Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pickle to the Rescue!

I was joking with my sister the other day that the only subject on which I’m qualified to give advice is losing weight. That’s not precisely true (I’m something of an expert on arranging furniture in a room and also on how not to make very much money) but I really do know how to go about losing weight in a healthy, achievable way.

And here is how I do it:

To begin, I must acknowledge that there are many external forces (stress, emotional upheavals, a busy schedule) that make us susceptible to weight gain and make it harder to lose it once the pounds have been put on. I should also say that being chronically un-, uh, self-employed and single means I’m home for mealtimes and I don’t have to concern myself with everybody else in the house complaining about the lack of variety my plan suffers from.

But in the abstract the mechanics of reducing are pretty straightforward: if you burn more calories during the day than you consume, you will lose weight.

When I was working in porn I had to stay in shape pretty much all the time--one never knew when the phone would ring with a porn emergency and I’d have to dash out to the coast to film a scene. In one of life’s little ironies I’m about 10-15 pounds lighter and in significantly better shape now than I was when I was working in the industry. I’m also nearly 10 years older, which should add veracity to my claim that this plan works.

The main thing to know about this diet plan is that’s incredibly monotonous. Tasty, healthy, nutritious, yes, but for however long you’ll be on the plan you’ll be eating the same thing at the same time every day. But I figure I can do pretty much anything for a week or two, even living on a 700-calorie/day diet (which this is), especially if I’ll be coming out the other end with happy results.  

OK, here goes:

This meal plan is paired with a cardio program. For me, it’s essential. It just wouldn’t work without it.

For breakfast every day I have black coffee. That’s it! Apparently doing cardio on an empty stomach is more effective. I haven’t been able to find a really clear answer on why that is, but I’ve heard it from so many different sources that I’m assuming there’s some truth behind it.

After my coffee and reading the news I go to the gym and do an hour on the treadmill. I don’t kill myself but I do get the belt moving fast enough so I work up a sweat.

I should point out that this weight-loss plan does not include working out with weights as well. I give myself a holiday from weights whenever I need to drop a few. But if you’re up for it, be my guest--you’ll be that much further ahead of the game.

After my cardio--usually 10:30 or so--I have a 100-calorie piece of a protein bar. Just find one you like and cut it into 100-calorie portions. Take tiny bites. Wolf it down in one gulp and you'll feel gypped.

Around 12:30 or 1 PM I have lunch, which consists of 4 ounces of grilled chicken, 1+ cup of steamed vegetables and some condiments. 

I always have a container of uncooked chicken in the fridge and grill it as I need it. Use a kitchen scale to measure the portion of chicken. The 4 ounce measure is before cooking, by the way. 

I like to pound my chicken flat (insert porn-star-pounds-his-meat joke here.) I just cover it with plastic wrap and use a rolling pin. It not only tenderizes the meat, it makes it look like a bigger piece. I have several different varieties of Mrs. Dash seasoning in the cabinet which add a lot of flavor without sodium.

I use frozen vegetables and steam them in a bamboo steamer. Being single I know from experience that fresh vegetables invariably end up going bad before I get to use them all. And steaming brings them back to a very acceptable state. Birdseye makes extra large bags of different veggie combos. I buy several of them and mix them all together for still even more variety.

Since we’re working with smallish portions, we want to add as much flavor as possible. To that end I usually throw in some pickled jalapeños. A  few nuts are nice, too, but not on this plan--as tasty and healthy as they are they pack a lot of calories. So hold off on the nuts until you’ve reached your goal.

Cut the chicken into small pieces and add it to the bowl of cooked vegetables. Use a small bowl so it seems fuller. A small cereal bowl will overflow with this recipe.  

Next comes the Holy Trinity: soy sauce, red pepper sauce and barbecue sauce. Add a couple shakes of the soy and pepper sauce (if sodium is an issue, you can replace the soy with flavored vinegar.) I use a regular old name brand barbecue sauce that I’ve transferred into a condiment squeeze bottle. If you squeeze a few stripes of sauce over the food you’ll use much less of it because you can control the portion more effectively. It may mean the difference of only a few calories, but over the course of two weeks, it adds up.

Toss the food and eat with chopsticks. Why chopsticks? Because it takes longer. And eat the food one little tiny piece at a time. Taking as long as possible to eat makes it seem like you had more.

Now, as I’ve written before, I have a terrible sweet tooth and really need something for dessert after a meal. My answer? Sugar-free Jell-O. I happen to love Jell-O and a 6 ounce portion has a grand total of 15 calories. Again, use a tiny spoon so it lasts longer. I use a demitasse spoon. Other than Jell-O, I'm stumped for something sweet under 20 calories. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

In the middle of the afternoon you get a snack: another 100 calories of a protein bar! Woo-hoo!

Dinner is exactly the same as lunch.

And yet another portion of protein bar before going to bed. 

And that’s it! I have had consistently good results from this plan whenever I go on it. I usually lose at least a pound a day. And y’know, 7 pounds is a good start towards your goal.

Here’s the thing, though: you can’t cheat! Don’t make it five ounces of chicken instead of four, or a whole protein bar. And Absolutely No. Snacks. (With two exceptions, below.) Like adding nuts to the bowl, all those little cheats add up and suddenly you find your calorie intake has doubled. 

The two exceptions in the snack department are 1) celery and 2) dill pickles. Celery is obvious: it’s virtually calorie free. You can eat as much as you want. Pickles are my secret weapon. They're great because they’re very tasty, crunchy, and a large pickle is only about 20 calories. And it’s a pickle!

Pretty easy, huh? I can almost guarantee if you don’t cheat on portions and really do a full hour of cardio that you’ll lose a good bit of weight in a week.

And then when you do, you get to eat snacks! I’ll post some more of my snack concoctions in the future.    

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