Once you have all the appropriate tools and you’re cooking for yourself, you may, like me, wish to slough off a few pounds you have accumulated over the year. When I decided to fit back into my jeans, I first started just trying to cut back a little—no desserts, eating healthier meals, and exercising more. After about a month of that, I had lost no weight. One day I was too lazy to cook, and stumbled onto Jack’s “program.” Jack lost a ton of weight skipping breakfast, eating something very small at lunch, and then having a typical (for him) dinner. I had always thought it was a dangerous diet and that it didn’t create the habits one needed to maintain weight loss, but Jack is alive and kicking and quite fit several years later, so I decided to keep going on my own version.
After some experimentation, this is what I came up with.
1) Eat breakfast. Skipping it is easy, but bad for building long-term habits. Have a bowl of oatmeal made with 1/3 c old-fashioned oats (2/3 c water & 3 min. in the microwave). It’s only 100 calories, and you can add sugar-free Splenda syrup or cinnamon for calorie-free flavor.
2) For lunch, have something small: leftovers, a piece of fruit and cheese, soup & salad, or half a sandwich. Usually, I can keep lunch under 300 calories, though yours might be larger.
3) Dinner is normal, though I try to only use whole-grain, high-protein, or high-fiber carbohydrates. I like to stick to Sonoma Diet-like proportions: one half plate vegetables, one fourth plate meat, and one fourth plate carbs.
4) No dessert. It’s crucial for me to get away from eating sugar & high-glycemic index carbohydrates. They are my Achilles heel. Since going cold turkey is too cruel, I allow myself dark chocolate. It’s dense enough to be satisfying in small quantities. Additionally, it has raised my standards for dessert—now I want a lot more flavor and less butter/sugar. I also think The Finer Things Club is helping. There’s no shortage of dessert to look forward to in my life, so it makes it easier to put off until then.
5) I also avoid alcohol, though I’ll have a drink at a party (no mixers).
6) On the weekends, I eat what the boyfriend’s eating, which is usually healthy, but if it’s not, I don’t stress. It slows the weight loss, but keeps me from feeling like I’m depriving myself. Getting back on the program on Monday is hard, but easier if I focus on eating just the three meals. My choices get healthier as the week goes on.
7) Exercising while on a low-calorie diet is difficult. What works best for me is wearing a pedometer during the day, then going for a walk in the evening that gets my daily total up to 10,000 steps (usually a 20 minute constitutional around Dolores Park is just right).
There are days I’m sure I have less than a thousand calories, but I don’t think I’m managing it consistently (which is good). However, aiming at less than a thousand seems to let me actually lose weight instead of aiming at twelve hundred and ending up at fourteen or sixteen hundred. I don’t think I’m losing at an unhealthy rate—in a month I’ve lost about six pounds.
After a few more pounds, I will go back to my healthy eating plan. Because I’m not crazy about cooking, I designed it so that I make a double-batch of lunch one day, then a double-batch of dinner the next. That way I only have to cook once a day, and there is always something healthy available.
All of this is to say that losing weight is hard, and getting too hung up on rules (“never go below 1000 calories a day,” “no carbs,” “don’t break with the plan”), can make it harder. My theory is that when you start by doing all the things you know you’re supposed to, you can break a few rules.