In today’s Food Friday I am not going to talk about a particular food, or a dish I made, or even a picture I took. Instead, I would like to take a moment to talk about food, health, and dieting. This won’t be a regular thing, as this is not a blog about diets, but because it has been on my mind a lot lately, and affecting my relationship with food, I think it is important to write about it.
I am not one who diets a lot. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t think I have ever even tried dieting. I naturally eat a lot of healthy food. I hate overly sugary and sweet foods (including chocolate), and greasy snacks such as potato chips make me feel nauseated. My preferred mid day snack is an apple, or a container of raspberries. I don’t eat a lot when I do eat because I am a fairly small person, and thus have a fairly small stomach. Yet, I too have my vices.
Early last year, April 2010, I started a new job. It was a fairly good job; easy work, nice pay. But it had some problems. First, it was a job in which I sat on my butt all day at a desk. Second, the company had an always stocked kitchen. Though the food was not necessarily attractive to me (instant ramen isn’t exactly the most flavorful food), the beverages were. A fully stocked fridge filled with Coke, Ginger Ale, and my true weakness, Arizona Ice Tea (the giant $.99 ones). I got in this particularly nasty habit of drinking at least three of those per day. In addition to the ridiculous amount of calories and sugar in each can, there was the caffeine. Eventually it got to the point where I would drink so many to these things that if I went an hour in between each one I would start feeling dizzy, sick to my stomach, and exhausted. I had a full-blown caffeine addiction. I had to break that addiction. So I did. I went cold turkey. No caffeine at all, not even a cup of tea. To get myself through it I drank A LOT of water. I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the mistake of substituting sugar for caffeine by drinking lots of juice and caffeine-free sodas. It was a rough two weeks while I went through withdrawal and my body readjusted to being caffeine-free. I slept a lot. In fact, I went to bed by 10 pm most nights. But eventually, I came through the fog, and now I have been without caffeine for about eight months. My boyfriend even eventually joined me in my caffeine-free state of mind later in the year (which was a big deal for him since he has been a lifelong tea-drinker) and has now been caffeine-free for 4 months.
But let me be honest. All is not completely well. I am not an overweight person, not even in the slightest. But I am a small girl, and I don’t mean small as in my waist-size. I mean I have a smaller build. I am 5′ 6 1/2”, but I have extremely small bones. I can grab my wrist with my pinky and my thumb and the fingers overlap. See? I am small. This means that the standard 100 pounds if you are 5′ and 5 pounds for every inch after that does not work for me. In fact, if I went by that standard I would look fairly unhealthy. So how does this work into food? Dieting? You see, I love carbs. I love bread. I love pasta. And most of all I love fruit, which is chock full of sugar. In moderation all of these things are good for you. But when it comes to these three types of food, I do not know moderation. So I chow down on all of these foods, and lately I have become dissatisfied with my eating habits, and my weight and health. And so, something needed to change.
But I couldn’t do it own my own. Luckily I have an absolutely amazing boyfriend, who, like me, has some foods he just can’t resist. Bread, potatoes, cheese…bacon. You know, MAN FOOD. We spent the last half of last year complaining about how unhealthy we were. We both wanted to lose weight, we both wanted to eat healthier, we both wanted to exercise. We talked about doing it, many times, but we never did. The complaining continued until finally, it came to a boiling point. Enough was enough. So, as we entered the new year, we made a goal. This year we were going to finally stop complaining and take action. So this past Monday, January 10th, we started a new diet.
To be honest, we went to an extreme when choosing which diet to use. We thought about just cutting down on certain things, but our willpower isn’t the greatest, and the cravings are strong. Then I overheard a couple of my coworkers talking about the new diet they had just started, the South Beach Diet. I had heard about it before, many times, but had never really looked into it. As I explored it more I began to really feel as though this diet was for us. The main idea is that it is a low/no carb diet, and since our main vices are carb heavy foods (not fatty or sugary foods as it is for many). It encourages you to make healthier food choices, and cook more. So after talking it over with my boyfriend, we decided to go for it. We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into.
We aren’t even through the first week of it, and we are already getting our butts kicked. You see, for the first two weeks you can not eat any pasta, starches such as potatoes, or fruits. And when I say none, I mean none. The point during the first two weeks is to get your cravings for these foods under control. Once you get through those two weeks you can then slowly start introducing these foods back into your diet, in moderation and with some limits. For example, instead of standard pasta, use wheat pasta, and only eat it once or twice a week. Instead of white rice, eat brown rice or couscous. Use red potatoes instead of white, etc. The idea is that over time choosing certain healthier foods over others, and eating things in moderation will become second nature and eventually the diet will become a way of life.
So how am I making it through these initial two weeks? It’s not easy, I tell you. Every day I have cravings for bagels, or a giant bowl of ravioli, or a container of raspberries. Every day I am tempted when I walk into my company’s kitchen and I see granola bars and trail-mix with delicious raisins. It is all about willpower. I know that if I give in, things will never change and the cycle will never end. So I just shove my cravings down and eat some celery with spreadable cheese instead. My daily meals thus far:
- Breakfast: Approximately 30 Pistachios, Hard-boiled Egg, Bottle of Water
- Snack: Low-Fat String Cheese
- Lunch: Bottle of Water, Salad (Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Mushrooms, Smoked Turkey, Hard-boiled Egg, Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese, vinaigrette Dressing)
- Snack: Celery, 2 Low-Fat Spreadable Cheese Wedges, Sugar Free Jello Cup
- Dinner: Glass of Diet Caffeine-Free Coke, Grilled or Sautéed Chicken or Turkey Breasts, Stir-fried Veggies (Broccoli, Water Chestnuts, Sugar Snap Peas), Chickpea & Edamame Salad
- Desert: 1/2 Cup Non-fat Plain Yogurt
Dinner varies day-to-day, as I find new recipes I want to try, some of which I will be sharing on here (tonight will be a delicious Chicken Cacciatore and Roasted Asparagus). But for lunch, I literally do have a salad every day. And you know what, I actually enjoy it. Sometimes I shake up what I add in, but I find that I actually look forward to my salad lunch, and actually, it fills me up (or at least it fills my stomach, though I still feel hungry, for croutons). I actually don’t get hungry again until around 3:30 or so, at which time I grab my second snack of the day, which carries me through until get home for dinner. I also find that I can temporarily curb my hunger if it’s not meal time by drinking water. This week I have been averaging three to four 12 ounce bottles per day (which is actually really good for you, and I should drink more).
The other thing that has been getting me through this diet? My boyfriend. He doesn’t want to do this diet it, at all. He is grumpy about it nearly every day. Yet, he sticks with it, and tells me to stick with it to. When I wanted to quit and gave him and opportunity to back out of it, he refused. Had it been just me there, I would have cooked myself up a pot of ravioli and devoured it. But he was there, and he wasn’t going to give up, and I wasn’t going to give up because of that.
So what is my advice for others who would like to do the same, but may struggle to do so? I am no expert, but what has worked for me may work for you too!
- Find a Buddy – It really does help. Staying motivated on your own can be difficult, even if you have excellent willpower and are highly motivated. Having a partner who is there doing it with you will encourage you to stick with your plan. It can be your boyfriend, wife, best friend, coworker, sister, cousin….anyone! Just having someone be there with you, it’s going to make it a little bit easier and more likely to stick.
- Be Realistic – It’s not going to happen overnight. You aren’t going to diet for a week and instantly lose 15 pounds. Depending on how much weight you would like to lose, and what your current weight and BMI is (Body Mass Index), the rate of your weight loss will vary. So do some research, find out what a HEALTHY weight is for your body build, and aim for that. Please, don’t try to go too skinny.
- Research Diets – Certain diets aren’t for everyone. The diet I chose is designed to eliminate or lower carb intake, not fats. Thus, I still eat some fattier foods, such as nuts. Not everyone may suffer from severe carb cravings as I do. If you love chocolate and ice cream, you may need a different diet, one focused towards eliminating fatty and sweet cravings. Just because one person has success with a diet doesn’t mean you automatically will.
- Exercise – I say this, but to be honest, I am not following it right now, and I know this isn’t good. I have valid excuses, but frankly, that doesn’t matter. I am going to change this, I promise. Even if you just go for a 20 minute brisk walk once a day, get yourself up and moving. I promise you, it will drastically help.
- Write About It – I have found that writing about my goals, my hopes for my health, and what I am doing on a regular basis to improve it, has helped me stay motivated. So if you don’t already, start a blog, or keep a journal. Write about your progress, your feelings, your cravings.