Food Food Food -- how much better would my life be if I never knew how yummy food is.

I've been asked by a few people lately to give some tips on eating better. On the one hand, I find this odd as I am/was complete diet-failure for years. I've tried every diet known to man over the years and I always lost weight -- once even dropping 3 sizes on a 1000 calorie diet before gaining it all right back. The only reason I was finally able to lose it was the gastric bypass surgery -- which I've never regretted for even a short moment. And hell, even on this -- I still havn't lost as much as I should have. I'm a diet failure for sure.

On the other hand though, I do eat a million times healthier than I used to -- and I could easily make some recommendations. But really, please understand that I do NOT eat as I "should." I've gone back to LOVING my sugar and candy. Snack cakes are fabulous and so is fast food -- but now I cheat and eat these things -- before they were my entire diet. I've got to look at it as a whole and see the changes and the greater good in it... not the snickers bar ;)

One of the biggest changes I made was in what I drink. I was blessed with not having the option of resisting this change -- and it was super hard at first, but now that I've been doing it for 18 months, I don't ever give it a second thought. Basically I used to drink Milos sweet tea, juice, milk, and cokes. Aside from the milk, that's all a ton of sugar and empty calories. A coke has what -- about 200 calories? So lets say that over a day I had 2 cokes (I usually had more), 2 glasses of tea, and some fruit juice for breakfast. Whats that -- almost a THOUSAND calories -- in liquid. Hell even if they were diet cokes, I'm still at least at 600 calories -- some days even more than that. Empty wasted calories -- and that's at least half the allotment for the day right there! Now I drink crystal light and mainly (as in -- I always have TWO gallons made up in my fridge) unsweet tea sweetened with calorie-free Splenda. Yes, I should always drink more water -- thats better than even unsweet tea -- but that brings me to my next point...

Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. I had to realize that I'm not on a diet. I had to come up with a workable diet -- a very very very imperfect diet... that works. What do I mean? Well, I know I should drink more water -- water is better for me than unsweet tea, right? But the fact is that for the next 40 years, I'm not going to be drinking 4 bottles of water a day. I'm not even gonna ACT like I would. But I need to liquids -- and unsweet tea is a totally acceptable alternative. It's calorie free -- so yeah, I'm not on the super healthy end of the spectrum -- but I'm keeping myself on the lower-half. That's my philosophy in a nutshell -- I'm not gonna be on the healthy perfect end of the spectrum -- but I can stay on the healthier end more often than not by making some easy substitutions. Some of these substitutions include:

-- Fat Free Milk instead of 2% (2% is great -- Fat Frees even better) Unhealthy (high) side of the spectrum: Whole Milk. Healthy (low) Side: Fat Free milk -- I choose the lowest option that I can live with and be happy with. I still get my milk everyday :)
Unsweet Tea instead of sweet tea and cokes. High End: coke. Low end: water. I can't do all water -- but unsweet teas a lot closer to the low end than anything else.
-- White Wheat bread instead of white bread. So I shouldn't have bread, really (my diet needs are different than yours). Realistically -- I eat bread. At least if I'm gonna eat it, I make a healthier choice than white bread. Also, it goes back to the heathy spectrum -- I shouldn't have sandwiches -- period. But you know what, a turkey sandwich is a whole fucking lot healthier than about 200 other things I'm likely to want for lunch on any given day. So do I not buy the supplies for a turkey sandwich because it's not "healthy" or "ideal" for me. Well, again -- I'm being realistic. The odds that I'll go the rest of my life not eating sandwiches is pretty low. Plus, if I don't give myself something nice and low-cal as a choice -- even if it's not a great choice -- I'm gonna end up eating who knows what and that's going to end up being a LOT worse for me. So again, I pick an item thats on the healthier end of the spectrum -- I settle to be at 25% rather than ) where I should be -- but at least I'm not in the upper end.
--Egg beater instead of eggs. Simple.
--Fat free whenever possible! Fat free cheese -- Butter substitute -- fake mayo -- fat free sour cream. No, it doesn't taste as good -- that's a fact. But you know what -- every single meal we eat shouldn't be perfectly ideal. I figure you should take some hits for at least 2 out of your 3 meals.
--Asking myself how much value that cheese really ads. I like cheese on everything -- but if I'm making a bowl of chili, really cheese doesn't boost it that much more. I used to toss things like butter, cheese, mayo into my meals out of habit -- and because they're good. I do that way less now. You can't have the best every meal -- sometimes you just need to eat something basic.
--MEAT. For everyone, meat is important. For me it's even more so. If we want to get down to it -- I should eat meat and vegetables every meal. We should eat meat first -- it fills you up -- then veggies -- THEN other stuff. How often do we do that? Is it just me - but I don't. Hell, I could go an entire day without eating meat. Not because I don't LOVE me some meat -- but because you have to cook meat. I could easily have cereal for breakfast, some cheese pizza or a cheese sandwich for lunch -- same kinda deal for dinner. Or even if I do have meat for something -- it was never all three meals. Now I choose meat as much as possible. I dig up new recipes and surf the butchers section at the market for new things to try. I incorporate the leaner meats like turkey, chicken, and pork. And here's the thing -- even if it's not what I want or it's not the center of the meal -- I incorporate SOME type of meat. Like yesterday for breakfast, I really just wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. That's what I wanted, period. I didn't want any damn eggs. But I cooked up the sandwich AND some eggs and I made myself eat some of the eggs. So yeah, again, I didn't have the ideal breakfast -- but I took it down to the healthier end of the spectrum. If I'm gonna have pasta (first it's going to be whole wheat pasta rather than white) and I'm going to put some chicken or meatballs in it. And when I eat it -- I'm going to focus on the meat and eat more of that than I usually would have and eat less of just the noodles.
--Veggies are awesome -- What I just said is not true. I like potatoes and corn and I don't care if they're bad for me dammit. So sometimes I have a baked potato loaded up with chicken and fat free sour cream. Oh -- horrible horrible me -- I just ate a potatoes. Well, dammit -- a potato really isn't evil -- and wasn't it better than having bread or pasta or who knows what? Again, not all healthy -- but it's on the better end of the spectrum. Also, I like broccoli and peas. I cook them up with dinner whenever possible and eat at least a few bites. Suck it up and eat some damn vegetables. If you don't make yourself cook them you're never going to eat them. So just cook them to look pretty on the plate. Having 2 bites of veggies everyday isn't much -- but it's damn better than none. Also, I try random vegetables. Like I don't like black-eyed peas a lot. I've never craved a black-eyed pea... but they don't disgust me. So I cook them with dinner, put them on the plate, and make myself eat some. It's good for me.
--New recipes! Last night I made muffins. I used Spice Cake mix straight from a box and only added canned pumpkin to the mix. They taste heavenly -- just like my sisters pumpkin bread she bakes fresh. And while I shouldn't be eating a fucking muffin of all things -- I'm getting a awesome treat that I love... and it's got a vegetable in it -- and less than a third of the calories it would have had if I made it the traditional way. And finding new recipes spices it up. I haven't gotten bored with what I eat yet. I browse the internet or take ideas from restaurants -- I browse at the grocery store and I go with my whim. Sometimes having a dinner thats not so great calorie-wise isn't a tragedy. I've cooked up red beans and rice a few times. You might say that's bad. I say that it had loads of meat and the beans are veggies. Calories don't define healthy -- think about what you're eating. A rice krispy treat only has like 50 calories -- but it's not part of a great diet, now is it?
--If you crave it, eat it. My nutritionist told me this one. Basically if I want a piece of yellow cake with buttercream icing -- there's really no sub for that. Maybe I'll plan to treat myself to a slice this weekend. Because I'm the kinda person who would fixate on it and want it and think about it -- and eventually, I'm gonna crash and have it anyway. This goes for less extreme things too -- like a nice loaded potato. You want it -- eat it... as a treat. Like do something good and then you're allowed to have a great potato for dinner. Obviously this has to be in moderation -- but you see what I'm saying? You're not on a diet. You're just trying to eat better. You're not going to be a health nut all your life -- or even all week. You're allowed to splurge -- it's not gonna kill you as long as you keep your head on straight about what you eat MOST of the time.

Really, I don't eat particularly well -- not at all. But like I said, I eat better than I used to. And I baked a big turkey roast yesterday and stuck it in the fridge. For lunch, I'm gonna have a turkey sandwich. Why should I feel bad about that? I shouldn't eat sandwiches -- ok -- but that turkey sandwich will be mush better for me than mcdonalds, or dinner leftovers, or pizza, or pretty much anything. A Turkey sandwich is pretty damn healthy as far as I'm concerned. And a piece of white wheat bread doesn't have that many calories really -- add on some fat free cheese and mustard -- and it's not so bad. And yes, that's obvious right? But not if I just throw it out as even a consideration because I know I shouldn't have it in the wonderful grand scheme of food I should eat. You see what I'm saying?

Basically, I just hope and pray (and know) that all these little choices really add up. Cutting a tiny bit of fat here and here and here ads up over time. Only eating a few bites of vegetables a night seems like a huge waste -- you're throwing a lot of them away and you didn't even want them anyway. But picture 3 florets of broccoli every night. In a month, that's 90.

Oh and you don't have to clean your plate. Sometimes we eat the last bite(s) just because they're there. Don't be afraid to throw food away. Yes, it's a waste -- but it's not on your waist! I've decided that rather than mourning the waste of good food and money when I throw away the stuff I don't eat -- I'm proud of myself for not eating it. I'm proud of my portion control and new life style. I don't make myself eat the leftovers because they're there and I should.

And I might post more recipes than I have been. I've always gotten some decent feedback when I post a recipe. I cook for myself almost every night -- and yeah, most of the time it's super simple stuff. But I try to think of new dishes and new ways to have it. I actively think of what veggy I might like -- of what I could do with pork, chicken, turkey, beef that I haven't done in a while. I make a lot of casseroles that might have one part not-so-perfect but then are loaded up with lean meat and veggies.

I guess I'm just about to the point of rambling. Sorry for the long post, and sorry if everything I said seems super obvious. But a few people have asked me lately for tips on eating better. And here's all I have. And yes, you can totally give up calorie drinks. Yes that means that pretty much everything at the gas station is now off limits -- but it was a waste of your money anyway. Crystal light isn't heaven, but it's better than plain water -- and now it comes in those nifty things to drop in your bottles! And hell, drink a diet drink instead of the calorie one. Diet drinks taste nothing like their counter-parts, I know. Aint nothing free in this world. You know what I like even better than a nice Mountain Dew? Buttercream cake icing straight out of the tub. Just because it's good or you've become accustomed to it, doesn't mean it's right. Some of us are literally getting a thousand calories just in LIQUIDS every day. Damn people (myself included here), suffer and drink a diet drink. After a month, you're going to like the taste of the diet one and the regular one will disgust you -- I promise. Now that I eat way less sugar than I used to -- when I eat a sugary treat I'm shocked and sometimes disgusted by how freakishly sweet it is. And I used to eat this stuff all the time -- because I was used to it. You'll go through withdrawals and it'll be damn hard -- but after a month or two, it won't be hard, I promise.


Anonymous Michael Beatty said...

Whole milk is really around 3.5% fat by weight (1c = 26% DRV saturated fat). 2% still has a *lot* of saturated fat (1c = 15% DRV saturated fat), but it can be a less jarring step down from whole milk than 1% or skim.

As a kid I only drank whole milk, 1% and skim tasted very watery to me. Now whole milk tastes almost sour :/

Also, look for "whole grain" wheat bread instead of "whole wheat". The whole grain tends to be healthier for you, as your body has to work harder to fully digest the fiber. Avoid breads that are "enriched" (most white breads).

Russell posted some articles about nutrition on his blog a little while back (pardon the formatting, he switched to a hosted blog a little while ago and his import sucked :).

10:03 AM  
Blogger Lemming Leader said...

WHat you're saying is completely obvious. Sometimes though, that is exactly what people need to hear.

I completely understand what you mean with the sweets and the calorie drinks. I used to love some sweet crap and soda. I got sick for a prolonged period and didn't want anything.. Now pretty much everything but water and watered down juice tastes nasty to me. Sweets make me sick to my stomach. I'm fairly sure it's the only reason I didn't end up at 300 pounds (I've seem to be keeping right around 200 but my diet and exersize are crap right now). They're good tips. Thank you for sharing.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous skwid said...

well, let me say that it's all about attitude. if you think something is going to be yucky, then it will be.

i drink probably 4 litres of water per day (average) and eat lots of vegetables (hell, yesterday i had a craving for green beans, and ate 500g of them [a pound])

once upon a time i would've called myself weird for doing that, but now, it seems sort of normal. but my attitude towards it has changed. it used to be a chore eating veggies, but you really can develope a taste for them (especially fresh ones, forget those frozen ones if you can, fresh is best).

sometimes it's not so much about ho many caolries we consume, but the way we consume them, like michael said about the bread. make your body work for the stuff, rather than giving it to it in raw form.

did you know that diabetics can have sugar? a few years ago this was a big no no, but now they have realised that carbohydrates are worse than the sugar. as people learn more about how thge body works, as a complex engine, ideas change. so don't be scared to try something new. :)

now, back to that bowl of green beans!!! yummy!!!

5:34 AM  

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