Monday, December 14, 2009

What I did right: food/eating

Same disclaimer: The list of things I did right aren't necessarily things I advocate. They are things that worked well for my particular personality and lifestyle - so they were right for me.

Spent a lot of money on food, despite financial hardship
I spent a lot of money and contributed to a lot of global warming buy buying a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I also bought prepared foods where they helped - "just salmon" and "just chicken" from Trader Joe's for salads and healthy sandwiches and some pre-cut things like mango spears, and cut, peeled but raw butternut squash. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, TJs isn't that expensive when compared to Whole Paycheck, so looked at that way it's not bad, but in tems of some of the eat local, save money goals I just felt that I would work on those goals after reaching my goal weight - which I kind of have done but not to any extensive result - mainly because the two goals of eating local and saving money are pretty much in opposition to each other. I did spend an awful lot of money at farmers' markets, but the produce was worth it. Also when you think about the costs of being unhealthy, developing diabetes, missing work, etc. the extra money on food isn't that much.

I didn't eat out much.
I saved a ton of money by not eating out much. This helped compensate for the money spent above. It is almost impossible to eat out and eat low points - especially because I was eating 5 pt dinners for a long time. Restaurants use so much butter, olive oil, salt, sugar...even a few bites can kill your day. Not to mention the traumas of a hot bread basket taunting you while you're starving and waiting for your entree. This topic has been written about a lot as well, by me and countless others but it seems to always bear repeating that not eating out more than once a week is a major benefit when dieting.

Let cravings determine what I ate
I think I've written about this before, but basically I took the attitude that if I'm not eating much, it damn well better taste good and be what I want. I really became quite narcissistic about my wants and desires. Since I do the cooking and shopping and Dave is flexible it didn't really impact anyone else. When necessary I made the kids separate meals. For me this tactic worked really well. Other people find the plethora of open-ended choices too overwhelming and would rather work off of a pre-determined menu. Purely a personality type kind of thing. I wouldn't advocate one way or the other but I would say you should think about what will work best for you and choose a mechanism. Does it make you feel better to know that Wednesday is fish taco night or do you enjoy peering into the fridge and deciding at 5 what kind of night it is?

Didn't eat too much of any one food - kept taste buds invigorated
This one I detailed here....but basic idea is after a while you are bored with what you're eating if the portion is large. This is true for high and low-calorie foods. I took this idea from the book, "French Women Don't Get Fat."

I massively reduced my sugar intake.
I have gone on about this before but let's just say sugar begets sugar. The more sugar you eat the more you crave. Additionally, it is metabolized super-quickly and leaves you hungry. There is much written about this by people far more educated than me (see David Kessler, M.D.) so I won't go into much detail except to relate my own experience - and that of my friends. I had tried periods in the past of cutting out desserts and it always resulted in a 3-4 lb drop.

This new effort resulted in a much more precipitous drop in sugar intake. After realizing how hungry I felt after wasting calories on sugar I reduced my intake until I ate almost none - for several weeks. It wasn't so much a conscious decision to eliminate sugar but more a series of small daily food choices made to stave off hunger...I realized that sugary foods, even prunes, used up all my points, leaving me hungry so I just kept avoiding them. For a while I couldn't even stand the sweetness of an apple or a prune or God forbid a cookie. They tasted so lip-puckeringly sweet that it made me cringe. Now I eat some sugar, and I find I'm really addicted to those sweet habits. Very pavlovian. Sometimes I feel I should break those habits just for the sake of it. The sugar I eat now is sweetened Kashi cereal in the morning or after dinner, just a big with unsweetened shredded mini wheats, soy chocolate milk in my coffee, a couple tiny cookies after dinner, the natural sugars in fruit or milk and a couple bites of dessert at parties, if they are really good.

Cut out all bad habits for 2 weeks-especially mindless snacking.
As previously mentioned I cut out all bad habits completely at the start of this, probably for 2 weeks or so. Breaking bad habits for me was essential. I was doing many of them without thinking...especially the mindless snacking when in the kitchen, around the kids' leftovers, cooking, etc. I was eating an enormous amount of points that way without realizing it. I tried hard to stop this altogether, although I still cook by tasting so this is tricky, and I am sometimes starving when I'm making dinner. I try to eat carrots with a bit of hummus to tide me over to actual dinner time. This is a habit that easily creeps back in if I'm not really conscientious about it. I have pre-set snack times and amounts, which helps a lot, but on hungry days, I may add a few handfuls of cereal or a few nuts and then it can be easy just to slide back into mindless snacking. I still have to watch myself here.

Cooked a lot-experimented with vegetables, beans a lot
This has been the subject of multiple previous postings. I always enjoyed cooking except in the period where I was seriously toddler-challenged or pregnant and smell-sensitive/exhausted. But I newly embraced more weekly planning, more vegetarian cooking, more using beans. I was also working on the goal of getting my kids to eat more vegetables so I did a lot of experimenting with cooking vegetables in various ways. I think I may have mentioned that I began working more, as the kids were in camp/school more so the meal planning was necessary not just for the dieting but also because I had less time at home.

I took Saturdays off!
This really could go in the general post but a) I already published it and b) I didn't take a break from exercise - just eating and more imoprtantly counting. If I had a week-night event I wouldn't take Saturday off, or I would just be a little more lenient, but usually social events are on Saturdays anyway. Taking Saturdays off took some work to get right. I would look forward to it way too much and then it wouldn't live up to my expectations. What could possibly be that good? Or I would overdo it and feel sick (only a couple times). Or I would blow it on bad food. It does require a bit of thought to make sure Saturday indulgences are worth it and it also is necessary to make sure not to be so strict during the week that I felt super-deprived by Saturday. But I've been in the groove on this one for a while now. Partly I'm not as strict anymore, partly I'm not as driven by food anymore, and partly I have my things that I love that I regularly turn to. I've also gotten pretty good at not counting but kind of sort of a little bit in the back of my head making sure I don't go overboard. At this point, I can't eat a huge gluttonous meal - it makes me nauseated. So generally now I am less strict on Saturday and Sunday but neither day involves a huge ice cream sundae.

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