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  • Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    The Pudge Report


    Stasis, baby. No gain, no loss. Same -28.5 lbs. as before, which considering how piggy I was last week (um, can you say "apple pie for dinner"?), is just fine with me.

    Or else, I may have plateaued, which means I have to start exercising. Bleh.

    And just what is this "diet"? A reader commented the other day, asking about my diet -- what I was doing, etc. -- and I promised to post about it. So here goes.

    I started out on Nutrisystem on September 24, 2007. Both SM and I have found it to be highly effective. But it is expensive (almost $300/month). Nevertheless, I think the general eating regime imposed by this diet has caused me to change some of my eating habits, which, in and of itself, has been worth the money.

    My observations of why this diet has worked for me...

    First, it is structured, and it imposed structure on my eating. My eating habits had been haphazard, sloppy and just not good. I would eat what I wanted when I wanted, skipping meals often but also binging (but not purging) whenever I was stressed. This diet laid out a timetable of when to eat -- breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. I never used to eat breakfast, and in the beginning, it was tough to eat first thing in the morning. However, I learned that breakfast jump-starts your metabolism so you start burning calories earlier in the day. Now I always eat breakfast, and I think this has been key to my weight loss. Additionally, by keeping to the eating timetable prescribed by the diet, I never get really hungry and I keep my metabolism working at a higher rate all day. I burn more calories than I used to, without upping my exercise level.

    Second, the diet taught me was a serving size truly is. I have to say that both SM and I were shocked at how small a serving size is according to conventional standards. And the diet's serving size is an actual one, as opposed to the heaping mounds that both SM and I used to eat for dinner. The diet readjusted my expectation of what I should eat for a meal. So now, instead of two large plates full of Chinese food, I eat about half of one. I can't even imagine the calorie differential there. But the diet did show me that I was eating excessively.

    Related to that is the restriction on calories that is inherent in any diet. My plan on NS is limited to something like 1200 calories a day (I think SM gets 1600). At first, that was hard to adhere to because I was used to eating so much more, but I quickly got used to the lower intake. And my body got used to it to, so as long as I keep eating throughout the day, per the diet, I don't feel like I'm not getting enough. And 1200 calories is something like 400 calories/day fewer than I need to maintain a sedentary lifestyle, so it was easy for me to drop the pounds.

    Third, the diet requires "add-ons" -- that is, NS sends prepared food, but you have to add fruits, vegetables and dairy to it. By following the NS requirements, both SM and I changed our previously produce-free diets to ones chock full of greens and other good stuff. We have totally changed our eating habits to include fresh fruits and veggies. We are eating so much more healthy now than ever in our lives, and I am sure the health benefit is enormous. That alone has made this diet worthwhile. Also, most salad items are "free" on the NS diet, which means you can eat as much as you want (which helps when you're hungry!), so I now have a mondo big salad for lunch everyday. Before, I would eat salad, but now I'm eating it twice a day. That's because NS required it. But now it's a habit.

    Fourth, the diet requires us to drink lots of water. Eight 8 oz. glasses a day. I admit, however, that I maintained that level in the beginning, but now I don't. I should though, because the water intake flushes your system such that your body is less inclined to retain water. And I've heard that drinking more water revs your metabolim, too. Also, all the trips to the bathroom is extra exercise!!!

    Fifth, this diet is incredibly convenient with all of the prepared, portion-controlled entrees, so all those excuses I used to have about why I fell off a particular diet (didn't have time to cook, got home late, etc.) don't work anymore. It's very easy to grab one of the prepared meals and go with the most minimal of planning. For example, dinner entrees take only 1 and half minutes in the microwave. How easy is that? In the early stages of the diet, this helped a lot. It really took a minimum of effort to stay with the program, and fewer chances to fail certainly reduces the probability that I will.

    Sixth, the food isn't bad -- once you figure out what you like. And you are also given snacks and desserts, so you don't feel deprived (and deprivation is what often lead to major departures from previous diets). The desserts aren't as good as "the real stuff", but they are pretty darn good. And guilt-free. Also, being on the diet has generally reduced my craving for other stuff. I went for months and months and months without any chocolate, and I didn't miss it a bit. Then, when I had some, it was too rich to eat much. Easy calorie control there, when your stomach says, "Um, no."

    Seventh, this diet is not absolutist. It recognizes that folks will slip up and fall off the wagon once in a while. The overall goal is to remember that one episode of falling of the wagon should not lead you to get stuck in a rut. It's okay to eat out every once in a while, just make good, healthy choices. Also, if you do mess up, don't use that as an excuse to throw in the towel and claim failure. Get back on it the next day. So, I do eat out once in a while, and I do go back on the diet afterwards. And that works well. Absolutist approaches are tough to live up to, so this approach is very helpful.

    Finally, this diet comes with a support system through its website, the chatrooms and the advice contained therein. Some people need it and use it; others never venture there. However, the info on the website is very helpful -- like recipes to use the NS food to make something yummy and different while still staying in the basic dietary guidelines.

    All in all, I found NS to be a great way for me to change my dietary habits with minimal pain. I needed something to really kick my butt into eating right, and this worked for me.

    That being said, now that I've been doing it for a while, I KNOW that I could replicate the diet without the monthly food subscription. I KNOW how to eat right now, and I KNOW I will be able to maintain these habits sans NS. The initial kick to get me on the right track has been totally worth it, but if you don't have the cash to pay for the diet, it's still possible to do it yourself by eating a small breakfast (I usually have one cup of non-sugar cereal with 1/3 cup skim milk, 8 oz. fat-free, sugar-free yogurt and some fruit), a snack (another yogurt or fruit or a cheesestick), a reasonable lunch (like a salad without dressing, mayo or cheese) and a reasonable dinner (like grilled chicken or fish with veggies). And drinking lots of water. And not getting caught up in your failures, but rather celebrating your successes. Those are my lessons learned, so when I decide not to get the food anymore, I will be able to continue to eat as if I were still on it.

    Of course, I'm also supposed to be exercising, but we all know that I haven't been doing that. How much weight could I have lost if I had???

    So, even if you don't plan on buying Nutrisystem, the basics on which the diet is premised apply. Eat breakfast always. Eat throughout they day. Portion control. Balanced eating (protein and carbs) with lots of produce in there. Drink water. Don't beat yourself up over small (or even large) deviations. Watch where you take in "hidden" calories (e.g., soda and dressings). Exercise. I figure that the $$ I pay for the food is a convenience tax, and being the lazy soul that I am, I needed it.

    Wow, that was quite the treatise. Apologies if that sounded like a sermon or a commercial for NS. I believe in the program, but I also know that the most important element to it was my changing my eating habits, rather than seeing it as a "diet" per se.

    Hopefully, next week's weigh-in will show progress commenserate with my enthusiasm for the program. Still, I'm pretty darn proud of -28.5.

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