Pay as you go

by Suw on October 25, 2009

I have been on a lengthy crusade against the evil that is sugar, but must confess to mainly being on the losing side. The summer has been quite stressful and where once I lost my appetite when stressed now I seem to feel constant hunger. Part of that hunger is down to the amount of sugary food that I was eating – for some reason sugar makes me feel hungrier, not less hungry.

Anyway, various schemes to cut down on the number of times I was popping to the corner shop for a Coke and Wispa have failed. I’m not great at willpower and have even less of the stuff when stressed (although that’s because, as I’m sure I’ve said before, you only have a limited amount of willpower, although you can increase it with practice). Going cold turkey failed. Simply trying to cut down has failed. So time for some creative thinking.

Kev and I have joined a new gym which is larger and closer to our new flat than the old one was. It’s a 10 min walk through the park each morning, which is a most pleasant way to bookend one’s work-out. This new gym has machines that weren’t available to us in the old gym, including a crunchie machine (for your abdominals) and a lower back resistance machine.

My new scheme combines and reinforces gym and a reduction in sugar intake and it’s really very simple.

I can only buy treats at the shop when I have burnt off their calorific equivalent at the gym.

It’s very simple and so far it seems to be working. It encourages me to work harder at the gym and gives me some idea of how many calories you actually work off. It turns out that I have been burning relatively few calories at the gym, which would explain why I’m fitter but still getting fatter. In our morning workouts, which are only half an hour long, I spend half my time doing resistance work and the rest on the recumbent bike, treadmill or cross-trainer. In that latter 15 mins, I tend to burn only about 75 kcal.

If you’ve ever tried to find a sugary treat that comes in at under 75 calories you’ll know that it’s basically impossible. A can of Coke is 139 kcal and a Wispa is 210 kcal. People have advised me to go for dark chocolate because it’s less sugary. That might be so, but a large bar of Green & Black’s 70% Cocoa is over 500 kcal.

This means that it takes me two workouts during the week to earn enough kcal to have a Coke, and three to earn a Wispa. Erk! I don’t think I’d ever really realised how much effort I need to expend in order to work off one of my favourite treats but now I know it really has changed the way that I think about them. I always knew that these were empty calories – there’s no nutritional value in them at all. They’re stupid calories. But, well, a kcal is bigger than I thought it was!

The nice thing about this is that I can still have my treats, but only when I’ve earnt them. So I don’t need to go cold turkey and I don’t really need willpower. I just need to make sure that I get up early enough to go to the gym and that I work hard whilst I’m there.

I really do hope that this will result in the loss of a few *cough* pounds because I’m heavier now than I’ve ever been. Trousers that were really loose on me once now fit snugly. I really can’t let that go on otherwise I’ll be a blimp before you know it.

So wish me luck and here’s hoping this tactic really does work.

ManxStef October 26, 2009 at 3:17 am

I’m not sure I’d trust those calorie readouts too much, they seem to be very much ballpark figures and depend on multiple factors that the machines usually won’t know (weight, sex, etc.) and they don’t take into account any raise in metabolic rate that keeps burning energy after the workout’s finished. But are you certain you’re fatter, not merely heavier? Often people gain weight when they train, but it’s usually down to increased lean tissue:

One thing that’s definitely worth a go is ‘interval training’, also referred to as Tabata (after a Japanese scientist who studied it extensively). Basically, you have a warmup then intervals of near-maximum exertion plus low intensity rest, repeated, then warm down. Some info:

It’s certainly not for everyone – you’ve got to make sure that for the ‘on’ periods you really are going for it flat-out, which isn’t pleasant – but I’ve yet to find anything more effective.

Oh, a good tip to keep the chocolate & Coke at bay is to have fruit everywhere, allowing yourself to snack fairly liberally. An apple’s around 70 to 80 kCals, which means you can pretty much have two instead of a can of Coke or three instead of a Wispa! Knowing that, then keeping any biscuits, chocolate, etc. right next to the fruit bowl works for me, anyway 🙂

Best of luck!

Suw October 26, 2009 at 8:53 am

Hi Stef. Yes, I definitely am fatter, not just heavier. Not only am I visibly bigger than I used to be, clothes that used to fit no longer do, and ones that were once too big are now snug. I actually don’t keep track of my weight closely as the only scales I have access to are the ones at the gym.

The machines at the gym do ask for age and weight, and if you hold the hand rests properly it keeps tabs on your heart rate too. I agree that they can’t be perfectly accurate, but it’s better than nothing.

I tend to do mixed effort training, although not sure that it’s strictly interval training, but it’s that sort of ‘work harder, go easier, work harder’ regime.

And yes, there’s always fruit around. But fruit just isn’t the equivalent to a Wispa to my taste buds!

ACW October 26, 2009 at 10:05 pm

First, thank you for doing your bit to publicize the fact that the dietary calorie is the thermodynamic kilocalorie.

A good rule of thumb is that one burns a hundred kcal per mile on foot. Yes, there’s a difference between walking and running that mile, but it’s a second-order effect. Your weight also affects your burn rate.

At what speed do you run the treadmill? 75 kcal in fifteen minutes suggests three miles per hour. If you are capable of a modest trot, the same fifteen minutes at five miles per hour would burn something north of 125 kcal, which almost earns you a Coke.

Captcha: “ment derek”.

Suw October 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Hey Acw! How it’s going?

Yes, it bugs me no end that ‘calorie’ has become synonymous with ‘kilocalorie’ because it’s really confusing.

Regarding the treadmill, I have significant problems doing anything more than a fast walk. There’s just no way to put this delicately, but, well, my boobs bounce if I run and it’s very unpleasant. No one makes sports bras in my size and even if they did they’d have to be pretty impressive structures to stop the bounce.

For that reason I tend to focus on the recumbent bike or the cross-trainer which produce a lot less bounce.

I do hope that wasn’t TMI!!

reCaptcha: rar solent. Is rar even a word?

Stormy October 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I say find a substitute … I drink carbonated water instead of coke. You can have fruit instead of chocolate …

Or those little chocolate bars, the mini’s. Maybe one is enough to give you a taste.

The key: if balancing workouts for sweets doesn’t work for you after a couple of months, don’t give up. Try something else. Everybody is different and it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works.

ACW October 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I am doing well, thank you ever so much for asking … I got back on the treadmill myself a couple of weeks ago and am slowly building my fitness back. Eventually I’ll blog about it.

I forgot about the bobble issue; now, alas, I’ll be thinking of nothing else all afternoon. Getting back on track however: most of what I said transfers to the elliptical trainer, which I would think would induce less bobble. The trouble with the cycle is that you’re sitting on your butt, and a lot of the (kilo)calories you burn on the treadmill are just going to supporting your weight; you’re burning glucose (and if you’re lucky, fat) far faster when you’re on your feet.

If the elliptical is still too bobbly, consider the stair machine, or stay at 3 mph on the mill, but crank the incline up. The goal is to be puffing a bit. (How much is a bit? Rule of thumb: exhaling on every fourth step, but not feeling out of breath. If you’ve got a heart monitor, you should be between 140 and your personal Hmax.) Caution: the way I hurt my back was by cranking up the incline too much on the mill. I really overdid it, though.

Captcha is boring this time.

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