Eat Good Stuff Diet
(aka The Stay Away From Seven-Eleven Diet)
(aka The Stay Away From Temptation Diet)
(aka The This-is-not-a-diet Diet)
by Kathryn A
(4th September 2004)
Something Wrong With The Picture
It is a sad but true fact that 95% of diets fail. (http://www.exrx.net/FatLoss/WhyDietsFail.html) (http://www.peelregion.ca/health/obesity/dieting/diets-dont-work.htm) Yes, people lose weight, but then they gain it all back again, until they are just the same, or worse off than before. The "diet industry" makes millions of dollars from this cycle, so they don't have any motivation for breaking it, and our society simply blames us poor dieters for having weak wills.
How can we break this cycle? First we have to understand it.
1) It's not (just) a matter of willpower.
I have a strong will. I have a very strong will. Your hair would curl if you heard some of the things I got up to when I was a Terrible Toddler. Yet I am obese. I hate being so fat. Even if I weren't constantly reviled by society for being so fat, I'd hate how uncomfortable it makes me feel. I have motivation coming out my ears, yet still I fail.
If motivation were all it took, we'd all be supermodels.
We all know (at least those of us who have been wrestling with this problem for a while) the things we are supposed to do. We know that high-fat, high-sugar foods are Bad For You, and we valiantly grimace at our skim milk and our celery sticks and our cottage cheese, look on enviously at our thin friend who inhales food and stays thin, and then succumb to the temptation of that tripple-fudge cookies-and-cream ice cream or that bucket of hot chips smothered in oil and salt, and then wallow in guilt for the rest of the day (or the week).
We are constantly being bombarded by messages from society that say that fat people are lazy spineless gluttons who have no self-control. Gee, that really helps, doesn't it?
Fact is, that anyone who's significantly overweight probably has something wrong with their metabolism, their blood chemistry, or the like. For example, someone with too much insulin in their blood processes sugar into fat too aggressively, and the brain thinks it's starving and sends out signals for more sugar, and the whole cycle happens again. That's just one example of how things can be messed up. Then there's the "starvation response", where the body responds to dieting as if it were in a famine, lowers the body metabolism while the diet is happening, and then lays by a few extra pounds when it's over, to get ready for the next "famine". Go through this a few times and your metabolism could be truly stuffed.
2) Temporary changes don't work.
The other problem with diets is that we think of them and act as if a temporary action will have a permanent result. You go on a diet, you lose weight, you go off the diet, you get the weight back.
Part of this is quite logical: if you go back to your old bad habits, then you'll be eating bad-for-you food, and lose the ground you gained.
However, that isn't the whole story either. After all, if your old bad habits weren't very bad, then one would think that you'd at least stay the same weight, instead of gaining. I mean, if you chip a bit of rock off a rock and leave the rock alone, it isn't going to spontaneously go back to its old size, is it? On the other hand, if you chop an arm off a starfish, it grows back. We're more like starfishes than rocks -- we may not grow back lost limbs, but our body does have a "set point" for our weight, and it always tends to drift back to that. Even worse, if we gain a lot of weight, especially after a diet, the set-point gets higher. (See the "starvation response" above)
This extract (http://www.gurze.net/site12_5_00/exerptBFL.htm) points out a few disturbing facts about diets; that the loss-and-gain cycle can have a lot of bad effects on one's health.
The cycle must be broken.
Changing What You Eat, Sustainably
Okay, so if it isn't a matter of willpower, if we have these cravings for food that our body is sending us, then what can we do about it? We must have a Cunning Plan, and outflank the enemy, our body, and trick it into doing what we want, at least most of the time.
If someone is an alcholic, then it's possible for them to go "cold turkey" on alchohol, avoid it altogether. Unfortunately, though we may be addicted to food (especially high-fat, high-sugar carbs that taste good and give us a "hit") we can't go cold turkey on it. We are more in the position of an alcholic who is told to have half a light beer three times a day -- and then chastized when we fail.
This article (http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/06.26.03/weight-0326.html) points out that traditional methods of dieting, such as Weight Watchers point-counting, requires us to behave in exactly the same way as anorexics, yet it isn't considered to be crazy...
There was one marvelous diet I was on for a short time, called the "5 Day Miracle Diet" whose purpose was to keep one's blood sugar level, and whose method was as regimented as the routine in a prison. At this time, eat something from this list, at that time, eat something from that list... The diet made me feel great physically, but the regimen drove me nuts.
Not something that's sustainable.
So, the Cunning Plan needs to be something that mere mortals can do.
- Stay away from temptation.
- Replace temptation with good alternatives. Make sure that the good alternatives are things that you like.
- When you fail, remember that your pesky body got the better of you this time, but you're a lot cleverer than it is. Revise your methods of doing steps 1 and 2.
For me, the huge temptation is the Seven-Eleven store in the bottom of the building where I work, all full of those rows and rows of fatty chips and cakes and sugary lollies and soft drinks. (Hence the subtitle of this diet). I'm a snacker. I snack too much. And there is the Seven-Eleven, calling to me.
So, stay away from it. That's step one. But if one just tries step one alone, then one is caught up in the will-failure -> guilt -> despair -> binge trap.
So, for step two. Find good snacks to have with you, so you aren't tempted to go looking for them. I tried something like this before, with the idea of having a fruit bowl at my desk. The problem is, I don't like fruit a lot. I'd rather have chips than an apple. So that didn't work. However this time I tried finding stuff that I like. Such as lebanese cucumbers sprinkled with a little salt. Or smoked almonds, I love smoked almonds (and almonds are good because they have nutrients and "good" fat). This is going to vary for everyone, so you're going to have to find things that you like for yourself. Another factor is ease of preparation. You may adore tiny carrot sticks, but if can never find the time to chop them up, then that isn't much good to you, is it?
On the other hand, for someone else, the big temptation might be eating meals out (especially fast food), or having to cook for one when the recipes and the packet sizes start at "serves two", or having to eat with other people who aren't watching their weight, or being busy and finding that the easiest meals to prepare are also the most fattening.
Some suggestions for snacks
- keep a bowl of your favourite fruit: mandarins, bananas, apples, and so on.
- a punnet of strawberries or other berries. Why not indulge? Remember it's good for you!
- lebanese cucumbers and salt; take a bite, sprinkle salt, repeat
- snow peas (yes, they are yummy to nibble raw). In England, these are called "mange tout", which is French for "eat all". What an apt name!
- pre-cut carrots, if you can find them
- a punnet of cherry tomatoes
- (smoked) almonds
- walnuts are also good, as are macadamia nuts
- if you don't like raw nuts, go for dry-roasted ones, or try toasting them yourself
- sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- dried fruit, or semi-dried fruit (not glace fruit, that has added sucrose). Dried fruit also has the advantage of being rather filling. Just beware of the side-effects of too many prunes!
- fennel, cut up in sticks (it's more interesting than celery)
- freeze-dried fruit. I adore freeze-dried bananas and freeze-dried strawberries. Unfortunately, it's rather hard to actually get freeze-dried fruit; every time I find a store that sells it, they stop selling it a few months later, or they don't always have it in stock, or it's not easy to get to.
Also, it has been shown that one square of chocolate a day is good for you, as it contains natural endorphins (for stress relief and pain killing). More than one, of course, is Bad, with all the fat and sugar, but if you go for something high-quality and small (like one Lindor ball, for example), then it's easier to resist the temptation to have too much. The darker, the better.
Substitutions That Aren't Horrible
- low-fat vanilla yogurt for cream (if you must have cream on your strawberries) Note that even full-cream yogurt has less fat than cream.
- low-fat natural yogurt for sour cream
- low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt for ice cream (unfortunately they only seem to be selling fruit-flavoured frozen yogurt at my supermarket)
- marshmallows on your cocoa instead of cream
- frothy milk on your coffee/cocoa instead of cream
- reduced-fat milk for full-cream milk. I use the PhysiCal brand of milk, because they have a better method of fat-reduction which manages to make the milk taste better. I hate the taste of skim milk.
- shop around for cottage cheese; most brands of cottage cheese are horrible, but I've found one or two that are quite yummy, so don't assume that you hate cottage cheese until you've given it a bit more of a go. If you do find a nice one, you can subsitute it for cream cheese in some things.
- water crackers for chips to have with dips at parties
- low-fat gourmet dips instead of cheap and nasty fatty dips for parties (or make your own dips with Light sour cream and Light cream cheese and/or cottage cheese -- see my dips recipes elsewhere in Gusto)
- rice cakes instead of toast (I don't mean rice crackers, but they're in the "cracker" section but more the size of a slice of bread) Probably not all the time, but it's a variation.
- cream cheese instead of butter/margarine on bread, or go without the butter/margarine altogether -- if you've got something like jam or peanut butter going on top of it, you'll hardly notice the absence of the "lubrication".
- butter churned with canola oil instead of straight butter; it tastes just as yummy, is slightly better for you, and the fact that it spreads more easily will help you put less on your bread. The jury is undecided about whether margarine is more healthy than butter at this point; more recent studies have shown that it may not be, but reducing the amount of either is probably helpful.
- English muffins instead of crumpets. Crumpets are nothing but a lot of holes for pouring melted butter into. But I don't like crumpets that much anyway...
- Honey instead of sugar; they are just as fattening probably, but honey has good nutrients and antibiotic qualities. And it tastes more interesting.
- "quick" brown rice instead of white rice; it's specially prepared so that it doesn't take any longer to cook than normal rice, but it's better for you.
I have found, however, that chewing gum instead of eating just makes me hungrier, as your body gets primed by all that chewing, waiting for some food to appear in your stomach, and when nothing happens... problem. Likewise, sugar substitutes can only help to a degree; too much of them can have unpleasant side-effects, or can mess up an already messed-up blood chemistry further.
Some suggestions for meals
- low-fat frozen dinners are good for the busy single (there is quite a variety nowadays; look for the "97% fat-free" on the label)
- pre-cut coleslaw fixings (that is, a bag of chopped cabbage, carrot and celery) can be really helpful in making a stir-fry (instead of eating that pizza)
- oil sprays can help reduce the amount of oil you use in your cooking; instead of pouring the oil over the pan, just spray it on and you'll get a nice thin film of oil instead of a heavy layer of it.
- really thin rice-noodles can be prepared by putting them in a collander in a bowl of hot water and just letting them soak while you make your stir-fry; not that they're any better for you than normal rice, but they're easier to prepare.
- chop the fat off your steaks first (I know, sometimes too much bother)
- get lean mince instead of coarse mince
- make your own mince in the food-processor by tossing in your own un-minced beef; it's still going to have less fat in it than normal mince
- when eating at a fast-food place, see if you can (a) pick one which has some low-fat stuff on the menu (b) pick the low-fat stuff (c) get smaller serves if you can't avoid the high-fat stuff. For example, I like eating Nandos chicken, and while I sometimes give in and get the chips, they at least have corn cobs and rice as alternatives. Likewise, El Taquito has a choice of chips, rice, or salad as side-dishes, so one can avoid the chips.
- At restaurants, ask for the dressing of your salad "on the side" or in a separate container, so you can avoid absolutely smothering the salad with dressing. Me, I'm fortunate enough not to like salad dressing (I prefer just salt and pepper) but I keep on forgetting to ask this.
Another thing that's helpful it to try to moderate your food intake, in a sustainable way. Just one step at a time, nothing drastic. Refuse offers of seconds. Ask your friends not to offer you seconds. Put your food on smaller plates. Reduce the sugar in your coffee by one grain a day (grin).
Go for quality over quantity: eat less, but make up for it by making it something nicer -- such as having a really indulgent dessert once a week instead of eating cheap ice cream every night. Or buy fresh bakery bread and have one piece instead of two pieces.
Another method is to put off eating that thing by ten minutes, and then maybe another ten minutes and so on. I find that doesn't really work for me, cuz it just makes me think about food for ten minutes, but other people find it works really well.
Many, many studies say that your health is more improved by improving your fitness than by losing a certain number of pounds. Also, getting fitter can help you lose weight anyway, in a more sustainable way, by replacing fat with muscle, and muscle burns more energy than fat does.
And if you still think losing weight is the only thing that will make you attractive, remember that you will feel better if you're fitter, and your skin will have that healthy "glow" about it, and both of those will make you more attractive.
Cunning plan time again:
- find an exersize that you like. Staring grimly at the wall in a gym is hardly sustainable, not if it bores you witless.
- find an exersize that you can do frequently; it's all very well to say that you like mountain-climbing, if there are no convenient mountains near by, or swimming if there are no local beaches or pools.
I like swimming, but I suffer from the lack of close pools. My compromise is to walk on a treadmill while watching a favourite video. This has the advantage of being able to be done no matter what the weather is like, or the season.
If you can find someone to do regular exersize with, that can help, as you can keep each other accountable. On the other hand, it's no good if you both end up not doing it because the other person was too busy. Acknowledgements
Thanks to Mistral for her persistence, encouragement, facts, and metaphors. Thanks to Hicko for his encouragement and facts. Thanks to Judith P for her words about chocolate and nuts.