(1) You mentioned in a recent blog that you have lost over 90 pounds and you still eat the majority of your meals at restaurants. What are you eating when you eat out?
Three weeks ago I wrote in this blog, “I eat out a lot, and simply make better choices off the menu than I used to, thanks to Eating Free! I do keep food in the house, mostly healthy snacks and breakfasts, but food preparation for one can be a little depressing so I tend to eat a lot of meals out of the house, with friends.” And it’s true. I really don’t think Eating Free would have worked for me as well if it had tried to force me to magically become a cook. In my opinion, Eating Free works for me because it works so well with my existing habits, likes, dislikes, etc.
So what do I eat when I go out? People are perhaps most surprised to hear that I still eat burritos and pizza. My usual burrito order is a “regular” (not a “super”) that is usually just meat, salsa and beans (no rice or cheese – and I’ve never cared for cold sour cream and guac in the middle of my hot burrito anyway). Nowadays I don’t even eat the whole burrito, probably more like 3/4 of it, but I gotta have my tortilla chips. 15 to a serving, that’s plenty for burrito-scooping. As for pizza: I eat it by the slice for lunch or dinner once a week or so, I don’t order a small pizza for take-out any more and eat most of it for dinner while saving the rest for leftovers. When ordering out at a restaurant these days, I try to avoid food that comes with sauces that I don’t know the composition of, so I tend to stay away from Chinese and Indian food because it’s just so hard to know how fatty the sauces are. (I used to eat Chinese food twice a week, now I do it once every other month or so.) For Asian food, I still eat sushi (just not a ton of rice or the super saucy rolls), Vietnamese food including pho (not too hard to eat healthy at most Vietnamese places), and ramen soups. When ordering salads, I get dressing on the side so I can self-administer. Frankly I hardly use it; most of the time I use 5 to 25% of the dressing they give me. For weekday lunches, I often go to San Francisco Soup Company and get a low-fat soup, half sandwich and/or fruit. Sometimes I’ll get a deli sandwich, and if I want to save some fats for dinner, I’ll avoid mayonnaise and cheese (but I do get both of these fairly often). Love chips with my sandwich, so I stick to Baked Lays. A lot of convenience stores and delis downtown have chopped fruit cups available for dessert or snacks, or I’ll just grab an apple or banana and/or yogurt somewhere. I still eat burgers, I just do bacon and mayo less often and pretty much always skip the French fries. It’s more fun having a bite or two of someone else’s French fries anyway. If I go out to breakfast, I usually get eggs and English muffin, usually choose ham over bacon or sausage, and replace the hash browns most of the time with fruit.
ALL THAT BEING SAID, do I still eat bacon, sausage, hash browns, French fries, Chinese food, Indian food, desserts, and fried foods? Yes, but if I have a particularly “fatty” day, I really try to have lower fat days in the days that follow. Eating Free works on “weekly averages,” so you just need to compensate later in your week if you eat too many fats, carbs, etc. My ‘week” is Saturday through Friday, because I tend to eat more on weekends… and it’s easy to keep my meals more structured during the week when I’m course-correcting.
(2) When you drink a lot of alcohol, eat desserts, high fat foods, etc., do you continue to track it on the Eating Free website? One of the things I continue to struggle with on Eating Free is tracking when I “stray.” When those boxes turn red [when I go over my allocations] I freak out a little. So I’m curious to know what you do.
I’m definitely not the poster boy for tracking. I haven’t been very disciplined about it over the last 5-6 months. But that is because I tracked diligently for the first 5-6 months and really got a good grip on portion control and good feel for making smart decisions when I eat. In short, I learned something! In fact, I learned a lot. So I’ve been able to lose quite a bit of my 100 pounds when I wasn’t tracking as diligently as I used to.
That being said, I don’t know how anyone can learn portion control (or balanced nutrition) if they aren’t tracking their foods. How on Earth would anyone know what a 2000 calorie day is, or a 600 calorie meal is (etc.) without tracking? So I think tracking is most pivotal when you are first starting out losing weight, and when you reduce your daily caloric intake as your weight loss progresses.
So, I hate to say it, but if you’re tracking, there’s no point in skipping logging something just because you see red when you go over your allocations. It’s red for a reason, to intimidate you! So OBEY THE RED, move on, and aim for less red (or better yet: no red). We all have “red” days. You just have to follow them up with “green” days and your week will balance out.
(3) Was your weight loss journey what you expected it to be? Was it harder or easier than you at first thought it would be and did you learn anything new about yourself?
Overall, it’s been much easier than I ever expected. I spent 15 or 20 years imagining how losing the weight would be impossible and take forever, so in retrospect it almost makes sense that it ended up being easier than what I’d always feared it might be. Working out was made palatable by Billy @ DIAKADI, I never felt that I couldn’t handle it or that it was going to kill me. Not even close. Changing my eating habits was occasionally intimidating at the beginning, and psychologically a little grueling at times, but breaking patterns and changing habits always is. I remember in my first few months feeling like I was obsessing about food, because I was always trying to figure out how many ounces that meat was, how many cups of vegetables that salad was, how many fats in that sauce, but I eventually learned to relax and just not worry about it so much. There is a certain amount of approximation with tracking food; I’d like to think that most of my errors ultimately cancel themselves out resulting in an accurate record for each day where I put the effort in. Some weeks you eat very carefully and you still gain weight, and some weeks you eat too much and you still lose weight. Once I kinda figured out that so many factors can contribute to the number on the scale, I was able to relax a little. I had some weeks where I gained 3 pounds, and some weeks where I lost over 10 pounds. It was the overall downward trend that was important, not the individual number every week. I can’t stress that enough to anyone embarking on a weight loss journey.
The surprises have been the best part. I won’t rehash them all again but you can find my comments on sex in my Week 32 blog and my general sense of spatial awareness in my Week 41 blog. Another big surprise: I am capable of discipline! Who knew?
Very moving to me is the fact that I have become an inspiration, and an unexpected “authority” on nutrition and weight loss, among my peers. I used to wish I could hide under the couch when these topics came up. Now I tell people at a party that I lost 100 pounds, and suddenly everyone wants to know how I did it. And I would say probably 25-30 people in my life have told me that they are eating better and/or exercising because they thought to themselves “if Dave can lose 50/75/100 pounds…then why can’t I lose 10/20/30 pounds?” It is so flattering, and quite a rush, to learn that I have inspired so many people. I don’t think I ever realized I had that potential within me.