16 July 2008


When the big box of food arrived at the door it was a little like Christmas. I tore open the top and excitedly looked down onto the pile of small cardboard boxes that would be my meat-and-potatoes for the next thirty days. Each meal was color coded to easily sort the breakfasts from the lunches from the dinners from the ‘desserts’.

At the end of my sorting and storing, the pantry looked neat and slim. I felt like I had already started to lose weight. I was so excited for the next day and the dieting wonders it would bring.

Many of the NutriSystem ads you see or read mention the word ‘delicious’. After a full day of their food, I pretty much ascertained that NutriSytem has a much different interpretation of delicious than every other human being on the planet.

By the end of the first week I realized that all of the lunches and dinners* fell into one of the following four categories: Okay, Bad, Very Bad, and No.

Okay: this doesn’t mean- Q: How was your dinner? A: Okay.
This category is for food you are okay with eating after being adrift at sea for three or four days. Or, marginally, if you are an astronaut and actually in space.

Bad: looks and smells like dog food.

Very Bad: looks and smells so bad you wouldn’t feed it to your dog.

No: ‘nuff said.

The majority of the meals fit into the middle two categories, with it being a red-letter day if both your lunch and dinner were Bad. So far two of the meals have hit the Okay mark. One of the dinners because I could recognize a mushroom slice as being representative of its real-life counterpart. That is to say, it looked like a mushroom slice, even if it didn’t taste like one. The other was a lunchtime soup that tasted like a really, really, cheap can of bean soup you would buy from the used-food store. A small handful of meals have made it into the NO category. I would need to resort to scatologies (shit, crap) and textspeak (WTF?) to even begin to try to describe these meals. Hey, I ate the stuff I wouldn’t give to The Puppy, so you get the feeling how bad No is.

After a week on the diet I’ve lost three pounds. For the most part I haven’t been hungry or cranky and the plan is ridiculously easy to follow. I do think that people who dig deep into their pockets for the outrageous amount of money for the month’s worth of food may be disappointed to realize that they will be adding a minimum of three grocery items to every meal (except ‘dessert’). The upside is that these added-in items will be tasty, nay even ‘delicious’.

*I’m going to save discussion of the breakfasts and ‘desserts’ for a later posting.

12 July 2008

And Then…Along Comes NutriSystem

When I realized the need to back away from the edge of round, I started to plan my diet strategy. Basically I firmly believe that reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise will equal weight loss. It’s a very simple formula that works in real life and is also promoted by all nonquack experts. Increasing exercise would be the easy part, but trying to fit a ‘diet’ into my lifestyle would be a little tricky.

Having spent much of my life cooking for six people, I’m really over any KP duties. I also live mostly alone during the summer, which means some foodstuffs (bread, etc.) will spoil before I can finish it. From past experience I also know that I can get tired and cranky as I adjust to fewer calories. So the last thing I wanted is to tackle meals that would involve cooking and buying food items that I could eat a quarter of and then they would rot.

With that great attitude it was easy for NutriSystem to lure me in with their glossy ads featuring formerly-fat minor celebrities and perennial stud-muffin Don Shula. The idea of a month’s worth of food magically appearing on the front step was very appealing. All I would have to do was add in some dairy, fruits and veggies, and the odd protein. Seemed simple.

Endorsements from formerly-fat minor celebrities are not always the correct foundation upon which to base health decisions, so I spent some time investigating the diet. I spoke with people who used it in the past, ran the idea past my hairdresser, haunted the NutriSystem website and read a great series of articles at Consumer Affairs.

Hands-down the most oft-repeated comment was that NutriSystem worked, but the food was incredibly bland. Some people used colorful words to describe bland. Some people admitted that they could only endure a few days of the ^#&%* bland food.

Bland? Ha! I scoff at bland. After all, I once ate 1970s freeze-dried campfood garnished with fly.

10 July 2008

Camp Food and More

A little zombie background will help in understanding future posts on dieting:

1) In the two or three decades I’ve spent as an adult I can count the times I’ve thrown up on one hand*.

2) When I was young my parents always plotted these diabolical summer vacations that consisted of putting me and my brother into the station wagon and driving half a day in a north, northwest direction. When they finally stopped, it would be in the middle of some boondockian wilderness, where they would proceed to strap backpacks onto us that weighed approximately five times our body weight and then force march us even further into the wilderness. Miles and miles and miles later (actually three miles), we would wearily set our packs down next to the river and make camp for the next week. Our only sustenance for the entire ‘vacation’ would be the fish we caught in the river and the awful 1970s freeze dried camp food that the ‘rents had so thoughtful crammed into our million pound packs.

Freeze dried camp food from the 1970s really deserves a posting all on its own. Many, many words could be wasted trying to describe the incredible blandness and gag-a-riffic textural qualities. The manufacturers were obviously very proud of the cutting-edge dehydration and vacuum packaging of their products. Which may explain why no R and D money was ever used to improve the actual taste of the meals.

Once, after a long day of fishing and swimming and starving, a fly landed on my forkful of freeze-dried spaghetti as it was being delivered to my mouth. My nine year-old brain made a quick and rational decision: eat it. I instinctively knew that the fly could only improve the taste and nutritional quality of that damned food.

3) I’m a very pragmatic eater, if one meal is blah, so what? I have twenty more chances in the coming week to improve things.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: I'm pretty willing to eat most anything and can do so without vomiting.

*outside of pregnancy, inside of pregnancy it's a whole different ballgame*


09 July 2008

Round is a Shape

A few weeks ago I noticed that I was getting dangerously close to the thin line that separates Rubenesque from just plain round.

Like many women I know, I’ve spent much of my life worrying about my weight. For many years I was obsessed with numbers; ‘how much do I weigh?’, ‘how much had I lost?’ A later phase would include ignoring actual numbers and finding happiness in wearing my skinny jeans and gloom when wearing the fat ones. For the last handful of years I’ve focused most intently on my level of fitness; how far and fast can I walk or swim?

So, for today, I’m a fairly fit round person who’s trying to lose some weight. Not crazy weight, just eight to ten pounds. Losing that much will make me a very comfortable size eight, which at my height of 5’3” still leaves me technically overweight. I can live with that, having previously suffered through the pain of being a size six.

In the past I’ve been a size six and I admit to looking pretty darn good at that size. The only drawback is that to maintain a size six I can’t eat more than twelve hundred calories a day. My body goes into super-famine-defense mode and my metabolism slooooooows. A typical daily meal plan for maintaining a size six is like this: a yogurt for breakfast, lots of black coffee thru the morning, air for lunch, more black coffee thru the afternoon and a green bean for dinner. Skip dessert. Eff that.