Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My eating habits

I try to eat a variety of foods such that I don’t grow bored or feel deprived and get as good a nutritional balance as possible. I adjust the day’s meals to compensate for “indulging” a bit on a particular meal, and when I say "indulging", I don't mean eating some calorie bomb, but rather eating more than I usually would for that particular meal's calorie "allotment" for the day.

To give a typical example, most of the time, my breakfast is around 200 calories. If I have something which takes that total up to 300 or 350 calories, I will usually have a poached egg, whole wheat toast, and tomato for lunch. Eggs are nutritionally dense (good for protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals), especially if you consume the yolks. And yes, I always eat the whole egg, not just the white. The fat in the yolk is important not only for nutrients but to increase satiety. The cholesterol effects in eggs have been dramatically overstated (or completely wrong) for years. Eggs are also low in calories at around 70-90 each depending on size. When I have a bigger breakfast, they make a good adjustment at lunch.

My target calorie breakdowns tend to be:

Breakfast - 200-300 calories
Light snack - 100 calories
Lunch - 300-400 calories
Snack - 100-300 calories (average of 200)
Dinner - 400-500 calories

The total on the high end of these is 1600. That being said, I do go over sometimes because I will eat more if I’m really hungry and things don’t always work out as planned. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the numbers for each planned meal in these ranges, but I rarely exceed 1800 and often hit 1600-1700.

Typical breakfasts include:

Coffee with whole milk and sweetener (Splenda) or tea with low fat milk and Splenda with one of the following:
  • Whole wheat toast with reduced calorie fat spread
  • Homemade sugar free whole wheat banana bread (toasted and spread with fat)
  • Homemade low sugar blueberry whole wheat muffins or bread
  • Three small pancakes with butter, fruit (blueberries, usually) and reduced calorie syrup
  • Whole wheat toast with fat spread and one egg (fried or poached)
  • Half of a modest-size muffin or baked item (not a huge one) from a commercial bakery (around 150-200 calories)
  • One small donut or half a big one (usually around 200-300 calories)
The bakery items and donuts are rare. I have them when I really feel like having them, which tends to be about once every 3 weeks or less. They are a concession to a need not to feel denied or deprived, and there is generally a price to pay in that I tend to feel hungry earlier after having them. I know the consequences of the choice though, and can make adjustments to lunch accordingly.

Typical lunches include:
  • Poached egg with whole wheat toast and reduced calorie fat spread, homemade carrot or tomato soup
  • Chef’s salad (lettuce, turkey, cheese, tomato, full-fat dressing, croutons, onion)
  • Half a cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, made with reduced calorie fat spread and 2 ounces (about 200 calories) of cheese, homemade vegetable-based (usually tomato) soup
  • Small frozen pizza (250 calories) topped with leftover chicken and Tabasco sauce, vegetable soup, carrot slices
  • Tuna and pasta salad made with reduced calorie mayonnaise, vinegar, onion, and spices
  • Thinly sliced chicken grilled with cheese on whole wheat, homemade soup (tomato or carrot)
  • Chicken with a tomato and avocado salad
Typical snacks include:
  • fruit, though only if a meal is close coming in an hour or so because fruit can stimulate my appetite
  • Triscuits with an ounce or half ounce of cheese, a few olives
  • Fruit smoothies with frozen blueberries or bananas, low-fat milk, and crushed ice
  • Rice crackers
  • 50-100 calories of chocolate (2 Hershey's kisses-size treats, a bite-size candy bar, or a portion of something larger like one finger of a KitKat)
  • 60-150 calories of a salted snack treat
  • Triscuits and cottage cheese
  • carrot sticks
  • vegetable-based soup choice (whatever I have on hand or in the freezer)
  • consomme with some type of cracker
  • cottage cheese with pine nuts (which I really love)
  • baked tortilla chips or pita chips with salsa or some other dip
Typical dinners include:
  • Pasta with chicken meatballs and marinara sauce, green salad
  • Chicken breast (up to 6 oz.) with rice, steamed carrots or mashed squash
  • Lean portion of a pork chop with potatoes (mashed, baked, etc. – 200 calories worth), carrot, broccoli, grilled pepper, or mashed squash
  • Turkey burger which is served on a small bun with light mayonnaise, oven fries (either sweet potato or white potato), small green salad
  • Chicken with rice, tomato, carrots, or other vegetable.
  • burrito made with a mixture of ground turkey, refried beans, cheese, and vegetables
  • pasta with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and whatever sauce strikes my fancy, green salad
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It's just to offer a basic idea.

I eat a lot of chicken, because it is what I like. I'm not a fan of red meat. In fact, I have never really liked it and do not enjoy things like hamburgers or steak. This makes my life easier since white meat chicken is lower in calories than other types of meat. I'm not suggesting others follow this plan, but just finding a balance and incorporating what you want with what helps you reduce your eating.

My main goal is to make sure I spread things out so I’m not super hungry and end up eating something just because I’m too ravenous to control myself. This is the reason why there are multiple snacks. I also make sure to eat some fat and protein. Fat makes you feel sated and protein helps balance your blood sugar responses to carbohydrates like bread and potatoes. I like whole wheat bread (I actually prefer the taste to white) and it has more fiber and nutrients than white bread, but you can eat anything you want. This isn’t about force-feeding yourself healthy food, though obviously eating healthier will allow you more food volume while still staying in your allotted calories.

I also take a multi-vitamin and Calcium supplement nearly every day. It’s nearly impossible on a limited diet to get all the nutrients you need and I think that wasted vitamins are better than being under-nourished. Your skin and hair will look better if you take supplements while restricting what you eat.

The bottom line is that I'm not looking to "game" my body or trick my mind. I'm not looking for loopholes to stuff myself (well, unless you consider reduced calorie fat spread and Splenda "tricks" - I consider them "crutches" which can be replaced if I want when I've lost all the weight I want to lose) or convince my mind that that carrot stick is going to satisfy me when I want a piece of chocolate. I have a piece of chocolate, but I eat it very consciously and keep telling myself that more will not increase my enjoyment of it. In fact, less will maximize my enjoyment because my taste buds will have the initial experience which is the most intense and I won't feel awful afterward.

The bottom line for me is I don't want to be one of those people who goes out for dinner with people and they order whatever they want while she sits around sulking internally because she can't have what she wants. I don't want to resent my eating plan, but to see it as a guideline to help me eat normally rather than overeat. If we happen to find ourselves in a position to have really tasty-looking pizza, and I want some pizza, I'll have a slice or half a slice if it's one of those massive over-sized pieces. I'll research calorie counts before I go to wherever it is and work out what I can have and not go overboard, though frankly, I now have a very strong sense of what can be eaten and be within normal portion sizes even without research. I'll eat my portion slow and savor every bite, and I'll ditch the crust because it's not flavorful enough. I get what I want, and I don't feel bad or guilty.

Through time, I've managed to lose that feeling that I need more and more and more of a good thing to really enjoy it. I've also been able to become satisfied with smaller portions through gradual reduction of sizes. I don't want the biggest. I want the one which is just enough, and I don't want to stuff myself stupid with vegetables to fill the empty spot. I want that spot to simply be smaller and satisfied with reasonable portions of everything.

I'm not saying this would work for everyone, nor that it is the most nutritionally balanced plan out there, but it's working for me, and I don't feel that I eat poorly at all. In fact, I'm sure I eat better than many people around me (which may speak to how poorly they eat). I feel I eat like a normal modern person with access to goodies who mainly eats what she should, but also indulges in a little bit of the type of thing that people consider bad.


Fat Grump said...

Hi SFG - I have just read this and it looks like a plan for me!

My plan, which is similar is much looser round the edges. (Very saggy indeed actually!) I need to tighten it up a bit and plan a bit more in advance, but like you I am not prepared to give up completely the foods I love because I am on a 'diet'. That just won't work for me long-term. I have to learn to eat mindfully and sensibly and think more about portion control.

I have called my diet ATIM (All Things in Moderation)and if I can crack it my life won't change too drastically, I won't feel deprived (or guilty if I eat a 'bad' food - I so dislike the 'good' and 'bad' definitions.) I'll be fitter (because I am determined to incorporate more exercise into my days) and hopefully as I adjust my self-esteem and moods will improve too.

Like you, I am a huge fan of bananas and whole eggs. I think they are so nutritionally sound. I can easily make a banana my cake substitute yet I have been told by concerned friends that I should ditch them! Eggs give me so many vitamins and minerals, and yes, all the cholesterol scares demonised yolks for a time. Friends who have lost weight roll their eyes when I tell them I'll eat whole eggs because I enjoy them and they do me good.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for setting everything out so clearly. I'll refer to your plan frequently :)

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Fat Grump, and thank you for commenting.

I really can't tolerate the idea of being "on a diet" at this stage in my life. I think I'm just a little younger than you (I'm 45), and that absolutism just doesn't work for me. Also, frankly, I don't want to become frustrated when I'm in a situation where I can't control every bit of food. A lot of people have lots of problems if they go out to eat or are at the mercy of their host's food choices, and I just can't be that way about it.

The portion control can work, but it takes a lot of time to scale back to a meaningful level. As I said, I cut back portions slowly over a month to help ease me into the whole thing, and it was still hard when I reached the actual calorie counting stage. Of course, it's never easy to eat less than your body is demanding. That's the way it has to be.

I also did the same thing with exercise - added it in slowly with about 15 minutes of (broken up) walking every other day and just scaled it up slowly as my back got better and I could manage more. I think that a lot depends on your ability to overcome inertia and scale back steadily on the food and scale up steadily on exercise. It takes time, but it has worked for me and I hope it works for you as well.

And don't listen to people who tell you that you can't eat certain things and succeed! I roll my eyes at people who talk about the "right" and the "wrong" way to lose weight. The right way is what works for you and still keeps you healthy.

Good luck!