I started what I’m calling the Food Monotony Project on Tuesday, Jan 19, and since that day I’ve eaten mostly to plan. The thinking behind this goes back to a blog post I wrote in July of 2008. I forget a lot of my posts, but the points in this one kept rattling about in my head -I kept thinking: maybe I should try out these ideas for real.
Only took me like a year and a half to get around to it.
This past week, eating during the day was some combo of Atkins shakes and bars. The evenings were mostly bologna on a slice of low carb bread. The calories from Tuesday through Thursday were below my budget of 1,683 (more on that number in a minute). Monday through Thursday worked because I ate my evening ration (hard to call it a ‘meal’) and took a nicotine lozenge right after. Friday was a blowout – way too much food in the evening – simply because I forgot the ‘lozenge after eating in the evening’ rule.
No matter – Saturday morning showed me 6 lbs down since Tuesday – and the application I am using to count calories – Lose It (see screenshot above) – tracks calories by the day and week – which put Friday night into perspective by showing me that – for the week, I was right on track – the previous few days of being below my calorie budget added up to the amount I overate on Friday.
I’m not exactly thrilled to count calories, but eating fewer foods, and foods that are easier to measure, make the task suck less. In reality I am counting carbs first, but watching my calories as well. And – except for Friday, I’ve been able to keep those carbs, on average, in the low 20s.
Lose It is a free iPhone application. I got it some time ago, played with it a little bit, and abandoned it as at the time I didn’t want to count calories. I tried a bunch of the other free diet apps and none of them worked for me – and I have as yet found none specifically low carb. I deleted the lot of them – but kept the Lose It because it was the one I liked the most. It has some nice features – it can calculate for you your recommended calorie intake to lose a given weight per week (hence the absurdly precise 1,683 calories mentioned as my budget above), it has a food library that is fairly useful and includes brand name foods, it allows you to easily add your own foods, and allows you to create your own recipes.
It also has the ability to track your exercise, so you can ‘pay back’ calorie overages by burning some calories, as well as the ability to connect online with weight loss buddies – neither of these features I have used.
It also has some maddening aspects. Look up broiled chicken breast and the serving size is ‘each’. How much does ‘each’ weight? How many cups is ‘each’? In instances like this, you can get a nutrient count elsewhere (like Nutritiondata.com) and enter it in more exact units.
Here’s a link to some screenshots of the app – the one above is direct from my iPhone.
Now – reflecting back on the week, it was a good start, but I can do way better. My food choices suck, quite frankly. Eating pre-fab Atkins products, bologna, and low carb bread ain’t exactly healthy. It won’t kill you in a week, but it’s not a sound basis for a long-term weight loss program.
So now I’m trying to line up some better choices for when the Atkins stuff and the bologna run out. I reacquainted myself with turkey breast – had 1/2 lb. with some mustard in roll-ups. I had some good quality stuff and – especially after a few days of nothing but Atkins bars and shakes for lunch – it was yummy and filling.
This morning – looking for a replacement for an Atkins shake, I took 2 eggs, scrambled them in a microwave-safe dish, tossed salt and pepper on the top and nuked in the microwave for 2 minutes. Definitively minimalist cuisine, but 2 organic eggs are probably way better for you than an Atkins shake – I keep picturing how many tanker trucks have to carry the industrial chemicals that make up any package of processed food, and think I should reduce the number of ingredients as a means to better health.
The ingredient label for my egg recipe would be: egg, salt, pepper. Nothing that sounds like something from the kid’s chemistry set. Jeez – not even a single word with more than one syllable.
For lunch I had a few celery sticks with mustard, then ate a can of Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna. This isn’t ordinary tuna. This tuna is ‘PC’ – ‘sustainably caught’, ‘dolphin-safe’, ‘turtle-safe’, ‘no long lines’ – and even the can states proudly that it’s ‘Certified BPA free’. And as an added bonus, this stuff is a product of the good ‘ol U S of A.
There’s nothing wrong with any of the above, of course. I like dolphin and turtles, love my country, and I hate long lines at the grocery store as much as the next guy. But what justifies 4 bucks for a 5 oz. can of tuna is that it contains half the mercury of your typical can of tuna – and way more omega 3 – one can has 3,460 mg of omega 3, which breaks out into 2,320mg DHA and 720mg EPA. My understanding is that it’s the way they handle the fish.
Typical tuna fish is made from fish that are cooked on the boat, then when they get back to the cannery, it’s plopped into cans and cooked again. The process removes the omega 3s, which is OK for the manufacturers – they sell the stuff to supplement companies. They might throw in some vegetable oil to replace the omega 3s, which you would probably be better off without.
The Wild Planet tuna is tasty stuff, moist and juicy. I just ate the can by its lonesome – it was still good. While you might balk at the price (I did), it might be reasoned that: I’m eating less, I should go for the highest quality, and since I’m buying less, the cost probably evens out.
In the evening I broiled up some Trader Joe’s (If you don’t know: a quirky grocery chain in the US that can be described as ‘Jimmy Buffet Meets Whole Foods’) chicken breast heavily seasoned with Trader Joe’s Poultry Grill and Broil – a melange of seasonings that eliminates the need for me to think about what seasoning to use. I then used olive oil spray to coat one side of the breast in a thin film of oil. About 40 minutes in the broiler with one flip along the way resulted is some very moist, tender, and juicy chicken. I had a small bit, but refrigerated the rest.
Dinner, if you can call it that, was the last of the bologna on a slice of low carb bread along with some Trader Joe’s Grilled Eggplant.
Here’s the kicker: all the food ended up to be about 1200 calories, which for a guy my size should be too little – but I wasn’t hungry.
At this point it seems that the combo of carb and calorie counting seems to be working splendidly – and switching out high fat foods for less fat foods seems to increase the amount of food I could eat considerably. Don’t get me wrong – it was still high fat – 75% of my calories for the day came from fat, according to Lose It.
Right now I’m thinking that the appetite-suppressing properties of ketosis makes cutting back on calories easier.
Anyway, it’s the start of a new week, where I want to focus on better food choices and start working some veggies back into the mix. And while I am pleased that my weight is just a hare’s breath under what the BMI terms ‘obese’, I’ve been able to get here with a little effort before.
It’s crossing the threshold into under 200 that has eluded me for over a year.
But I have a new approach – one that shows a lot of potential. Let’s see what happens.