Monday, April 25, 2011

Diet? What Diet?

            My regular readers might recall that back in January I did the very foolish thing. I publicly announced that I was going on a diet. My doctor had informed me that I packed on an extra fifteen (or so) pounds—and that was before Christmas. Despite my feeling that New Year’s resolutions are just plain silly and knowing that January is the worst possible time to start a diet. I went on and on about how I was going to stick to the diet prescribed in the book The 400 Calorie Fix. I ordered the book and then pretty much forgot about it. I mean seriously January is cold and dark. It’s the perfect season for baking and eating, watching old movies, even writing in your journal—but weight loss? Not so much.
            Dieting simply wasn’t going to happen in the darkest days of winter--especially while I was directing a show. By the time late March arrived, I was living on pizza, cheeseburgers, Guinness and black coffee. Here’s the weird part. I didn’t gain any more weight. I chalk it up to adrenaline and dumb luck. It certainly is not the path to health and well-being. 
            But now my show is over, and so are my excuses. I’m proud to say that I’ve finally gotten around to not only reading The 400 Calorie Fix but also implementing it into my life. The book recommends eating four four hundred calorie meals a day and is loaded with information about what 400 calories can be. It offers choices at fast food and chain restaurants, frozen dinners, and easy to prepare meals. There is also a cookbook section with some great recipes but the book is primarily about learning to identify a 400-calorie meal. There are many photos in the book to help you “see through a 400 calorie lens” as they say.
            The book also has a 1200-calorie a day “quick start” plan, which they recommend for doing no more than two weeks. I tried for the first few days. While it did work (I shed the first few pounds quicker than I anticipated), I felt much less likely to cheat when I was eating the 1600 calories a day. Besides, experience tells me that losing weight that quickly means it’s going to come back as soon as you go back to “normal”.
            So far, the strategy is working well for me. Years ago I tried the old 5 small meals a day and never succeeded. The meals were either so small I felt unsatisfied or too large to eat five times a day. Four hundred calories on the other hand is can be quite filling—as long as you plan well. Obviously if you eat 400 calories worth of potato chips you’re going to be hungry (and probably malnourished) soon.
            The thing I like most about this plan is the flexibility. You don’t cut out any one kind of food like with low-carb and low-fat diets. Plus, how and when you eat those 400 calories is up to you. So for those evenings that I have the night off and I want to watch a movie with my husband I can save a “meal” for that time. I’ll spend my fourth 400-calorie meal on a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers. On days when I’m really active with my kids, I usually need a snack to pick me up in the afternoon instead.
            I even made it through my family’s Easter brunch without going calorie crazy. I filled up my plate with fruit and steamed asparagus, then took very small portions of the roasted red potatoes and ham that my sister made and the pancetta and spinach quiche my mother made. Okay… I had to go back for seconds on the quiche—it was SO good. I also went easy on the scones and other baked goodies. And I didn’t steal any jellybeans or chocolate from the kids (although the remains of the Easter egg hunt continue to haunt me).
            I’m very pleased with the results so far. I’ve lost around six pounds in just over a week. More importantly I don’t feel as if I’m depriving myself of anything. While I promise not to turn this into a diet blog, I will keep you updated. The 400 Calorie Fix seems like a common sense and realistic approach to weight loss.