On not dieting.

November 13, 2007

Aunt Flo Update: No signs yet, but I’m guessing that if I continue to post, she’ll arrive eventually.

I’ve had a good eating day today. This morning, after my post-workout banana, I made myself a 3-egg omelet with prosciutto and asiago cheese. Heaven! And only 400 calories. Now, as I type this, I am sitting here eating three of the most delicious things on earth:

1. Bucheron goat cheese, with that incredibly oozy, creamy edge, near the rind, and that tangy, chalky, slightly salty, chevre-like center that makes for such a transcendent texture and flavor combination;

2. double-cream Brie. not even triple-cream, and not even a particularly special Brie–in fact, quite ordinary–but still, even an ordinary Brie is practically ambrosia, especially when you eat it with #3, below;

3. this:
bestpreservesever
Bonne Maman raspberry preserves are the most delicious jam, jelly or otherwise fruit-related product I have ever tasted. If you can believe it, I had never tried them before this Sunday. Of course, I had seen them around at the various gourmet shops that I frequent, but there are always so many choices of things like preserves. How was I to know which to choose? I was never even that big on preserves, per se, being more of a grape jelly with peanut butter kind of girl before I became a foodie. And as a rule I like chocolatey sweet things, not fruity sweet things, so even though I am solidly a foodie now, I am late to explore the wonders of the sweetened fruit world.

These preserves, though–I picked them up because I knew we had cheeses 1 and 2 in our basket, and I read on a little card in the artisanal cheese case at our grocery store that these cheeses might well be served with preserves. Hmm, I thought, preserves. I was going to pick up some more complicated ones, with pear brandy in them, because I liked the packaging (and the idea of pear brandy) but G was with me, and he objected, on the grounds that those brandied preserves looked awfully full of seeds, like, overly full of seeds. So I picked up the Bonne Maman jar instead, and WOW am I glad I did so.

But the point of this post is not actually to wax poetic about these preserves (although really. Go get some for yourself, immediately. Just stop whatever you’re doing–which is probably wasting time on the Internet reading this blog–get on down to your local purveyor of fancy eats, and buy yourself a jar. You will not regret it, and you can finish reading this post later).

The point is that these foods are probably not what you might imagine a “dieter” eats. (They also might not be what you imagine someone who is TTC eats either, what with the whole soft cheese issue, but that’s a topic for another post–if it makes you feel any better, though, both cheeses were made with pasteurized milk, I checked). I am anti-diet, even though I count calories. Perversely, counting is what allows me to indulge.

An ounce of brie contains about 95 calories; I am eating about 3/4 of an ounce, which I know because I weighed the slice that I took before I started eating. I sliced off a full ounce of the boucheron, since goat cheese is closer to 80 calories per ounce. Half a tablespoon of preserves, which is plenty for this amount of cheese, is 25 calories, which puts me at a total of 180 calories for my “dessert” (I’d already eaten a bowl of Progresso canned chicken noodle soup for lunch, at 220 calories). So that’s a total of 400 calories for lunch and dessert, a very respectable, reasonable number by any dieting calculation.

Now, I know that one reason it is possible for me to put together a meal like this is that I am working from home today (ahem, depending on how you define “working”) and have the time literally to weigh my food. But I could certainly see myself packing up a few slices of cheese and some preserves in a little plastic container and bringing it to work with me, and if I had access to a microwave oven I could also bring along the soup. It’d likely be a lot tastier than anything on offer in the faculty dining room.

I have been eating (so-called) decadent, non-diet foods like this from fairly early on in the process this time around, and I think it’s the only reason I’ve been able to stick to calorie-counting long enough to lose 30 pounds. For one, I rarely feel deprived, because if I want something very rich that is a real food*, I go ahead and have a little bit of it. For another, I feel very empowered when I know how many calories are in things–it’s so much easier to choose how much of something to eat (or drink) when I have a sense of how many calories it contains, and the longer I consciously count calories, and the more real foods I cook and experiment with, the more of a sense I have about how many calories are in specific things.

Which makes it a lot easier to work in the foods that I love and still stay in a reasonable calorie range for the day.

I wonder if thin people know instinctively how to do this, or whether thin people just have higher metabolisms and can get away with not knowing and not paying attention. I don’t know. But paying attention does seem to be crucial, at least for me. I wouldn’t say I’m dieting, I’d say I’m eating way more mindfully. In earlier days, I might have sliced off twice as much cheese, not knowing how much I was eating (surely this big hunk the size of my head is an ounce?), and taken a handful of crackers, too (which I found unnecessary today). I might have run out of cheese before I ran out of crackers, or vice versa, so I’d have gone back for more of one or the other, and then I’d have felt compelled to finish it all merely because it was on my plate. And then I’d be stuffed, and sluggish, maybe too tired to exercise, maybe my stomach having expanded enough that I expected twice as much volume at my next meal, and my next.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they could “never” measure their food or count calories consistently, but it took me less than ten seconds to weigh out an actual ounce (or less) of each cheese. I don’t get why more people don’t take the time to pay attention. I’m sure that sounds smug, and I don’t mean it to, but I guess I am sort of amazed that calorie counting has worked so well for me, especially since the effort of counting gets more and more minimal over time. Maybe I’m just lucky, though.

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*To paraphrase an old article in the New York Times magazine, “real food” is something your grandmother, or possibly your great-grandmother, would recognize as food. Fruit, cheese, eggs, butter, meat, fish, vegetables, fresh bread, stuff like that. A few things that are, in my mind, decidedly NOT food: Twinkies, Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos, “Go-Gurt,” Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, “American” Cheese, and anything “watermelon-flavored.”

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