Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fad Diets Are Bad For Your Health

Last night I was at a gathering with a bunch of my wife's teacher coworkers.  During the multitude of different conversations that we had the subject of food inevitably came up and along with it different ways of eating and even dieting.  One of my wife's coworkers mentioned that she no longer ate beef, chicken or pork, make herself a "mostly vegetarian" since she still ate fish and seafood. This was all find and good since she was contentiously making that choice and not really "dieting".  Another then mentioned that she and her husband have been trying out the "paleo" diet.  When I inquired what it was, I found out it was a diet based on what a "caveman" would eat.  In other words you avoid anything that is processed or based on agriculture.  She also said that she would frequently "fast" for two days.  That is where she would only eat a small dinner at night, then not eat anything until the next evening.The more I talked to this woman the more I was awed by how little about basic nutrition she knew.  It became apparent that the reason so many fad diets take hold is because so many people don't really know about what they are putting into their bodies and what constitutes a healthy diet.

If truth be told, I hate dieting.  I hate the word and I hate the idea of dieting.  It implies that there is a short term solution for a long term problem.  What people should be thinking is that they need to change their diet or eating practices, not that they need to go on a "diet".  I will freely admit that I am on what is considered a "diet" program.  But the thing about it is I see it as a way to change my habits for the long term and well as it giving my an accounting system so that I can watch what I eat and be healthier.  At the very least it gives me a way to know just how much "bad" food I can eat before I will gain weight again. 

Now let me state that I am by no means a nutritional expert.  I do not have a degree in nutrition.  All I am stating are things that I have learned from my own personal experience and the very rudimentary class I took in culinary school about nutrition.  That being said, I do know somethings.  Like for instance, I know that every gram of carbohydrates and protein contains about 4 calories while fat has about 9 calories per gram and alcohol has 7.  This is why most sensible diets are keen on having a low fat content.  I also know that at its most basic level, dieting and loosing weight is a simple numbers game.  At the end of the day, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will loose weight.  It does not matter if you follow the All Bacon Diet as long as the calories consumed from that bacon are less then what use up during the day.  I am by no means suggesting that this is healthy or the right way to loose weight.  I am just pointing out that this is what it can all be boiled down to.  In a way this is why fad diets seem to work.  They somehow manage to cut your calorie intake so that you are burning more than you are eating.  Whether this is done in a healthy manner is inconsequential.

To me, the biggest factor of having a healthy diet is to have a good balance.  Eat what you are supposed to (fruits, vegetables, whole wheat grains, lean protein) and limit the unhealthy stuff (fats, refined sugars) and you should be doing alright.  If you want to loose weight, then try to consume less food  or try to burn more calories than you normal do.  Its even better if you do both.   The way I see it most fad diets' biggest sin is taking away that balance.  Most fad diets say don't eat this or only eat that and that is just not a good long term strategy.  Our bodies need the balance of eating everything in our diet.  You can't just take something out and hope that it will be ok.  Even if you achieve the results you want, then what?  You can't possibly sustain that diet continuously.  I am sure even proponents of said diet would agree with that.  So after you stop chances are you are going to bounce back.  And nothing is frustrating as slipping back and loosing the progress you have made.

In the end I am sure most fad diets will be proven to be unhealthy and not a good idea.  For true weight loss and healthy eating you have to have two things: a willingness to change your lifestyle (even if just slightly) and patience.  True weight loss will not happen overnight.  Heck, it won't happen in two weeks or a month.  Depending on what your own goals are it will take time.  Talk to a doctor or a nutritionist and come up with a plan and some goals.  I know this is a cliche, but weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MMM, veggies.

I love to eat.  That is evident by the fact that I have had issues with my weight all my life.  Deep down I always knew it had to do with my eating habits.  So now that I am contentiously making a decision to change things I have come to realize that the best way to still eat and enjoy my food it to eat more vegetables and fruits.  I try to have more salads at work and I try to incorporate more vegetables into the dishes I make at home. 

In fact, this recipe from my other blog is a prime example.  When I was looking to make dinner I wanted to find a recipe that was robust.  Unfortunately I did not find anything I liked, so I decided to make my own thing.  This was perfect because I was able to use a bunch of different vegetables that I had in the fridge.  I love adding so many vegetables to a dish so that it becomes more vegetable than anything else.  This also works great for stir fries.  You can really stretch your protein that way.  I mean how else would a pound of chicken serve two with a second helping and have enough leftover for my wife to take for lunch the next day?

Another great way to use veggies or fruits is as snacks.  When I get home now I will often times have a pickle or munch on some grape tomatoes. These are low calorie and low guilt.  If you want to dress them up, I suggest using lime or lemon juice and a bit of chile powder and salt.  I know it sounds a little unconventional, but it is quite tasty.  Another one of my favorite snacks is to make a slushy out of frozen fruit.  I just blend it up with some ice, a bit of sweetener, and some water.  If I want to get adventurous, I use a bit of orange juice. 

All in all, I have come to realize that fruits and vegetables are a great way for me to eat more without feeling like I am doing a bad thing.  In fact, I think I hear some tomatoes calling my name!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DIfficulties of working with food.

This week was a good one.  I am down another 2 pounds so I am headed in the right direction.  This week's entry I am concentrating on the difficulties of being a chef and working with food.  You see I am around food pretty much all day.  While at the very begining of the day the food is still mostly in its raw, unprocessed state, it is later on and throughout the day that one can easily step into the pitfalls of working with food.

Part of my job is to taste what I make. But not only do I taste what I make, I will often have a coworker ask me to taste his or her food.  Having a secondary opinion and another set of taste buds helps ensure the food tastes great.  The danger lies in over doing this.  You could easily eat your way through the kitchen under the guise of "tasting" everything.  The potato chips for the deli are hot and fresh from the fryer, what's the harm in having just one?  Well, everyone knows what a potato chip tastes like.  Do I really need to taste it?  The key to tasting is to always keep in mind that you are doing just that: tasting!  You only really one spoonful to taste something.  If you need to adjust the flavor, then you can justify having another spoonful.  Just walking around and shoving food into your mouth one spoonful at a time is counterproductive.  The really danger lies in that you don't even realize you are doing it.  How is one spoonful going to hurt right?  23 spoonfuls later...

The other problem is being exposed to delicious food all day long.  You can be as strong and willful as you want, but when you are around food you enjoy you will have a craving.  When I first started working at my current job the most difficult thing for me to deal with was that I had such an early start and my lunch break was not until several hours later.  I would be exposed to things such as pizza, BBQ, roasts, grilled chicken and other such noms. My stomach would growl and protest and when lunch time did roll around I was starving and had a tendency to overeat.  Luckily my body has grown accustomed to the schedule and I don't suffer through that as much. Every once in a while I will get a craving, but when I do I try to subdue it by being healthy and making good choices.  I could have the big cinnamon roll or muffin, or I could just have a banana or apple.  Don't get me wrong, I will still indulge every now and again, but for the most part I try to be good.

One of my biggest difficulties is that even when I try to make the right decisions about what I am going to eat sometime it is damn near impossible.  You see at my work place the staff gets to eat after we close our doors for lunch service.  We pretty much get the pick of what's left.  Sometimes there is plenty to choose from.  Sometimes there is barely a scrap left.  It really becomes difficult because since I have been trying to loose weight I try to have a salad for lunch.  However, if there is no stuff to make salads with then it becomes a moot point.  On days like this I try to stick with something from the deli.  I will admit I don't always have a salad.  For instance today I had a chopped brisket sandwich with a bit of pasta salad.  Part of the reason I indulged today was because I knew I was having a salad for dinner.  The way I see it, it is all about balance.  I was also careful not to over indulge.  I only used about 3 oz of brisket and maybe half a cup of pasta salad.  If nothing else Weight Watchers has taught me that you can eat whatever you want, so long as you realize two things: one) don't over do it and two) you might have to cut back somewhere else down the line in order to keep loosing weight.

So these are some of the things I struggle and deal with at work on a day to day basis.  I love working with food.  I love eating food.  I just wish I did not have to be so cautious about it. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Full Disclousure

Let me start with just a brief introduction.  I am Manny De la Mora.  I am 34 years old and work as a chef at the Chevron corporate headquarters located in downtown Houston.  I am happily married.  I am fat.  I have, as far as I can remember, always been a big guy.  When I was younger this was just inconvenience.  I sometimes had a hard time finding clothes that fit or the pretty girl did not really look my way.  Nothing really life changing.  However, as the years went by my health was affected by this problem.  First I was diagnosed with diabetes.  Then I noticed that my left hip was giving me problems. When I went to see the doctor he diagnosed me with severe arthritis in my hip.  And while my weight was not a direct cause of it, it was certainly not helping matters. The arthritis is so severe that I now require surgery to fix it.  The doctor also told me that in order to ensure the surgery and recovery would go more smoothly I need to loose weight.  That was when it really hit me.  I am too big and really need to loose some weight.

You see, even after being diagnosed with diabetes (which I know is serious) I just never really felt any consequences.  It sucked and I knew I had to avoid eating too much sugar, but it still felt like I could manage.  After my hip started hurting I could literally feel the need to loose some weight.  I knew that if I wanted to have a better quality of life, that if I wanted to have kids and play with them or just be around, that I was going to have to loose some weight.  This was back in January of 2012.  When I told my wife we both decided to join Weight Watchers.  We officially joined on Feb. 21, 2012.  My weight at that time was 343 lbs.

My current weight is 302 lbs.  My total goal is to loose about 80-100 lbs.  As you can see Weight Watchers is working.  But as with anything in life you have to put in the effort.  At my lowest weight, I was 297 lbs.  However, over the past 6-8 months I have slipped.  I have gotten complacent or lazy.  In some cases life events (like the illness and subsequent passing of my father) have interfered with my goal.  This is one of the reasons I am writing this blog.  I hope to use it as motivation and to help me stay on track.  Kind of like an online journal other can, and hopefully do, read.

So in this blog I will talk about and discuss some of the difficulties and challenges I face throughout the week, especially given that I work in the food service industry.  Whether it be at work, at home, or just being out in the world.