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Food with food in it

I’m dieting (again), and I’m not especially happy about it.

Lest I sound like a manic weight-loss fanatic, let me put your mind at ease. I am nothing of the sort. In fact, I am the opposite. It is precisely because I consume with such reckless abandon normally that I am now forced to reckon with the consequences and do something, anything to reverse the expanding trend of my waistline.

It’s not (just) that I’m vain (though I am). There’s an economic impact involved as well: I don’t want to have to buy an entire new wardrobe to accommodate my gluttonous ways. 

I am, once again, using Weight Watchers. The only problem with it is that, as I am a man of small stature and am far from morbidly obese, my point allocation is rather low: 20 points a day. Tinkering with their calculator, I did a little reverse engineering to figure out that that equates to something like 1,000 calories. Doling out the additional 35 flexible points for the week evenly, that works out to an average of 1,250 calories a day.

This is clearly untenable, at least for me. I have been ingesting practically nothing but fruit and salad (that is, if wine counts as fruit), and am still struggling to stay within my allocation. It’s a little absurd that I am forced to consume roughly half the USDA recommended number of calories to lose weight.

My food philosophy has always been to eat, as my friend Kate says, food with food in it. That is to say, food that is derived from whole and wholesome ingredients. No artifical sweeteners, no preservatives, no trans fats, no hydrogenated oils … you get the picture. The idea of diet sodas and fat-free snacks hold no appeal to me. It’s not that I, like most humans, don’t have my failings in this regard. I do have a weakness for Doritos, for example. But I have always believed that a mindful diet full of real food is intrinsically healthy and therefore, by extension, not fattening. Then again, I wasn’t always pushing middle age.

So for the time being, should I post about anything that is clearly not diet food — and I will — know that I had to carefully budget my intake to accommodate it, that for every luscious indulgence there was another mouthful of romaine. But even my low-point salads are not joyless, for they are full of food nevertheless.

  • My waistline is kind of growing too and I better stop it while there is still hope of redemption. But you go first and then tell me if it is possible to get out of the swamp of few calories without becoming a dull food blogger. Go on and I will sit here and admire your tenacity and take you as my role model…

  • I had to cut back, too, when people kept assuming I was pregnant (and I’m not). Good luck. It can be frustrating for anyone but especially folks who love food the way we do.

  • leyla

    let me know if the “three bite rule” works – of course i always seem to remember the rule when i’m at bite 25…

  • Ilva: You’ve hit on the very core of the problem — discovering recipes that are both diet-friendly and not tediously dull. I mean, I don’t only eat for the sake of this blog, but I’d like to think that my love of food is reflected in it. And if I’m not loving my food, even I won’t read it!
    Mary: It’s terrible, isn’t it, when something you love turns on you? I guess I can’t complain that food hasn’t given anything back, though … quite the opposite.
    Leyla: I’m having enough trouble counting points … I’ll need an additional abacus for my bites. 🙂

  • The very notion of dieting is depressing… having to pass something up, or eat something different, or eating “less” well. I hate that idea of deprivation. But then, like you said, the Age Monster kind of smacks you upside the head and puts the brakes on your metabolism, and all the chocolate in the world won’t make It go away.
    Be brave. We’re all in the same boat.

  • I know … in theory this should be an challenge to embrace. I know perfectly well that it is possible to eat well on a reduced calorie diet, but I get petulant about it just the same. Mostly I get irritated when I hunt for recipes and find things that are chock-full of Aspartame, margarine and other synthetic crap. While I’m no scientist, my spidey sense cannot ignore the coincident rise of these kinds of foodstuffs and the increase of cancer and other horrific diseases in our society. I’d rather die fat and happy than skinny and diseased.

  • Heya! I’ve been working on losing weight this Summer and so far I’m down ten pounds. I’ve been using the free tools and calorie data on http://www.calorie-count.com which I’ve found very helpful and easy to understand.
    I absolutely refuse to use the word ‘diet’. Like you I don’t believe in setting myself up by thinking that I need to eliminate foods. What I realized is that I’m still eating like I’m a twenty year old and I’m sooooo NOT that young (or active) anymore. What I’m focusing on is paying attention to how my body responds to food now and how I need to adjust my eating habits to keep myself at healthy weight.
    I spent several weeks researching the foods that I tend to eat so I could get a handle those calorie counts, then I calculated my average daily calorie burn and chose a target calorie intake. I’ve been told it’s a similiar strategy to Weight Watchers…but I don’t have to worry about points or feel like I’m dieting.
    Course I know that if I’m going to really indulge (hello chocolate tasting party!) then I need to get in a couple extra walks that week. My favorite all time exercise right now is playing Dance Dance Revolution…it’s a serious calorie burn and hilarious fun at the same time.

  • Kat, this is such an awesome resource! Thank you for passing it on. I look forward to tinkering with it. I especially like how it regurgitates a nutritional information label for your food.
    Of course I know that inactivity is my greatest challenge these days. I’ve been working more than full time lately, and just haven’t had the time or energy to go to the gym. DDR is awesome — we used to have it when we had a Nintendo several years ago. We got pretty good, though at the end of the day we’re still a couple of white guys, so we weren’t exactly busting moves. It’s enough that we were able to hit the pads in rhythm. 🙂

  • Sean, we are all right there with you. As a professional magazine food writer and a food blogger, I know how hard it is to take food out of the daily equation. I find that some level of boredom with food really helps — I eat the same bowl of oat bran with skim milk every morning, so I don’t have to think of something creative. By the time lunch rolls around, I’m usually too busy to care about cooking, so if I’m working at home, it’s a bowl of soup or something simple like that. When I teach, or work on an article, well, I try and eat without guilt. I think all of the calories are in the guilt!

  • Sean, thank you for posting about this. I come from the Queer Fat Positive Camp and so we are not supposed to talk about dieting. But I like that WW is reasonable and doesn’t treat everyone the same. The radical diets are really scary to me. And what they don’t tell you is how many people end up in the hospital or dead from them.
    ps. bittersweet chocolate is not terrifically fattening.

  • laura

    For recipes, which are “recipes that are both diet-friendly and not tediously dull” I can recommend this (originally it’s a german website and this is the automatic translation):
    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.brigitte.de/diaet/brigitte_diaet/&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=1&ct=result&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dbrigitte%2Bdi%25C3%25A4t%26hl%3Den%26hs%3D36d%26lr%3D%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official
    It helped me a lot and although I’m not eating 1000 calories per day anymore there are still some favorite recipes which I like very much. Really worth a try, because it’s very versatile.

  • Cool — I’ll have to check this out. And maybe learn German. 🙂