Thursday, November 13, 2014

An experiment in frustration, or the first and last time I count calories

Lately, I feel as if I've been eating less but am still gaining girth.

I wonder, am I actually eating less, or does it just seem that way?  Am I over eating to compensate during this time of stress?  Is my desire to cook my way back to a happy place actually doing harm?

Food is my joy-path, so I'm not giving up on the kitchen.  However, I can make better choices with what I cook.  I already love cooking vegetables and live culture foods... but there is always room for improvement.

But do I need to improve?  One moment, I think yes, the next I think no.  What marks and measures can I use to see where I am health wise?

How do I feel?  Over-stressed and run down.  I also feel energetic and hopeful that this will end eventually.  I feel motivated to take small, positive actions.  I feel momentum towards self improvement.  My knees hurt a bit which they usually do once I top a certain number of pounds, and my gut feels a bit bloated.

How much do I weigh?  I weigh about smack in the middle of where I should for my height and age.  I don't think I'm over-worried about weight.  I get the scales out four times a year (equinox and solstice).  The doctors on the other hand constantly obsess over it.  The medical community says that I have a narrow range to keep my weight in - too much and I greatly increase my risk of cancer, too little and I won't have enough energy stored up if I get sick again.  Way to give a girl issues, you silly doctor people.

Mostly I just ignore them and eat what I like.

How much do I really eat?  If I am thinking about modifying my eating behaviour, I had best start by figuring out what it is right now.

What I ate today:

rice milk
2 samosa
another samosa
red wine
stir fry
udon noodle

I'm using the calculator at CaloriesKing to guess how many calories I'm consuming.  I'm not fussing or weighing anything, just a rough estimate.  They have a little tool that can tell you the ideal daily calorie consumption depending on your height, weight, age, and activity level.  I choose moderately active since farming does involve at least some heavy lifting every day.

According to their magic formula, if I want to maintain my weight I should consume 1750 to 1950 calories a day.  Sounds easy enough.  To lose about a pound a week, I should limit my caloric consumption to 1450 a day.

Ideally I would like to lose a total of  10 to 12  pounds over the winter, for the sake of my knees if nothing else.  It's difficult for me to lose weight in the winter, as it's the natural time for the body to store energy and guard against the cold.  So why not put the goal for the spring equinox?  Spring is when I generally lose my weight anyway - the weather improves, more time outside growing the garden, less time inside cooking, &c.

Some of these foods were really simple to analyze like half a cup of yoghurt and two teaspoons of honey, but some much harder.  For lunch, I made Baked Samosas with a filling of leftovers - there is apparently no commercial equivalent on CalorieKing of a 'samosa filled with leftovers from my fridge'.  So, how do I guess what the calorie count is for this meal?

I found this Calorie Count tool which let me input the recipe and gave me not just calories, but also their opinion on the healthfulness of my ingredient choices.

The Samosa dough which makes 8 samosas (or servings) turns out to have 66 calories per serving and a 'Nutrition Grade B'.  Each ingredient got a letter grade depending on how healthy the site thought it was... however, I disagree with some of the assumptions.  For example, I used Ghee because butter has some amazing health benefits as well as tasting amazing.  I don't use a lot of ghee to make this dough, but it was enough to change my nutritional grade from a A to a B-

What I do like about this site is that it gives more than simply calories.  There is a lot of nutritional data available, and it's extremely simple to input ingredients.

Samosa Dough = easy, the filling on the other hand... far more challenging to calculate.  I had forgotten I was counting calories when I made the samosas, otherwise I might have measured better.  As it is, the recipe went something like this: All the leftover rice, all the leftover spicy lentil mush, a handful of raisins and a pinch of salt.  Unfortunately, the calorie counting tool doesn't understand these measurements, so I had to make a guess.  Another drawback, was I made enough filling for 10 samosa, not eight like I had dough for.  This was easily fixed by altering the number of servings and calculating the filling and dough separately, then adding them back together.

Best guess at my samosa filling gave me 120 calories per samosa.

One samosa gives us an approximate total of 185 calories (except if it's a small one, or a really big one, or one that didn't get as much filling, or...).  It's difficult and far too fussy to make them all the same size.  So how many calories I actually ate?  I have no idea.

On the whole, what have I learned today?

First, if I ate from a box or processed foods, then counting calories would be a lot easier.  Even if I just followed recipes instead of improvising based on the weird stuff in my fridge, that would make a life of calorie counting simple.

Second, calorie counting is not for me.  It is WAY too stressful.  I would much rather spend my energy growing, cooking and eating delicious food than stressing about how many grams of flour I used to dust the counter when rolling out the samosa dough.

Third:  On the whole, I ate far fewer calories than I expected. Even taking into account that simply observing my consumption has altered it, I'm surprised by how little I felt like eating.  For example, that third samosa was completely unnecessary - I wasn't even hungry by that point, but kept eating it anyway out of habit (and because it was exceptionally yummy - tomorrow's goal, write out new and improved samosa recipe for you guys).

Given what I've learned, what will I change?

I don't think I'm going to change a thing.  This seems to be right on track.

The goal is to keep buying healthy goodies and avoid all junk - much easier now that the burden of stress is shifting.  In fact, this week I've felt nauseous at the idea of eating sweets or processed foods, which makes it easier not to bring them into the house.  (I'm not going into what this big stress in my life is right now, it doesn't belong on a food blog).

Though I think I may keep an eye out for other methods of evaluating my eating habits and see what comes of it.  But counting calories - forget it.

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