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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Eat to live? Or live to eat?

As I’m sure you can guess if you’ve been following me long enough, I’m the latter. I definitely live to eat. I don’t know if it’s my affinity for cooking, my love for experimenting with new foods, or that I’m just bored (not likely!), but I’m always thinking about my next meal. And in case you’re wondering, it’s not because I’m actually hungry. I’ve stopped using that excuse a long time ago!

I’ve run across a few people in my life who will say things like, “Wow, I forgot to eat lunch today.” Not me, buddy. It doesn’t matter what I’ve packed for lunch, I look forward to it from the moment I finish my oatmeal. Case in point – I decided that I’m not grocery shopping again until we eat the food we have in the house. So for lunch, I had cereal (to finish the milk) and left over green beans. Odd combination, I know. But I looked forward to it nonetheless.

I’ve also run across people in my life who have said – and believed – that if you exercise, you can eat whatever, and as much as, you want. This may work for those “I never gain weight!” people, but it doesn’t work for me. I suppose if I were a professional athlete, I’d have a daily calorie burn that would surpass the calories in anything and everything I could put in my mouth. But know this – if you’re trying to lose weight with diet and exercise, you have to do both. Typical daily exercise for most of us does not give us a license to eat whatever we want. It’s backfired on me before. For example, running burns about 100 calories per mile. I’m up to seven miles (woo hoo!), but I can promise you that it’s easier to skip the fried calamari than to run seven miles. Trust me.

Luckily, I’ve found that my “live to eat” mindset works even when my new lifestyle mandates a 1,200 calorie a day max. And like I wrote a couple posts ago, this is just about all I can eat (coupled with five workouts a week) if I want to drop a pound a week. Counting calories becomes a game. I learn what I can eat for a few calories. I figure out which foods keep me feeling full. I make exchanges….I eat whatever I want (office chocolate jar!), but I’ll trade the calories for something else later. It’s pretty much no holds barred if you watch your portion sizes and be honest and diligent with your food log. It can be fun if you think positively.

One thing it does take is a plan. Unless you’re ok with eating the same thing every day (we “live to eat” types aren’t), you have to be creative. What I’ve found is that if I keep breakfast to 250-300 calories, lunch to 350 calories, dinner to 400 calories and a 100 calorie snack or two, I’m there.

So what does this look like? I know several people who have recently started diets, and the common complaint is, “I just don’t know what to eat.” So they end up eating the same thing every day or drinking shakes, only to get bored and quit. Or worse, they eat restaurant salads every day and end up sabotaging themselves with thousands of calories of salad dressing and cheese.

I have a better plan. Luckily, each main course in my cookbook has between 300 and 400 calories for both the entrée and The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad on the side (94 calories). If you measure/weigh your food and stay true to what a portion size should be – for dinner and your other meals – this isn’t that hard. And you won’t be bored!

EXAMPLE DAY ONE (Calories in parentheses)
Breakfast – Instant oatmeal (160) with 1 tbsp raisins (43), coffee with Splenda and 2 tbsp non-dairy creamer (60) (Tip: buy the Weight Control oatmeal. It has the same calorie count, but it’s packed with extra protein and fiber to keep you full!)
Lunch – 2 cups of TSG Creamy Broccoli Soup (150) and 4 oz. grilled chicken (140)
Snack – Snack-sized Greek yogurt (90)
Dinner – 4 oz. grilled London Broil (220), TSG Signature Salad (94), two cups steamed broccoli (60)
Snack – 1 cup frozen grapes (100) (you have to try these, they’re so good!)
TOTAL: 1,117 calories (yay, some to spare!)

EXAMPLE DAY TWO
Breakfast – high fiber cereal (160); ½ cup skim milk (45); coffee as usual (60)
Lunch – 6-inch Subway sandwich (turkey, ham or roast beef, no cheese, no dressing – meat, veggies and vinegar only!) (300)
Snack – Apple (100)
DinnerTSG Eggplant Parmesan (330); TSG Signature Salad (94)
Snack – 4 cups air-popped popcorn misted with butter cooking spray and sprinkled with salt (120)
TOTAL: 1,209 calories

EXAMPLE DAY THREE
Breakfast – 2 eggs (140); sliced medium tomato (25); coffee (60)
Lunch – 1 cup TSG Chili with light sour cream (240); 1 cup cucumber slices (20)
Snack – banana (110); trip to the office candy jar (2 Hershey’s miniatures) (80)
DinnerTSG Make Your Own Pizza (395)
Snack – Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich (yum!!!) (140)
TOTAL: 1,210 calories

See that?! A full day’s worth of food, plus snacks, and you’re still sticking to a decent caloric intake. I promise you, this is feasible, even if you live to eat. It fits my live to eat lifestyle perfectly, it’s not boring, I can still experiment in the kitchen, and I have plenty of energy to fuel my workouts. Bon appétit!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!
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