I Clearly Don’t Understand Weight Loss…

I had my post all written out in my head. See, I’d climbed on the scales on Saturday and seen a reading of 349 pounds, which was a 3.4 pound gain from my previous weigh-in. And I was all ready to go. I was going to write about the importance of not getting discouraged because of a temporary setback. I was going to talk about how I just need to get back on task, and live within my calorie budget, and meet my exercise goals. It was going to be great and awe-inspiring and just what I needed to get myself motivated once more.

Then I got on the scales for my official weigh-in today. 343.8 pounds. A 1.8 pound loss from my last weigh in day, and 5.2 pounds since Saturday.

what is this

No, I don’t get it either. I mean… I’ll take it. Gladly. But… 5.2 pounds? In two days? I mean, I met my calorie goals on Saturday and Sunday. I just don’t see how I did that, though. If anyone out there has a theory, I’d love to hear it. Because I don’t understand what happened.

But, like I said, I’ll take it! And now, on to the check-in.

Friday is one of the reasons I was expecting to see something like the 349 pounds. I walked 3.57 miles, ate 2,712 calories, and burned 3,912 calories. Which, now that I type it out, makes the weight loss for the week make more sense. Even if the weight loss from Saturday to today doesn’t. But I digress. Weekends, I have no specific distance goals. On Saturday I walked 3.06 miles, at 2,166 calories, and burned 3,862 calories. And Sunday I walked 1.48 miles, ate 1,554 calories (what can I say? I didn’t do a whole lot and didn’t feel particularly hungry), and burned 3,234 calories.

This week? Back to parking on the top floor of the parking garage. It’s been a winning formula so far, so I should get back on it. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll figure out what happened over the weekend.


Thanksgiving Day Recipe Updates

In a few cases, the platonic ideal of the recipes I described didn’t quite match up with the reality of what got made.  Here’s a quick rundown:

Fruit Salad
I ended up using two apples and two bananas in the salad, which took the calorie count of the bowl down to 1,929 – a figure that was also helped by the realization that I’ve always used a half pint of heavy cream, not a full pint as I originally wrote.  Looking at the results, I think that a full pint would have made a creamy fruit soup.  The total also worked out to 56 ounces of salad, so that’s 34.5 calories per ounce.  No idea how many ounces I’ll be eating as one serving, though.

Depending on how you look at things, I either made just enough or not enough at all.  I made one batch of the recipe I described, using the option of one stick of butter and one cup of broth (well, water and a bullion cube).  There were a total of seven people at the meal, and there was about a third of a cup of stuffing left.  Just enough for a sandwich.

Oh, yeah.  I never did describe what I do with leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches – about four to five ounces of turkey, plus stuffing and mayonnaise (none of this “salad dressing” nonsense, thank you), on bread.  Just about 550 calories of goodness.

Man, that was a lot of gravy.  I got four cups of drippings out of the turkey, and elected not to add additional broth.  Because four cups is a lot of gravy, it turns out.

On to checking in!  Wednesday, I crashed.  I only managed 4.45 miles, and fell asleep on my goal of pushing through the last 0.85 miles I needed.  Calories weren’t so great, either – I burned 4,284 (yay!) but ate 2,976 (boo!).  It still puts me ahead of the game in terms of total calories, but I could have done better.  What happened?  Oh, pretty much I just decided I didn’t want to bother with making my own breakfast or lunch.  For no good reason at all.  And it is difficult to eat a healthy meal when you eat drive-through.

Thanksgiving went surprisingly well.  I only managed 3.75 miles, but that’s still more than I actually anticipated managing.  I burned 4,114 calories, and surprisingly only ate 2,159 calories.  Even though I was stuffed.  (It probably helps that I ate breakfast, and then Thanksgiving dinner, and then dessert.  Three meals would have put me over the top.)

Anyway, back on task today!  I got to slack a little yesterday, but it’s back on!

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I’ll get soppy and sentimental here for a moment. It’s Thanksgiving here in the US, after all, so it’s time to give thanks for all the good things in life. One of those things we should do more often, really.

So, here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • A beautiful, wonderful wife who challenges me and who has made me the happiest man in the world.
  • An amazing son who reminds me of just how wonderful a world we live in.
  • A great doctor, who never gave up on trying to convince me to get healthy.
  • Amazing, supportive friends who’ve cheered me on.
  • My health, which is steadily improving.

Words can’t express my gratitude for everything I have.

In other Thanksgiving-related topics, I had to go look up how to cook a turkey. I don’t do it a lot, after all. Alton Brown says to roast it at 500 degrees Farenheit for half an hour, then cut the temperature to 350 degrees until a meat thermometer shows the breast has reached 155 degrees – in total, about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.  Sounds good to me.

No check-in today. I’ll catch things tomorrow. If you’re American, have a Happy Thanksgiving!  If not, enjoy your Thursday!

Failure Bad. Dessert Good.

(Edited on 11/26/2015, to correct some of the information about the fruit salad.)

All right, let’s get the check in off my chest now. I didn’t do so well, yesterday. I only walked 4.66 miles, and while I burned 4,260 calories I also ate 2,894 calories. Not my best day. But, not my worst.

What happened? Well, it started with my team deciding to order in Famous Dave’s barbecue. I actually did pretty well, all things considered – the food sat four feet from my desk for four hours, and I only had a single (large) meal out of it. Still, I ate quite a bit. I was in the vicinity of only 400 calories left in my budget by the time dinner rolled around and I was tired enough to just give in. Which is why I didn’t get all my walking in as well – I had a thing at church from 7 to 9, and it ran late, and I just came home and flopped into bed.

Sometimes, life kicks the plan in the knees. But hey, it’s just one day.

Anyway, I don’t think anyone came here to bear witness to my kvetching. I promised gravy and dessert yesterday, and I plan to follow through!


6 cups broth or stock (turkey, in this case): 187 calories
3 tablespoons butter: 305 calories
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour: 85 calories

  1. Make a roux by melting the butter in a pot, and then whisking the flour in. Keep whisking until the roux reaches a golden brown color. It’ll smell a little nutty, which is a good thing. You can go darker if you want, which will increase the flavor but decrease the thickening power of the roux.
  2. Slowly, perhaps a half cup at a time, add the broth to the roux. Whisk as you do, until the broth is fully incorporated into the roux mixture, and then add more broth.
  3. Generally, I use as much of the turkey drippings as possible, and then make up the difference with chicken broth.
  4. There’s 507 calories in this, if you drank all six cups. I wouldn’t, and I love gravy. I’d guess that I consume about half a cup, between putting it on potatoes and over the turkey, so that’s right about 48 calories per serving.
  5. You can modify this a lot. Boil the giblets, chop them fine, and toss them in. Dice onions, and saute them in the melted butter before adding the flour. Add spices. Go wild, and remember to account for the extra calories as needed.
  6. Seriously, don’t drink all six cups. I can’t imagine what that would feel like.

Next up is a family tradition, a dessert I inherited from my dad and he inherited from his dad. I don’t think it goes much further, really. We never had a name for it growing up, other than “fruit salad”, but I’ve recently been told that it is pretty much identical to a dessert called Ambrosia. I know nothing about that stuff, so let’s have a look together.

Man. That Ambrosia calls for *mini marshmallows*. Seriously? Whatever. I’m sticking with my family “fruit salad’. And here it is:

My Family’s Holiday Fruit Salad

2 cans pineapple chunks: 558 calories
3 large apples: 348 calories
3 bananas: 315 calories
1/2 pint whipping cream: 809 calories
Powdered sugar to taste: 90 – 120 calories

  1. Peel, core, and chop apples. Peel and chop banannas. Drain pineapple. Toss together in a large bowl.
  2. Beat whipping cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add powdered sugar until desired sweetness is reached (you’ll be mixing this with the fruit, so don’t make it too sweet). Beat whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  3. Add whipping cream to bowl, toss with fruit.
  4. Chill.
  5. The total calorie cost for this is 2,150. I’m not really sure how to quantify the serving size (what, exactly, constitutes a “large bowl”?), so I’m gonna guess and say I get 8 servings out of this. That’s… 269 calories. And it’s filling. Look, fruit! It’s healthy! Really!

Tomorrow’s the big day! Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

There Will Be Recipes!

As mentioned yesterday, I’ll be breaking down the calorie content of my various Thanksgiving recipes. Before I do, though, I’d like to share a comment a friend of mine made on Facebook yesterday:

You should really be careful with counting your calories on holidays. It usually only makes the diet worse because you don’t get those ‘relieve’ moments. Is it a holiday, enjoy and don’t worry about calories. Next day get back to the programme.

I think this is a great point. See, here’s the deal: I’m not on a diet. I’m not cutting back on foods I love until I lose a little weight, and then going back to business as usual. I’m changing my diet, which means changing the way I eat. As part of that, though, I’m not punishing myself. Thanksgiving (and Christmas, in a month) is a holiday that, traditionally, involves lots of good food. So I’m calculating the calorie counts of these items to make myself aware of what I’m eating. And then I plan to eat responsibly, and stop when I’m full. I won’t aim to go over my calorie budget, but if I do then one day won’t kill me.

Just one day, though. If I go over on Thanksgiving, then I’m back on task on Friday.

Now back to the recipes! We’ll start off with “My Favorite Bread Stuffing”, from Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything. I use this recipe, slightly modified, because it’s pretty much identical to the recipe my mom made when I was a kid. I’ve paraphrased the instructions, but the details are the same.

My Favorite Bread Stuffing

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter: 1,620 calories
1 cup chopped onion: 46 calories
1 cup chopped celery: 16 calories
1/2 cup chopped cashews (optional): 628 calories
6-8 cups bread crumbs (80 cal/slice for the whole wheat I buy, so 480 – 640 calories)
1 teaspoon dried sage

  1. Melt butter in large skillet. Cook onions and celery in butter until softened, about five minutes. Add nuts (if used) and cook, stirring constantly, for about three minutes.
  2. Add bread crumbs and sage and toss to mix.
  3. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, or pack into the turkey’s abdominal cavity and roast with the turkey.
  4. Assuming eight cups of bread, this is 2,322 calories for the recipe (2950 calories if you use the cashews, which I won’t be doing this year because one of my guests has nut allergies). I usually get between 10 and 12 servings out of this, so we’re looking at 232 calories per serving. You can also reduce the calories some by using chicken broth in place of one or both sticks of butter – that knocks 594 calories off if you substitute one stick of butter for a cup of broth (about 173 cal/serving), and 1,188 if you substitute for both (about 114 calories/serving). What I’m saying here is that butter has a ton of calories. (I’ll weigh the ingredients on Thursday, and report back with a per-ounce calorie count then.)

Speaking of a ton of calories, what’s Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? Turning again to How to Cook Everything, here’s the recipe:

Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds potatoes: 704 calories
1 cup 1% milk: 105 calories
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter: 405 calories

  1. Peel and cube the potatoes, then boil them until tender. A fork should easily stab into one of the cubes. Drain, return pot to stove.
  2. Melt butter with milk in pot. Rice potatoes by hand (which is a fancy way of saying to loosely hand mash them with a fork or potato masher – a step that isn’t mandatory, but which makes things go faster). Return potatoes to stove, cook and stir constantly until desired consistency is reached. (Alternately, process with hand or stand mixer until desired consistency is reached.)
  3. This was surprisingly less calories than I anticipated – 1,214, if you eat the entire thing. There’s 44 ounces here, less any weight lost to evaporation, so you’re looking at 27.5 calories per ounce. I do love me some mashed potatoes, so I’d guess that I eat 8 to 10 ounces. Call it 10, so that makes it 275 calories.

Actually, this is looking pretty reasonable so far. I mean, I’ll probably end up eating about a half pound of turkey as well, but that’s… hmmm… call it 10 ounces, for my rough estimate… 540 calories. Which puts my estimates so far up to 988 calories (I’m planning on substituting broth for half the butter in my stuffing). Not too bad for a *big* meal, so far.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to work out the calorie count of gravy. And then I’ll horrify myself by working out the calorie count of my traditional family dessert. It involves cream, so I’m expecting to be traumatized. And then to eat it anyway, because I love it. And I’ll probably outline the whole Thanksgiving menu as well.

Oh, I guess I should check in. Let’s see… I walked 5.7 miles, ate 1,953 calories, and burned 4,473 calories. Pretty good, I think.

Man, Thanksgiving Is Gonna Be Brutal

For those of you who don’t know, Thanksgiving here in the US is the day when we celebrate… something?  I’ll be honest, I was never entirely clear about the day.  It’s not celebrating the founding of our country (that’s the Fourth of July), or thanking soldiers for their service to our country (that’s Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day), or anything else.  As a kid, I mostly learned that it had something to do with Pilgrims being happy that the Native Americans helped them not starve to death.

…Hang on.  Checking Wikipedia, now.

All right.  It appears to be derived from, amongst other things, the Puritan “Days of Thanksgiving” and from harvest festivals.  And, if I read that article right, it was fixed on the fourth Thursday of November on December 26, 1941.  On the grounds that it would give the nation an economic boost.

Huh.  The things you learn.

Anyway, this is almost entirely off the topic.  The point, here, is that in the US the primary purpose of Thanksgiving these days is to eat a whole huge feast and then sit around and watch football.  And I got a dry run of it on Saturday, when I went to my in-laws house.  I think, optimistically, that I managed to stay on calorie budget.  Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling myself I did.  Because, really, without taking the time to weigh your food, how do you know?  And honestly, given the large slice of apple with ice cream that I had for dessert, I’m probably kidding myself.

So, I need a plan!  Or, at least, some information!  Let’s see:

It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a start.  I’m missing the per ounce calorie count for bread, which will dominate the calorie count of the stuffing (onions and celery, although I’ll include them for completeness, won’t add that much).  Gravy will take some finagling, but it’s mostly flour and turkey drippings and milk and I’ll look that up later.  Also, I’ll be curious to see just how many ounces of mashed potato I actually eat – I’m betting it looks like a lot more than it really is.

Tomorrow and Wednesday (and maybe Thursday as well), I’ll get the rest of this calorie information together and start breaking down the calorie content of the dishes I plan to make for Thanksgiving.  There will be recipes!

As far as checking in goes, Friday saw me walk 5.47 miles, eat 2,360 calories, and burn 4,407 calories.  Saturday I walked 3.84 miles and burned 4,166 calories.  As I mentioned above, I haven’t the slightest idea how much I ate that day.  But I like to think (or at least hope) that I didn’t eat more than I burned.  And yesterday I walked 2.91 miles, ate 2,040 calories, and burned 3,714 calories.  So I think I did okay.

Competition is Good for the Soul, Bad for the Ego

My wife decided to hit the ground running yesterday.  Well, technically, she hit the ground walking.  But she ran right over me.

Yesterday, she decides to challenge me to the “Goal Day” competition with FitBit. And I accept, feeling smug about the fact that I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’m in better shape than I’ve been in nearly a decade. I was even planning to gloat a little. Not a whole lot, you understand. Just a little.  Maybe do a victory dance.  You know, keep it classy.

So, naturally, she whupped me. She managed 12,759 steps to my 11,348. And to make it worse, she wasn’t even a *little* sore from walking a full mile more than I did! She deserves the praise and credit because she did a great job.  But… well, I wanted to win! I hate losing!

What can I say, here? Oh, I know: I love you, dear, and thank you for pushing me to work harder!

It also occurs to me that I forgot to check in yesterday. So, here’s how things went. On Wednesday I walked 5.68 miles, burned 4,493 calories, and ate 2,207 calories. Yesterday I walked 5.72 miles, burned 4,485 calories, and ate 1,831 calories… wait… damnit, FitBit! That was a two cup serving. Stop resetting! So, with the adjustment to the portion size put in yet again, it was actually 2,251 calories consumed.

And we’re doing another Goal Day competition today. Time to win.