I’m trying to lose some weight at the moment. Not that I am overweight, but I’d just like pants to fit with a little less muffin-top around the waist, and perhaps partly out of some vanity over the fact that I know with my gym routine there are some pretty good abs under there somewhere; I just can’t see them.
None of that is important for this post though.
I weigh myself every day as part of my routine: wake, shower, weigh, dress. It’s something I read somewhere some time ago; the only way to lose weight consistently is to create a feedback loop and graph your progress. And to not panic with fluctuations.
I weighed 86.3kg the Tuesday morning before flying to Melbourne. I weighed 88.0kg the Friday evening after returning home. I could have easily panicked and chocolated away my sorrows. But this Sunday morning, I was back to 86.3kg.
There are many factors that’ll go into a jump like that; morning vs. evening… mornings are always lighter than evenings. I prefer the mornings because it seems to me that should be the most reliable moment because I will never have eaten just before weighing. Other fun fact: you lose somewhere around 200-300g overnight through breathing in O2 and breathing out CO2 with water vapour.
The biggest reason not to panic though is that from day-to-day you’ll eat completely different things. And food weight has very little to do with long-term body weight.
Losing weight is about tracking kJ (calories) in the food you eat vs. about 8700kJ/day burned for the average adult. The labelling of food with kJ numbers here in Australia has been helpful in changing some habits already; that delicious Pecan Pie I used to occasionally get at Michel’s Patisserie accounts for about 5000kJ all on its own while a just-as-filling (to me) sausage roll is under 2000kJ.
And this morning, with my weight returning to normal, that got me thinking…
How do the calorie content and weight of foods relate?
Most sites with comprehensive food databases only return numbers in calories, alas the world of food skews non-metric. But, the Calorie King website is one of the few exceptions as far as I can tell.
After using their handy calculator to put in 100g to get comparable measurements, I arrived at the following information:
- Snickers = 2090 kJ
- Pistachios = 2328 kJ
- White Sugar = 1618 kJ
- White Rice = 543 kJ
- White Bread = 1108 kJ
On the whole, the numbers were a lot closer than I expected. And I was more than a little surprised by the number for white sugar. Surely sugar would be jumping way off the scales (pardon the pun) for energy rich-ness?!
After some thinking, it occurred to me that measuring by 100g is probably not the most useful way to think of this when trying to make decisions about what to eat when you want to lose weight.
What is probably much more relevant is how full food makes you feel. Being hungry is only very loosely related to energy intake. Being hungry has more to do with volume.
Some more research later, I found a handy table on The Metric Kitchen (look under heading “Other non-liquid ingredients”) that illustrates the point well. For 1 cup of volume, the weights of various ingredients vary from 60g all the way up to 300g (I don’t usually eat table salt by the cup though).
So, another round of lookups on Calorie King later, and the same list of ingredients translates to the following:
- Snickers = 3360 kJ (my estimate based on 3 bars fitting into a cup)
- Pistachios = 2864 kJ
- White Sugar = 3235 kJ
- White Rice = 859 kJ
- White Bread = 499 kJ
I think that looks a lot more likely; although a normal chocolate bar at around 1000kJ is about the same amount of energy as a slice of bread, the bread will be a lot more filling for the same amount of energy consumed. Or put another way: if you eat till you feel full, you’ll need many more chocolate bars than slices of bread.
I also found the flip-around that bread and rice do interesting; by weight bread is twice as energy-rich as rice, but by volume it is almost exactly the other way around.
Anyway, the point I was trying to get to before I failed miserably to stay on track with my rambling narrative is that to gain 1kg of body fat from the calories contained, you’d have to eat over 2.5kg of steak. So, if you gain 1kg over the course of eating a steak dinner, no more than about 350g will stay with you (I’m trying to avoid being explicit here, so think this through to your own level of comfort).
Which means that while I was in Melbourne, probably eating more extensive meals through unhealthy hit-and-run lunches and wine-and-dine with colleagues in the evening than I normally do at home, it looked like I gained almost 2kg, but most of that was only temporary added weight.
The best thing to do is to weigh regularly, disregard the bumps and jumps, and plot a graph so you can see the long-term trend matches your goals. There will be heavy days, and there will be light days. Just breathe and keep going. I rely on the graph my free FitBit account keeps for me (see first image above), but there are many more Android/iOS tools that can easily do the same job with minimal effort once you set up a weighing routine.
And that’s the end of my rant I think.
I hope this was an entertaining read, regardless of whether the subject-matter does anything for you.
Also, the pictures for this post came out really well I think. Tripod and shutter-timed shots to get nice sharp images. It seems even when I’m not writing about photography, I still end up writing about photography. 😉