Monday, 1 October 2012

Food Glorious Food

Over the last two years I've been absolutely addicted to food. It's always on my mind, what/when/where will I eat next. Food glorious food.

This is my favourite burger. It's the best burger in Bangkok and I should know because I've tried all of them. A freshly baked bun with a 180g patty made from Black Angus rib-eye and short loin, covered in cheddar with cripy bacon, caramelised onions, crisp lettuce and mayo. I would marry this burger if it was legal.

I've lost count of how many of these I've eaten. I don't even have to visit the restaurant because they deliver them to my door. How could I possibly resist?
The (down)swings in poker can be hard to deal with, especially when playing high variance games such as 6-max PLO or hyper turbo SNGs. Don't get me wrong, I don't go on crazy mad tilt like some of you guy who are smashing monitors and mice. I'm more like a spoilt child that's had his toys taken from him, moping around thinking "fml" and "this is so unfair".

I've almost always dealt with the sadness of a losing session by doing two things I love; eating a heavy meal and getting a massage. I've had a lot of large delicious meals and a plenty of relaxing massages.

This is my usual breakfast buffet munch at the Sheraton Grande hotel down the road. A place I've visited after many all-night poker sessions to commiserate my losing poker session, or even to congratulate myself for grinding out a nice upswing.

I have to walk past several places where a set breakfast is reasonably sized and costs $2 to go to the Sheraton and spend $30 to eat like a glutton. Doing it wrong?

My other favourite thing to do when I'm tilted, or just because I want to, is to get a VIP reclining sofa at the cinema for the first showing at around 10:30am on a weekday morning when the cinema is empty so there's nobody to annoy me. I'll take a massive bag of food in with me to lay there and munch, munch, munch.

In Bangkok all the big malls have a supermarket, restaurants and a cinema in the same big building so I usually get my cinema ticket and then go buy chocolate, Kettle Chips, Butterkist popcorn and Japanese ice cream sandwiches from the supermarket, then a milkshake from the New Zealand ice cream stand and lastly a twister wrap and popcorn chicken from KFC.

I'm not sure if you're allowed to take your own food into the cinema but rules are always made to be broken in Thailand. I did get an awkward look once from one of the employees as he checked my ticket and I was standing there with a bag that smelled strongly of KFC. I think he would have had to kill me to get it out of my hand though.

My breakfast buffet and cinema munches would always elevate my mood. Since the munching did make me feel better it was an easy go-to solution when feeling less than happy. But the cost of this immediate gratification is my long term health, rapid weight gain and being less productive due to sleeping so much or feeling sluggish.

At the start of this year I was the heaviest I've ever been in my life. I bought some scales on the second day of the year and weighed myself in at 95kg (15 stone or 210 pounds). I remember being absolutely shocked by that number. I knew that I'd put on a fair bit of weight but just didn't realise how much.

I was curious as to what my BMI (Body Mass Index) was so I used the calculator on the NHS website. My weight and height (181cm) gave me a BMI of 29. Again, it was a moment of shock. A BMI of 30 would make me officially obese, and I was only a few burgers away from reaching that point.

That is when I made some new year resolutions in the form of a couple of lifestyle changes. For one I stopped eating dessert with every meal.

And for two I started doing some exercise. I had gone a whole year without doing any exercise what so ever. Zero. None! Shameful, especially considering that my condo has a swimming pool and gym that I can use to get some good exercise without even leaving the building.

I started doing a bit of swimming or jogging in the mornings a few times a week. Combined with not eating 3-4 cakes every day, that got me on the right track. I was still eating lots of bad (but ohhhh so delicious) food, but was burning off more energy than I was eating.

Since January I'd lost a total of 12kg. 10 days ago I weighed in at 83kg. That is only slightly overweight rather than almost obese. Losing an average of 1.33kg per month while still eating like a pig isn't bad, but still, I want to lose more weight (fat!).

I've now decided to take weight loss more seriously and set a target and plan of action. I've always felt in my best shape when I've weighed around 70kg, so that is my target, to get back down to my normal 70kg weight. 70kg also happens to be bang in the middle of the 'healthy weight' range for my height based on BMI.

And my plan of action, a raw vegan diet.

What is a raw vegan diet? Unprocessed raw plant food. Nothing heated over 40c. So basically a lot of uncooked vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. No meat, no dairy, no sugar, no bread, no cooked grains.

I chose this diet over a conventional calorie-restricted diet because I not only want to lose weight but I also want to feel better. I've been feeling very sluggish of late and have been sleeping between 9 and 10 hours per day. This is a good opportunity to cleanse and repair my body by only consuming the food that is beneficial to it and easy to digest.

I've already been eating only raw vegan food for 10 days now. Almost immediately I went from sleeping 9 hours to sleeping 6 hours per night. I've lost 3kg and now weigh 80kg, a healthy weight. I'm now 15kg below where I was 9 months ago and well on my way to my 70kg goal.

The first five days for me were pretty rough both mentally and physically. My stomach was constantly sore with hunger and the only thing that I could think about was food. It's no exaggeration when I say that I spent the majority of those five days doing nothing but daydreaming about those delicious burgers, chocolate bars, medium-rare steak with a nice peppercorn sauce, nachos covered in melted cheese with sour cream and guacamole.... *drool*

It completely killed my September poker grind where I was putting in some heavy volume. I'm disappointed about that but it makes sense to put health before wealth.

Now after 10 days the cravings have gone. I look and feel noticeably better, have lots of energy and I'm thinking much more clearly. I never feel hungry as my stomach is always full of green stuff. I always eat when I'm hungry, without fail. I'm not attempting to eat less food, only to to eat lots and lots of the right foods.

Two things have made raw veganism very easy for me, and I probably wouldn't be able to stick to this diet without them.

One is the gourmet supermarket which has a great salad bar. So I don't need to prepare anything, I just fill a big box full of seven different leafy greens, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, onions, red/green/yellow peppers and a bunch of different seeds. I get two big boxes of that stuff every day (0.8kg each) and just eat from the box with the plastic knife and fork they give me, so I don't even have to clean up.

They also sell a large variety of cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices that are made fresh each day, wheatgrass juice that is made to order, and packs of prepared fruit. So I've been taking advantage of all that. No hassle and no clean up, making me a lot more likely to stick to this diet.

The second thing is the existence of a spa retreat close to where I live that has a raw vegan restaurant and a shop that sells raw vegan snacks. Without that place my meals would be extremely boring. They are really creative and passionate about raw vegan food and what they are able to create without any cooking is very impressive.

One of my favourite light meals. Tomatoes stuffed with a savoury nut and carrot pate.

And they even have desserts. This is a raw vegan Banoffee Pie (made from banana, walnuts, dates, cashews and raw cocao) that tasted delicious.

So I'm actually enjoying desserts once again! Their shop also sells raw vegan cookies (made from apple, raisin, almond, sesame, cinnamon and vanilla) so I still have some nice snacks to take to the cinema with me.

I will try to stick to eating 100% raw vegan food until the end of October and then re-evaluate things. I may then decide to add cooked vegan foods, then sashimi, then cooked fish into my diet then take it from there. I'll see where I'm at at the end of the month and then decide.

I did have a couple of bad poker sessions recently but dealt with my deflated mood by going for a long run or a swim, followed by a nice massage. So I'm elevating my mood by doing something that is long term constructive rather than destructive.

One big issue will be sticking to the raw vegan diet when I travel. I want to do a proper trip to Cambodia soon (as opposed to the border runs that I do) and it would be extremely difficult to stick to the diet during that time. I may have to figure out some compromise, probably by making my trip short and/or eating vegetarian.


  1. Hey,

    That sounds great and I wish you luck and success in you journey!

    Just keep in mind that BMI is an inherently flawed and simplistic measurement that oversimplifies body composition to the point of an almost meaningless number. Just make sure you get to a weight that feels good for you personally not just because it is a good weight for your height. Although it sounds like thats your plan anyways!

    Just for an example: BMI would classify many endurance athletes (not only elites) as being anorexic, and would classify many power athletes and most anyone who is into bodybuilding (increasing greatly in the average population) as being over weight and maybe even obese! Since of course that system doesn't equate for the lean body mass or BF% so you can get these erroneous scenarios that are not really all that uncommon.

    Most importantly just monitor you BF% (want to stay between (maybe 12)10-6% ideally) as that is a MUCH more important factor to your overall health than your height to weight ratio, and its not even close.

    Best Wishes!

    1. Thanks for the advice man.

      I did already know that stuff about BMI and was going to put it in the blog, but it was already very long.

      I've never been a marathon runner or a muscle man and I can see how BMI is just useless (and actually laughable) for most athletes. But I think for people like me (normal average Joes) BMI is a decent indicator in the absence of anything better. Most people know their height and have a way to weigh themselves easily but no readily available way to accurately measure their body fat percentage so it is what it is, a really simplistic guideline for the average person.

      The fact that I looked and felt my best when I was bang in the middle of the healthy weight range on the BMI scale is the reason I refer to it. It seems to be a good guideline for me.

      I was thinking about getting a body composition analysis done. One of the hospitals here has a DEXA machine and a scan costs $130. Not sure if worth the money, or what I can do with the information it gives me? What do you think, good idea or is there something better?

    2. Hey sorry I didn't see this until now. Your assessment of BMI definitely makes sense and I think that is the most appropriate way of looking at it as well.

      As far as Body Composition testing, as far as I know there isn't alot you can do with the info other than just knowing how much body fat you are carrying around. I suppose you can use that info to alter your training and dietary goals however.

      I wouldn't say it is necessary for you to go get it tested for that much since you could buy a decent body composition bathroom scale that although not entirely accurate they provede you with a very good idea of where you are at and you can get a lifetime of use out of them (I would be surprised if the measurement was >1.5% off of your true body composition, depends on quality though).

      Anyways though I love hearing about any one who is taking action to get themselves un better shape so good on you! You seem to know what you want and don't mind working to get there. Just as a last note, remember, that even without testing of any sort you will have a pretty good idea of when you start reaching that "fit" body fat range of <10% just because of how you feel and look (no matter how vain it may seem) and that will serve as motivation in and of itself to help keep you at that level.

      Good Luck!

  2. Boo for no more pictures of lush looking unhealthy food, but grats on the health kick turn around!

    Currently cutting out a lot of unhealthy stuff myself, swapped regular coke for pepsi max, cut out crisps n chocolate, and limited takeaways to 1 or 2 per month, doesnt sound much and it's still hard lol but i've noticed the weight coming off too so even the smallest of changes can make a difference when trying to improve your health, something a lot of obese people should take note of! Keep it up :)

  3. that looks amazing

    the bun is the most underrated part of the burger and a really awesome one can take a burger to new heights

  4. Good to see that your putting your health first. I love poker myself and since playing seriously last year I've let myself go a bit and also reached a BMI of 30. Thought it was getting ridiculous when I couldnt walk without my thighs chaffing so I'm doing my best to exercise every week day at the Crown Casino gym where I work at, whilst I grind at night and trying to eat right. Your post gives me even more motivation to get fit so ty.

    1. Good luck man. Poker lifestyle makes it tough to stay healthy but if you make a concious and serious effort to look after yourself by eating right and staying active you'll be back in good shape in no time.

  5. where is that burger place? One thing I miss living in Thailand is a good burger. Only just found your blog, it's really good read a nice way to spent a friday afternoon at work :)

    1. It's called Firehouse on Sukhumvit 11.

      Hahaha sometimes I wish I had a job just so I could get paid for all the useless web surfing I do.