What kind of a foodie are you? Know yourself before you start a diet

I am a visual foodie.

Yes, I know that food’s more about taste for some people and for others it is about smell, but I am absolutely in the visual bucket. If it looks good, but does not taste great (as in not perfect, with extra salt or the texture is too grainy, coarse, slimy, etc.) I’d eat it.

I am not much into taste is what I figured out early on. I can make out if the food’s got a lot of something – like chilies, salt, pepper, etc. but I dont care too much (within reason) about taste. I was told food was a blessing, so you’d better eat, say your prayers and move on.

I know a few friends who are very much into food that smells good. Which is why they have a tough time going near a Starbucks or a Subway and not ordering something to drink or eat, even if they just had a meal.

The first part of trying to get to your correct weight is to make sure you understand what type of foodie are you. If you are more visual then try to look for ways to avoid being in front of food a lot, or viewing Food TV or watching others order food at the cafeteria. Stick to the same 3-4 things to “condition” your brain to love only those visual cues.

The second typecasting of the type of foodie are you is to put yourself into the 3 buckets of “Thrill seeking foodie”, or “Comfort food foodie” or “Constant cravings foodie”. These are my own categorizations so they are by no means scientific. I think, most people who love food, would fall into one of these three buckets.

The “Thrill seeking foodie” looks for new things to eat or experiments with new types of cuisine all the time. They seek new dishes and viands constantly. They are your friends who are the first to scout the new restaurant in your neighborhood. They always know what to order in the new place you have been to. They have tried multiple “alternatives” and “substitutes” in each recipe and they buy the gourmet foods all the time.

The “Comfort food foodie” prefers the tried and tested, because it reminds them of a time and place they loved. They are your friends who order the same pasta or “palak paneer” or “sambar rice” at every restaurant they go to. They would tell you about the best place to eat their favorite food, and would always order their favorite dish the first time they visit a new restaurant to “compare” it to what they make at home or what their mom made.

The “Constant craving foodie” always has cravings for anything food related. I fall into this bucket. I can eat any time. Rarely am I “too full that I could not eat a morsel”. That’s because I have a very diverse interest in food and I am willing to try anything once and see if I like it. This type of person likes particular foods, but has a soft corner for certain flavors, textures and spices. For e.g. I have a soft spot for lemon. Put lemon in anything and I am a sucker for it. Similarly I love crunchy or hard textures in my food compared to soft. Even in rice and bread.

If you want to lose weight, the one thing you have to do is control your portion sizes more than your diet.

Here is the unfortunate part of weight loss.

If you stick to your calorie intake regardless of the type of food, you’d still lose weight.

You’d be not very healthy, but you’d lose weight.

That means that if you only ate cookies, candy and junk food daily, but were under your calorie requirement for the day, you’ll still lose weight. As I said, you’d be very unhealthy very soon, but you’ll lose weight fast.

In the weight loss department, one calorie is one calorie. Whether it comes from fat, carbohydrates, proteins, sugar, etc. does not matter. Any calorie is a calorie.

Visual foodies who constantly crave food, have the worst of all worlds. If they see something good that looks appealing, then they have to try it.

Here’s the problem with “trying it”. I was coached by my mom to “never waste any food” at all. That meant I always ate everything on my plate, even if I was full.

My stomach obviously said “no more”, but my eyes were like “that needs to be finished”.

So the best way for me to avoid eating things that I “loved” but knew were going to be bad in the long run was to eliminate them completely.

If, however you are a “thrill seeking foodie” who cares more about taste, than how the food looks, you can possibly “sample” many foods, without having to eat a lot of it.

If you are a “comfort food foodie”, then finding substitutes for the high calorie items with same tastes but lower calories might help.

If you are a person who cares a lot about smell, then just walking though the food aisle, smelling the “high calorie food that you love” but substituting it by eating the low calorie foods that are healthy for you will help.

Bottom line, you will have to adopt the strategy that works best for you depending on your archetype.

16 proxy signals that a contrarian uses to tell if the valley is in a “bubble”

I am only posting this half in jest. Someone out to track these metrics to see if the bay area is really in a bubble.

1. Cost per hour you have to pay nannies to baby sit your dog (baby siting kids is such a dot com bubble era style relic). We all know that when there’s a bubble, the first thing folks do is to stop working “from home” and instead go into work. That means you need a dog sitter (Sorry, the hipsters call them nannies).

2. Traffic via cams: You can see real time traffic at 40 locations in the bay area and if you can see a car for more than 3 browser refreshes in 2 minutes, you know there’s a jam (or a bubble, but I am not judging)

3. Restaurant reservations: On average it takes 7 minutes and 4 calls by our admin to get a reservation in the bay area on Wednesdays for table for a team of folks for lunch on Friday. If however it is a bubble, it takes over 21 minutes and 15 text messages, 2 smoke alarms and then a give-up and zerocater.

4. Cost of an SF airbnb rental: This is an easy one, with prices going from $189 to $279 (what,that’s more than the Residence Inn, but hey you are couchsurfing), it is easy to tell when the bubble hits.That’s when prices go from inane to insane.

5. Sales of khaki pants (preferred choice of MBA graduates). the bay area has 43 GAP stores which sell khaki pants. If you visit at least 15 of them and find out that > 60% of them are out of size M pants which have a waist size of 30 – 34, then you have a bubble.

6. Average # of people waiting in line for a Starbucks. Snaking beyond a block is just ridiculous. Enough said. Or give up on Starbucks and head to Contraband coffee.

7. Length of time that new office leases are signed up for. The usual was 2 years during sign up. The dot com bubble took that to 10 years and I think we are near 10 year leases now.

8. % over the listing price that homes get bid in Palo Alto, Los Altos and even the lame homes in Almaden and Burlingame. (No offence to those cities, but really). If the bid is over 25% of the listing price and inching to 30% you have a pop.

9. Average time a local Realtor responds to your email. Most Realtors respond in less than 2 hours. During 2008 the time reduced to minutes. It is now creeping up to 1 hour again.

10. # of times you get rejected by “holiday” party venues because they are “booked” for all days in December until 2025.

11. # of holiday parties you get invited to: Your spouse has a party, you have a party and your friends invite you to their startup party because, well, just because. No, really, its because they can. So the party venues have a field time.

12. # of facebook pictures from friends of friends of holiday party pictures that clearly should not be on facebook.

13. Average amount of time it takes by car to go from 2000’s on Sand Hill road to 3000s. The signals on the cross street from 280 are sensor driven, so more than 3 minutes, means its champagne time!

14. # of notebooks (Macbook Air is now the preferred choice) open at the top restaurants for breakfast

15. # of holiday parties held in January because all the venues for holiday parties are booked in Nov and Dec.

16. Amount of time it takes for the discussion at any party you end up at “I have angel funded this startup” (meaning, they are using my basement or garage).

A #contrarian’s field guide to New Year Resolutions

TLDR; This field guide helps you set new year resolutions and help you achieve them by using both a top-down and bottom-up approach towards managing your energy and hence managing your time better.

To achieve you new year’s resolutions, I propose 3 steps:

1. Top down prioritization.

2. Bottoms-up audit.

3. Planning and scheduling your energy.

You have to both do a top-down prioritization and a bottoms-up audit towards goal setting, because the top-down alone will tell you what you want to do, and the bottoms-up will tell you what you are doing right now. The planning will help you then figure out where you are wasting your time and energy and where you need to focus it instead.

Lets do the top-down first.

There are 9 categories of goals people have as individuals according to me.

1. Relationships: The need and desire to be connected as humans with friends, family and other people at large. Examples include, getting married, making new friends, or spending more time with your siblings for example.

2. Career and Work: When you are a student it will be around “what you want to be when you grow up”, but it is pretty much the same as an adult. Work goals include promotions, improving communication – public speaking for e.g. etc. Starting a new business falls into this bucket.

3. Intellectual: These are for you to learn. Many people like to learn new languages, read books and expand their mind as part of this category.

4. Health: Keeping your body fit enough and in shape to be able to achieve what you think you can. Losing weight is the most common goal in this category followed by promising to quit smoking.

5. Financial: Making enough wealth to be able to afford the things you’d like to have as part of your life. You might have other goals in this

6. Spiritual: The quest to find your inner self, and the meaning of life, the universe, god, etc. The most frequent goal in this category is to find your inner peace.

7. Interests & Hobbies: Travel, learning a musical instrument etc. fall into this category. Going to an exotic place for vacation is the most frequent goal in this category followed by learning a new musical instrument.

8. Giving back and Social Goodness: These are for individuals who want to give back and help the less privileged. Most people volunteer at charities or non-profits / NGO’s to help them in any way possible.

9. Self improvement: These are to better yourself as an individual, making time to grow as a person (not intellectually, but emotionally). E.g. I will not get angry with my kids, or will not blame someone else for my problems. The quest to be a better person drives this category of resolutions OR the willingness to correct a character flaw.

Now that we have a comprehensive category list, I suspect you can add your own resolution – such as “I will be a nicer person” or “I will meditate more”, which will fall into one of these buckets.

After you put your resolution into the bucket, write it down – both the resolution and your category.

P.S. here’s a contrarian tip – NEVER have more than one goal. More on that later.

The reason I think you should start with categories, is that it will help you focus on managing your energy not your time.

Then the second task is for you to do a time audit for a week. This is the bottom up approach. The best way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with 1/2 hour slots from the time you wake up to the time you sleep.

Then put what you are doing in that 1/2 hour slot for 1 week. This includes time to bathe, eat, work, etc.

The next step is to categorize the time audit items into your categories above as well.

It is okay to put sleeping into health category. If you listen to podcast or listen to music during your commute then put it in the health or interests or hobbies category.

Then take the categories you have and add up the time per category.

Plot the category and time spent on a pie chart.

Most people are absolutely shocked when they do this exercise at this point. They find that 25-35% of their time is truly “wasted” – they dont do anything else when the sleep – which is why many successful people apparently sleep less – god bless them, but I cant. Or they are spending time bathing or eating, etc.

So you have a top down priority and a bottom up use of your time.

Step 3, is planning and scheduling: The planning should help you find a way now to schedule time on your calendar for the one new year’s resolution or goal you set.

You can do the scheduling on your calendar by alternative or better time management.

If something is a priority for you, then you better spend more time on it than anything else.

My rule of thumb is that you need to spend at least 35% of your time on the one New Year’s resolution you set for yourself. If you are unable to do that, then prepare to fail.

If you find many other things taking up your time, deprioritize them and manage your calendar like a manic and NEVER let other things “creep” in.

Please let me know if this works for you, but remember you have to do the top-down and bottoms-up part (which might take you a week if you dont know your calendar yet.

How to avoid eating useless junk when you are bored? #CalorieStickerShock

There are 2-3 times in day when I get bored for about 15-30 minutes. Usually that’s in between my scheduled work. Mid morning at about 10 or 11 am and again at about 230 or 330 pm in the afternoon.

Since I had been eating much less than my usual intake, I’d get hungry pretty soon and was unable to determine if I was really hungry or just bored. Either ways I would end up eating junk food with many useless calories.

I dont think I really have a problem eating when I am truly hungry, but the “eating when you are bored”, really bothered me a lot.

There are a few tricks I adopted to avoid adding calories and prevent eating when I was bored.

First, I’d drink really warm water. Closer to hot water than warm. Initially I had to take some herbal tea with it, but after a few weeks, I avoided even the tea. The reason why warm or hot water works compared to cold was it would take me longer to drink, by which time I’d get distracted with something else. Cold water just went in really quickly and I was “hungry again” within minutes.

Second, I eliminated many foods from my diet, because I felt they were truly wreaking my system. These were cakes, chocolates, cookies and the like. Easy to eat, but really hard to avoid. The way to eliminate them is not to buy or stock them at all. I now keep granola (Kind, with no additives) or plain nuts (Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, etc.)

Third, I scheduled meetings during my known “weakness zones”. Being engaged in a meeting let me focus on the work, or talk to someone, eliminating my “boredom eating”.

Fourth, I removed small change and avoided carrying cash. I found that I’d go to a vending machine (most dont accept credit cards thankfully) and grab something at least once or twice a week. Removing cash helped me go to the vending machine, but actually buy nothing.

Fifth, before I ate, I’d first check the calories that it would add on MyFitnessPal. Since I was in a friendly wager with 2 of my friends on who would be under the calorie goal for the most # of days, it was easy for me to get the “calorie sticker shock” from eating junk food and avoid it all together.

Sixth, I am known to be very competitive, so I enlisted 2 of my friends, to help message me during 11 am and 3 pm (We were on WhatsApp) to encourage me to stick to the plan. I did the same for them, and they were in a different time zone, so it worked out well. Erik’s lost over 15 pounds and he’s super fit now.

Seventh, I’d schedule my walking “to gain steps on FitBit” around the time away from my desk or from any food during that time. Since I carried no cash, I could not eat out anyway. The walking was a scheduled conference call with my direct reports or calls with entrepreneurs.This was another competitive thing I was doing, so I’d highly recommend that if you are into that sort of thing.

Eight, I’d sometimes chew gum. This was rare, because I dont like chewing gum, but on a few occasions it did help. I wont recommend it though.

I did not use all these techniques at the same time, but depending on the day and my sense for what would work, I’d use one or two of them.

The thing that worked best for me over time was “Calorie sticker shock”.

I am going to trademark that actually. If only everyone could see the # of calories that is in the junk food they eat, I believe most folks would make the right choice.

If eating a small bag of chips, plus on regular soda and one small cookie (Or one samosa, one masala chai and two biscuits in India, ) during your afternoon snack was known to add 500 calories of your 2000 calorie daily intake, I think most folks would avoid one or all three of those items.

What do I eat to manage an intake of less than 1500 calories daily

As I mentioned, I lost over 50 lbs over 25 weeks last year. My primary strategy was to eat less. 1500 calories or less daily. That’s the #1 thing you need to do.

I am vegetarian and love food, so this was a lifestyle change for sure.

The first thing I figured out was there were many “useless” calories I was taking in purely for the acquired tastes I had developed.

If there’s one thing you really need to control about your diet and you don’t want to do anything else, then eliminate your intake of processed sugar foods.

That in itself will reduce your weight, with no other dramatic changes by 10-15% in 3-4 weeks.

To hit 1500 calories, with as “normal” a schedule as possible, i.e. 5 meals – breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner, you have to ensure no meal exceeds 300 calories.

That’s a good rule of thumb to follow.

1. Breakfast: I have largely eliminated many foods: processed orange juice, peanut butter, coconut chutney, muffins, jellies and jams, etc. from my diet already. Surprisingly I don’t miss them anymore. My breakfast was usually one of 7 items -

a) Old fashioned oatmeal – cooked in water with 1/4 cup of milk (preferably fat free or almond milk),

b) 3 egg whites (only whites either boiled or omelet stye),

c) 1 piece of toast no butter,

d) 1/2 cup of vegetable upma,

e) 2 pieces of idli with milaga podi,

f) 2 dosas (no masala),

g) one piece of fruit – any fruit, with the normal serving size,

and either fat-free milk or Almond milk (this has the least calories, all the nutrition of regular milk and still fills you up).

Some days I would eat cereal (any cereal with the recommended serving size – I eliminated ones with extra sugar), but they were limited to 1 day a week.

These items rarely contribute over 300 calories, unless you go over the serving size.

Since I had to manually update MyFitnessPal after every meal, I was happy to reduce my food options and stick to these 7 items.

2. Morning Snack: I stuck to either fruit (grapes, or apple were convenient for grab and go) or granola for my morning snack. Sometimes I would have another glass of milk. Sometimes I substituted nuts (almond or walnut, plain, not salted).

3. Lunch: My lunch in India was 1 chapatti, 1/4 cup of dal (any dal), 1/4 cup of any green vegetable – cooked, 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/4 cup of rice and any amount of cucumber and carrots.

In the US, my lunch is the same every day – 4 cups of leafy greens – spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc. 1/4 cup of firm tofu, 1/4 cup of garbanzo beans, 2 Tbsp of dried, sweetened cranberries, 1 boiled egg white, 1/4 cup of red beets, 1/4 cup of cucumbers or green bell pepper, 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar – no other dressing or oil.

4. Afternoon snack – I would indulge in either nuts or I’d substitute a protein bar (290 calories max) – the ones I liked the most were Clif or Builders protein bar.

5. Dinner: This varied from one of 5 items:

a) Indian: 2 chapattis, 1/2 cup of any vegetable, 1/4 cup of any dal (rajma, channa, masur, toor, etc.) and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Some days I’d make some mixed rice (with vegetables or soy chunks). Once a month I’d eat a stuffed paratha.

b) Italian: 1/2 cup of pasta with more vegetables than pasta, OR 1 slides of pizza with limited cheese

c) Japanese: Vegetarian sushi 8 pieces and miso soup

d) Mexican: Taco salad, with no shell (lettuce, beans, salsa, etc), but I would not eat the taco or burrito.

e) Chinese: 1/2 cup of noodles, or 1/2 cup of stir-fried vegetables. Lettuce wraps were good as well, stuffed with Tofu or other vegetables.

This is pretty regimented. I know it wont work for all, but it worked for me.

I did have a nutritionist review my daily breakup of calories by food group (MyFitnessPal lets you do that) and she was pretty happy with the breakup of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats.

The only one thing you need to do to lose weight

I lost about 50 pounds over 25 weeks last year (2014). There were 3 things I did – a) Track what I ate with MyFitnessPal, b) Started walking, then running about 13 miles daily, tracking on FitBit and c) Fasting every Thursday.

Since I am data junkie, I kept trying to optimize all these 3 aspects of my weight loss.

If there’s one thing you must do to reduce weight it is this – eat less.

Much, much less, than you even think you need.

I had a nutritionist and my podiatrist who helped me throughout this process. I went from eating about 2200 -2300 calories a day to 1500 calories a day or less.

I found that even if you don’t workout or fast, if you eat less, you will lose weight.

If you want to lose weight and be healthy, then workout daily.

If you want to lose weight and do it quickly (about 2 pounds per week), then add the fasting.

How I lost 50 lbs in 25 weeks with no special diet or gimmicks

On June 23rd 2014, I weighed 174 lbs. On Dec 24th I weighed 125 lbs. It was a steady 2 lbs loss of weight each week, more or less.

I did not follow any special diet, like no carbohydrates, paleo, etc. There was no weight watchers or hitting the gym.

In fact I never once went to the gym the entire time except to check my weight on one occasion.

Moat folks who know me well, were not sure why I needed to lose any weight. I had a foot problem, though because of very poor footwear decisions which forced me to lose weight or stop playing sports. I chose to lose weight.

There’s one secret though. It was my discipline. Plain and simple.

I used two apps, recommended by my sister. One to measure my food intake and another to track my running.

First, I reduced my food intake from 2200 calories daily to 1500 calories daily over a 3 week period.

Second, I started running, starting at 1.5 miles daily to now consistently doing 13-15 miles daily.

Finally, I started to fast, all day on Thursdays. I only drank water. Starting with drinking only juices to milk and then over 4 weeks to nothing but water.

That’s it. I did not spend any money on diets, food, gym memberships or fancy weight loss programs.

Over 25 weeks of this helped me get down to 125lbs.