Chubster: where reading and weight loss intersect

By | May 26, 2013

Part of the reason for the increased number of book reviews here is simple, an increase in reading. It’s partially the iPad, partially more down time, but whatever it is, I’ll take it. It has led to this blog being a bit disjointed but, to be honest, it always has been at heart.

Anyway, Chubster, a “hipster” weight loss guide from a self-called hipster in Phoenix.  I’ve really lived here too long if I think his hipster habits are completely normal and anything super hipster-ish, except talking at length at how the Chubster non diet is better than every other diet out there. Oh, and everything is ironic. No one ever just does something, they do it….ironically.  That said, it was a fun, light, two-day read.

 

I really liked his start with calorie counting. As I mentioned, I decided to break from Weight Watchers this time and it’s always interesting to see others facing the same internal debate. I truly don’t understand the national fear of calorie counting, especially with the umpteen smart phone apps that will now do the math. I lost weight more quickly when I was doing WW, but I also had a lot more weight to lose then I do now. Of course I was going to lose more quickly. I also shared his issues with Points Plus. I don’t like it when weight loss methods change with the latest fads. If you stick with science* you understand what causes weight loss and how to “fix” it if you go off track.

You don’t have to worry about a company changing a formula or deciding that the old program (under which I actually lost 50 lbs) suddenly “wasn’t right” and needed blowing up to attract new members. Weight loss as a business is infuriating and, I believe, contributes to the nation’s inability to keep weight off. It’s OK to teach people about the current hot trend, but if they don’t understand the basics… the science, they’ll regain and spend more money on a company’s product.

The fact of the matter is, there’s nothing wrong with being fat. Or, at least there’s nothing wrong with you because you’re fat…  It’s not a character flaw … But “happily fat” is not a sustainable…There was little chance I could plan to be indefinitely overweight and keep that little pink heart on my Facebook relationship status intact.

This was the part that resonated the most with me. It wasn’t a slurpee that got me — or someone pointing out the calories in a slurpee, but rather thinking I’d gained 5 lbs in four days. It wasn’t so much an ultimatum as a realization that I didn’t like that me. I look back at my Whys? and realize how different that person was, yet I still see some of her in the current me. I see some of Shauna in me. That won’t change. It’s how to get past that part of me.  Oddly? when I refocused in January it was some of the same position — I felt horrible in my skin. I was done talking about finishing the weight loss and was ready to just do it.

Four doughnuts with coffee or one bagel with cream cheese and a skinny chai: your choice. Obviously I’m not saying that four doughnuts is a good breakfast for someone trying to lose weight; I’m just saying that a bagel and cream cheese isn’t any better.

The forbidden food thing he said he wasn’t going to do? I agree with him in the silliness around Weight Watchers’ “free” foods, but he’s doing the same thing here. Forget his silly gingerbread ban, but he’s saying avoid bagels because they’re high in calories — but go ahead and eat the frozen food that’s just as bad? It’s not that he (or WW) are right/wrong, but I think that in trying to prove himself “better” he also acknowledged the inexact science/”black magic” behind even calorie counting. He returns to his anti bagel quest later when picking the good/bad choices at a number of restaurants: No: The multigrain bagel is on the “DD Smart” menu, but it has 390 calories plain. Is a dry multigrain bagel really what you want for almost 400 calories? I doubt it. That’s the same as their eclair, and it isn’t anywhere near as delicious. Actually, I disagree, bagel > eclair any day, but also a bagel with peanut butter will actually keep you full longer than a sugar bomb of an eclair. Does a bagel compare to a more balanced breakfast? Maybe not, but to compare it to an eclair while arguing about the merits of Super Size Me? Come On.

One of the great things about the Chubster plan is that it lets you choose between Hi-Fi and Lo-Fi options, from the iPhone to an old-fashioned Moleskine notebook. Chances are, you cringed a little when reading either “iPhone” or “Moleskine.” That’s normal. Most of you will find one of those things indispensable (or at least desirable) and the other useless, annoying, and overpriced to the point of being

This is exactly why I don’t understand why people have such an aversion to calorie counting. You don’t need any tools, but if you are the type of person who prefers tools, there are a metric ton of apps for the various devices with which to do it. That’s part of why I don’t understand one of the primary criticisms of the Up. While an instant readout can be nice, syncing to phone isn’t really an issue and if you’re not the type of person who carries a phone regularly, these smart phone enabled devices probably aren’t the best fit.
One of the best thing about this book was his insight into the calorie counts for some foods. Some I knew, but for some I had the same challenge as he did in a) making healthy choices, b) finding the NI for non chain foods. For example, I still cannot find the calorie count for my occasional indulgence – a glass of Stella, so I was grateful for his type by type analysis.
  • the inability to eat 10 oz / 1500 calories of blue cheese dressing in one sitting vs. absent-mindedly consuming about the same as a dip is frightening, and eye opening. After a (tracked!) indulgence tonight it was horrifying to see how many calories are in so-called  “appetizers”. No wonder the country has an obesity issue.
  • On the Americanization of food: Rollatini isn’t actually a type of pasta. It’s not even an Italian word, but in the American version of Italian food it means something breaded and baked. This is also the case with sushi — which in Japan lacks things like cream cheese and fried chicken – takes otherwise healthy or semi-healthy food and turns it into complete rubbish. Which is why you have to read what you’re eating, or as close of an approximation as possible. And speaking of reading, and tracking.
  • People bash McDonald’s, but they’re the motherfucking Gandhi of chain restaurants compared to the Cheesecake Factory. Now, taking the Cheesecake Factory back to the woodshed is the bread and butter of the Eat This, Not That series … so I won’t rehash all that, but it’s absolutely true that they sell salads with close to 2, 000 calories in them and you should avoid eating there on the Chubster. People assume salads are safe and McDonald’s, evil. While I don’t blame Spurlock as much as Cizmor does, I do think the media has gone after fast food in a way they haven’t gone after family style restaurants — but maybe they should. 2,000 calories for a salad?!?! That’s ridiculous and irresponsible.
  • Maybe Pollan’s credo ””Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” and avoiding anything his grandmother would not have recognized as food” would be an effective weight-loss plan, but I haven’t heard of anyone succeeding that … Instead, Chubster is all about taking advantage of every modern convenience afforded us. In my unapologetically innovationist view, technology got us into this mess by making it possible to consume so many cheap calories while being so sedentary, and it’ll somehow get us out of it. … I have very little interest in killing any animal myself or getting up early on Saturday morning to schlep down to a parking lot and pick out vegetables I can purchase for a similar price at a nearby grocery store, even if they do have the best arugula ever. Sorry, but that’s just not my scene. Maybe people like Pollan are right that the stuff we eat today isn’t even “food” and that it’ll eventually poison us; however, life expectancy seems to be on an upward trajectory even if the light sour cream we now eat doesn’t fit an organic dairy farmer’s definition. Maybe I’ll be proven a fool, but I’m putting my faith in common sense and scientific

I’ve read some of Pollan’s stuff and while I like the idea of eating cleaner, I also agree with Cizmar, there’s limited practicality to it today – or need. We’re not meant to subsist entirely on processed foods, but I think there’s a reason we’ve also evolved from hunter/gatherers.

That’s not to say I always agree with him, in some cases I think his premises, especially on what constitutes a “grown up” drink are ridiculously off base. Tequila shots are “the grownup way”? No, shots belong in the frat house along with the other wisdom he’s trying to throw up. Are sour apple martinis not ironic enough for him?

You can still enjoy everything that plumped you up, you just need to do it in moderation and mix in more activities. Hey, as it turns out, even an evening Slurpee isn’t off the table. Remember the Slurpee that changed my life? The one I had on the way from that awful Dave Matthews concert lo those many moons ago? The one that prompted the stern lecture from my girlfriend that, in turn, launched my weight-loss project? Turns out, that Slurpee was the last one I had for nearly two years. Not that I stopped wanting them. I’m a sucker for pretty much any frozen confection and have always had a soft spot for the sweet, slushy treat favored by Bart Simpson. Since losing 100 pounds, I had allowed myself occasional indulgences of most types on limited occasions (see above), but never a Slurpee. Then, one day, things came full. … On my stop home I was lured into a 7-Eleven for a giant diet fountain soda. Instead, I found something I hadn’t seen before: a Diet Slurpee. Now, the Crystal Light Slurpee isn’t calorie-free. There are actually 80 calories in a 16-ounce serving. But after hiking 7 long, steep miles, I was certainly willing to allow myself such a splurge.  …  This is what I’ve come to realize: There are two ways up the mountain. You can drive up with 600 calories of sugary ice in your hand, or you can walk up and drink the artificially sweetened version. One route is wide, paved, and busy; the other, narrow, a little rocky, and far less crowded. One will give you little tastes of life as we were meant to live it from time to time; the other will immerse you in it fully. We all choose a path, consciously or not.

But he redeemed himself… and ended the book on the strongest note. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can have the “diet Slurpee” (or, for me, diet Sour Patch Kids), but I understand the feeling the wanting to prove your dominance over food. I can do that now with chocolate chip cookies (but not dough). I can do that with Subway. One day I’ll do it with Sour Patch Kids… one day.

* speaking of which, Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories  and Why We Get Fat are on Mt. TBR. It’s not that I think he’s completely wrong, but there is something to be said for the basic math of calories in, calories out vs. trend hopping.

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