By Phil Wilke
For the Bulletin
I used to be big. Not Jupiter or Australia big, maybe just a Pontiac minivan. Now I’m a Chevy mid-sized sedan, hoping to work my way down to Alfa Romeo roadster.
I’ve dropped a lot of weight by counting calories, exercising a lot more and complaining about having to count calories and exercise more, but it seems to be working. Or at least it worked up to a point. I have plateaued on weight loss for several months, despite coming in under my daily calorie goal and sweating to the oldies on the exercise bike and elliptical machine.
(Note to the people around me at the gym: you have permission to punch me if my air guitar becomes too wild or my singing is too loud. With the earbuds in and the volume turned up, I have a skewed concept of personal space.)
My doctor told me that it’s time to start tracking another nutritional nasty that is likely blocking further weight loss: carbohydrates. It’s now recommended that I limit my total carb intake to 100 grams per day.
Do you know how little 100 grams of carbs is?
• It’s a tortilla, half a piece of bread and seven Corn Flakes.
• It’s a small bowl of mashed potatoes, three jelly beans and licking a banana peel.
• It’s a slice of thin-crust pizza, two shots of cherry cola and hitting your thumb with a hammer.
• It’s a dozen corn chips and looking at a photograph of cookies for three minutes.
You can eat 100 grams of carbohydrates in a hurry if you’re not careful, and even when you are careful the amount of carbs in your diet adds up very, very quickly. Fortunately, there is a way to negate some of the harmful effects of carbs.
One gram of fiber is said to cancel out one gram of carbs, so we should all eat more fiber. But I could eat enough fiber to poop wicker furniture and it still wouldn’t help. I could eat my entire dining room set and it wouldn’t help me get enough fiber in my diet. I could eat nothing but Bran Flakes morning, noon and night, and I’d barely be able to write off any carbs.
Fiber is nature’s way of making inedible foods mandatory.
There are foods that allegedly help us get more fiber in our diet, if only we can stomach them. Chia seeds are chockful of fiber. Who knew? Actually who knew there was actually something called chia seeds NOT used for growing hair on oddly shaped pottery? Flax seeds are jam-packed with fiber, which is great for when I want to grow flax to weave my own clothing. Parsnips are bursting with fiber. However, you have to pack them with carbs to make them edible, so it’s a push. Teff is full of fiber. What’s teff? No one knows because it’s inedible but some scientist somewhere has measured its fiber content and said we should eat more of it.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the company that put their calorie counter on line for free. I don’t mind the occasional ad because it’s given me a great accountability tool to get a handle on my weight loss. Thank you. The only quibble I have with it is how it measures serving sizes. A cup of something like rice I know. A tablespoon of something like salad dressing I know.
But 75 grams of vegetables, 4 cubic inches pasta, 1 hogshead of butter beans or 7 carats of carrots is difficult to translate into actual cooking and eating portions, especially in a small kitchen. I’m doing my best and actually made something slightly edible recently: grilled chicken breasts with asparagus, sautéed in garlic and lemon. I should have taken a picture of it; it’s a feat unlikely to happen again.
I shall continue to slog away in my personal battle of the bulge, counting calories and carbs, hoping my waist wastes away and I wish you the best in fighting your figure.
Maybe we can discuss it over a steaming bowl of teff.
Phil Wilke is a recent transplant to Las Cruces, a grumpy dieter and a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.