I have a notoriously bad memory. I can't remember ever craving Krispie Kreme donuts until they are on my "don't" list. But after 14 days of dieting, I am proud to say that I have lost my first 3 lbs. I have actually paid attention to what I am eating, changed my eating habits, and even paid attention to my cravings, weaknesses, slip ups, and willpower. Thank you Marty, even if you aren't that into me.
So, as much for myself as anyone else out there who is also working to drop a few, I'm going to say out loud what is working and maybe a word or two about what isn't.
1. No more convenience foods. Drive-thru is a thing of the past. I don't (and can't) trust myself to go through Burger King and order a grilled chicken sandwich. Besides, just the bun would bust my carb intake for two or three days. I don't even go through to get a diet cola. Too dangerous. Food is prepared at home, and until I can get a handle and trust myself, I'm not eating out with friends either. Sorry, Liv. Popcorn at the movie is all you now.
2. George Foreman is your best friend. If you don't have one of these, no fat grillling machines, get one. Chicken breast cooks without so much as Pam spray in less than 10 minutes. You can grill veggies on here, too. This morning, I am cooking onions, green peppers, and 2.5 lbs of chicken breasts, slicing them into chicken "tenders" and I use these to muscle up the protein content of salads. Plus, they are good by themselves. You can make any cut of lean meat lickety-split and without any added fat. It's a win-win situation.
3. You must measure. Portion control is impossible without measuring. Your eye will play tricks on you. Do you really know what 4 cups of popcorn looks like? Or a cup of spaghetti once it's spread out on a plate? I didn't. I was horrified to consider how much pasta I would normally eat in a meal. Or popcorn. So, I prepare no meal without three pieces of kitchen equipment by my side. The measuring cup, the measured teaspoon, and the digital scale. Yes, I had to buy a digital scale. I have no idea what a 6 oz. chicken breast looks like cooked or uncooked. Plus, I like playing with the tare function.
4. Cheating, with a twist. You can't do without some of the fattening stuff you love. For me, it's peanut butter. I am allowed 1 tablespoon with a piece of fruit once a day. Well, if I choose to have the fruit as my snack. I'm trying like hell to find a yogurt that won't kill my diet. But for all those other pound-producing love fests, substitute, substitute, substitute. I love pasta. Love pasta. I am allowed 1 cup of pasta or rice a day. First, I'm eating whole wheat pasta and brown rice. Love those complex carbs. Second, I am playing with alternative options. If I like noodles with my meal, I'm trying to see if piling my meat and sauce on a bed of grilled onions will satisfy my palate. It's weird, sure. Sort of like trading mashed turnips for mashed potatoes, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
5. Documentation. I have signed up for a free account on Fitday.com. I'm sure there are other equally great web programs for tracking calories and activities, but this is the one I happened upon first. Dedicating myself to keeping track of every single thing that enters my pie hole has prevented more cheats than I care to remember. Oh, I don't think it's numbers are spot on (either for calorie counts or calories burned in activities), but it is keeping my thinking about what I'm eating, motivating me to get to the gym, and satisfying my desire to science up my diet and exercise plan.
6. Information is power. Last week, I signed up for and got a metabolism test at the rec center. It has given me power over my diet and exercise program. With this information, I now understand what it is going to take to lose weight. As an added benefit, the people who interpreted my test for me also gave me a timeline and generalized calorie count necessary for me to meet my goals. I really dig this level of control over what I'm doing. No longer is losing weight a mystery. I can actually calculate how long it is going to take me to lose that next 5 lbs and how big of a setback a slice of Quatros pizza is actually going to be.
7. Confess. Tell everyone you know you are on a diet. They will probably do two things. Offer to go on a diet with you or support you in every way possible. They will stop offering you cookies, cakes, and their leftover chicken carbonara from lunch. If everyone knows you are on a diet, you are much less likely to bring macaroni and cheese for lunch. Don't underestimate the power of peer pressure, at any age!
8. Find a gym buddy. It's a hella fun and hella less intimidating to exercise with a buddy than alone. That first day alone in the free weight room, I felt like a scared puppy. Now Bin and I, or Jeremy and I, or Tammy and I waltz in like we own the joint. They also encourage you to go regularly. I have also begun to see exercise as a vital part of my day. As much a "must do" as going to work, doing research and other stuff that I won't think of blowing off.
9. That's a no-no. Some foods that I have in my house are off limits for now. Bean and bacon soup. White flour pastas. Couscous. White rice. Baked goods. That doesn't mean I'm throwing them away or giving them away. I'm just not eating them until I meet my goal. Oh, I gave away the chips, the ice cream, and other things that won't last 8 months until I'm svelt late this summer. The rest of it sits in my cabinet awaiting the day when I can increase my calories per day by 200-400 and still maintain my weight.
10. Plan to cheat. I plan when I am going to go off my diet for a day. It gives me something to look forward to, it gives me the willpower to get through today, and it teaches me to delay culinary gratification. Tomorrow, I'm making home-made pizza. A girl can only be good for so long. But my controlling what goes in the pizza and down my gullet, I can cheat without breaking the bank.
11. Decide what you are going to eat before you enter the kitchen. If I open the pantry or fridge and hope inspiration will hit, probably what is going to hit my lips is a snack. If it is in front of me, I will eat it. If I figure out what I'm eating, I go to the pantry and pull out the ingredients and then I shut the pantry door. That's it. Nothing else gets out.
12. If I make enough for leftovers, I plate it up as a complete meal at the same time as I'm preparing my plate, and popping the rest in the fridge. The next meal is prepared, ready to go, and out of my line of sight. It was no more trouble than plating food up for a dinner companion. If I wait, sometimes a bite or two finds it's way onto my plate and suddenly I have that "well I might as well finish this, it's not enough for a second meal anyway" excuse to polish off two servings instead of one.
13. Control sweets. Protein shakes in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry keep me off the cookies and candy route. A little bit in some light soy milk and I feel like I've really indulged.
14. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't point out, that as a foodie, I cannot just eat Egg Beaters plain for breakfast. I have been playing with all sorts of ways to make those indispensible diet foods palatable. Egg Beaters with onions and peppers and a generous sprinkle of dried chipotle pepper will go a long way. Couple that with a ruby red grapefruit in season and I defy you to find a more satisfying breakfast for a winter day.
15. Presentation. I plate up on salad plates. I want my plate to look full. I also want it to look good. So I work on making my food look appetitizing.
16. Clean up the kitchen as soon as you are done eating. If I leave dirty pans on the stove or dishes piled in the sink, the kitchen doesn't really feel "closed". And an open kitchen is one that is open for eating. If the kitchen is clean, I get this...."do I really want to dirty this place up again?" feeling that keeps me moving on to some other activity.
Ok, enough of my drivel. If you have any ideas for making dieting more efficient and more bearable, please...comment away. I have to run. The gym awaits. As does my research.