Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Still Seeking Simple in the Suburbs

I started this blog about a year ago when I quit my job as a way to document ways to simplify my life and save money. I've learned some surprising things. 

First, I save more money when I use less coupons. Interesting. 

I still use coupons but only when they are for something I was planning on purchasing anyway. Most coupons are for processed foods and as part of simplifying, I am trying to avoid all processed foods. So, each week I scour the ads for sales, plan menus around the sale items and stock up on especially good deals. 

Second, you spend less when you eat less. A sad, hard truth. One of the biggest parts of simplifying my life has been getting my diet under control. I am proof a better diet leads to feeling better emotionally and physically.

Third, I have learned you cannot truly simplify your life until you learn self-control. When I am in control of my emotions, my eating and my spending, I feel good. When I act unrestrained, eat uncontrollably or spend irresponsibly, I feel guilty and depressed. It's just simpler to be in control. 

Dieting is difficult. It has taken me two months to lose 9.5 pounds. To succeed, you must take a long term approach to weight loss. I have stated before, when I began dieting, I calculated how many calories a day it took to maintain my present weight, then subtracted off 500 calories. I aim for 1300-1400 net calories a day. 

A friend approached me the other day, "You're losing weight!" she said with a tone approaching reproach. "How are you doing it? she asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"I hate to tell you. I am eating less and moving more," I said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, that won't work!" she said with disgusting disappointment, ignoring my almost ten pound loss. 

I went on to explain my apparently radical 1300-1400 net calories a day method. 

"You can't just eat the same number of calories every day," she said. You have to vary it up and down to lose weight."

"I do," I responded. "Some days I eat 1300 calories and some days I eat 1400 calories." 

"Well, personally I am using human growth hormone," she said. 

Why are we willing to try anything to lose weight? I think it is because we feel desperate and unhappy and want immediate results. I speak from experience.

When I started dieting back on February 2, I went to Wal-Mart and bought some "Zendo Quality Herbal Dieters Tea". 

For some reason, I assumed it was super caffeinated and would speed up my metabolism. I have no idea why I thought this would be a good thing. I made my husband and myself a cup of tea and sat down in front of the TV to read the box. As I approach the bottom of the cup, I notice in large letters "NO CAFFEINE" stamped prominently on the box. 

"What?" I thought. "Then what's in it? Surely Wal-Mart would not sell an unsafe product. I'm sure it's been thoroughly tested in a large lab by highly educated people wearing white coats. If the rats didn't die from drinking the equivalent of 10,000 cups of dieters tea a day, I'm sure I won't." 

Then in small print I read: "This product contains SENNA Leaves. Do not use if you have or develop diarrhea, loose stools or abdominal pain because SENNA may worsen these conditions and be harmful to your health."

I immediately google "Senna" on my smartphone and read dire warning after even more dire warning.  Obviously, my phone is smarter than I am.

"SPIT. OUT. THE. TEA!!!" I scream at my husband, frantically waving my arms and jumping from my chair to grab his now empty cup. "Drinking this tea is going to be like preparing for a colonscopy only much, much worse," I predict.

"You're blocking the TV," he responds. 

The end result? None. No running to the bathroom, no weight loss, nothing. I just fell for the equivalent of a diet scam. The only good thing about the tea was that it made me jump up and wave my arms frantically. I felt like an idiot. 

I thought, "Why am I so desperate I am willing to risk my health?" From that point, I decided I would use no expensive supplements, medicines, fad diets, crazy fasts, cabbage soups or anything else to lose weight. I knew rationally there was no easy way to lose weight, no miracle cure. It took months to gain and it would take months to lose. I calculated it would take me 8 months to lose the amount of weight I wanted. Dieting is about endurance

I often reason with myself, "Eight months will pass regardless of what I eat. I can be thinner or stay fat. It's within my control." 

The first week was the hardest. After the first week, I started adjusting to eating less and feeling a little proud of myself.  One night when I was especially hungry, my husband made the point that hunger pangs aren't really pain, they are just an annoying sensation. And it's true, I have experienced real pain. Mild hunger doesn't come close. 

"Go make yourself a cup of hot tea," he said. I did and I forgot about my hunger pains. I notice I most often feel hunger pains when sitting. If I get up and do something, I forget about them.

The more I lose, the less willing I am to give in to temptation. When offered something tempting, I stop and think, "It took you all week to lose a pound, is one meal really worth sacrificing a week's hard work?"

I have almost entirely given up eating out. It is difficult to calculate how much you are eating and there is so much more pressure to eat. Restaurants are the equivalent of a dieting minefield. So, when I do eat out, I try to always look at the restaurant's website prior to going and choose a healthy option. I don't look at the menu once I get there or I might be tempted to change my mind. 

Honestly, it hasn't been bad at all. I have primarily given up bread, potatoes and sweets. When I crave a potato, I make this recipe. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with 0 calorie baking spray. Place half a chopped potato, broccoli, onion and carrots on top. Season to taste. I use a steak seasoning mix. Wrap and bake. It's not a baked potato with lots of butter and sour cream but it's a nice substitute.

Instead of butter, I have been using this 0 calorie Smart Balance Butter Substitute spray and 15 calorie Teriyaki sauce. I always like to hear other people's diet tips. Please share.

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