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[icon] An experiment in eating - Patti
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Subject:An experiment in eating
Time:12:34 am
I decided recently that I was sort of horrified by the things that I ate, and I wanted to do something about it. My body was also encouraging me in a variety of ways to make less of it. I love good food, but I'm profoundly lazy... when left to my own devices, I'll eat all sorts of crappy prepared stuff. I've never really learned to acquire and use fresh food in reasonable ways, and it was time for me to learn.

Michael Pollan, noted author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, said something a while ago that stuck with me. "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It is his most famous quote and for a very good reason-- it's wise advice.  The other one is not to eat things that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.  Neither of my oh-so-midwestern grandmothers would have contemplated eating sushi, so I'm using a broad definition of someone's grandmother rather than specifically my own.

Armed with this, I decided to create an eating experiment for myself. The experiment would start on July 6, and run through the end of July when I depart for BARGE. That's a short enough time period to not be insurmountably daunting, but long enough to get into the groove.

My rules for myself are, basically:
  • Don't be stupid.
  • Eat real food, not food products.
  • Avoid chemical-laden foods, artificial sweeteners, reduced fat foods that substitute god-knows-what, etc.
  • Especially, no HFCS.  None, nada. 
  • No prepared foods, except on dining out occasions, and in those cases be cautious.
  • Some packaged stuff is OK-- bread, crackers, condiments-- as long as they conform to the above rules.
  • Shortcut foods are OK as long as they're made of food, e.g. frozen pre-grilled chicken breasts, egg whites in a carton.
  • Eat mostly vegetables, fruits, lean meats, dairy, and some rice/grains.
  • Try to keep it at around 1000 calories/day, with the expectation of actually hitting 1200/day.
Doing this during the summer makes my life easier and much more pleasant-- I had a grand good time at the farmers market last Sunday stocking up on things.

I knew that I'd have to make it easy for myself to stick with this, so I spent some time plotting out a list of quick-and-dirty things that I could make, along with approximate calorie counts for them, and then making sure I had the ingredients I needed.  My work lunches this week are a mostly-egg-white frittata with caramelized onions, asparagus, and goat cheese, and some sort of fruit.  I have baby carrots around to snack on.  Plain yogurt is a staple.  Heirloom tomatoes are in season, so I made a big tomato salad with onions, cider vinegar, sugar, and a little bit of olive oil, and that salad shows up at dinner.  I'll also make roasted tomato soup at some point.  Another side dish that has been making an appearance is a slight take-off on Mexican elote-- I use organic frozen corn, crema, cotija cheese, lime juice, and ground chilis. 

Tonight I was at about 900 calories, so I treated myself to dessert-- a single-serving blueberry crisp made with berries I got at the market last weekend. I used butter and agave nectar in the topping, and it was still only 150 calories.

Note that many of the usual diet things aren't up there-- no diet soda, no artificial sweeteners, no diet shakes, no low-fat cheeses,, etc.  I have no interest in eating any of that garbage.  I want my food to come from plants and animals, not a beaker.

So far so good.  I can see where I might be able to build the right habits and routines, and I'm actually enjoying the things I'm eating.  I want to figure out how to make some stuff that I can freeze for later, so i don't always have to be on top of my game.  Soups are definitely on the list but I'll have to figure out what else.

There were bagels in the office today, and I contemplated having half of one as an afternoon snack.   Guess what?  Noah's has HFCS in at least some of their bagels.  Ick!
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(Deleted comment)

whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 08:13 am (UTC)
You're right. I meant to say made of food.
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adbjupe
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Time:2010-07-08 09:23 am (UTC)
In spring this year I signed up for this: http://theproducebox.com/
It is a produce distribution which brings local food from local farms to my home. It certainly has improved our eating habits. I've made my own tossed salads, made asparagus dishes while in season, got me friendly with sweat potatoes. And in general, it forces me to think about what I am eating since I end up matching meat and general dish selection with the available produce, which is probably healthier than your supermarket selection.

Of course you mention the farmers market, which is the right thing to do as well, as long as you stick to the farmers, not to established stores.

I don't know if this is available in Oakland in single+cats household size, but it is certainly worth thinking about.
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(Deleted comment)

schmengie
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Time:2010-07-08 11:01 am (UTC)
good luck...
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oscarmc
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 01:30 pm (UTC)
I have baby carrots around to snack on.

For some reason the baby carrots seem to get slimey pretty quick and not so good, I have been getting the whole organic carrots and cutting them up myself, it takes two minutes and they are way better imo.

anyways, good luck.
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slowjoe
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 02:02 pm (UTC)
You seem to be moving towards Zone or Paleo diet. Look at http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdf, accept or reject to taste.

BTW, how is the C25K iteration 2 going?
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andrewhime
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 03:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I made a post not too long ago about how HFCS is in everything, and the only responses I got were vague disbelief.
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greeklady
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 03:35 pm (UTC)
I was feeling lazy and wanted mashed potatoes. In the premade tub at the grocery store was HFCS in mashed potatoes. I just about flipped my lid. I am a crazy person looking to make sure that isn't in my food.

I found trader joes has a frozen mashed potato and you add your own cream/butter and salt.

OH wrap up, yes they are putting it in everything they can. It needs to stop.
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jcdill
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 04:12 pm (UTC)
Good luck! Here are some items I found helpful when I started working more seriously on losing weight and eating healthy:

1) Make small healthy snacks that you can keep on hand when you get hungry and the bagels or vending machine call your name. I was going thru a big bag of clementines every week (35 calories each) when they were in season. Now I'm using the "snack size" baggies to bag up my own snack bags of baby carrots (and then (I reuse the baggies - you may prefer to buy the carrots already in snack size bags but I recoil at the cost and waste). I bag them in 3 ounce portions, 35 calories per bag.

I also make 100 calorie bags of the Mini Thin Rice Crackers. I believe they are HFCS-free but they probably have MSG in them. (I don't avoid MSG but I know some people who are trying to avoid HFCS are also trying to avoid MSG.)


2) I use a website to track my eating so that I can access the data from anywhere, and so I can easily add in new foods.

I do most of my shopping at TJs and the MyPlate function at Livestrong.com has all of TJs products in their database. I know that most of TJs packaged products are off your list (by virtue of being products rather than food) but I found most of the ones I buy are made of healthy real food ingredients, not an arm-long list of chemicals with HFCS etc. For example, I love the black bean and corn enchilidas for a quick lunch or dinner (260 calories for two enchiladas) - the package lists healthy food items for ingredients, not a chemical name to be seen.

When I first started I found it very difficult to get below 1400 calories per day. I could do it for 2-3 days and then would end up ravenously hungry at dinner, where a diet-fitting salad left me still hungry and then I'd eat more and more and and blow it and end up eating more than 2000 calories. :-( The healthy low-cal snacks trick was what helped me stick with the lower calories.

3) Drink LOTS of water. Especially, if you get hungry during the day, drink some water before you reach for a snack. I found that water + 35-100 calorie snack curbed the munchies much better than just reaching for a snack.

Question: Where does drinking single malts fit in with your healthy diet?

BTW, thanks again for the single-malt ideas. I ended up at Beltramos (instead of K&L - they were closer to my route from Palo Alto to 101 to SF) in Menlo Park. I ended up with a bottle of Whiskey Thieves:

http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1056523

(I can't find a link for it on Beltramos website.)

My friend brought a bottle of Knockando to a party at my father's house many years ago, and I am certain he's going to appreciate this new bottling. I'm giving it to him today at lunch.

(His favorite 25 year old Macallan is $575, a bit out of my budget!)
http://www.beltramos.com/istar.asp?a=6&id=315630
(Reply) (Thread)


whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 05:37 pm (UTC)
Singlemalts pretty much don't show up on the radar. I don't drink much, and very rarely drink at home, so it's not even a question.
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yayhappens
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 06:16 pm (UTC)
Great set of guidelines to follow. I don't even know what HCFS are off-hand so I have to peek at what they are.

It has been so surprisingly helpful here since the start of this year for us to do a dinner menu. We still struggle with what to do for lunch sometimes but overall I think it has totally helped with getting the right balance of protein and veggies and keeping consistent.

After having the good stuff at home and from the Farmer's Market, it's hard to handle the Franken-food, isn't it?! Yuck.

The recipe for the roasted tomato soup looks great! I will hold on to it if you don't mind, as I have tomatoes coming up. :)
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 07:57 pm (UTC)
High-fructose corn syrup, aka evil.

I've posted a handful of recipes to LJ over the years. They all gets saved in the recipes category of memories.
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njchick
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 07:35 pm (UTC)
Hummus
Watermelon
Almonds
Pirate's Booty
Smuckers all nautural peanut butter

Those are my snacks of choice lately

gl
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essaying
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 07:37 pm (UTC)
I was 100% with you until you hit the part about 1,000 calories. That's not good for you -- you'll burn muscle tissue, not fat. Given that you're taller than me and less sedentary, I'm guessing that you probably need more like 1,600 calories, but you can check for yourself at http://walking.about.com/cs/calories/l/blcalcalc.htm .
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 07:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know. It's a short-term experiment though, and not something I would maintain for very long. I'm expecting that at the end of it I'll say, "Hey, that wasn't bad at all. If you can do that for three weeks, then you should easily be able to do something less extreme for three months."
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violet_tigress1
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-08 10:56 pm (UTC)
I am often horrified by some of the crap I eat. While I do try to avoid hfcs, for the most part... I've stopped worrying so much about how unhealthy some of what I eat is, and worrying about how easy it is to eat.
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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-09 02:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, you have a totally different set of concerns than I do.
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gayathri
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-09 12:01 am (UTC)
If you want _any_ help n the way of cooking or making foods, while I'm out of work, I am happy to help out. I love to cook and be happy to make extra and share if you'd like!

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whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-09 02:38 am (UTC)
Thanks!

A big piece of the exercise is building my own habits, though. I like to cook, but I need to build the skills for doing it on a daily basis.
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(Deleted comment)

whipartist
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-09 03:36 am (UTC)
Thanks. Doesn't solve the getting-into-the-habit problem, though. I can easily cook and stash things myself, I just have to do it.

And yeah, expensive.
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whitebird
Link:(Link)
Time:2010-07-09 05:10 am (UTC)
Pretty much everything that you say here is most excellent. You've gotten a pretty good doable set of criteria to follow which aren't (mostly) based on an exclusionary set of criteria, but are more based on an intelligent set of criteria. I always tend to look at any diet based on elimination of one element to be almost hysteria based. You've set out a good and fairly doable list of desires there!

My problems with eating better than I currently do (hello Stouffer's microwave meal of the day!) largely have to do with being pathetic at dealing with anything that hints at leftovers. Which is stupid and which I need to get over.

Anyways, I don't really have to wish you good luck on this, I have faith that you'll easily see your plan through. Good luck with a slightly more feasible going-forward goal of calorie intake, though. But if you're good at habituating yourself to new and logical sets of behaviors, which you seem to be, I have faith in that as well. :)
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[icon] An experiment in eating - Patti
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