Monday, September 03, 2007

Figuring out food...

What did I eat yesterday? Let's see:

2201.3c whole-milk yogurt
1603 whole-milk cappuccinos, 1/3c milk each
??1 carrot
??1/2 medium white onion
2101/2 can garbanzo beans
451/2 can diced tomatoes
3201/2c white rice
2002/3 container mango sorbet
??2 medium peaches
1301c mango/passion-fruit blend, diluted 4:1
5202 chili-cheese tamales
501/2c salsa
1902 tbsp peanut butter
501 tbsp jam
??1 slice bread
I think this is everything I had, but of course it's hard to be sure, since I wasn't making notes as I went along. I'm going to guess the bread was 90 calories, the onion was 50 calories, the carrot was 50 calories, and the peaches were 150 calories. These are just guesses. The total? 2755 calories. A little shy for someone who works hard all day, probably about 500 more than someone like me needs.

The thing that I find interesting about this exercise is how wrong my guesses were as to which things were big calorie sinks for the day. We've all heard someone say "I cut Starbucks out of my diet, and immediately lost ten pounds." That's because the smallest drink you can get from Starbucks is the short latte, and most people don't even know about it, cuz it's not on the menu.

The tall latte is going to be about 200 calories just from milk, the grande will be about 240 calories, and the Venti will be 320. Drop from whole-milk to nonfat, and you save 140 calories on that venti, bringing it down to 180. You'd be better off getting the short double, enjoying the whole milk, and drinking a glass of water. The short double will run you somewhere between 80 and 120 calories (I'm not sure whether the cup is 6 or 8 ounces). If you add sugar, God help you, cuz I can't. Also, with skim milk, you're getting more calories from sugar (lactose) and fewer from fat, so it's going to hit your system harder.

Oh, a double short breve (half-and-half) latte will be somewhere between 140 and 210 calories. But we're way to virtuous to have one of those, aren't we? Personally, I brew my cappuccinos with less than 1/3c of whole milk each, so they taste better, and have fewer calories - even less than a short double from Starbucks.

I figured the sorbet was going to be a lot of calories. Turns out it's not. Sharon's makes their sorbet with pure cane sugar, and they don't overdo it. It's made in New York, and kind of hard to come by in Tucson, but they sell it at 17th Street Farmer's Market. Yet another reason to love 17th St. Farmer's Market.

I had no idea the white rice was such a big pile of calories! 320 calories! Holy cow! I thought rice was relatively healthy. I could cut that down to 1/4 cup of rice pretty happily, but I never figured it mattered much; now I know. Andrea will be smug. Same deal with the garbanzos, though. Wow. They're probably worth it, but it's sobering - overdoing it on garbanzos is more calorie-intensive than I would have thought.

And 320 calories for the Muesli was surprising too. More surprising, the calories from the yogurt. I've always et whole milk yogurt because I just don't see the point in cutting back on calories by eating nonfat. Eating nonfat yogurt would have dropped the calories in my morning bowl of spackle by 50 calories - totally not worth it. Smug much? There is absolutely no point at all in consuming lowfat yogurt instead of whole-milk yogurt, unless you mainline the stuff.

Worse, looking at the Straus yogurt website it turns out that with their maple-flavored yogurt, the difference in calories between nonfat and whole milk is 20 calories per cup; presumably they use less maple in the whole milk yogurt because it doesn't need as much to make it taste yummy.

So when you go for a cup of nonfat yogurt with fruit flavoring, check it out - you are probably getting more calories from the sugar than you saved from the fat. Plus, the sugar in the yogurt is probably high-fructose corn syrup, which is not the same thing as sugar, and it's probably way more than is required. So you're going to throw your blood sugar way out of whack, you're probably increasing your risk of type II diabetes, and sugar is so easy to metabolize that there's no hope it will pass through your digestive tract unmolested, so if you don't burn it it's going right to your beer belly.

And then there's the chili-cheese tamales. Zounds. I don't know what to say. Clearly, one tamale and a side of beans would be a smart move. Hm, 1/2 can of Bearitos Nonfat Green Chili Refried Beans is about 175 calories, so it makes a difference, but only a small one. I'm wondering what the regular refried beans add up to.

And then the half peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had before bed. Who knew such a seemingly minor indulgence could add up to so many calories? 330 calories, and it was just a little teeny sandwich. Sure cured my hunger pangs, though.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that as a society, we have our food priorities so completely ass-backwards (in Tibetan, that's loktah) it isn't funny. Go to the grocery store, what do you see? Nonfat sweetened everything. How many calories in a sit-down dinner at a restaurant? I don't even want to think about it. The really frightening thing for me is that yesterday was a pretty good food day for me. I probably eat a lot more calories than that on an average day.

What provoked this diatribe was an article I read on Digg the other day about what foods to eat to lose weight. Nearly every single individual piece of advice the person writing the article gave was, while not completely untrue, horribly misleading. She said to drop juices. That would save me 160 calories. Avoid empty calories. What, the sorbet? 200 calories. Most of my calories came from the real food I ate, not the "empty calories." If I'm going to drop calories, I need to do what my friend Mel does and just pay attention to what I eat. Ostracizing foods isn't going to do me any good at all. Nor is avoiding "empty calories."

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Two concepts that are often confused for being the same: information and knowledge. I think the confusion leads to a lot of human suffering.

Information is stuff that you hear, or read about, or theories that you come up with. So e.g. when you watch Fox News and hear all about how we're all going to die in terrorist attacks unless we bomb the living shit out of Iran, that's information.

Knowledge is information that you've interacted with. Information you've put to the test of experience. For instance, let's say you hear on Fox News that things are pretty safe in the market in Baghdad. That's information. Let's say you go to that market, without bodyguards, and you find yourself in the hands of kidnappers. Now you have knowledge: the market isn't safe.

I don't know why I'm using gruesome metaphors. Maybe because so often we believe information that's untrue, and act upon it, to our regret (if we are subsequently able to regret it).

We live in a society where there is a tremendous glut of information. Nearly all of it is wrong. A great deal of it is deliberately sculpted with the intention of creating wrong ideas in our minds, ideas that we will act on. The most blatant form of this that I think we see regularly is the 409 scam, where someone named Barrister Antoine Chardonnay attempts to convince us that it is in our interest to give him our bank account information. Equally blatant is the kind of information we get from our own government, that tells us that we should be frightened, and that we must kill to be safe.

So I think that this tells us something: we should be careful not to ever repeat information. Repeating information is lying. We live in a world where we are lied to constantly, day in and day out. If you buy this car, the lady in the red dress comes with it. If you buy this house, you will be happy in it. Calories aren't what makes you gain weight - fat is. Pink is a feminine color, blue masculine, and this is genetic. So the last thing we should be doing is adding to the lies.

What we should repeat is helpful knowledge. Information that we've used, and that has worked for us, and that we know worked for us (i.e., it wasn't a coincidence).

If we did this, I guess we'd talk a lot less...