Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Project Nowaste - diet and exercise

Project NOWASTENow that you've done your calculations to find out how much you should weigh as well as how much food you are throwing out during the week as food waste, it's time to discuss how to get to your goal weight.

The most obvious way of doing so is the old diet and exercise routine. Frankly, regardless of how many fad diets, books, and other get-thin programs there are out there, it all comes down to one simple concept:

If you take in more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. If you take in less calories than your body burns, you will lose weight. Sorry, I don't have a Crunchy Chicken wand with super enlightening weight loss magic. The trick is to balance everything correctly. And that's where we all need some magic.

The calorie input/output part can be managed in various ways:

1. Eat less
2. Exercise more
3. Eat less and exercise more

If you go with just the eating less part, you will eventually lose weight, but you'll keep it off successfully only if you do it really gradually with losing nor more than one or two pounds a week. The problem with just focusing on the food is that it is easy to go overboard and decide that if I eat 400 calories less a day, then eating 800 calories less a day is even better. The good news is it's not better. So eat. For most people it's unhealthy to eat less than 1400 calories a day. Some (shorter) people can push it to 1200, but I think you're courting problems.

If you severely limit you calorie intake, your body switches over into starvation mode. So, even though you are eating less, your body thinks that Armageddon is here and starts storing up like mad. That's why you'll see yourself gaining weight even though you are only eating 800 calories a day. You will also find that you will hit a point where your resolve can't keep up and you'll eat more than you should. A lot more than you should. That's because your body will eventually convince your brain (no matter how hard you try) that the entire chocolate cake sitting in front of you needs to be eaten. Now. When you are that hungry you just can't think very clear. Few people have that sort of resolve.

What about just exercising and not worrying about diet? Well, I think that can be a successful way of managing your weight. Unless you miscalculate how many calories you consume during the day. Once you start exercising your body will crave more calories. So, not only will you be more hungry, but you also may have a false sense of how many calories you burned during your exercise. You end up convincing yourself that you've "earned" that extra calorie-laden item. And you end up not losing weight. Then you get disgruntled because you are exercising more and think you are eating less, yet the scale won't budge.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. The big problem here is that you are fighting against millions of years of mammalian evolution. All intent on making sure that you survive during famine and engorge during feast. Unfortunately, in the U.S. it is feast all year long. And with the plethora of high-fat, easily acquired food, our biology drives us to stack it on. Even if you're a vegan, you still can succumb to the same drive to survive, it just takes a little more work.

Where does this leave us? Well, it's not an easy road, but the trick that works is being aware of your caloric intake and exercising. You just really can't overestimate how many calories you are burning because then the balance is back out of whack. You see why it's so hard to lose weight?

So for this week, I want you to be aware of how much you eat. If you're up for it, write down what you eat and calculate out how many calories you are consuming. There are a lot of calorie calculators out there to help you out. If you want to be real honest with yourself, spend some time actually measuring and weighing your food with a kitchen scale if you have one, because it's real easy to over or under-estimate.

As for exercise, it's a little harder to discern how many calories you are burning. If you work out at a gym, do not trust the calorie calculators on the machines. The best way of calculating calories burned is based on your weight, exertion level and exercise type. I can't attest to the accuracy on the online calculators, but there are dozens out there that you can try. If you don't exercise at all, this task is an easy one. For now.

Based on the information you collect this week, you'll have almost all the numbers you need for how to go from here. Just be patient with yourself. I'm not advocating a lose weight quick scheme here, but a lifelong change.


Anonymous said...

Guess I'd better not eat that leftover peanut butter pie for breakfast :)

I wanted to add my two cents-I do believe the combination of exercise and diet work best. I lost my first 20 pounds that way. The second 20 pounds I lost when I sold my car and started to walk/bus. And the weight is staying off!

I'm working on the next 20 pounds, so I'll haul out my paper and pen and start making some notes....

Greenpa said...

Hiya Crunch-

"If you severely limit your calorie intake, your body switches over into starvation mode. So, even though you are eating less, your body thinks that Armageddon is here and starts storing up like mad. That's why you'll see yourself gaining weight even though you are only eating 800 calories a day."

There is, in fact, an answer for that problem. Don't eat those 800 calories. Then, your body CAN'T store incoming calories, it has to burn stored ones.

This is something Spice and I have done multiple times- for far longer than people think is possible. Ok, hold onto your hats. I have done total fasts (water and vitamin pills only) for as much as 25 days- several times. Spice, who has more of a roundness problem than I do, once went 42 days. No kidding.

We're not dead! This is a LONG long conversation; but basically; after day 3 of 0 calories, you stop being hungry. It takes 6 days or so for your body to truly adapt to burning storage- few people ever get that far. This used to be COMMON for humans- it was called "late winter" - we can all do it, we've just forgotten. There are some indications that we NEED this kind of "system reboot" to keep our appetites in a normal range. Coming out of a 2 week fast - your stomach has actually started to shrink - eating one egg will make you feel like you are as full as if you just ate 2 MacDonalds Total Gut Bomb Meals. You just don't WANT more food- or need it.

" You will also find that you will hit a point where your resolve can't keep up and you'll eat more than you should. A lot more than you should."

If you're eating a few calories, YES. If your calorie intake is 0 - NO. You stop being hungry. Really.

All this is NOT to suggest your approach here is not good- while long fasting used to be commonplace for humans, in this world, suggesting people NOT EAT at all is as likely to be take seriously as something as insane as, oh, doing without your refrigerator. You DO need to give people pathways they WILL try. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with both deb and greenpa. For me, eating and exercising is the lifestyle I'm choosing. However, I have done extended period fasts in the past and have found that my appetite was much less when I started eating again. So I found fasting very effective too. The negative for me was that once I started running distances greater than 5 miles, my appetite SHOT back up and I gained about 15#.

On another note, you're STILL a line item in my nightly prayers. Now if I could only figure out how to say Crunchy in Hebrew. Sending my love across the interstate, rach

Unknown said...

Ah, the dreaded diet diary. Forgive me if I don't do one - I just hate, hate journaling of any kind. What has worked for me in the past is changing from a standard "western" diet with plenty of dairy and meat, to a vegetarian one with significantly less dairy. I find that if I eat meat more than once a week or so, I pack on the pounds like you wouldn't believe. Sadly, since I've been nursing, I've been CRAVING meat, and eating it several times a week. When I decided to make a change, I cut out meat first thing. The bad news is that I haven't lost anything (it's only been a week, though). The good news is that I haven't missed it.
Of course, more diet changes are probably in my immediate future - i was just diagnosed with microscopic colitis (apparently, I have the colon of someone 20 years older than I am), which is related to celiac - so I'm being evaluated for wheat sensitivity of Monday. Perhaps getting on a diet that my body actually tolerates will help with all of this!
As for exercise, I've ordered the T-Tapp workout videos - right now, I'm not able to go to the gym or out for a run (baby with seperation anxiety) so I'm going to do videos after bedtime.

Anonymous said...

I am one of the "shorter" people (not quite 5' 1"), and my daily caloric need to maintain my weight is about 1350. I was surprised by how low this was, but then verified it through dietary measurement and consulting a nutritionist and exercise physiologist. This means that for weight loss of 1 lb/week by diet alone, I would need to eat just under 1000 Cal/day.

Being on the extreme end of height, I have always been troubled by numbers for what the "average" person needs because how can I know how much to adjust since I'm not average? I've noticed most people respond by overestimating how much they need. I think calculators are a good attempt to remedy that problem, but even the calculators I've tried give numbers all over the place. I've gotten values from 1450 up to 1750. If I followed those I would gain weight.

Ultimately I would encourage anyone trying to change their weight to do careful food logs and calorie measurements and figure out if that intake is working to maintain, gain, or lose. Just don't assume that just because one calculator gives you certain number that it is the right number for you.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Hiya Nutpa,

You really like to ratchet things up a notch, don't you?

I'm not going to get into a big discussion on fasting, but I do want to point out that it can cause you to lose muscle and may also injure your heart and other organs fairly quickly.

For any of you seriously considering fasting, and I really don't advocate it, I suggest you look into the deleterious effects of it before going forward.

Anonymous said...

Crunch --

Thanks so much for this info. It may seem basic to some, but I have always been naturally slender until I turned 40. And then, drum roll please, the hormones hit. Yup. Right on time, just like everyone said they would. So now, at 42 I have to learn all these basics about diet and exercise that everybody else seems to know, and I might add, they don't feel sorry for me neither. :)

I am a bit lucky that when I get stressed (whether happy or sad) I don't eat. And right now I'm in a great phase of my life, so I have cut back on the food. But I do so love me some food that this won't last long!

Anyway, my point is to thank you for starting at the beginning and helping us -- especially with all you are going through. My prayers are with you and your family.

Unknown said...

Crunchy -

Have you read Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food ?

It's very good, very thoughtful, and would be the perfect companion book for this challenge

Anonymous said...

Hi Greenpa-

I agree with you on many issues but not this one. Promoting fasting to people who may be desperate to lose weight and who may not understand it's potential side effects or may have underlying health problems that could have catastrophic consequences is reckless and irresponsible

This is not a pissing contest about who can go longer without food, this is about being healthy.

And just because it was the way humans did it thousands of year ago does not mean it was the best for our health. We also lived to around 30 and were covered in parasites, I don't see you advocating for that.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Susan - you read my mind!

See tomorrow's post/poll about In Defense of Food.

Greenpa said...

So, Crinchy and Ms Core- hey, I SAID it was a LONG long conversation, if we were to really get into fasting...

Sure, it's not for people in ill health- sure, there are data indicating you CAN lose muscle - but- we didn't. There are differences between what most "diet" fasters do and what we did- pretty big ones.

Ratchet up?! Hey, you're the one who put me up for nutjob of the year! I'm just trying to stay competitive!

Truly; where a lot of this comes from is my training in evolution, and my own life. Lots of people "know" that the human organism is capable of much more than we usually see, or demand- but few people ever make the effort to find that out about themselves. We are HUGELY more competent organisms than couch potatoes can imagine.

" We also lived to around 30 and were covered in parasites, I don't see you advocating for that." -

actually... lol. Hookworms are very nasty guys - icky stuff

But; this is just one of many reports on this new idea- no more allergies!

In fact it's a current, respectable but not fully tested theory that a lot of "allergies" may be due to INADEQUATE parasite load. See- parasites send out immune system suppressor chemicals. Then your body ratchets up the warfare (thanks Crhunch) - but in fact if you are totally devoid of parasites, you may have your immune system spiral out of control...


No- everybody- don't try long fasting without doing a lot of homework. But- I'm not the only nutjob out here thinking about it as a lost natural part of our dietary workings- skip it

Anonymous said...

Hi Greenpa-

I am sorry if the comment I made felt a bit like a personal attack, I really just felt like the braggadocious tone in your comment was representative of the "go big or go home" attitude that is pervasive in our culture and can be actually the cause of over-eating and over consumption in general.
And it felt (to me) a little rife with self-righteousness that other people simply do not have the willpower to make it past the 3 day limit. Most studies show that slow and steady changes to diet are the best for healthy weight loss and for the weight loss to be maintained.

Anyway, I am actually also a biologist (molecular neuroscientist) and am aware of the suggested relationships of parasite suppression of immune system function. From an evolutionary perspective it makes an incredible amount of sense. However, I don't think that the solution for most people would be to infect them with parasites no matter how innocuous they might be. Although it is to the parasites advantage not to kill the host many of them come with horrible side effects such as blindness and diarrhea and potentially death. More middle of the road therapies such as exposure to farm animals and a less sterile environment are better solutions and are proven to work. Even though it did work for this one guy I would be hesitant to recommend this treatment to anyone else without controlled studies and appropriate risk assessment.

And to the fasting study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine and described in the NYT, if a proof of principle that everyday fasting with medical supervision won't kill you then I will accept that. However they had no control group eating the same amount of calories in a more regular way so who's to say the improvement in physiological indicators for health and inflammation is not just from a reduction in calories overall or more informed food choices. These people were pretty overweight >30 BMI to begin with and losing weight and changing your diet can has already been shown to reduce symptoms of inflammatory disease.

I agree that thinking out of the box is wonderful and an activity that is too often ridiculed in the overly conservative slow moving machine that is the scientific method. However, these ideas should still be rigorously tested before suggested to the masses.

Again, didn't mean to attack you personally, I do enjoy the ideas you bring to the table and do agree with 9 out of 10 times.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, was supposed to say every OTHER DAY fasting.

Lisa Zahn said...

When I started eating real food, as Michael Pollan advocates in the above-mentioned book, I not only felt better but lost a few pounds too.

Today I decided to do a tutorial on making homemade yogurt with real, fresh milk. It's on my blog at I definitely feel better eating whole fat dairy along with other whole foods.

Good luck with this challenge everyone!

Lisa in MN

Anonymous said...

Ms Core- you should have actually read the article Greenpa cited- it's got loads of links to MANY studies- far far from "this one guy"- and it's been around; one reported in the BBC is from 2001.

And how the heck does "It takes 6 days or so for your body to truly adapt to burning storage- few people ever get that far." sound self righteous?? not to me- he doesn't say WHY, just that they don't- which is true.

Anonymous said...

I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life. The periods of time when my weight is under control come when I don't eat any fast foods, pre-packaged foods, or sugar... and I exercise faithfully. My body does not respond to just cutting calories... nor to just exercise. I have to do both. I am currently up and attempting to come back down. The Holidays are always hard for me because I love to cook and there is so much about that time that is associated with food for me.

As for the no waste portion of this challenge... we do not own a scale. With two teenaged daughters and my own history with an eating disorder, I don't want one in the house. However, I cleaned out my fridge and am checking all the fruits and vegetables everyday to see what needs to be eaten and then making decisions based on that, rather than what I might feel like eating or fixing for my family. I am also looking into what it would take... and if it is possible in our backyard... to start a compost pile.

Anonymous said...

My husband has been able to lose about five pounds this month using the techniques covered in "The Fat Fallacy." But really, those techniques are the same ones advocated in "In Defense of Food."

I have a much faster metabolism than my husband, so when I discovered one day that my love of Mexican food had added ten pounds to my weight, I was able to drop it in two weeks just by eating like Michael Pollan recommends.

In fact, my super-fast metabolism is precisely why I will never, ever deliberately fast. The one time I tried, just a simple juice fast, I was practically hibernating by the end of the second day. Bad for business.

As for calorie counting, we don't bother. It's too much work, and really, just because some book says that an egg has so many calories doesn't mean that *this* egg, laid by *this* free-range hen, will have the same calories and nutritional value as the "average" egg.

I just . . . Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Eat slowly, enjoy it, stop when full. Live actively.

I also dislike exercising just to exercise. I can't stand in one place and move my arm meaninglessly ten times just for the purpose of burning calories -- it's boring. I'd rather turn a compost pile, take a dance class, build a path out of large paving stones, or ride my bike to the farmer's market.

Anonymous said...

Sure, I will admit my ignorance about the exact hookworm studies, it is nowhere near my area of expertise.

To me though the obvious next step would be to see what proteins are secreted by the worm itself and find compounds to treat people with overactive immune systems. Perhaps that has been done, I have not followed the literature.

The whole point is just not to jump on the anedoctal bandwagon whether it be fasting, treating asthma, or any other purported cure especially if there could be lethal effects. I guess I am not a risk taker and this is a matter of a difference in life philosophy.

I think this is ending up a little off topic (my fault) though from the point of Crunchy's orignal post and that is to lose weight in a safe and controlled way.

Thanks Crunchy, for providing the forum to argue about things of little relevance to your post :).

Jennifer said...

My favorite Calorie Counter is at
It's free if you use it online- that's why it's my favorite! It's a good all around program, too... plus, if you are up for it you could make your page public and publish it to your blog. :) Accountability. Not that I'm going to do THAT!

girlosun_9 said...

So I am lagging behind a bit but taking advantage of having to take a family illness day and have dug out a notebook.

I had a visit with my doctor yesterday to discuss my wishes and concerns and we talked about diet and exercise (I exercise a lot and effectively thanks to a heart rate monitor so more talk about eating and less about exercise).

As far as fasting goes, it is a slippery slope between fasting and eating disorder for some people. I went through this in college with the goal of having a clean slate/cleansing my system and had an extremely difficult time eating again. I never ever considered that a long term fast could lead to an eating disorder for me; it wasn't even a consideration. Just something else to be aware of.