Over the years I’ve tried numerous diets. I’m a bit of a hedonist, a gourmand, of the self-styled kind, and think food and drink are pleasures that we are supposed to enjoy. Jesus was called a “glutton and a drunkard” and the wisdom writers commend carnal pleasures as reliable.
Still, the New Testament prudes do make points about “self control.” When David Frum compares Obama’s abstemiousness to Rush’s indulgences, I understand what the NT writers want to exemplify.
My friend Matt and I used to discuss diets in Divinity School. He was a fan of the Zone Diet, but I always glazed over at the math it required. In principle, long-term changes in lifestyle do require discipline and attention to detail. I’m not sure if counting is what I want to do. Is there a way to make losing weight as convenient as putting it on?
The challenge is to make self-control easy, or at least easier. It seems difficult to make the will work on too many fronts at once. It took me years to stop buying candy or a haagen-daz ice cream bar, or two martinis as Cipriani while waiting for the train at Grand Central. But the last time I lost 30 lbs (of which I still have about 12 lbs off), was because I did a few things which Mehmet Oz and Dr. Fuhrman agree. I tried to create a handful of rules I could do all at once
I don’t do all of these things now, but when I did, I felt great!
First, I never missed a 1/2 hour walk or some other kind of activity. It might have meant walking to church, biking to the gym, or even biking to downtown white plains for a meeting. This was in addition to going to the gym and doing some kind of interval training. The morning walk was non-negotiable. Eventually, three days a week, I made it into a walk-run thing.
I always had nuts around. Before lunch and dinner I’d usually eat a handful. This helped with my appetite control.
I could eat two bites of anything I wanted. So I shared french fries when I went out, and instead of eating 10 wings alone, I’d invite my brother out and we’d share.
I learned to deliberately waste food or select appetizers when I went out to eat.
The other hard rule I had: one huge salad every day. And when I was obsessed, I had only three meals I ate. Morning – oatmeal or granola. Afternoon, a veggie soup and a half peanut butter on crazy wholesome heavy bread. Evening, just salad with some salsa and tuna. If I got really hungry, I had miso soup.
This meant no beer or Indian Food: my personal variation of the South Beach Diet. I never went extreme – I always had some carbs – but I have been able to generally give up candy and french fries. But I’ve recently been consuming a lot of beer, and when I get stressed, Indian food is what I eat. It gives me pleasure.
Overall, I feel good about what I eat. I don’t drink soda. I’ve not had fast food since the last time I took a road trip. Even the potato chips I ate last night were home made. I prefer to make the food I eat, and have pretty much eliminated anything that has more than four syllables from my diet. Still, last night, late, I made a bowl of pasta and made a asian style sauce with bok-choi and kale. It was a lot of calories. Good nutrition, but still calories.
But here are the books I’ve found helpful:
You on a Diet: This has the bet science, and some of the best tools. It focuses less on weight, and more on the waist.
Eat to Live: I hate this book, but it is the most convincing about the relationship between health and nutrition. Essentially it is for New Testament Prudes – vegetarians – who want to wag their fingers at those of us who love bacon. It distills the science from the largest nutrition study in the world: the China study. In sum, eat your plants. Stay away from oils and meat based products. You can have a little meat if you want, but if you do, you’re a loser and going to die. What I learned? Eat a pound of lettuce at every meal. Because the salad is the main meal, not the meat.
The Beck Diet: This book is about the will, and applies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to dieting. It’s meant to be in conjunction with other diets. Planning your meals out weeks in advance seems like a pain in the neck, but I suspect that’s the real secret.
and Food Matters: Mark Bittman is applied Michael Pollan. Eat like a vegan until dinner, and then eat as you please. But always eat food your great grandmother would have recognized as food. This is for those of use who want to live well and live right with the planet.