:

      MaryMary! Thank you for stopping by! I am so sad to hear about your radiation treatment, but very, very happy to hear you are not dying. And, of course, happy to hear you are now a fan of yi shun. We love you here at the home office, too! xo

  3. Philip Stern says:

    Great blog, Yi Shun! It makes me glad I never tried keeping a 30 day log of what I ate. I eat mostly vegetarian with occasional chicken or turkey and I also eat fish. But I think red meat has way too much in the way of saturated fat and cholesterol, so I avoid it (haven’t eaten it in 30 years, in fact) as there’s heart disease in my family. Keep up the good work!

  4. Megan VD says:

    I’m behind the times… but I started Weight Watchers in March, and it’s all about tracking your points (which is just like counting calories and such, you just get 30-some points a day instead of how many thousands of calories). It really puts what a real portion is in perspective! Veggies & fruit are free points, but veggies, especially raw, can be boring. One of my friends mentioned mixing FF sour cream with a ranch packet. It’s only 1 point for 1/4 cup. You would think sc would be way more.

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