Sam Sifton, the newish restaurant critic for the New York Times, has been writing and blogging about the massive caloric intake required by his job. He has even gone so far as to track his diet and exercise habits for a week and show the net calorie consumption day by day. Not surprisingly, on one day he had a net intake of over 4,000 calories thanks to fried oysters, rabbit livers and a couple of meat pies.
The restaurant critic calorie confidential seems to be turning into something of a blogging subgenre. Recently, Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner tracked her own 20-pounds-in-20-weeks “Restaurant Critic’s Diet.” Like Sifton, she kept track of everything she ate and energy expended through exercise with calorie counts. Unlike Sifton, she restricted her daily caloric intake by only taking bites of the food she reviewed and cooking sensibly at home.
I don’t know if the AJC’s Meridith Ford Goldman counts calories, but I do know she shows amazing restraint at the table. I’ve seen her enthuse about a dish, then poise her fork after three bites. Done.
I never had that restraint, which was one of several reasons I gave up that job. At the time I was carrying about 15 pounds more than I do now, and my normally stocky frame was starting to veer into fireplug territory.
With a good exercise regime (both resistance training and cardio) I was able to shed 10 pounds pretty quickly. Then I plateaued.
This is a common pattern. The New York Times Magazine recently published an interesting article (”Weighing the Evidence on Exercise,” April 12, 2010) that cross-referenced a number of studies. Most concluded that there are benefits to exercise, but without some serious measure calorie reduction it could not occasion weight loss. In fact, people often consume more calories than normal after they exercise. One study suggested that simply standing rather than sitting for most of the day might in the long run be better for you than a rigorous workout because it doesn’t trigger the need to consume.
My wife recently heard a scientific paper presented at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., that suggested a curtailed caloric intake was the greatest predictor for longevity. Exercise could improve the quality of life, but not push the needle forward by itself. In populations where extreme longevity is common, the people consume fewer calories.
So it seems we’ve entered a new age of calorie counting. This proves difficult for me — the most Type B of the Type B personalities out there. I can’t even count bus change.
But I have found a way to reduce my caloric intake and shed a few more pounds. Hunger.
Twice a day I allow myself to feel hunger — in the mid afternoon when I usually go in search of a fortifying snack, and in the evening after dinner, when I’m likely to indiscriminately pop something into my mouth.
It was uncomfortable at first, but my tolerance has increased over time. Making peace with hunger is like learning to hold your breath.
I’ve also thought a lot about the Japanese saying “hara hachibunme” which means you should fill your stomach only 80%. The first feeling of satiety kicks in around then, and you stop eating.
So, anyhow, that’s how this food writer keeps it (mostly) off.
Do any others out there embrace the hunger?