PF Chang’s Menu Sorted by Net Carb Count for 2016

IMPORTANT – PF Chang’s has updated their menu -and I’ve updated my post. Check out the updated menu at

In 2007 I put up a post – Low Carb Dining at PF Chang’s – that is now way out of date as they have reformulated their menu since then. As we have one nearby, we frequent it often. We love their stuff.

I haven’t been watching my carb count much in maybe the 6 months prior to Christmas. I need a little refresher on what is an acceptable meal for me at the place – and what isn’t (psst! – avoid the gluten free fried rice combo!).

I hope PF Chang’s doesn’t mind me lifting their nutrition info web page and reformatting it fo us low carb folks- I wouldn’t think so because I’m making it easier for low carb dieters to enjoy a meal with friends at their restaurant.

Yeah – all this info is on their site but I included net carbs and sorted it to make finding the low carb items on their 100+ item menu easier. As I mess with data In Real Life every day, this stuff is probably more easy for me than for a lot of folks, so I thought I’d share.


Menu Item Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Sodium (mg) Carbs (g) Dietary Fiber (g) Net Carbs (g) Protein (g)
Crispy Green Bean Sauce 2 oz 310 33 4.5 590 3 0 3 0
Spinach with Garlic — Small 120 8 1 400 8 4 4 6
GF Spinach with Garlic — Small 120 8 1 400 8 4 4 6
Shanghai Cucumbers — Small 70 3 0 1270 7 3 4 4
GF Shanghai Cucumbers — Small 70 3 0 1460 7 3 4 6
Spinach with Garlic — Large 160 9 1.5 790 15 9 6 12
GF Spinach with Garlic — Large 160 9 1.5 790 15 9 6 12
GF Shanghai Cucumbers — Large 140 6 1 2920 13 7 6 12
Chicken Satay 250 10 4 240 7 1 6 30
Baby Buddha’s Feast Steamed 60 0 0 50 12 5 7 4
GF Baby Buddha’s Feast Steamed 60 0 0 50 12 5 7 4
Rice Wine Shrimp 430 11 1.5 1420 9 2 7 66
Jicama Lobster Tacos 400 35 11 750 9 2 7 12
Mixed Green Salad with Lime Vinaigrette 90 6 1 55 9 2 7 1
Wonton Soup — cup 60 1 0 730 8 1 7 4
Shanghai Cucumbers — Large 130 6 1 2540 14 6 8 9
Egg Drop Soup — cup 50 2 0 600 8 0 8 1
GF Egg Drop Soup — cup 60 2.5 0 590 8 0 8 1
Sichuan-Style Asparagus — Small 90 4 0.5 1200 11 2 9 3
Asian Grilled Salmon* 610 35 5 1460 17 7 10 56
Hot & Sour Soup — cup 80 2.5 0.5 1750 11 1 10 5
Oolong Chilean Sea Bass* 560 38 9 2240 10 0 10 43
House-Made Egg Roll Sauce 2 oz 70 1.5 0 95 13 1 12 1
Salt & Pepper Prawns Sauce 2oz 70 1.5 0 680 13 1 12 2
Edamame 400 17 2.5 1960 25 12 13 37
Shishito Peppers 150 8 1.5 1760 18 5 13 2
Jicama Kung Pao Chicken Tacos 370 24 3.5 760 17 4 13 21
GF Buddha’s Feast (Steamed) 110 0.5 0 80 22 8 14 8
Kalbi Steak 590 36 9 830 19 5 14 49
Spicy Green Beans — Small 150 8 1 1300 19 5 14 4
Hong Kong Style Sea Bass* 520 38 8 1820 18 4 14 27
Ahi Tartare with Avocado* 320 14 2 530 17 3 14 29
Shrimp with Lobster Sauce* 360 18 3.5 2700 19 3 16 29
Ahi Tartare with Avocado * 450 26 3.5 630 26 9 17 28
Baby Buddha’s Feast Stir Fried 180 8 1 1610 22 5 17 6
Orange Ginger Edamame 440 19 3 4260 31 13 18 37
Dynamite Shrimp 370 30 4 710 19 1 18 5
GF Shrimp with Lobster Sauce* 480 26 5 3010 23 4 19 40
Banana Leaf Rockfish 460 20 9 1560 24 4 20 43
Shrimp Dumplings Pan Fried (4) with sauce 190 6 1 1250 22 2 20 12
Sake Salmon* 780 53 8 1510 27 6 21 47
Jicama Pork Tacos 320 19 4 980 24 3 21 16
Buddha’s Feast — Steamed 260 4 0 300 32 10 22 26
Pork Dumplings Pan Fried (4) with sauce 270 12 3.5 720 25 3 22 15
Sichuan-Style Asparagus — Large 220 8 1.5 2400 30 7 23 9
Pepper Steak 660 37 8 3210 26 3 23 57
GF Pepper Steak 660 38 8 3270 27 3 24 52
Shrimp Dumplings Steamed (4) with sauce 180 3 0 600 24 0 24 12
Seared Ahi Salad* 700 55 8 1490 30 5 25 24
Vegetable Spring Rolls Sauce 2 oz 100 0 0 670 26 1 25 0
Pork Dumplings Steamed (4) with sauce 250 10 1.5 620 25 0 25 11
Kaleidoscope Roll * 280 10 1.5 730 31 5 26 14
Spicy Green Beans — Large 240 8 1.5 2600 38 10 28 9
Crab Wontons (4) with sauce 470 37 8 630 28 0 28 5
Chang’s Kung Pao Shrimp 780 51 8 2790 45 16 29 37
Beef with Broccoli 670 35 8 3260 33 4 29 56
Ginger Chicken with Broccoli 460 10 2 2320 38 8 30 53
Salt & Pepper Prawns 590 30 3.5 2630 34 4 30 48
Mongolian Beef 720 39 9 2700 31 1 30 61
Handmade Dumplings Shrimp — Pan-Fried with sauce 300 11 2 2000 34 3 31 17
GF Ginger Chicken with Broccoli 510 14 2.5 2510 40 8 32 60
Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps 610 36 4.5 2300 39 7 32 25
Wonton Soup — bowl 250 3.5 2 3360 37 5 32 19
GF Mongolian Beef 780 44 10 2900 33 1 32 62
Kid’s Sweet & Sour Chicken 300 11 1.5 400 32 0 32 17
GF Beef with Broccoli 690 36 8 3430 40 7 33 55
GF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps 530 26 6 3030 39 6 33 34
Korean Steak Bulgogi* 800 30 9 1780 38 5 33 91
Chang’s Kung Pao Combo 830 49 7 2750 46 12 34 50
Handmade Dumplings Pork — Pan-Fried with sauce 420 20 5 1200 39 5 34 23
House-Made Egg Rolls (2) 280 10 2 1210 37 3 34 9
Vegetable Spring Rolls (2) 210 5 1 860 37 2 35 3
Coconut Curry Vegetables 1050 77 24 1220 47 11 36 43
GF Coconut Curry Vegetables 1050 77 24 1220 47 11 36 43
Chang’s Kung Pao Scallops 830 48 7 2600 44 8 36 56
Shaking Beef 800 49 18 2940 42 5 37 47
GF Shaking Beef 800 49 18 2930 42 5 37 47
Handmade Dumplings Shrimp — Steamed with sauce 290 6 0.5 1030 37 0 37 18
Lobster Avocado Roll * 410 19 2.5 740 46 8 38 14
Ma Po Tofu 1030 70 13 3780 44 6 38 60
Hunan-Style Hot Fish* 650 32 4.5 2910 42 4 38 50
Handmade Dumplings Pork — Steamed with sauce 390 17 2.5 1050 39 1 38 17
Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps 530 24 6 2090 47 8 39 32
Almond & Cashew Chicken 640 25 4 3780 46 7 39 61
Northern-Style Spare Ribs 1120 63 18 3070 41 2 39 97
Egg Drop Soup — bowl 260 9 1.5 2900 39 0 39 5
GF Egg Drop Soup — bowl 290 12 2.5 2880 39 0 39 6
Stir-Fried Eggplant 1010 88 13 3790 50 9 41 7
Saigon Summer Rolls 370 15 2.5 790 45 4 41 12
Spicy Tuna Roll * 280 3 0 930 45 4 41 17
Buddha’s Feast — Stir-Fried 420 12 1 3440 52 10 42 29
Kid’s Chicken Lo Mein 340 11 1.5 1590 45 2 43 16
Hand-Folded Crab Wontons 700 55 12 930 44 1 43 8
Hot & Sour Soup — bowl 380 11 3 7980 48 4 44 22
Sichuan Chili-Garlic Chicken 1290 88 15 2180 51 6 45 66
Citrus Chicken Teriyaki 710 25 6 2320 50 5 45 67
Handmade Dumplings Vegetable — Pan-Fried with sauce 320 8 1.5 1050 50 5 45 11
Rainbow Quinoa — Small 300 5 0.5 700 52 6 46 11
Cantonese-Style Lemon Chicken 750 37 7 1140 47 1 46 53
GF Cantonese-Style Lemon Chicken 750 37 7 1140 47 1 46 53
Steamed Korean BBQ Chicken 580 24 4 1400 53 6 47 50
Dynamite Scallop Roll * 400 12 1.5 1190 52 5 47 20
Vegetable Spring Rolls (4) 330 11 1.5 1090 50 3 47 6
Chang’s Kung Pao Chicken 1070 64 10 2410 56 8 48 70
California Roll 340 9 1 1140 54 5 49 13
Lemongrass Prawn & Papaya Salad* 640 26 3.5 2980 60 10 50 35
Beef à la Sichuan 680 32 7 2820 54 4 50 47
GF Beef à la Sichuan 720 34 7 2980 56 4 52 48
Handmade Dumplings Vegetable — Steamed with sauce 310 6 0.5 990 54 1 53 9
Chang’s Chinese Chicken Salad 620 27 4 2270 66 11 55 30
Crispy Green Beans (no sauce) 760 55 8 520 63 7 56 7
Kid’s Honey Chicken 410 11 1.5 650 56 0 56 17
Pepper Crusted Steak Frites* 1860 128 52 2880 77 17 60 100
Walnut Shrimp with Melon* 1380 104 16 1830 74 14 60 39
Thai Steak & Noodle Salad 790 43 10 1990 70 10 60 38
GF Flourless Chocolate Dome 570 33 23 280 66 5 61 6
Brown Rice 6 oz 310 2 0 5 66 4 62 6
Orange Peel Shrimp 660 28 4.5 1950 79 16 63 27
Chang’s BBQ Spare Ribs 1230 64 18 3750 67 3 64 98
Korean BBQ Chicken Stir-Fry 870 44 7 1400 70 5 65 60
Salt & Pepper Calamari 710 37 4 1860 68 2 66 26
White Rice 6 oz 300 1 0 5 68 1 67 7
Kale & Quinoa Yogurt Dip served with Sesame Salt Wonton Chips 650 27 4 1570 77 9 68 19
House-Made Egg Rolls (4) 560 20 4 2420 75 7 68 18
Handmade Butternut Squash Dumplings 1110 86 53 2980 72 4 68 12
Chang’s Chicken Noodle Soup — bowl 620 22 3.5 2720 74 4 70 33
Rainbow Quinoa — Large 470 8 1 1190 82 9 73 17
Chang’s Spicy Chicken 820 34 6 1810 73 0 73 59
GF Chang’s Fried Rice (6 oz without Protein) 460 11 2.5 820 76 2 74 16
Sesame Chicken 890 35 6 2250 82 6 76 66
Orange Peel Chicken 980 42 7 1560 87 8 79 67
Crispy Caramel Chicken Wings 1530 115 23 1930 82 3 79 41
Sweet & Sour Chicken 770 32 4.5 760 85 2 83 40
Vegetable Lo Mein 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Vegetable Lo Mein 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Lo Mein Vegetable 490 6 0.5 2870 94 6 88 19
Lo Mein Shrimp 610 13 2 3150 96 6 90 29
Lo Mein Chicken 710 18 2.5 3040 98 7 91 42
Lo Mein Beef 720 22 4 3180 97 6 91 40
Sweet & Sour Pork 710 25 6 1460 94 3 91 30
Chang’s Lobster Rice 1010 48 14 2120 98 5 93 43
Orange Peel Beef 1130 60 12 1960 108 14 94 44
Lo Mein Pork 760 25 5 3130 100 6 94 37
Lo Mein Combo 880 31 6 3400 101 6 95 55
Kid’s Chicken Fried Rice 610 15 3 1020 98 2 96 25
GF Singapore Street Noodles 710 13 2 1720 105 8 97 21
GF Chang’s Spicy Chicken 710 13 2 1720 105 8 97 21
GF Kid’s Chicken Fried Rice 580 10 2 1120 99 2 97 26
Apple Chai Cobbler 620 22 16 320 101 2 99 7
Crispy Honey Shrimp 760 28 4 1320 108 2 106 13
Crispy Honey Chicken 1140 49 7 1270 114 1 113 57
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Shrimp* 940 27 4.5 3090 130 15 115 47
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Beef* 1050 36 7 3120 129 14 115 56
Singapore Street Noodles 920 21 3.5 2750 127 11 116 29
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Chicken* 1040 32 5 2980 132 15 117 60
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Combo 1230 45 9 3200 134 15 119 73
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Pork* 1080 38 8 3060 133 14 119 55
Chang’s Quinoa Fried Rice Vegetables 990 31 5 2820 144 19 125 38
Garlic Noodles 720 11 1 2990 136 5 131 23
Pad Thai Chicken* 1160 30 5 3720 153 11 142 45
Pad Thai Shrimp* 1070 26 4.5 3840 152 10 142 33
Pad Thai Combo* 1110 28 5 3780 153 10 143 39
Chang’s Fried Rice Combo* 1210 36 8 2440 157 4 153 62
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Vegetable* 980 21 4 2070 168 9 159 28
Chang’s Fried Rice Vegetable 980 22 4 2150 169 9 160 26
Chang’s Fried Rice Shrimp* 1140 21 3.5 2160 204 6 198 44
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Beef* 1220 26 5 2380 204 6 198 51
Chang’s Fried Rice Beef* 1240 28 6 2180 203 5 198 53
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Chicken* 1210 22 4 2240 206 7 199 54
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Shrimp* 1120 18 3 2350 205 6 199 41
Chang’s Fried Rice Chicken* 1240 25 4.5 2050 206 6 200 57
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Pork* 1260 29 6 2330 208 6 202 49
Chang’s Fried Rice Pork* 1370 41 8 2130 207 5 202 51
GF Chang’s Fried Rice Combo* 1360 33 7 2580 209 6 203 62

Recipe – The Cream Spinach Fat Bomb

Quick and easy to make – and quite good.

I’d better be right about fat being harmless though or I might be in a body bag after this one.


  • 2 boxes frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 box of cream cheese
  • parm cheese (the stuff in the cardboard can)


Thaw the spinach in the microwave for 10 minutes. It will leak so place the boxes on a plate to catch the leakage.

Once thawed, let stand for 15 minutes at least – it will be too hot to handle the next step.

Now that it’s cooled, use a strainer to squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as possible – but don’t kill yourself over this – good enough is good enough

In a microwave-safe bowl, toss in the spinach, along with a stick of butter and the cream cheese. After about 4 minutes the butter and cream cheese should easily mix into the spinach without fuss and to my surprise got absorbed into the spinach. There were no puddles of butter as I feared.

The taste was good but a little lacking. A healthy sprinkle of the canned parm cheese made it perfect.

It *looked* like ordinary creamed spinach – but we know better. This innocent-looking creamed spinach was a Cheesecake Factory-style Fat Bomb made to look ‘lite’ and ‘healthy’. It was one of those menu items where you’d go: “Oh – I don’t know *how* they can make creamed spinach so tasty!”

Just for the heck of it I ran the numbers for the whole thing in my LoseIt! iPhone App:

  • Calories: 1,408 (1,200 of these calories come from fat)
  • Fat: 135g (81%)
  • Carbs: 37g (10%)
  • Protein: 33g (9%)

I would say that realistically this serves 4 – which means I ate 4 servings in one sitting.

Me and my body need to have a little ‘sit down’ to talk about ‘portion control’ – ya think?

This would be a splendid recipe for a pot luck – and you can look ’em in the eye and say it’s ‘diet’ – though change the subject if they start asking questions about the recipe. Based on the crowd at the New Year’s party I went to, this would have been gone in a flash.

Need I say it? This is safe for a ketogenic diet. In fact, it is *so* safe you might want to dial it back a notch – though this is ideal for people doing a ‘fat fast’ (though you don’t eat as much as I did). It is also vegetarian as long as they are the type that do dairy – there’s so many variants it’s hard to keep track.

Seasons52 Restaurant Review

We decided to go to a new restaurant, Seasons52. It’s a new concept to me: a place where the menu proudly states that no entrée is more than 475 calories. There are no ‘endless bread sticks’ or huge portions dripping in butter. The portions are small compared to most chain restaurants, the food carefully prepared to bring out the natural flavors, and the ingredients seem high quality. It is minimalist, portion-controlled, and a much healthier choice than the majority of the restaurants in the area.

Maybe that’s why it was a 2-hour wait to get a table. The place was packed. While the ‘value proposition’ of the place goes against the grain of competing restaurants offering huge portions, perhaps there’s a niche for a place that serves artfully prepared but unpretentious food in adequate portions. It’s an European sensibility applied to food that I would call ‘American’.

The menu makes little attempt to define their food as derived from any ethnic cuisine. Some restaurants have entrees that seem as if they are representing the United Nations, with Italian entries next to Asian entrees next to Mexican entrees – all bearing little resemblance to the authentic cuisines they steal from. At Seasons52, the food is uniquely theirs. I give them credit: it’s a bold move to become the anti-Cheesecake Factory – and I’m sure that – with one not far down the road – many people – having tried this place, never come back because for the same price you get way more food at The Cheesecake Factory.

But for people who don’t need to equate the quality of the dining experience with the volume of food nor the number of ingredients, Seasons52 might be worth a try.

The first thing you notice is that there is no free bread at the table. Instead, they sell different varieties of flatbreads as appetizers, baked with a selection of toppings. We ordered a lobster and mozzarella flatbread and a long, thin bread, topped with not only lobster and mozzarella, but basil and diced peppers and squirted with a bit of lemon arrived on a long, flat board designed just for this dish. The long rectangle was cut into 8 triangular pieces and we each got two. They were delicious, with none of the flavors overpowering the others.

When we were done we wanted more – but isn’t that the long-forgotten point of an appetizer? Americans have become accustomed to going to a restaurant, filling up on bread, sharing a big appetizer, then forcing down what many times ends up being a mediocre entree.

The entrees were consistent in philosophy and execution as the appetizer. We each had ordered different ones: I had a cut of roast salmon on a cedar plank with a creamy mustard sauce and the root vegetables potatoes and carrots – not a lot in terms of portion-size, but all the ingredients clearly were high quality and did not need to be tarted up with sauces and unnecessary spices. I very much enjoyed my salmon dish and was satisfied without being stuffed.

My wife had the carmelized scallops which came on a bed of roasted crushed potatoes with some small amount of vegetable mixed in. I had a bite of the scallop and they did a wonderful job of adding just the right touch of sweetness without overpowering the taste or ruining the texture of the scallop – a delicate balancing act done successfully.

My older daughter had a pork chop with some sweet potato mash. Again the same sensibility. I did not try this, but both my daughter and wife remarked how tender and flavorful the meat was.

My youngest daughter had the pasta. Again – the same sensibility. Instead of piling on the cheap pasta and throwing shrimp in top then drowning it in sauce, the pasta complemented the shrimp in roughly equal proportions, with fresh spinach added and a light sauce that didn’t steal from any cuisine but came straight from the restaurant’s own esthetic.

My older daughter, who is long and lean as well as a lacrosse player, can tuck away quite a volume of food, yet at the end of the meal announced she was stuffed. I imagined that very few ‘doggie bags’ were carried out of this place. To me, a ‘more-is-better’ type of person (the reason I’m fat), they executed the ‘less-is-more’ approach to food flawlessly.

But we weren’t done yet.

Their execution of the ‘dessert menu’ is again sensible – and shrewd.

We were stuffed – remember? They do not ask you if you want to see a dessert menu – instead they bring over a tray of desserts – each in a small glass – dessert flights as they are called. Each is a tiny taste of decadence that won’t make anyone feel guilty about having dessert. The shrewd part is that: the dessert is *there*. They bring it to you without you asking for it, entice you with the actual dessert and not a picture, and if you want one they take it off the tray and give it to you. Immediate gratification after putting the damn thing right under your nose.

Our reservation was after 9pm it was late by then and the kids were fading fast, but were roused by the dessert. While I skipped it, the three of them took one. I had a taste of two of them. Again, well done, with flavors that complemented rather than competed. My wife got one with a tiny squeeze tube of amaretto so you could apply just a few drops to heighten the experience.

Seasons52 is food crafted with the precision of a Mars mission. It is novel approach for an American chain restaurant. When ‘healthy’ food is served at restaurants it usually flops – or is done as a sneaky psychological ruse. In fact, many chains put healthy items on the menu knowing full well that it lures customers in – who then order the high-calorie decadent stuff next to it. Others put faux healthy items on their menu – usually salads – then pack so many calories into the thing that your perceived sense of restraint was instead a sneaky con job by the restaurant.

Here the food is honest, minimalist, and fulfilling. It’s a fine dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere with beautiful woodwork throughout the space – yet it avoids pretension. As I stated before, this is the anti-Cheesecake Factory down to the decor – The Cheesecake Factory having the most overwrought, overstated, and garish decor and architecture that screams everything but good taste.

Seasons52 only has about 42 locations so far in the US, but if you have the opportunity to try it out – and don’t feel like you are somehow being cheated by not getting ‘endless breadsticks’ or huge portions, it’s worth a try.

My Next Approach to Low Carb

Perhaps taking a vacation from blogging – and low carb – after a decade of thinking about the diet *every damn day* was a good thing.

As mentioned previously, I gained weight toward the end of last year and no matter how much effort I put into low carb – even going so far as to go on an extreme low carb diet  used by some cancer patients along with calorie-restriction, my weight didn’t want to move much outside of a 220-225 range.

I then just gave permission to myself to forget about low carb and blogging for a while. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. Now doing a low carb diet for a decade certainly changes your habits quite a bit so the ‘eating what I wanted’ still had a lot of aspects of a low carb diet. While I stopped monitoring and measuring things, I did form a routine of sorts that, while it did not lead to weight loss, did not lead to weight gain, either.

This routine left me way more relaxed about eating and removed a lot of the obsessiveness about food. After all these years, removing this yoke was a revelation.

I realized that for a decade, there was an extra family member besides myself, my wife, and my two daughters: my diet.

Like every other family member, this apparition had wants and needs and was part of many conversations. Every family member needed to make room in their lives for this apparition and put up with its peculiarities.

And now I saw clearly what a burden this family member had become.

It’s presence in a household of foodies that all enjoy good food and enjoy the ritual of enjoying good food together led to a distancing between us. Everybody seemed to eat on their own schedules and there was no such thing as a ‘family meal’ at home except on the rarest of occasions or when entertaining.

This summer I consciously began to form a new ritual of a family meal. Sometimes it was my wife who would cook. Sometimes it was me. Sometimes it was my older daughter. Sometimes everybody pitched in. Whatever the result, and no matter the carb count, we all sat down, held hands, said a prayer of gratitude to whatever-the-hell allowed us to have the great fortune to be together at the moment, with a roof over our heads, sitting around a table sharing a meal of good food together. The incessant TV in the background, mumbling and laughing and crying and screaming at random times, got turned off. The iPhones, and iPods got put away, and we all leisurely spent some quiet time eating and talking and enjoying the moment, the food, and the company of each other.

It was unexpected to see that such a simple thing as a common meal held so much power. I suppose it is a ritual etched in our DNA: the communal meal, another day without starvation, another victory against the misfortunes of life that permitted at least one more celebration of life and of food together as a family. So many of us lack one or the other – or both. The kids are getting bigger and this brief window of time where we will all be able to sit and talk and eat will quickly pass.

Low carb, the extra family member, helped prevent this from occurring. It wasn’t the sole reason, but it was a part of it.

This summer we also put a major dent in the family finances and went to France. While my bank account will need to endure a long convalescence to recover, it was a transforming experience for me.

It was a life-long dream of my wife to travel there. I am a reluctant traveler: I like having traveled but do not like traveling. for years I made excuses and we would go places less expensive and easier to get to – and my wife accepted these consolation prizes in place of the Grand Prize she had always held on to.

When she announced that she had found insanely-cheap plane tickets due to a combination of luck, mileage points from some business travel, a credit from the airline that was expiring in October, and other savvy-traveller tricks she pulled out of her bag, I decided that now was the time for her to have her dream – and I would do my best to suppress my bundle of anxieties about traveling and let her have her experience – and allow myself to fully enjoy it as well, because if I brought my anxieties along (another family member), they would reduce my wife’s enjoyment of the trip.

I couldn’t entirely dismiss my traveler’s anxiety, of course – we can’t simply turn off our anxiety. Instead, I prepared and did a bunch of things to reduce it. I am sometimes considered negative because whenever I am involved in a project I think of all the things that can go wrong at the outset. People take this as negativity but I see it as a necessary preparation to prevent things from going wrong. 

I like my optimism to be reality-based, so I worried to myself about things like keeping the house safe during our trip, reading about problems American tourists have in France so I could avoid these, while my wife read the travel books and thought about where we would go and what we would see.

I learned that pickpockets are a big problem in France, for example, and got myself a travel wallet that hangs around the neck. I also jury-rigged a little device with my iPhone and a gizmo to find your keys and had my younger daughter wear this around her neck. The crowds of tourists in Paris can be a crush in August as I read, and this gizmo would go off if she strayed too far from me.

I was also anxious about the tales of French rudeness to American travelers and wanted to know why. I started from the proposition that it wasn’t them – it was something about us that galled the Gauls, so I talked to a person that taught courses in intercultural relations for business people and was recommended two books on how the French think. After all, we were going to be guests there – the least we could do is be well-mannered guests and not do the international equivalent of sticking our napkins in our shirt collars and picking our teeth at the table with the steak knife.

I could not be more amazed at what I learned. The French are a people with a very different worldview than Americans. They are proud of their country, their government (though they are almost always protesting something or other), and their culture. When in public they tend to be more formal in their interactions with other people because for them it is a sign of respect. They also believe in projecting an image of being ‘well put together’. It’s not that you need to dress formally, but walking around in shorts wearing a T-shirt that says ‘I’m with stupid’ or some other typical American casual dress projects to them that you don’t have respect for yourself.

I left my shorts home and dressed ‘business casual’ for the most part, which meant that you might not have been able to tell we were tourists from a block away.

They also always greet people with a formal ‘Bonjour, Madam’ or ‘Bonjour Monsieur’, and expect a ‘Merci, au revoir’ when leaving their presence after an interaction. Again, to them it shows a respect for the individual. I see nothing wrong in that. We Americans once also had this same sense of formality but seemed to abandon it a number of decades ago when we embraced an casual ‘Hey-buddy!-anything-goes-wear-sweatpants-to-church’ informality that didn’t expect such niceties to be the standard.

You could argue that their way is a bit stuffy – but that wasn’t the point.

I didn’t want to change France – I wanted to see if France might change me. Perhaps there would be lessons learned here that might make an understanding of the culture I was about to immerse myself in make the trip more than just seeing sights and taking pictures in front of monuments as a sort of trophy to show off on FaceBook.

I think it did change me. It went way beyond a ‘vacation’.

Paris was a breathtaking experience The grandeur of the place, the almost seamless mix of ancient and modern, great works of art and architecture a part of any glance in any direction, with charming little bistros, brasseries and cafes on every street seemed surreal, perplexing – and unnecessarily expensive to a practical mind. So many things useless except to look at in awe in every direction. No sane US citizen would put up with the taxation necessary to erect and maintain such uselessness which is why we’re a nation that has left behind marble and gilt for Tyvek and vinyl siding.

This left me obsessing over the question: “What kind of people would create a city like this?”

Thankfully I had my two books on France and the French that answered a lot of questions. I read these in my free time back at the hotel. I certainly did not turn into a French cultural expert overnight, but some of the insights at least began to explain some of what I saw.

At one point in the trip I stopped taking pictures. I realized that you can’t fit Paris into a rectangle. Go to the Louvre and stand in the center courtyard and try to take a picture. Compare it to what you see standing there. Nope – doesn’t cut it.

Throughout our trip, almost every French person we dealt with was friendly and gracious. We met many who spoke perfectly acceptable English and patiently put up with our horrible French. I suppose it came down to: treat people as you would like to be treated. It also might have been because it is said that everyone goes on vacation in Paris in August and the city is left to those who remain behind – and to tourists.

Perhaps we might have encountered more grumpiness in September when the Parisians return to take their city back from the tourists – I don’t know.

We also ate their food. Funny: I was asked that question twice. “Are you going to eat their food?” That would be like asking me if I was planning on breathing their air.

The first memorable meal was some duck cooked rare in a raspberry reduction with mashed potatoes. No vegetable side. Each flavor and texture complemented the other. We didn’t eat at any fancy places – just some of the many bistros that don’t get listed in travel books – yet all the food was prepared with such concern for the ingredients that each meal, no matter how humble, was like the random art found around every corner in Paris: unexpected and pleasurable.

To keep costs down we found a French grocery store across the street from our hotel in Paris and ate some meals of fresh baguette, foie gras, sausage, and cheese in the hotel room.

Over the weekend we spent there we left Paris and went to Amboise, a town of about 10,000 people less than 2 hours by train outside of Paris. The centerpiece of the town was a castle-fortress and not too far from there, a short walk down a cobblestone street, was Leonardo Da Vinci’s home for the last few years of his life.

This was wine country and we just happened to arrive during a wine-tasting festival with a downtown marketplace with the most amazing foods and local crafts. Very little in the way of tourist trinkets of the Eiffel Tower made in China – this market was for the locals. The wife and I tasted wines while the kids took a nap back at the hotel (a 5-minute walk from the center of town where the festival was held). We bought some brioche and other foods from the market and a little sweetshop across from the open air market and the next day a much larger weekend market filled a parking lot a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Farmers from miles around brought their fresh-from-the-farm goods and there were many booths cooking fresh food. We bought a huge container of paella from one vendor and bread and foie gras from another and had a picnic on the banks of the Loire river just steps from the hotel.

The way the French eat has always intrigued me. I don’t recall seeing a single fat French person. They ranged from rail-thin to plump, but no one was obese in my estimation. How could they eat like this? Yeah – they eat a lot of fat – but they love their bread and their sweets as well.

The answer was in one of the books I was reading and had to do with part of the main reasons why Americans think the French rude and they think we are rude: a difference in what is considered ‘public’ and what is considered ‘private’. This was a fascinating read. The French consider money to be vulgar and tend not to discuss it in public, don’t want to be asked ‘what do you do?’ in conversation, consider a stranger asking their name to be rude, and if they were to invite you to their home would most likely NOT ‘show you around the house’ or want you to peruse their bookshelf unless invited to do so.

And unlike Americans, they consider eating to be part of the public sphere. Eating is a social activity in France. Meals are meant to be lingered over, preferably with friends and family, and no self-respecting French restaurant would ask you to leave even if you only bought a single espresso and were still hanging out 4 hours later.

Americans, on the other hand, consider most eating to be a private activity: hence we snack, and they – for the most part – don’t.

This brought me back to the ‘family meal’ that I had begun to enforce a month before we left. My seemingly retro notion of a family meal in our house was enshrined in their culture. They lingered over their food and this gave them time to digest and feel fuller on less. They simply ate less of high quality food because it was all they needed and they never ate mindlessly like so many Americans do – hypnotized by the TV with a bag of chips on their laps vanishing bit by bit without being noticed.

Not realizing it, I had hit on something that I thought would derail my diet but now I was thinking might become the center point for it.

The funny thing about the family meal was that I found myself not picking much afterward. There was little ‘raiding the fridge’ after eating whatever meal I had when I came home. We ate later than usual, ate slowly, and ate with a mindfulness – discussing the food itself, it’s preparation, how the different ingredients went together. We discussed future meals – and what we tried that wasn’t liked (while peas were a comfort food for me, neither my wife nor kids like them).

There were also complaints from the family when we couldn’t follow the ritual. It seems it wasn’t something the rest of the family just ‘went along with’ – it was valued by them – despite the prohibition on electronics and the TV.

Perhaps ‘meals’ are more important than ‘eating’. Perhaps ‘dining’ is more valuable that ‘3 squares a day’. So where my head is at present is as follows:

My Low Carb Diet must become invisible

I’ve concluded that talking about diets – especially at a meal with others – is vulgar – akin to talking on the cel phone at a movie theater. It detracts from the enjoyment of others in your company. Discussions about food at meals should only be ones that discuss it as a means to pleasure. Discussing how well the peas and onions complement each other is perfectly acceptable – the carb count, or the discussion about any chemical in any ingredient being shown in studies to do X – is not. Certainly, there is a time and a place for such discussions – like here – but at the table, with dinner companions, conversations about calories, nutrients, and the long-term ill-effects of a particular food is not one of them. I’m going treat any food placed in front of me as I would a guest and not be rude nor denigrating to its presence. Like someone at a party I don’t particularly like, I can avoid them yet still be gracious.

Now, this does present a tricky problem: eating with companions or with family and friends means dealing with what dieters call ‘food pushers’ who might ‘derail your diet’. I’m beginning to think that this sort of thinking might be a misstep. Looking at food from a cultural and communal standpoint, offering food to people is one of the grand gestures of friendliness and kindness that one human being can give to another. In a world that has arisen from one where starving was a very real possibility every day, this gesture is the utmost hospitality – and we dieters reject it. Instead of embracing our humanity we bring science to the table and tear up the social contract that has been built up over thousands of years across almost every culture on Earth.

The diet problem is still there, of course: anyone reading this has probably concluded that they need to control their diet and that certain food should be avoided. I’m beginning to think though that perhaps, once at the table in a social situation, we might be better off focusing on the metered enjoyment of the food we are presented with rather than reciting our list of prohibitions to a table that is more interested in enjoying a meal rather than hearing about your ‘diet’. Again, taking the mindset that the food itself is a guest of sorts, and imagining it as a person you would rather avoid that you bump into at a party, you would probably NOT bring up your list of grievances with them in a public setting, though you might limit your time with them. Do the same with food.

Your diet isn’t ‘blown’ if you participate with smaller portions. At a restaurant you can ask for a double portion of vegetables instead of the side of mashed potatoes. You can still avoid sugary drinks and skip the bread brought to the table. These will be almost invisible to your companions. At a family meal or a when entertaining friends, certain items can be safely avoided – like chips placed on a table before a meal. At the actual meal, where there is some social expectation of participation in the various dishes, taking a small portion and allowing yourself to enjoy it might be more sane and more in the spirit of things than to express your prohibitions.

Either become a monk to your diet or accept the fact that there will be times when the best course of action is the practice of a concealed metering of eating what is being graciously offered.

One meal does not ruin a diet: it’s a series of meals that does that to you. Allow yourself the pleasure of food with family and friends, participate in the bounty we’ve been given, and work to develop the ability to participate fully while watching your diet as much as possible without others noticing you doing so.

Make eating a communal event as much as possible.

A diet is in some ways chasing after wind: “When I get to be my goal weight I will be happy.”

It doesn’t work that way.

Goals are great, but I assure you – you won’t be continually ‘blissed out’ when you attain that magic number on the scale. I’m not saying you won’t be filled with a sense of accomplishment, better physical health if done right, and a host of positive emotions – it’s just that these will fade into the background of your life after a time. Studies have shown that people who win the lottery, within a few years, return to more or less the same level of happiness they had when they weren’t rich. We adapt to our situations – good and bad – and while being thin might bring you all sorts of things you don’t have now, we humans have a tendency to take things for granted after a while.

Make sure you don’t postpone your happiness entirely until a certain number on the scale appears. We don’t know how much time we have left. Our expiration dates can’t be found on any label attached to us. Enjoying a meal with others when possible, when done the right way – focusing on the food with other people who know how to truly experience the pleasures of food – will bring greater happiness to every day of your life.

Should death tap you on the shoulder and tell you you’ve got only a few more moments, I guarantee you: your diet will be the last thing on your mind. Don’t give up the pleasure of good food with good company because of a ‘diet’.

Again, your brow might be furrowing as to how you follow this advice and still lose weight. It seems easier from one perspective to set a goal, sacrifice for it for a certain time, and achieve it. That’s how Americans do it.

That might work for things like passing a test or building a business, but we don’t ‘own’ or bodies in the same way as we might own a car that we’re restoring or own a business or have responsibilities to a job that we can work to excel at. Our bodies allow us to inhabit them, but they breathe on their own, the blood flows without our consent, our hearts beat to the rhythm they choose.

One thing we pretty much know about our bodies is that they are resistant to weight loss once the weight is gained. Respect this and embrace the notion of slow and gradual weight loss. I know this goes against every notion in a time-bound, deadline-obsessed culture, but your body doesn’t exist in that artificial world that lies outside of it.

So accepting this and making eating a communal event as much as can be managed involves cultivating a pleasure in good food shared with others. The secret to the power of this in an attempt to lose weight is eliminating the notion that eating alone on the couch in front of the TV is acceptable. You are replacing one with the other. Public eating is conscious eating, and conscious eating never ends up with an entire pint of Haagen-Daz disappearing while watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ along with a bag of chips now empty without you not quite remembering how it happened. Communal eating is also conscious eating with little effort. Instead of meditating on each bite of your meal alone, doing it with others occurs in an atmosphere that makes it more effortless.

Of course, if you are coming off of years of binge-eating, there’s work to be done here in terms of portion control and selectivity. Work on that rather than pursuing the goal of ‘hermit dieter’.

When eating alone, make it monotonous

You won’t be able to make every meal a communal one if you are anything like most of the people I know. In a culture obsessed with busyness, schedules conflict, things pop up, and families are separated by work, school, and separate activities. What to do then?

Well, what I am attempting to do is pursue the notion that these meals are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t want to have to think about my lunch at work, which is usually alone because ‘lunchtime’ is not a certain hour in my business and tends to be the time one can squeeze in between meetings and phone calls and can land anywhere between 11am and 3pm.

What I’ve been doing is enforcing a very small and rigid set of food choices that allow me to not think about preparing a lunch. As I work in an office, I have this luxury, so this is not in any way a recommendation, just an example of what I’m doing.

I’ve narrowed down my daily eating to the following items:

  1. Coffee
  2. coconut oil
  3. Lindt 80% dark chocolate
  4. Macadamia nuts
  5. eggs
  6. Chicken broth

Now, my particular constitution allows me to go long periods without eating with no ill-effect. Perhaps I’ve been in ketosis so many times that my body finds it easy to pull from my fat stores and run on ketones to keep me humming when I haven’t eaten in more than a dozen hours. Maybe my body is like a hybrid car than can run happily on gasoline or propane. So again, this is not a recommendation – it’s just what I do.

My breakfast is always coffee and cream, providing me with a little ‘get-up-and-go’ with between 100 and 200 calories of pure fat.

Around 6 hours later, a half cup of coffee with either 2 squares of dark chocolate or coconut oil melted in it is my next feeding – another 100 to 200 calories of mostly fat.

A few times a week, anywhere from the noontime coffee break all the way to almost before I leave work, I might have a cup of chicken broth with two raw eggs broken in it and nuked for 3 minutes. Or maybe a 20 or so macadamia nuts, totaling somewhere between 200 and maybe 350 calories.

So for 12 hours of my waking day, my input is almost zero carbs, mostly fat, maybe some protein from the eggs, and a calorie intake of anywhere between 200 calories and 750 calories.

Given I’ve eaten almost no carbs, this leaves room for the family meal in the evening. While at present I’m eating anything, my intention moving forward is to continue the ritual – except to artfully cut back on the carbs. Pasta and meatballs with Italian bread? I can have a taste of the Pasta and the bread with butter, and have mostly meatballs. Pork belly with gravy, vegetable and mashed potatoes? Same thing: a taste of the potatoes and vegetable if it’s high-carb, and focus on the pork belly and gravy.

The room that I’ve left in my daily food intake for a family meal allows some decidedly un-low carb foods in small portions to enjoy while also allowing me to keep both calories and carbs within limits that still mean I’m on a ‘low carb diet’ without the appearance of being on one.

 The one prohibition

If there’s one thing I have learned in my decade of low carb, it’s that without exception, no weight loss occurs if I drink alcohol. So in an effort to make the notion of social eating work as part of a weight loss strategy, I am going to sacrifice the conviviality of social drinking. I was never much of a barfly anyway, and most of my drinking was drinks after work at home – nothing that added much to the joy of life as much as calmed the nerves after a hectic day. For many months now I’ve been adapting to not exciting my nerves unduly in the first place – the 3 pots of coffee I once drank is down to a cup and a half, so a less jangled nervous system should be able to forego the drinks I now realize I once needed to unjangle it.

Now comes the hard part

Pretty words you got there, you might say. will it work?

I dunno.

If I can navigate the shark-infested waters of carbs setting me off for an evening of overeating, if I can watch my portions, if I can make it second nature to balance on this knife edge, perhaps it can work. It sounds sane and life-affirming as a lifestyle – but can it lead to weight loss?

I suppose we’ll see.

The April Fool Day 8: 225.0

The April Fool Day 8: 225.0

Down almost 5 pounds from one day of restraint. Blood glucose 101 without medication (I always forget that pill). Black coffee in the AM, though I had some Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee instead of my organic stuff and my stomach rebelled. I used to live on the stuff and now I can only handle the organic stuff? I’m such a wuss nowadays.

I had to eat to deal with the stomach-ache so had the usual Fage Yogurt and EZ-Sweetz, then the last of the burgers I cooked over the weekend with American cheese and LC ketchup. Felt better after that.

The rest of the day was NOT one of restraint – but it WAS low carb. Circumstances led me to eat almost a bag of pork rinds during the car ride home, as well as some of the cheese I had bought to work. As my wife had an evening meeting at work, I took the kids to that American institution found in abundance in the area surrounding New York City: a Greek Diner. They are typically run by Greek emigrants and their extended families and while each is independent, the families are tight and know each other. There’s a good example not far from my home and the kids love it. It is a quintessential American regional thing. The food is not Greek but rather a large variety of fare for all tastes, though you can find Mousaka – which is a casserole that kind of reminds me of lasagna, but with eggplant, potatoes and sometimes nutmeg. The exact recipe varies greatly depending on the cook, so it always a treat to try the different variations. I always think that the owners enjoy serving it because it’s a personal dish – one reflective of their culture – though I think my mousaka-sampling days are over. Like I said: while it’s a ‘Greek Diner’, unlike other ethnicities, they don’t serve a lot of food from their culture: they cater to their clientage and the menu is more typical American.

We all ordered breakfasts. The kids got pancakes and omelettes. I got eggs over easy with sausage and bacon. It always comes with ‘home fries’ – potatoes sliced thin and lightly fried – and toast. I gave these to the kids and just ate the eggs, bacon and sausage.

The portions are large and although the kids were hungry, they both ate themselves into a food coma, almost falling asleep, far from done. I was pretty much in the same situation. We wrapped up the extras and brought the rest home. The kids were soon asleep as so was Dad. I had tried reading but soon nodded off.

I had drunk a lot of coffee and water and had eaten a lot – but it was all high-fat, little carbs. Unlike the other day where I ate a lot, I slept like a baby WITHOUT waking up choking from my own gastric juices.

It was a clear personal demonstration that it wasn’t the quantity that caused the GERD – it was the food.

Perhaps I need to embrace the thinking that rather than low carb being a choice, it has become a non-negotiable aspect of my life – like the glasses I now need to be able to read. While it would be nice to eat whatever I want, if that’s not possible, low carb is a damn fine consolation prize. The food might be restricted and leave out a lot of goodies, but what you can have can be thought of as supremely decadent – at least by the likes of two generations of fat-phobic Americans.

Day 4: Friday, April 4, 2014 – 223.0 – The Flub

Day 4: Friday, April 4, 2014 – 223.0

Things were going well. Cheese, a burger, low carb ketchup, a Fage yogurt. All to plan.

And then they weren’t.

As a two-income household, teo long commutes, two kids, no maids nor nannies, having th breathing room for a sit-down meal is an infrequent occurrence. As both kids were asleep, tired from the day’s activities, that meant my wife and I could dine alone – an even more unusual occurrence.

She wanted me to open a bottle of wine for her. She’s a light drinker. I thought the rareness of the occasion might allow me to bend my rule and have a glass of wine with her.

Bad move.

The meal itself was fine: some hot Italian sausage stir-fried with broccoli rabe along with a small lobster tail that was on sale. She had a side of Quinoa with corn – I steered clear of it.

It was all very nice. Due to homework issues I pulled the plug on the TV and the house was quiet. We drank our wine and ate our meals and talked and I was quite satisfied.


She didn’t finish her glass so I finished it for her as she went up to bed, leaving me alone in the kitchen.

Relaxed after a long week, defenses down and putting away the remaining food began the fall from low carb grace. A few dumplings from the other day were had, and then some of the Quinoa – that being followed up by not one but two ice cream sandwiches.

Wilson – what I had named the bunny-shaped sugar cookie that haunted my bedstand – got it next. Only his head remained, his countenance one of blank complacency – much like a real rabbit.

He was gone – and so was my low carb streak.

As cheats go it wasn’t a big one. It should slow things down – certainly – but it’s not the end of the world.

Let’s see if I can keep this an isolated incident.

The 2014 Diet: The First Few Days

On January 1, at 225, a set a somewhat simple goal – at least for me: just stick to what *I* consider ‘acceptable foods’ and that’s about it – not portion control, calorie-counting, exercise,  nor worrying about net carbs, fat percentage or protein. This point of this being only to work on one ‘willpower challenge’ at a time – the first being my food choices – and once I had a handle on this, then move on to other challenges.

The last few months were ones where I let myself reacquire a number of bad food habits – mostly too many carbs. I love the things, really – I just can’t eat them and feel good, nor keep off weight.

So, instead of plunging headlong into some strict, self-punishing diet, I wanted to start slow and ease myself in to a change of eating habits that focuses on the pleasure of the foods I can eat rather than the feelings of deprivation from the ones I can’t.

So how have my first few days gone?

Well, following the above approach I am 220 lbs. as of this morning. I don’t see this as any amazing feat as this is most likely water weight,. nor was the number on the scale my focus so far (though it’s nice seeing it move in the right direction): my focus was on food choices.

Despite a few bumps in the road, I think I did OK.

  1. Coffee, either black, with cream, or coconut oil was part of my daily routine already and little changed here. By any measure I drink too much of the stuff, but a reduction here is a challenge for another day.
  2. For New Year’s I cooked a (slightly modified) recipe from a Jamie Oliver cookbook: leg of lamb covered in rosemary with roasted eggplant and red onions which were then put into a from-scratch pasta sauce with parsley, oregano, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and some chili powder. This was a winner of a recipe and the sauce might become a staple – I’ll have to play with this one more.
  3. Eggs, either fried or nuked: with a few minutes before a conference call I nuked an egg with some cheese in the microwave for a minute, gave it a stir, then nuked again for a minute, then put on salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. That was not bad at all – I’ll have to remember that trick.
  4. I made a batch of eggplant pasta sauce with strained tomatoes, leftover eggplant, parsley flakes, oregano, onion, minced garlic, chili powder, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil for my daughters to have with pasta. It was so good I took some the next day, put maybe 2 ounces of cheese on top, microwaved for 2 minutes and stirred in the melted cheese and used it as a dip with pork rinds, then had another bowl I ate like a thick soup. Another trick to remember.
  5. My wife had made a stir fry from some of the lamb along with celery and tofu and I had maybe 2 cups of that.
  6. Last night was sashimi night and I had raw tuna and scallops, as well as shrimp and two stir-fried dishes with chicken: one with zucchini and one with lotus root. There was also a miso soup with chicken, tofu and Chinese cabbage
  7. Along the way I have been drinking unsweetened almond milk with a few drops of EZ-Sweetz (pure sucralose) as a means to eliminate my milk-drinking habit and it has done the trick – I love the stuff. It also works to satisfy the sweet tooth and I find the stuff surprisingly filling – I might try a habit of having a cup before eating and seeing if it helps with portion control in the future..
  8. There was also some Greek yogurt, dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and breakfast sausage along the way.

The above did not feel like deprivation and all the ingredients were acceptable, though I tend to steer clear of tofu and the soy sauce might have had some gluten in it, neither indulgence is the end of the world.

My failures both happened at night, fatigued and stressed.

  1. As I was putting away the pasta I made for the kids, I had a bowl. It was late, I was cleaning up, and it happened before I knew it. Not much thinking was going on at this point: my prefrontal cortex had already gone to bed.
  2. A similar situation on another evening caused the disappearance of some Lindt Chocolate balls and a Xmas cookie from a batch sent by a friend that arrived in the mail that day.

I’d say on the whole I did OK. The only thing to do about the failures is to keep practicing to stick to the acceptable food list and when the habit becomes ingrained I won’t need my prefrontal cortex to navigate around these hazards.

As to the mental techniques of ‘surfing the urge’ and ‘in 10 minutes’, I used the first a lot and the second a few times as well. Perhaps because I had a long list of forbidden items I was avoiding and the New Year’s started with the stress of a broken washing machine, a 9-day wait to fix, and frenzied attempts by my wife and I to diagnose the problem and fix it ourselves to avoid a rapacious bill and have clean clothes, my primary cravings were for wine and, oddly, cigarettes – since I have not smoked in more than 6 months (I took it up briefly after quitting for 14 years). It’s as if the cravings for the recently prohibited goodies brought to the surface other prohibited goodies that I’ve been abstaining from. I found myself planning the route to the store with the cigarettes, then to Trader Joe’s for the wine, but the craving passed and I went on with my life without ciggies and wine.

It’s only been 4 days so I think I’ll continue with the current approach a bit longer before I move on to the next challenge.