On Counting Calories

(Disclaimer: I am not a health expert and a nutritionist. Whatever I will write here is based on my experience, opinions and whatever I have read in the not-so-credible world wide web)

It has been said that a good physique and a healthy lifestyle should follow this equation: 20% exercise and the rest should happen in the kitchen. But that equation changes over time. Based on research and a few Tiktok videos, it should be 50% Exercise and 50% Nutrition. Whatever the equation is, we should still deal with these 2 aspects.

I started going to the gym January of this year. I weighed 57kg and I wanted to be really big and buffed this year. I am not skinny, but I have bad posture and the clothes I wear usually does not fit me (they are either too big or too small). So I decided to avail a workout program and treated it as my bible.

I did everything in the book except, of course, for the nutrition part. I just ate whatever I want to eat, even though they have overemphasized that calorie deficit and calorie surplus is the name of the game. Calorie counting was just boring for me.

Unfortunately, even though I am getting stronger in the gym, I noticed that my belly and those other stubborn areas are getting bigger. Finally, I decided to join the club of Calorie nerds.

I solved my Daily Caloric Intake and found out that I need 2,200 calories per day to gain muscles. I studied what a 2,200 calorie meal looked like, created a system to track my food and observed my habits.

Here are my observations:

  1. Unconscious eating gives me extra 500 calories. Example, in a regular day, I eat almost 2-3 cups of rice. That’s already 750 calories. Almost a third of my caloric intake. I drink Soda at least once a day and a can of coke is 140 calories.
  2. While tracking my calories, I noticed that I don’t feel bloated after eating. Before, I only stop eating when I feel full. Imagine those unconscious calories.
  3. I can still eat my favorite food. I can still eat burgers and potatoes and chocolates. ONLY if they meet my caloric requirement.
  4. “Tracking” is also “planning” for me. I cannot say that I eat healthy now but relatively I eat healthier foods compared before because I get to plan what to buy and what to cook.
  5. Tracking my calories, I get to track my macro-nutrients: Proteins, Carbs and Fats. My diet now is low fat but high protein.
  6. This is an unpopular opinion, but I enjoy eating the same food over and over again. As a minimalist, I enjoy this process because it’s easier to shop for ingredients and cooking is never a problem (except for the dirty dishes).
  7. I am enjoying the system I created. I have this google sheet where I write what is an ideal 2,200 calorie meal. And whenever I eat other foods not on the list, I use My Fitness Pal app to check the calories of the food and deduct whatever is written on the google sheet. See below.
  8. Whenever I exceed my calorie intake, I forgive myself. Tomorrow is another day.

Basically, I am already obsessed with this diet although people still find it “too much”. So I hope I can be consistent in the next few days and hope this will not just be another fad.

Days 1-10

Time flies. I just turned 31! Who would have thought that I will reach this age especially for a sickly person like me. I was an overdue baby with a 50-50 chance of survival. I was confined twice because of Dengue Fever when I was a kid. I also grew up with asthma and allergies. I was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease back in highschool and I almost died because of a kidney problem due to over-exertion of muscles (because I want to prove that even though I have a heart problem, I can still manage to finish Spartan Race). My DNA contains cancer, hypertension and self diagnosed mental disorders. A few days before my birthday, I visited an Ophtalmologist, an Optometrist, an Orthopedic, a Surgeon, a Dermatologist and an Internist because of various aches in my body. Health and Life insurance agents avoid me. It was funny I received a huge calendar as a gift from an agent and with a post it note telling me, “I am sorry, your application to avail your insurance was declined. We can offer you our savings program instead”.

I am lucky I am still alive now. Or sometimes I am not. I have episodes of being jaded towards life in general. But come on, at the end of the day, life is still good. We just miss those chances where we can be grateful for every single gift from above and beyond.

So like every normal semi-functioning adult like me, when your birthday is near, the existential questions are magnified. It’s like the universe’s huge non-personal joke slash punishment to remind us that we are all just fucked ups but we need to pull our shit together. So my “pulling shit together” is a 100-day personal development project (don’t you dare cringe). Day 1 started a day after my birthday, and I am on my 10th day.

The major “activity” for this 100-day project is a social media detox. I will talk about this soon.

For now, let me tell you what I have been doing for the past 10 days of this project.

  1. Planned NEW habits.

The past few months of this year were quite depressing because I have lived an unconscious life (read more about this here). For the 100-day project, I decided to form new habits and reconnect with old ones who already went down the drain. I have a huge menu of habits to choose from and its quite tempting to do all of them, but I just chose 10 to work on during the 100-day challenge.

I even created a wallpaper for my phone to remind me of the habits I want to form.

  1. Blog

One of the highlights of this 100-day challenge is to revive this blog again. I also challenged myself to at least write everyday even though I am not in the mood to write. This blog is already 2 years old, but I did not write here for almost a year. See the About Me page for details.

  1. Volunteered

I have been spending my Sunday mornings now at church. If you know me, I have been exploring different religions and different faith systems since I started travelling. But volunteering at church is one of my strategies to keep myself busy, another defense mechanism for my anxiety. So I was tasked to handle the multimedia tech team or in short, the livestream team every Sunday.

It’s funny (in a good way) that I am in the tech team again. I was there when we started using those acetate papers for the good old projector. I was also there when we started using powerpoint presentations. Now I am still here as we use a more advanced and complicated tech.

But because of this, I finally felt that I am useful. There’s this unexplained fulfillment every time people appreciate what you do even though you felt you did nothing.

What I have been Consuming

  1. After the Ecstacy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield

I have no idea who Jack Kornfield was except for the fact that people use his quotes a lot, more than people use quotes by Buddha. I started reading his book ” After the Ecstacy, the Laundry”. This is one of the books that you should read slowly. Basically the book is about the reality that after a spiritual “high” they still have to face the uncomfortable trials and tribulations of life. This book is mainly a record of stories of people from different religions and faith system. So far, I am enjoying the book because of the diversity of religious practices presented. Everything in the book is relatable especially if you experienced a spiritual high in your life

  1. Stranger Things and Hunger Games

On my birthday, I decided to do a Hunger Games marathon. It started when my friend and I talked about dystopian literature and how we are experiencing a dystopian-like society during this pandemic. I watched this series and I swear it felt like I am watching it for the first time. After Hunger Games, I tried watching Stranger Things again and like Hunger Games, it’s sweeter the second time around. Now I am obsessed with 80s music and a little bit of 80s fashion. What’s your favorite “geeky” film or tv series? Comment below

Bullet Journal Snippets:

One of the tools I am using this 100-day challenge is my bullet journal. It’s a physical notebook where I write almost everything—my tasks, my calendar, my habit trackers, and every thing that needs remembering. Of course, it’s also a diary.

Here are some snippets of what I have been writing on my journal:

  1. “One must not dwell even on happy memories” – September 21, 2020
  2. “Even after my lowest of lows, some things never changed, like my hunger for spiritual things, my intelligence, my smile and having an absorbent mind”- September 22, 2020
  3. “I also had realizations now on how I voluntarily stressed myself out the past months with unconscious activities: talking to people online while taking for granted the people around me, how I eat to just be full, how a day passes quickly without being able to enjoy it.”- September 23, 2020
  4. “Today, I can finally say that, ‘hey, I am ok!'” – September 24, 2020
  5. “This time I am not going to allow any external force to steal that joy away from me. I am going to be selfish in the best and worst possible way and I am going to do it for me!” – September 26, 2020.
  6. “Anxiety strikes again after mom complained about her stomach pains and her high blood pressure. I realized I have to put my trust in the Universe and stop putting pressure on everything. I should lighten up, worry about the things I can control and just enjoy life” – September 28, 2020
  7. “I just finished my 15-minute meditation session. I wanted to quit halfway because I remembered some strong, painful thoughts. But the voice inside me told me to finish it because it will be beneficial for me. I am going to to live and befriend these thoughts until they are gone. I can’t do anything about these things so I just need to show up everyday for meditation no matter how difficult it could get” – September 29, 2020
  8. “I woke up with all those memories, but this time I felt more powerful than ever. I still am weak, but not as weak as before.”- September 30, 2020

That’s it for Days 1-10. I hope 11-100 will be good!

The Slow Life

“I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent, and working at a pace so slow, that I would be able to hear myself living” – Elizabeth Gilbert

A few weeks ago, I was on a gym for a workout. In every rest period, instead of resting, I watched my friends on a livestream app, scrolled mindlessly on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, replied to people’s comments about my Tiktok videos, etc. I was doing a lot of things at the same time. I should have breathed properly while lifting, but I lifted so that I could rest and check my phone. And because of improper breathing, and looking down at my phone, I got nauseous and almost blacked out after my routine. If only I used my rest to catch my breath, to tame my palpitating heart, to close my eyes, I should have not felt dizzy.

No filters.

I observed this pattern of unconscious activities throughout my regular day and it is stealing a quality life away from me. Like watching Netflix while eating lunch, livestreaming while working, and mindlessly working at 2 projects at the same time. I also observed this while looking at my phone while on a coffee date with my friend and reading a book while eating breakfast. And at the back of my mind, I am doing this because I want to “make myself productive” or “make use of my time properly”. I am starting to believe that multitasking is a myth or a propaganda by capitalists to tell us that we should do more and accomplish more.

A couple of days ago, I tried my best to practice slow paced living. I personally define a slow life as doing things consciously and intentionally. Although it is difficult especially we were trained to do things quickly, we should know how to pause, slow down and ask ourselves “why are we doing this?”.

Yesterday I was in a coffee shop where I usually read a book, write on my journal and eat breakfast. Sometimes I do those 3 activities at the same time because I write quotes from the book on my journal. But I tried a different route this time. I just ate my breakfast first without doing anything but enjoy the food and the Americano in front of me. No cellphone. No book. Not even an earphone on my ear. Just the food. Surprisingly, there’s this very spiritual thing about being conscious, being in the present, savoring every bite of the sausage roll, and enjoying the bittersweet coffee from a coffee farm in God knows where. For the first time in a long time, I saw the smoke coming out of the freshly baked bread and the simplicity of it made me happy. In slow living, we get to appreciate and we finally get to experience fascination with the small things around us.

Of course, I am not expecting myself to sustain this kind of lifestyle all the time because let us face it, we live in a vey fast paced society. But I am going to try my best to find those moments where I can slow down, take a breath, return to the present moment and to focus on what is happening now.

I recently had a chat with a friend and he was telling me that he felt sad because he cannot answer the question “what do I want to do with my life?”. I guess I cannot answer the same question because “existential crisis” is real especially if you reached this age. And a lot of us still can’t answer that, even the elderly and wise. But the practice of living slowly allowed me to enjoy what is happening now and the question about the “purpose of my existence” does not matter anymore.

I hope you have a great slow day today!