Monday, January 31, 2022

Eat & Stay Slim Project - Getting Started

I thrifted this book a couple years ago because I was intrigued by the promised ease of the point system described on the cover. The idea that you can eat a satisfying quantity of food on 1200 calories a day, without counting those calories at all, sounds like exactly the type of intuitive eating I'd love to learn to do with ease.

After bringing it home and trying to figure out the "fun" system of Food Exchanges, I quickly learned that like every other weight loss gimmick out there, it is not truly easy. I set the book aside on my shelf and haven't revisited it, though every time I see it I wonder if time invested in learning this system would be worth it. Time to find out!

The book is a total of 94 pages, and I was surprised to see there are no recipes until page 52. The majority of the content is about dieting. The first chapter covers safety, and helps you determine if you should embark on a weight loss diet at all, with the recommendation that you consult your doctor, and then also listen to your doctor.

Chapter two covers the science behind a calorie. It's a measure of heat. It describes your body as the perfect calorie counter, because it never fails to count a single calorie in the food you eat. There are several warnings about the dangers of ineffective fad diets, diet pills, and passive weight loss machines. This program promises to provide balanced nutrients with a varied diet which is important for general health and longevity.

The realities of calories burned by exercise, and the math involved in determining your daily calorie needs are explained in chapter three. According to various charts and equations, I should weigh between 116 and 135 lbs., eat around 1800 calories a day for maintenance, eat at a 500-1000 calorie deficit for weight loss, and exercise regularly.

The ideal exercise regimen includes a daily commitment, and activities for flexibility, circulation, and strength. I'm told to start slow and gradually add in new activity, so I'm going to push myself to keep up a daily yoga habit again, and let my robot teacher from DownDog take me through flexibility, cardio, and strength focused sessions on different days.

Chapter four gives a few tips on satiety, salt intake, fluid retention, and suggestions on how to curb bad eating habits. It explains macronutrients and what each contributes to our body's needs - protein to build and repair tissue, fats and oils as long lasting fuel, and carbohydrates to help the body burn those fuels for energy.

Appetite suppressants or energy supplements are suggested as a way to help adjust to a calorie deficit, but only for the first few weeks of a reduction diet program. I have some caffeine-free green tea and ginseng energy supplements I'll be taking, one a day for the first two weeks. They are something I use on occasion when I feel like I haven't slept well.

I love the art style.

Using the food exchanges does seem like it will get easier, but on my first read-through of chapter five where they are explained in depth, I ended up with a full page of notes about how they all work together. 

There are seven exchanges - Lean Meat, Bread, Fruit, Vegetable, Milk, Fat, and Free.

Lean Meat exchanges are based on a 4oz raw or 3oz cooked portion of meat that provides a specific value of calories, protein, carbs, and fat. There are Medium and High Fat Meat exchanges that are different values, and for those you add one half or one whole fat exchange to cover the increase in fat and calories.

Peanut Butter is considered a Medium Fat Meat Exchange, but for some reason is the only food in the entire list of meats that is two additional fat exchanges. I don't understand the logic behind this, and it isn't explained. The book promises that the diet was developed under the care of a doctor and registered dietician so I guess I'll just have to trust the BH&G Test Kitchen and their experts.

Bread and Fruit Exchanges have an interaction where you can swap some of one for the other once per day. 

Any food cooked in oil should have a Fat Exchange added. 

Free Exchanges are leafy greens, radishes, sour pickles, mustards, and spices, and can be eaten in any quantity. Low calorie beverages like unsweetened tea, black coffee, and diet soda are allowed in unlimited amounts, as are low calorie gelatin and broth, and you should take advantage of that to help bulk up your menus. In addition, I can eat as many cranberries as I want as long as I don't add any sugar to them. Unlimited cranberries!

Alcohol is not included in any of these exchanges because the calories provided by alcohol have no nutritional value. If you choose to drink while on a reduction diet, you just have to stack those calories on top of your regular food intake. You can not exchange food for Alcohol.

Flipping through the lists of which foods are on which exchanges reveals a few items in odd categories. Starchy veggies and beans are bread, cheese is meat, avocado is fat. There's a whole list of prepackaged foods, some of them are even things you might still find at the grocery store. I don't intend to eat many prepackaged foods along the way here, so I've mostly just skipped this for now.

Next are the meal plans, and some tips on how to work with the recipes included in the book to plan a full day of food. There is a suggestion on how to divide your Food Exchanges between meals over the course of a day, but it also specifies that you can divide them up however you want, and that's part of the beauty of this program. 

I'm allowed the following exchanges every day:

7 Lean Meat Exchanges
3 Bread Exchanges
3 Fruit Exchanges
4 Vegetable Exchanges
2 Milk Exchanges
5 Fat Exchanges
 Free Exchanges

Reading through all of the recipes, out of 90 of them I'm willing to eat about 80. There are a few that will need some editing to swap out components I'm less fond of. Almost all recipes will require a bit of adjustment because I refuse to cook with diet imitation margarine, process cheese, sugar substitutes, low calorie salad dressing, asparagus, water chestnuts, and veal.

My plan is to make 3-4 recipes per week for as long as it's entertaining, and see if I can find any new favorites to add to my personal library. The last time I did a project like this I discovered a few meals that are staples in my kitchen now, and I'd like to add to that list to provide a bit more variety. Maybe I'll also lose some weight along the way.

At some point I'll let the community vote on which of those rejected recipes I should make, because if we don't have a chance at seeing some bizarre gelatin mold or egg and fish pie, are we really living?

I have this week's menu all planned out and I'm looking forward to getting started. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week.

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