Eating until you are 100% full

No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.


For the past 6-12 months, on average, I:

  • Slept for 7 hours and 35 minutes per night
  • Consumed 3152 calories of food per day
  • Consumed 161g of protein per day
  • Weighed on average 88.47kg per day
  • Burned 1100 calories above my resting rate per day

I should celebrate these numbers. I was consistent. I built new habits and stuck to them. I thought carefully about what I ate and how I moved my body. I rarely got sick, maintained my goal weight and smashed tons of PB’s on the bike and in the pool. Isn’t this what success looks like?

The moment you arrive at it, it begins to recede, because you’ve got all these other goals on the horizon.

Sam Harris

Maybe not. Counting my ZZZ’s and my calories didn’t make me happy. It didn’t make me feel better about myself or push me into new, interesting paths in life. I measured because it was easy and it made me feel good (temporarily). My BMI was low and steady, a common standard for good health, but only because I was feverishly modulating my energy intake. The measure “ceases to be a good measure”.

A few months ago, after some reflection, I decideded to press pause on the quantified self. Ironically, despite amassing thousands of data points and colorful charts, the biggest insight arrived once I stopped. I noticed a lot of negative self talk. “You’ll lose muscle.” “You’ll lose progress.” “You won’t think straight.” “You should watch this video and try this diet instead.” “You’ll get more anxious if you don’t eat as healthy.” “You will be grumpier if you don’t sleep.”

Maybe I should listen to this voice. Or rather, maybe I should continue obeying. Maybe I should plan out the next 16 meals in perfect synchrony. Maybe I should listen to this 2 hour lecture about carbohydrates. Maybe fasting is the answer. Maybe… Or maybe not. I realized that the foundation of my routine was a voice of non-reason. I was disheartened, humbled and motivated to try a completley different approach in the future. This path had reached its natural conclusion.

The unexamined life is not worth living

Socrates, again

There’s obvious benefits from tracking your food, exercise and sleep. I’m grateful a (much fitter and more successful) colleague encouraged me to be mindful of the proteins, carbs and fats that made up every bagel and $1 slice of pizza that I was stuffing into my face circa 2014. With enough examination, you’ll learn the types of foods that your body digests well and that make you feel good. You’ll learn how to lose weight quickly and safely rather than the typical yo-yo of death. You’ll learn how to put on lean muscle and keep it. And many other useful habits and insights that only come from tinkering and practice.

There are no shortcuts. The fact that a shortcut is important to you means that you are a pussy.

Mark Rippetoe

Peering at the nutrition label to find the fiber values, selecting the ‘best’ peanut butter with no seed oils, determining the exact macronutrient profile of rotisserie chicken. These are all things I’ve done too many times. This might feel more ‘examined’, but I can assure you it’s got nothing to do with mindfulness. It’s scarily normal for someone counting calories to nervously mix up a protein shake or scarf down a plate of lunch meat to hit some arbitrary goal. There’s nothing mindful about that.

If you’re thin, you are a kook; if you’re fat, you’re a failure.

Lionel Shriver

Eating healthy and losing weight is incredibly hard for many people. I know because I’ve seen the data firsthand, both from talking to hundreds of average Americans about their goals and problems and by understanding how millions of people used MyFitnessPal every day. Everything from the government to your home environment can feel like it’s working against you, let alone your thoughts and bad habits. So, most people eat like crap, sleep like crap and hardly move. The World Obesity Atlas 2022, predicts that one billion people globally, including 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men, will be living with obesity by 2030. This is a problem worth solving. I’m grateful I have access to real food and the time and energy to be intentional about my habits, but I can’t say that incessant tracking is the answer.

Where does that leave me? Well, I haven’t yet chucked out my weight scales (I don’t think we’re very good at eyeballing our own weight). I haven’t changed my training schedule. I’m still interested in lots of food-related things, from mastering the Puttanesca to the concept of Hara Hachi bun me (腹八分目) – eating until you’re 80% full. But for the calorie tracking, it was IN for a while, now it’s OUT.

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