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Are gaming and healthiness mutually exclusive? We take a look at food, drink, fat, exercise and how they interact whilst trying to avoid getting too weighed down (sorry) in the boring, technical and blahblahblah of it all…
“When you’re younger you can eat what you like, drink what you like and still climb into your 26-inch waist trousers and zip them closed. But then you reach that age – 24, 25 – your muscles give up, they wave a little white flag and without any warning at all you’re suddenly a fat bastard.” - Arnold Judas Rimmer, Red Dwarf.
We’ve all done it. A bunch of mates around, controllers in hand, a few drinks and ordered-in takeaway scarfed down between prolonged bouts of button mashing. If you’re like many gamers, you likely don’t really think much about the consequences of what you’re eating as you’ve more important stuff to worry about. It tastes good, so it is good, right? Well, usually not in the real world – sucky, but true. If you’re scoffing at Rimmer’s cautionary tale above then we’ll assume you’re a young’un. Beware, however, for the hologram most definitely speaks the truth.
We promised not to get too technical, so we’ll try to apply the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. If you eat lots of fatty shit and don’t perform anything much at all in the way of exercise, then the food won’t be the only thing fatty in the room, you will be too. Remember the World of Warcraft episode of South Park where the boys went all spotty and bloated? That’s what we’re talking about.
Naturally there’s science to it, but as we wagged the day we had to cut up yellow-dyed rats in high school as it was too gross we’re also going to try to avoid getting too sciencematific. So where do we have left to go here? Well, erm…
Right. Your body requires a certain amount of input to allow it to continue outputting – and with ‘outputting’ we’re not just talking about waste products. Even if you’re veging on the couch in a dazed Killzone 2-fuelled fugue, you still need some energy to function. Obviously it won’t be as much as if you’re cycling to work or competing in sport or suchlike, which explains why most people start boombahing up when they regularly go the gobble on one of the Colonel’s three piece feeds between bouts of gaming without doing much else that doesn’t involve a couch underneath them. If you put more energy in than your body needs, it’s just going to hang around – usually over your belt.
Even when stationary, this is all complicated by other factors, including your height and your metabolism and yes, whether you’re a chick or a bloke. We all know those people who can seemingly chow down on enough food to feed a midsized African nation in a single sitting, and still look like Skeletor on a diet. These people are arseholes and deserve pain! Mercifully, they’re also quite rare. The safest way to avoid going the balloony belly is pretty much as simple as keeping an eye on what you stick down your throat in the first place (Oi! Stop tittering! And don’t snicker at ‘tittering’, either).
Relax. This doesn’t mean you have to start getting hip with chick peas, soy milk and tofu, although if they’re your thing then all power etc (bloody hippies!). The best way to maintain some form of healthy diet, at least from what we’ve found via real world experience, is to use a bit of moderation and some careful substitution, combined with a little exercise. Thankfully, there are ways of exercising which aren’t too soul-destroying, boredom-inducing or time consuming. Due to many factors on top of gaming, we recently boombahed up to that soul-crushing point where our BMI labelled us ‘obese’ (that’s ‘Body Mass Index’, a calculation made from your weight and height that tells you where, in theory, you’re at weight wise. Save doing the weird, fractiony maths involved by visiting here for a handy calculator: http://www.healthnetwork.com.au/weight-loss/bmi.asp. If you’re anywhere between around 18.5 and 24.9 you’re normal, 25-29.9 you’re overweight and anything over 30 then you’re the big ‘O’. No, we don’t mean Roy Orbison, smartypants!)
So, something had to be done, as stretchmarks are just NOT a good look! A combination of smaller portions for meals, and takeaway only once or twice a week combined with cutting alcohol intake (cutting, not deleting!), plus about 20 minutes of dedicated exercise per day has already reaped results without too much depression creeping in.
Exercise is boring, right? Well, generally yeah, but you can spice it up – and we’re not talking Wii Fit, which really isn’t a whole heap of use for attaining great gobs of weight loss, although the balance board thingy does make for a wicked-good set of scales. As we have a deep-seated aversion to sweaty boofheads, gym wasn’t an option for us, so we hauled an exercise bike up to the flat and plonked it within eyeshot of the TV. Your average half hour telly show is actually around 21 minutes when the ads are removed, which is plenty of time to clock up what would be a distance of 10 kilometres on a bike with wheels if you average around 30km/h. We’ve done this every night… uh, ALMOST every night… since New Year’s and have lost around five kilos. That’s whilst retaining a little fun in our lives with a glass or two of plonk per night, fish and chips once a week and usually a slap-up Indian meal or kebab another night. It’s been surprisingly non-painful. Five kilograms may not sound a lot, but if we can keep it up for a year then we’re looking at shedding around 30 kilos, which is considerable (and demonstrates how horrendously bloody gargantuan we’ve become!)
What can also help keep the ravages of time and sloth at bay is, as mentioned earlier, substitution. Whilst milk has great health benefits with all the calcium and suchlike, it’s full of fat. Nowadays you can buy low fat milk that doesn’t taste like water, which if you’re a big milk drinker can seriously save some ‘joules. Other things can make small differences, although beware of the word ‘light’ and the not really a word ‘lite’. These can be used rather bogusly by unscrupulous nosh peddlers – but sometimes products marketed as such can be helpful, if not the pillar of your quest for a balanced diet. We’re talking staples such as cheese, in particular. Into soft drink? Yeah, we know, some diet alternatives taste absolutely effing vomitous, but there are some that don’t. If you’re into cola you may already drink Pepsi Max without realising it’s just essentially Diet Pepsi but marketed as all cool and sporty and stuff. Swap that or Coke Zero for your full-fat Pepsis and Cokes and you’ll be making a sizeable difference in sugar – hence fat – intake, as you’ll find out further through this article. Also, beware of fruit juice, as it’s usually full of sugar. Fruit is good, but generally eaten in its original package...
Snacking is often the biggest culprit that works against battling the bulge. We’ve known people who constantly graze all day; like seriously they’ll eat brekkie, snack on the way to work, snack until morning tea, snack after it until lunch… etc. Then they wonder why they look like they were beached at their desks just waiting to be harpooned! Gamers are usually no strangers to snacking, so it may be one area of your intake to have a look at. That deliciously crumbly staple chips can be one of the biggest culprits for fatty overload, quite simply as they’re coated in fat. You don’t have to dump them from the yummy distractions list, but alternatives like Red Rock Deli or Kettle Chips and even rice chips can cut the fat without cutting the edibility. You may also find just eating less when you snack makes a difference. Most of us will keep grazing if there’s food plonked in front of us, so put less out in the first place and…
OK, so far so good, we think, in not making stuff too technical. Moderation, a touch of exercise and a modicum of caution all equals good, right? So how about some real world examples of the amount of fat some of your – and our – fave gaming drinks and meals actually clock up?
Just keep this simple formula in mind: one kilogram of fat = 7,600 calories. So, if you have one can of sugary soft drink at 160 calories per day, you’re adding around 7.5 kilograms on top of everything else you eat and drink in an entire year. You have two a day? The maths isn’t crippling there, that’s around 15kg for you to work off somehow. Much the same goes for beer. Suck back two tinnies a day and there’s another 15kg – and how many of us stop at two when on the piss with our mates? Also, remember how we warned that fruit juices can be insidious little buggers? Have a fruit smoothie from those places that seemed to instantly spring up a few years back every day for a year and you’re looking at around an extra 20kg! They’re not even great as meal substitutes, as a decent sanga can have half as much fat. MMMmmm, sangas. Food!
Yes, food. So what about Maccas? Do you usually grab a Big Mac, large fries and a softie? That’s about 960 calories in one go, which is about the equivalent of just one Whopper double beef from Hungry Jacks (they may be yummy, but…) or a KFC two-piece Dinner Box. What about the staple victuals of most every gamer – pizza? Your average Pizza Hut-styled offering clocks in at around 300 calories per slice. Yep, per slice – your average large pizza is made up of eight slices, so if you manage to plough through a whole one on your own that’s more or less your entire daily quota in one sitting.
Unfortunately it’s much more complicated than just counting calories though, simply as there are so many variables. Whilst many espouse certain figures that the average person needs to take in daily to essentially function properly, defining ‘average person’ is about as simple as nailing Chun Li with your eyes shut. Erm, when we say “nailing”, naturally we mean beating her, right? Where were we… ah, yes… it all comes back to the factors we mentioned earlier, such as height, existing weight, metabolism and gender. If you’re skinny-as and do stuff-all then you’ll need less intake compared to somebody who’s skinny-as and does heaps. If you’re already overweight, you’ll require less as you already have some stores there to burn through. Equate it all to a car and it kinda makes sense. If you have to go 400 kilometres you’re gonna need to put in enough petrol to get you that far. But if you only need to drive up the street, then you’re not going to need much juice at all.
Ultimately, if you’re leading a fairly sedentary lifestyle – and that includes those of us who jam ourselves behind desks all day jockeying computers, a common mode of employment for gamers – watching your weight really is just a matter of common sense. If you put too much shit in and don’t use any of it up, it’s going to stick around. But then, if you don’t put enough in you’re going to do damage too. So how do you win at this one? Just don’t overindulge all the time. You can also look for some alternatives – there are healthier home-delivered pizzas out there than da Hut’s hooray-for-carnivores meat, meat and more meat with meat on top feast, for example. Or you can make one yourself in stuff-all time – just pick up a frozen base from the supermarket and chuck some sauce, cheese and a few toppings on it and bung it in the oven for 20 minutes. If you’re into burgers, Maccas have succumbed to market pressures and now offer a few choices that aren’t just pure fat moulded into a bun shape.
The other very important thing is to know your body a bit. Kilogram creep is usually noticeable before it’s too late to do some fat zapping, as clothes just won’t fit quite right. If you feel it starting to happen then that’s the time to act with alternate foods, drinks and perhaps a reassessment of your exercisey activities. Those of you over 25 will likely know what we mean.
Oh, and for those thinking, “Meh, if I pork it on I’ll just get liposuction,” if you’ve actually seen how it’s done you might just put that leftover slice back in the box… Eww!
ALL WRITTEN CONTENT COPYRIGHT © AMY FLOWER 2008-2018. GAME IMAGES COURTESY OF RESPECTIVE GAMES COMPANIES.