(Blogger’s note: Thursday, I said that I’d be wrapping up Life Change Week on Friday unless “the Sacramento Kings do something totally bone-headed in tonight’s NBA draft and raise my blood pressure …” Well, that seems to be exactly what they did — passing on one of the purest point guard prospects in years in Ricky Rubio. But I couldn’t write about the Kings yesterday because their whole “strategy” made so little sense that I can’t even analyze it. So we’ll go with one of my other recent life changes in today’s column. Next week, we’ll be back to the usual religious questions and quasi-philosophical observations …)
I was still trying to figure out how to structure today’s post as I ate my big bowl of raw oatmeal this morning.
Yes, you read that right — raw oatmeal. Uncooked, straight out of the round carton and into the bowl, with enough milk (skim) that you can actually eat it. That’s been my breakfast about half the time over the last month. Low-calorie, high-fiber, and wonderfully filling — I eat it around 7 or 8 in the morning, with an apple or some other fruit, and I rarely feel like eating again until after 1 p.m.
For the last several months, I’ve been trying to do things here and there to lose weight. The problem is the “here and there” part — I wasn’t sticking with anything consistently, or for very long, largely because I wasn’t sure what I should be doing or what would work for me. Around Memorial Day, a little intestinal blockage (which I’ve been prone to on occasion, since childhood) forced me to do some really hard thinking about this pattern. I came to the decision that almost ANY diet method, with the requisite commitment, would be better than flitting from method to method with nothing resembling a single direction. It was time to make a diet plan and hold to it.
And the diet plan I’ve chosen has been a fairly drastic change.
What’s out? A lot. Almost all fast food. Beef, except the really lean stuff. Sausage. Salami, bologna, sliced ham — in fact, most lunchmeat. Deep-fried anything. Saturated fats, when avoidable. Chocolate. (That one hurts, though not as much as salami.) Pastry. White rice. Standard pasta. Potatoes. Ice cream. Whipped cream. Really, anything with the word “cream” in it.
Cutting out this many items means having to find replacements or suffer the cravings that spell a quick end to any diet. So before I really did the cutting, I made sure to hunt down alternatives. I’m now eating a lot more seafood and turkey (ground turkey is not only healthier than ground beef, it’s a lot cheaper), and I may add lentils as well. Olive oil has bumped a number of other fats. I was already eating mostly whole-grain bread, but have now started using whole-wheat pasta as well. Brown rice has come back into my menu, joined by barley and couscous. Snacks like potato chips and Pop-Tarts have been replaced with more fruit and vegetables. I’m drinking a huge amount of water (sometimes close to a gallon a day when the weather gets hot). And if I really have to have sweets, instead of a Hershey bar (210 calories) or a toaster pastry (unfrosted, 205!), I’ll suck on a Coffee Nip or other hard candy (20-30). Some things that don’t help your weight — soft drinks, for example, or white bread — I haven’t used much in years. But this time, I’m trying to eliminate everything that I don’t need.
One thing that’s helped in this process is summer vacation. When the Supermodel was off at work, it fell to me to cook dinner for the whole family, which meant I had to cook normal dinners for my calorie-efficient family. Now that school’s out, she has taken over the dinnering, so I can make my own separate meals if I wish — and nine times out of ten I am. That way, if some new lo-cal option turns out to be not to their liking (I’m the only person who will eat brown rice, f’rinstance), it’s not an issue — they can keep spooning in the macaroni and cheese and the ice cream.
Now, this diet is still a work in progress. I realized that if I tried to go off all my favorite high-calorie foods cold turkey, my plan was going to crash and burn once the urges for them started to pile up. Once or twice a week, I still make room for something on the no-no list: a candy bar, or the Supermodel’s tetrazzini, or pizza (I have absolutely no resistance to pizza; sad but true). Last night, it was garlic bread (pizza’s kissing cousin). But I’m working to cut that splurge option back — to once a week, then twice a month, then once a month. There’s also the cheese issue; skim-milk cheese is for some reason not sold in too many stores in Stockton, and when it is it’s usually Swiss (which I’ve never liked) and $6-$7 a pound (vs. $2-$3 for normal cheese). So there’s still more to be worked on. Baby steps.
One other thing I’m doing that I wasn’t before is keeping a log of everything I eat. I’ve got a spreadsheet set up listing everything I’ve eaten since the beginning of this month (with the splurges in red), along with a daily check of how my stomach is feeling and whether I’m having any gas problems. (That’s one reason I haven’t mentioned beans — low-cal or not, they play absolute havoc with my gut.) So when something clearly hasn’t agreed with me, I can easily look back and figure out what has to go … ah, that must’ve been the takeout we got at El Pollo Loco! Well, no more of that, then …
I’d love to say that all these changes have made me feel better and caused a dramatic drop in my weight. Alas, only half-right. I do feel quite a bit better physically, apart from occasional gas attacks caused by my system getting used to different foods (at least, that’s what I hope it is). I have a little more energy, and I’ve been sleeping better. But the weight is another matter. Before, I had reached a peak of 244 pounds (111 kg), and fluctuated between that and 236 (107 kg). Now … well, now I’m still fluctuating between 236 and 244. So obviously more needs to happen:
Exercise. My workouts at Stribley Community Center tapered off to zero back in April, as I got tired of listening to “today’s urban hits” (and their truckloads of sexual innuendo), tired of having to chase kids away from the machines (there’s a sign on the fitness room saying “16 and older only,” but it’s routinely ignored), and tired of not feeling like I was accomplishing anything. So the only exercise I have been getting is 1¼-mile walks to the park and back with my kids — which will end for awhile, since my daughter is starting swimming lessons Tuesday at a park that’s too far away to walk to. Clearly I need more than that. So I’m probably going to head back to Stribley for the time being, but with earplugs and a new mandate — not to lift the most or go the fastest, but to spend the most time.
Down the road, there are other possibilities. I may get a bargain-basement membership at a standard athletic club that has a greater variety of machines. I may buy an MP3 player, so I can have my own exercise music available. I won’t take up jogging — my ankles can’t take the pounding, and I can’t really run in the shape I’m in — but everything else is in play, money notwithstanding.
Calories and portions. I’ve kept track of my meals, as I said, but I haven’t really calorie-counted except in a few areas (like sweets), and I haven’t done anything in terms of limiting how much I eat. Those are the next frontiers. Maybe I’m overdoing it on the pasta, whole-wheat or no. Maybe ground turkey isn’t the answer I’d hoped it was. Maybe the Illuminati are pumping extra sugars into my eight-grain toast and I haven’t caught them at it. I don’t know yet, ’cause I haven’t looked enough — but I plan to start investigating.
Medicines? There are an honestly ridiculous number of products out there that are supposed to help with weight loss or better general health. I already take daily fish oil capsules to keep my cholesterol down, but perhaps something else will speed the process along. Green tea tablets? Herbal remedies? Appetite suppressants? Maybe one of those colon-cleansing programs? I don’t know if any of them will work, but if one of them does, I’ll definitely consider giving it a shot. (And if there are any you’d like to recommend, hit me up in the comments.)
Time. It’s been less than a month, so expecting drastic changes may not be realistic. Rome wasn’t torn down in a day, after all. If I get on a comprehensive exercise plan, am more careful about what I eat and how much, find good, safe supplements to take that help the process along, and I’m STILL around 240 come 2010, obviously I’ll need to try something different. For now, I’m sticking with this, and I’ll see how it goes. 190 or bust!
With occasional breaks for pizza, of course. I’m only human.
(This concludes Life Change Week. I dunno about you, but I feel so much better …)