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Chowhound on a diet

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It has come to my attention I need (and have needed) to go on a diet. So I was wondering what other Chowhounds do. Do you adapt recipes you already have to meet the criteria of whatever diet plan you are on or do you adapt their recipes to meet your own tastes? How often do you have special, non-diet meals? Once a week, a month, never ever? Thanks

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  1. My DH and I have followed the much maligned (by those who really don't know or understand it) low carb eating plan for 2 years. Our MD suggested it and after many years of following low fat and gaining weight, has been very good for us. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure amazngly enough along with lower weight. You have to find what is right for you.

    We are still pretty careful with carbs and there are somethings we just don't eat anymore or eat very little of and have really found that we do not miss them or have lost a taste for.

    I buy 1 potato a month, we split it. That is one veg in the higher carb group that we find we really do miss. Rice eh! Maybe a taste now and then, the same with pasta. I do make sort of deep dish crustless/noodleless pizza or lasagna individual casseroles. For burgers, it is a burger served on top of a salad. Tonight I did make cornbread sticks. Only 5 and we did not pig out and the stone ground cornmeal has good fiber too.

    We eat a lot of meat and lots of vegetables, but vegetables on the low glycemic index list. We avoid sugar and most white food. Once in awhile we do splurge especially on vacation but we do still try to make good choices.

    Find what works for you and you can live with and good luck. Don't deprive yourself, you will just frustrate yourself and deep six what ever eating style you decide to adopt, and get some more exercise too.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Weight Watchers' online program worked for me. It was mainly about portion control. What's considered a normal portion size these days is just too big and I'd lost track of how much I was eating.

      I lost weight slowly, partly because I continued to go out once or twice a week and pretty much eat what I wanted, including wine and desserts. I also regularly ate more than WW allows; it just didn't seem like enough food to me. I did eat less fat and refined carbohydrates. That's not mandatory on the WW program but I find that those things burn through your points allowance fast without being that satisfying. It's still easy to be a chowhound within that framework.

      I agree that exercise is important, but for me, once I got over a certain weight exercise alone was not enough.

      1. re: bibi rose

        I lost 30 lbs and kept it off on Weight Watchers 3 years ago. Learning portion control really helped me. Exercise and drinking lots of water did also. Although I was not overweight my whole life, in my mid-forties I starting gaining and gaining. I had been used to eating whatever I wanted and WW taught me how to rethink my eating habits. BTW, the WW products are full of chemicals...I don't use artificial sweeteners etc, no soda at all. I don't eat much meat, but do eat lots of veggies and probably ( this time of year especially) too much fruit. I find I have MUCH more control over what I eat if I prepare it myself...we don't go out to eat as much as we used to and I never eat fast food or donuts etc. In one of my first WW meetings, I remember the leader saying that restaurants prepare food using lots of fat and calories because that is what people want to eat...that they don't really 'care' about your health...that it is up to you to see that you eat well. That really made sense to me. I used to buy Haagen Das pints and could eat one in 2 days. Now I just don't buy it at all, because I can't resist it. Good luck to you.

        1. re: meagan

          Weight watchers works for me as well (40 pounds lost in one year). I found that exercise did not help by itself, but walking a lot as well as portion control and writing everything down does work (about a pound a week). WW allows for a tiny bit of everything (beer!), so there is never a feeling of being deprived. I have to follow their points pretty strictly at first and then can relax after several months--but after a few years of not being strict enough, it's about time to join up again.

          1. re: meagan

            Fellow WWer here, lifetime member after losing 35-40lbs. 3+ years ago (and keeping it off after pregnancy and delivery!). I'm the same as you. I don't touch their foods (they're truly disgusting chemical laden crap). As I read the different 'diets' that people follow here, I've learned that I really follow many of them, not just WW. I eat only what I think is really delicious, and don't waste calories on crap food that doesn't taste good or make me feel good. I am a fish-a-tarian who prepares most of my food from scratch and tries to buy local produce through my farmer's market. When I eat carbs (which is regularly), I try to eat lower-glycemic carbs by eating those that are higher in fiber. I still eat high glyemic fruits and vegetables, so I'm far from an atkins/south beach dieter. I exercise regularly. I enjoy the occasional excess, but it's occasional. I don't keep stuff around the house that I can't control my consumption of. Like Danna, when I look at recipes, I'll occasionally make a high fat/rich recipe and modify it to make it lower in fat/calories. But in general, I just pass by recipes that are full of 3 sticks of butter, etc.

            Good luck!


      2. I have struggled with my weight my entire life but every 'diet' was just that - a fad, a way to obsess unhealthily about food, a way to feel deprived, a way to deny deny deny myself in order to become something society thought I should be. Several years ago I realized I was seriously overeating and needed to cut back. I cut my normal portions to about half. However....

        Someone recently, on a similar thread, said 'Eat only what is delicious. When it is no longer delicious, stop eating'. It was a breakthrough in eating for me - I started paying closer attention and noticed there is, in fact, a point when it is no longer delicious and I was barreling past it with no regard for whether my body still actually needed the food or not. This is AFTER cutting my portions almost in half several years back - I was STILL overeating.

        I eat mostly organic, fresh food, cooked at home, and lot's of fruits and veggies, chicken and fish - I still eat cream sauces and rice and potatoes and pasta, cooked well and enjoyed thoroughly....I haven't changed a thing except paying more attention to the deliciousness of my food and I feel very pleased with stopping once I notice it is no longer delicious. I realize at that point that I'm done. This has really been life altering for me....it's not a negative 'Oh, I can't have that'...it's 'I can have anything I want, and surprise surprise! I want much less than I've been eating'. It's amazing to know that we have a built in mechanism for eating only what our body needs.

        Recently at a restaurant I found the pork chop stopped being delicious after a few bites and the mashed potatoes after about 1/3 was gone but the collard greens stayed delicious all the way through.

        I have not been able to exercise for over a month because of circumstances, and I gain weight smelling a cookie, but since I've changed to this new 'delicious' way of thinking, I have stayed absolutely steady in my weight. And I never leave a meal feeling unsatisfied. Actually, I feel fantastic because I'm not overeating. And I've been eating whatever I want, at restaurants and even desserts....what a breakthrough when I ordered chocolate mousse on top of a dollop of dulce de leche for my birthday and ate a small portion and realized I was done. I felt fantastic!!

        This is all about trusting your body to know what it needs, being in tune with your tastes and aware of every moment of eating. If I crave something (especially fruits and veggies) I eat them. I'm letting my body know I trust it and I'm listening.

        I'm loving every second of this non-diet diet. Good luck on your journey.

        1 Reply
        1. re: krissywats

          I totally agree that you have to learn to listen to your body...the tendency is to eat whatever is on the plate, just because it is there.
          I always joke about "quality" calories...I'm not going to waste calories on junk when I can have a small portion of something really good. I never eat fast food, I always carry a nutrition bar with me for emergencies.
          I also found that ironically, eating directly out of the ice cream container had me eating less...instead of portioning it into a bowel, I'd actually be satisfied by 3 spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry's.
          I go out for dinner once a week and eat whatever I want for that dinner. Something to look forward to. If you overeat (during the week) it's hard to get the calories burned off (2 days of cutting back for one day of overindulgence).

        2. For me, portion size helps...unfortunately, we Americans are way over the top in our portion sizes...I eat my meals on a sandwich plate rather than a dinner plate...it just works for me. I'm not a big bread eater...makes no difference to me if bread is served with most meals or not, so lower-carbing is easy for me also, though when I do eat bread, I make sure it's 100% whole wheat... I do cut fats and sugars in lots of recipes...I baked Epi's Spiced Pumpkin Bread today for a church function...(ended up bringing 1/2 of one loaf home) WHAT???!!!! 3 cups of sugar??? Easily cut that down to 1 3/4 cups and the bread still tastes great. I try to stay away from red meats intentionally because of family history with colon cancer but don't I CRAVE beef short ribs once in a while??? Oh, yeah, I do! Finding your "moderation" level is important-- everyone's is different. Staying active is also important--I try to exercise each day and I do take the stairs, park further away, etc, to make up for my chowish "sins."

          1. j
            JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

            When going out, eat half, take half home. That way, you get to have a fabulous meal twice!

            And exercise, exercise, exercise.

            1. Work out. The pleasure of eating what you like is too great to give it up. I've tried both and working out is easier. Just don't pig out and go to a gym, you'll lose weight. Diets have never worked for me long-term.

              I'll be damned if I ever give up pie. But I'll sweat it off in the gym.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sir Gawain

                Here here! (Or is it hear, hear?) Anyway, I totally agree, I've been able to maintain my weight even as friends from college confront that middle-aged spread by excerising more than they do. Portion control plays a role as well. But it's great knowing that as i'm eating this piece of cake, I've already "Banked" the calroies by going bike riding for an hour this morning.

                I found that "making up" for overeating by excercising is not as effective as planning to have a piece of cake or pie or whatever and doing the appropriate amount of excercise BEFOREHAND.

                1. re: Sir Gawain

                  I'd like to second this notion as well. You can eat well, but if you don't put in the exercise, you can only go so far.

                  Also important is how quickly you want to lose the weight. If you'd like to lose a ton of weight in a short period, then a diet plan of some sort combined with the necessary exercise is the way to go.

                  I figured I could go about it a little more slowly - if I lost 1-2 pounds a month, that would be fine. So I stuck with eating in moderation, eating a variety of food (as long as there are no allergies involved, nothing is verboten) and a good amount of exercise. Over the past 3 years, I've lost over 80 pounds and it's still melting off slowly but surely.

                2. 1. Know what you eat*

                  2. Control portions**

                  3. Exercise regularly (that is, eventually get up to about an hour 5 days a week)

                  4. Focus only on today, not yesterday or tomorrow; no self-recrimination or unrealistic goals.

                  5. Beware of dogma in your food: dogma should be kept in religion, where it belongs.

                  * Measure it and log it in a food diary -- there are many available online with food databases. Many food databases are cryptic because they may provide data for an item or a volume but not a weight; if you find this drives you batty, as it did me, spend the $ on a copy of Bowe & Church's "Food Values of Portions Commonly Used), which is the foundation of virtually all food nutritional info in the USA (and has been since 1937), because it always provides a weight (in grams) for everything.

                  ** If you are a chowhound, controlling portions allows you to eat a much wider variety of foods than following a "diet" where certain foods are off-limits. "Diets" are basically a short-cut to try to take the work out of measuring and portion control by artificially removing items that people tend to eat too much of.

                  PS: If you decide to go on a high protein diet, consult your physician and make sure you get your blood tested regularly to monitor kidney and liver functions, because those diets wear heavily on your organs. The older you are, or the more you have yo-yo'd or burdened your organs in the past (also through medication use), the more careful you need to be. Be kind to your organs.

                  PPS: Finally, weight loss is an art, not a science. It is presented as if it were a science. But common guidelines rest on a host of common assumptions that do not always obtain. Even the "fact" that a pound of weight = 3500 calories is based on an assumed ratio of burning adipose/glucose that may not be true over time for some people. People's metabolisms modulate for a host of reasons (including seasonal) that are beyond individual prediction. And the last five pounds are the hardest to lose than the first 50 for many people, because the dirty fact of weight loss is that your food needs decline as you lose weight. So go into this with a clear head without emotional baggage to carry around.

                  1. The diet that has always worked for me: To gain, eat more, to lose eat less. And run Central Park

                    1. Sometimes I adapt recipes, such as using lower fat dairy or leaving out 1/2 the butter (which works just fine an amazingly large percentage of the time).

                      But mainly, since I have been conscious of not eating tons of fat since I first learned to cook, I just don't acquire recipes that don't meet my criteria. For example, if I'm flipping through a food mag and see a recipe for chicken liver pate that calls for adding two sticks of butter to an already high fat food, I just turn the page. Same goes for pasta sauces and soups that have large quantities of cream. Breads with tons of butter and egg. I save that stuff for dining out.

                      What I DON"T do is look for recipes that are specifically aimed at being low fat (or low carb for that matter). I think if you try to hard, the dish will be sub-par. Here's an example, i made summer rolls a couple of weeks ago. There's not a speck of fat in the whole recipe, but that's just the nature of the dish.

                      Special, non-diet meals? Yes, I grill a big burger every 3 weeks or so and I use chuck, not sirloin, and eat it practically raw, fat be damned.

                      1. * Eat smaller portions
                        * Never eat between meals
                        * Lay off anck foods
                        * Eliminate bread as much as possible, especially in restaurants.
                        * Cut way back on starches as side dishes like pasta,
                        rice, etc.
                        * Eat lots of salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing
                        * Eat lots of vegetables.
                        * Save desserts for special occasions, like once a week.
                        * Eat Tasti-D Lite instead of dessert...only 40-80- calories, low sugar, very low fat.
                        * Exercise
                        * Pray a lot

                        1. Atkins, atkins, atkins! I've lost 80 lbs and kept it off for nearly three years now. My cholesterol when down from 142, with low HDL and high LDL, to 132, with high HDL and low LDL, my blood pressure went down, my blood sugar regularized, and a host of other health miracles. I didn't really exercise the first 60 lbs, due to a broken ankle.

                          I am in now in the "lifetime maintenance" phase, which means I eat lentils, chickpeas and other beans, whole grains like quinoa, wheatberries, bulgur, whole wheat couscous, etc., and lots of fruit at breakfast and for dessert, inclufing higher-sugar fruits like bananas and oranges. I find that my sugar-intake threshold is pretty high as long as it's not refined sugar. I do not buy packaged low carb foods-- I just find vegetable substitutes for starchy favorites-- crustless quiche, julienned zucchini instead of spaghetti, shredded celeriac instead of latkes, shredded cabbage instead of rice noodles in pad thai and pho, julienned cucumbers instead of soba for peanut "noodles" . . . nut flour in chocolate desserts instead of wheat flour, etc.. Fran McCullough's Low Carb Cookbook and Low Carb Living feature real recipes without too many fake foods, but once you get the hang of vegetable/starch replacement, you can pretty much cook whatever you want. I actually eat more kinds of vegetables now than I did when I was eating low fat. I was a cook before I went on the diet, which helps, because the food is more satisfying from scratch than the packaged stuff (although I haven't tried the new South Beach frozen foods). I do have a dessert cookbook that uses nut flours-- it's intended for gluten free cooking, but works well for lower-carb desserts, as there are many recipes with less than a cup of sugar for the entire recipe, and the nut flours are higher in fat and protein, to offset the sugar, metabolically speaking. I make one of these desserts every few months, esp. the almond flour browine recipe.

                          I do not watch my fat intake closely, i.e., I eat cheese or full fat yogurt for breakfast once a week, snack on cheese and hard boiled eggs, and put cream in my coffee, but I also only eat beef every two weeks, and stick with chicken, pork, and salmon or tuna the rest of the time. I do limit myself to one cream sauce a week, mostly because I worry that my husband may be more fat sensitive than me. If you don't like animal protein, it is a hard diet to follow, and I don't know anyone who's successfully stuck with a vegetarian high protein diet. Too hard. But for me, my cleansing foods when I was feeling yucky were always steak tips and steamed broccoli, so the diet is perfect for me.

                          What I don't eat: rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, sugar, corn syrup. I have a few squares of dark chocolate a week. When I eat out (twice a month or so), I skip the starch, get more vegetables, and eat only half of a dessert, ignore the rolls. It works for me. I do binge on Kraft Dinner or a box of cookies occasionally, but I usually feel so gross and bloated after that it's 3 months before I cheat again.

                          I don't cook with artificial sweeteners, although I do use splenda in my one cup of coffee, and I do drink one diet soda a day. I do use stevia in whey-protein-yogurt-fruit smoothies, on grapefruit, and in other "cold" preparations with an acidic taste (o/wise, stevia's too bitter). I have been known to bruch honey on grilled or roasted fruits, but only diluted with lemon juice.

                          Keeping a food diary was very important, because it taught me to be more thoughtful about what I ate, as in, do I want to have to write down that sleeve of oreos? And it allowed me to keep track of how my body reacted to the diet, by comparing how I felt the next day to what I'd eaten the day before.

                          The diet doesn't work for everyone-- some people do need to restrict fat intake for their lipid levels. I have seen several doctors while on this diet, though, and they now agree that their experience has shown that unless you suffer from preexisiting kidney damage, or are a severly ill diabetic, the likelihood of having kidney and other organ problems is veeeery low, so long as you are following the menu plan to a T, including eating the reccomended vegetables, drinking the reccomended amount of water, and taking fiber in the first few weeks as your body adapts.

                          1. Lift weights. You won't get "big and bulky," but increasing lean muscle mass increases your metabolism, helps with fat burning, and changes your shape. You may not notice pounds on the scale at first, or you just might, but your shape will change as fat decreases and muscle increases.

                            Do cardio where you keep your heart rate between 60 and 70% of your max (max = 220 - your age)-- maximum fat burning zone, higher is just burning sugar-- for 45-60 minutes 4-5 days a week.

                            Body-for-Life is a great program, as a general guideline. The eating guidelines are particularly helpful.

                            I could go on for days, but I'll leave it at that unless you have questions.

                            Link: http://www.bodyforlife.com