The Diet (but not Dieting) Plan
As part of this project (and what I was doing before) I am trying to improve my diet, but I am not planning on dieting (Atkins, south beach, smoothies, WW, etc).
While I have seen friends, colleagues and family have short- to medium-term success with some of these different diets, most seem to fall off the wagon at some point and balloon back up (but then again, so have I otherwise I wouldn’t be having this blog). Some of the programs are just too restrictive over the long haul.
In addition, my wife is a near life-long vegetarian, which limits the types of meals I am likely to see for dinner (more grains, less protein than ideal) since I can’t in good conscience ask her to cook up some chicken or steak for me, and I work fairly long hours such that it’s not practical for me to cook when I get home. I also work in an industry and at a management level where packed lunches are uncommon, and it would seem odd for me to so (potentially to the detriment of my career), so I am typically purchasing lunch from cafeteria, chain, deli, etc.
So my goal with diet is to eat sensibly, within a framework any person would consider normal, but without eliminating classes of foods or doing something I can’t maintain over the long-term. This also means, I am willing to allow a treat (ice cream, taco bell, cake, etc), but to try to make sure it is not an everyday thing and that it is something I will genuinely enjoy for the calories rather than eat and forget, as well as negotiating between treats on offer to the best one.
One thing I have largely eliminated in the last few months is soda. I had already made the switch to diet decades ago, so it was not an empty calorie thing, but to make room for lots more water and vitamin drinks. I used to drink 2-4 liters a week at home of soda, as well as 1-2 cans/bottles at work per day. Now I perhaps drink 2 glasses a week if I am in the mood or for lack of a better option (some places really have terrible choices). I drink water, water flavored with a touch of mio, sobe lifewater or vitamin water (but only the zero cal drinks, not the sugar heavy ones), unsweetened tea or crystal light diet iced tea. (Oh and coffee in the morning. None of this would be possible without coffee).
My current weak spot with large room for improvement. I eat breakfast at work when I get in (typically around 7:45 am), not at home, as I am simply not that hungry when I first wake up, and I already get up at 5:40 since I have a long commute (joys of living in the greater NYC metro area). I couldn’t get up any earlier to fit in breakfast. For years, I stocked several boxes of cereal at my desk (2 healthy ones, 1 treat one which I rotated each day) and a 6 ounce cup of coffee. A second cup was had mid-morning. On Fridays, I would let myself have a bagel or a breakfast sandwich.
However, in my current job/location, unfortunately, both milk and coffee are erratically available at that time of the morning, mostly not. So now I am getting breakfast from the cafeteria, which is packed with cheap lousy options or ridiculously overpriced healthy ones ($4.50 for a fruit/yogurt cup and it’s not clear if it’s low-fat yogurt). So I have fallen into the bad habit of having a bagel with cream cheese and a 20 ounce coffee (plus another 6 ounces mid-morning still).
I am working on cutting back the amount of cream cheese I put on, but I need to find a better answer based on what’s available.
Generally doing pretty well here. I probably eat a low-cal Cosi salad and piece of bread a few times a week which are all in the 400-600 calories a day range. Other days I often get sushi/sashimi which comes out to around 300-500 calories. If we do go someplace completely unhealthy, I try to enjoy it while minimizing the damage.
For example, recently went to 5 Guys because a friend wanted to celebrate a new job by having lunch there. I’ve been there before, and I know the double burger is overkill and I don’t actually like the fries (which are pretty unhealthy). So I had a little bacon cheeseburger with a few toppings, unsweetened tea and some free peanuts for around 700 calories. Not great, but way better than 2,000 – 3,000 for lunch, and I enjoyed it pretty much just as much as I would have enjoyed the double burger/fries. Similarly, I still love Taco Bell, but I try to avoid the volcano burritos these days (800 cal by itself).
My biggest change in the last few months. Typically, I don’t get home til about 7:30 pm. My wife and kid have usually eaten beforehand (tough making a 4-year-old wait til 7:30 for dinner, especially since she’s in bed at that point). Usually my dinner is there ready to be microwaved to new fresh hotness.
Often my wife has already portioned it out on a plate for me, but she is overly generous despite many years of me asking her to cut back on what she gives me. As a kid I grew up being told to eat what’s on my plate, and I continued to do so for most of my adult life.
Now I am quite consciously taking the plate and portioning off one-third to half the amount depending on what the meal is to not eat, trying to generally keep 100% of the vegetables. I still feel full once I’ve taken a moment to pause after eating and I’ve taken responsibility for it instead of trying to get my wife to be responsible for my eating habits.
For years I tended to have a mid-afternoon snack. It went from being absolute junk (snickers, doritos, etc.) to the best junk I could get (baked potato chips, twizzlers, etc.), but still junk. About a year ago I finally cut out my mid-afternoon snack fairly completely. It was still 150-300 calories each day I didn’t need, and can’t afford. I still have a flavored drink at that time which fills me up.
I have also improved my evening snacking habits. I used to have one every night, usually more chips or cookies or ice cream. I have been slowly improving in this area. I don’t have a snack every night, but more if I feel I deserve one, and I have been generally behaving food wise. A small indulgence occasionally to help fend off cold turkey/binge crash cycle. I also try to have better snacks, or smaller portions. I am having fruit more often, though that is still only moving from never to rarely.