So…I’m trying a new approach to eating. Notice I didn’t say “dieting.” I’ve been successful at dieting a few times in my life. But each time I’ve concentrated on losing weight by “dieting,” I’ve been frustrated. I think that was less tied to giving up foods I love, more about disliking the process. I like food and I like eating. I’m a strange creature who actually enjoys going to the grocery and doing the shopping. One of my abiding interests is reading and searching for recipes. I read cookbooks and food sites like some people read novels. The process of counting every bite, or weighing food, or ordering food from a nutrition company all seem to sap the joy right out of the experience. I believe food is far too important in every way to turn it into an irritant.
I’ve been thinking about synthesizing the rules of healthy eating, the joys of eating, and smart eating, and trying to create a sustainable plan to follow. Here’s what I’m doing:
I like fruits and veggies, and it’s easy to eat a lot of those throughout my week. It’s more difficult to give up breads, sweets, and the ooey-gooey. These I find particularly appealing. The truth is, I never met a carb I didn’t like. Seems unlikely I’ll change at this point. But I can limit, if I can’t stop. So I’m doing the smart thing Monday through Friday. High protein, low carb, no sweets. I’ve found a protein fruit drink I’m enjoying, and I’m learning new smoothie recipes. Salads are great. I haven’t given up my morning coffee, but I’ve been good about everything else.
But weekends are back to normal. I can enjoy a burger and fries, or homemade bread, or mashed potatoes with dinner, or whatever, topped off with a little sweet treat. The key is portion control, always my friend. Years ago I realized I could eat small amounts of a dish…half a sandwich, a small bowl of soup, small servings of entrees… and be satisfied. Part of it is a mind game, and the rest is will power. That’s the best tip I have for long term weight management. As long as you’re eating a reasonably balanced choice of foods, I honestly believe weight control is more about quantity than anything else. And no snacking between meals or late at night. Sorry, but eating several small meals a day doesn’t really work for me…it just keeps me focused on food if I’m eating something every couple of hours. After dinner dishes are done, the kitchen is closed for business.
So, to sum up:
- High protein, low carb Monday through Friday.
- Portion control at all times.
- Eat what you want on the weekend, but limit serving size.
- Be honest with yourself, don’t sneak treats or bend the rules if you’re eating out during the week.
- Work out during the week. Whatever you can do is better than doing nothing.
- Drink water, hot or cold unsweetened tea, and protein shakes to stay hydrated and satisfied.
- Eat fresh and homemade as much as possible…salads, fruits, and non-processed foods.
A great rule of thumb for avoiding processed foods…if you stick to buying foods that your grandmother would have recognized as food, you’ll be ok. Standard advice: shop the outer aisles of the grocery.
Cut sodas. If you do drink a soda, don’t choose diet. Better to have sugar than an artificial substance. I feel the same about butter and margarine. Don’t get me started on that topic: it’s butter or nothing in my kitchen.
I can do a “diet” that only lasts five days at a time. Then, just when I’m really craving chocolate, or dying to try a new recipe from Pinterest, I can give in to that temptation for a couple of days. Sweet! I don’t feel too deprived, and I tend to bake and cook less during the week anyway. The weekend is when I really get into the kitchen, when we go out to dinner, or have friends over. With this system, I don’t have to impose restrictions on myself or anyone else…everything is on the menu if it’s the weekend! All I need to know is the day of the week.
This approach is mostly about being careful and thoughtful, but not rigid. It is definitely not vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or designed to address medical diet or nutrition issues, like diabetes. (That’s my disclaimer, by the way. No medical advice here, just some good old-fashioned food strategy.) One more suggestion, there’s a great free app that can help you manage your food choices. My Fitness Pal is a digital calorie counter and food diary. It can also track exercise. You can download the app for iPhone and Android phones and monitor your daily food choices and goals. Easy and no fees attached!
If you decide to try a five and two diet, let me know how it’s going. I joke sometimes that I’m going to do my “air and water” routine…heavy on the air, light on the water. But the truth is, I need just a wee bit more to chew on. I think this one will work for me. And in a few months, I’ll let you know how I’m doing. So far I’ve lost two pounds, don’t feel frustrated, and I’m optimistic that my willpower can hold out. Here’s hoping, anyway!