Why I’m Not Fat

Written By Scott Joseph On December 29, 2011

This week on WMFE, Scott chats with 90.7″s Nicole Creston about how to dine out without gaining weight. You can listen to Scott’s weekly radio segments Fridays at 5:45 p.m. and again on Saturday at 9:35 a.m. You can also listen to the podcasts here.


Inevitably, when I meet someone for the first time — someone who knows my byline and what I do but has never met me in the flesh — the first thing they’ll ask is: “How come you’re not fat?”


The short answer is that I work very hard at it. I wish I could say that I have great metabolism, but I don’t. In fact, as I age, as is the case with most people, the metabolism is slowing and it’s getting harder to fight the weight gain. But I work out regularly, sometimes twice a day, and I’m determined to stay ahead of the bulge.


But here’s the real secret to eating out as much as I do and not gaining weight: I don’t eat everything on my plate.

I figured out a long time ago that very few (if any) of the people cooking in restaurant kitchens have a degree in nutrition. What they put on the plate in most cases is much, much more than you are meant to eat. Most chefs want to impress you with the size of the portions, and the extravagance of rich sauces and buttery textures. They don’t care about the amount of calories on the plate. But you should. It isn’t unusual for a restaurant meal to exceed a diner’s recommended daily caloric intake. Just one meal. And if you’ve already had the usual large breakfast and lunch that most Americans eat, you’re already on the plus side of the number of calories you should consume.


(By the way, there’s no reason for most of us to eat a large breakfast and lunch. Few of us go to work in the fields anymore, so there’s no reason to start the day with a couple of fried eggs, bacon, toast or maybe some biscuits and gravy. My breakfast? On most days it consists of a single hard-boiled egg. That’s it.)


Here’s another thing I figured out a long time ago: our mothers didn’t do us any favor by insisting that we eat everything that’s put in front of us. “Clean your plate,” they told us. “People are starving; eat your dinner.” And what happens when you clean your plate? You get dessert! More unnecessary calories.


It all comes down to simple math. We consume calories and we burn calories. If you consume more than you burn, and do that consistently, those extra calories will all gang up together and form an extra pound of fat. And then another, and then another.


So how many calories should you consume? Well, as they say in the car commercials, your mileage may vary. It’s that old metabolism thing again, and each person’s calorie limit is different. So it’s important to know what your caloric intake should be, not what someone else says it should be.


The key is to measure and keep track of intake and output.


Here’s my mantra for those times when I feel the need to lose a pound or two: If you can’t measure it, if you can’t count it, don’t eat it.


That’s fairly easy to do at home. You have nutrition labels on food packages and you can use a kitchen scale for exact measurements. But you can’t take a scale into the restaurant, and few will offer printed details of calories. But there are tricks and rule-of-thumb techniques you can use to get a pretty good approximation. I’ll tell you about them — and how to figure out how many calories you burn every day — in the next article.



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