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Why I’m Not Fat – Part 2

Written By Scott Joseph On January 13, 2012

In my previous article explaining why I’m not fat, I explained that I find it essential to monitor how many calories I take in and how many calories I burn. What works for me is to keep detailed records of everything I eat and to add up the calories throughout the day. My mantra is, “If you can’t measure it, if you can’t count it, don’t eat it.” Whenever I eat something, I want to know the size of the portion and what ingredients were used to prepare it. Then I can look up the individual foodstuffs in a database to know how many calories I’ve just ingested. I keep a log, updating the totals as the day goes on. A lot of work? It can be, although there are tools that make it easier (more on that later).  But just by writing down every individual cracker or peanut can make one aware of just how much we eat everyday without even thinking about it.

 

Keeping track — measuring and counting — is relatively easy if you eat all your meals at home. Nutrition labels on food packages are fairly reliable if you pay attention to the portion size, which can be ridiculously unrealistic for some items, but don’t get me started on that. For fresh ingredients, I keep a kitchen scale on the counter and measuring cups and spoons nearby so I can weigh and quantify.

 

But it isn’t practical to haul a scale and a set of measuring cups to a restaurant. That doesn’t mean you can’t get good estimates. Start off my asking questions about the menu items you’re interested in. The server may not know the details, but chances are very good that the chef knows the precise measurements. The chef has to — besides being culinary artisans, chefs are also business people. In order to make a profit, a chef needs to know the cost of the product, so every component of a dish must be quantified.

 

This is not to say that chefs can give you the calorie count. (Some might be reluctant to tell you even if they knew what it was.) Unless you’re talking about a place like Seasons 52, which not only offers full nutritional information for every menu item but also keeps entrees at 470 calories or less, the chef likely has no idea how many calories are in each item. For most chefs, the point is to impress the diner, and often that means oversized portions and lots of rich flavors, many derived from fat.

 

But if the server or chef can’t or won’t give you portion amounts, there are some things you can do short of hauling in your kitchen scale.

 

Three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards (regular deck, not pinochle!). A cup is about the size of a fist. A cup of pasta is about the size of a tennis ball; a half cup of sauce is roughly the size of a racquet ball.

 

But here’s a better technique, one that will get you a better measurement and help you reach what should be your goal — to eat less than what most restaurants place in front of you. When your meal is served, divide it in two. All of it, meat, sauces, sides. Eat one half (or less) and request a to-go box for the other half. And if you’re one of those people who is embarrassed to ask for your leftovers to be boxed up, get over it. The only thing worse than eating too much is letting good food that you’ve paid a lot of money for go to waste. And by the way, let’s stop calling them doggie bags. If you’re serving your dog pasta with cream sauce you’ve probably got a paunchy pooch, too. And most likely one with gastrointestinal problems, as well.

 

So then you take your half portion home and use your kitchen scale and measuring tools to get the totals for what you ate at the restaurant. Not only will you have the figures for your restaurant meal to log, you’ll already have the amount to put in your journal for the delicious lunch you’ll have the next day with your leftovers.

 

How do you figure the calories? Use any one of the numerous websites that offer extensive databases for foods, such as this one from thecaloriecounter.com. Use one that speaks the same language you do, i.e. if you don’t know what a gram is, find a site that will convert measurements to ounces.

 

Of course the other part of the equation, literally, is keeping track of how many calories you burn each day. We’ll address that in the next article.

 

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