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Diet Food

Sunday, March 25, 2012

We don't use the word "diet" here at Spark People much. Not a word I like much either. But I do use it, myself. And I've recently blogged on the topic.

For me it's always going to be necessary to diet. Permanently.

And it's going to be necessary to tolerate -- even savour -- being hungry. Every day. Human beings are meant to experience hunger. Thin people do experience hunger. Because hunger signals that I'm ready for my next meal. And hunger signals that I will enjoy that meal even more.

However, in that context, I've been thinking about commercial "diet food". The whole focus of diet food and diet cooking is on eliminating hunger. It's a billion dollar industry. And hunger cannot be eliminated if weight is to be lost and cannot be eliminated if weight loss is to be maintained. It's a delusion.

Those 100 calorie pouches, the special cookies that are calorie reduced, the baked instead of fried chips. I don't buy that stuff. In my experience when I did, I just ate more of the calorie reduced foods until I'd had six reduced-calorie cookies instead of two regular cookies, amounting to the same number of calories, or maybe more. Self-delusion. Although (never wishing to be boringly consistent about anything) I do use sugar substitute moderately, Splenda being my favourite.

And I've been thinking about diet recipes too. There is a big focus here at Spark People and in a million cookbooks and magazine articles on lower-calorie versions of favourite foods with the promise that they are "just as good" or even better, more flavourful. The calorie reduced cheesecakes made with low fat cream cheese and sour cream, the fudge brownies with applesauce instead of butter, the ovenbaked "fried chicken". And yup, I've contributed a few of those recipes too. None of them do taste quite as good as the original. Because they don't appeal to all of the senses -- the mouthfeel of fat, the crispiness of fat, the crunchy sound of caramelized sugar, the smell of butter-soaked popcorn. So maybe if I had a slightly bigger portion of the cheesecake it'd be good? No? Delusion again. I've had to come to the conclusion that cheesecake is not for me. Fried chicken is not for me either.

With the way I'm eating now, increasingly I don't use recipes. As for the requests for my "soup recipes": I would love to help and I'm flattered to be asked but I don't really have any. My soup is comprised from whatever's in the cupboard and the freezer and those veggies in the fridge that need to be used up from last week's salads.

But what I'm learning is that out-and-out "diet foods" -- commercial product, or my own "makeover" versions -- are seldom satisfying. Although I 'm not totally consistent, primarily and increasingly I'm finding that my omelettes and oatmeal and soups and my salads (staples of my diet) are tending to be "real food". By which I mean, not commercially calorie-reduced or revamped versions of higher fat originals.

Real oatmeal, old fashioned type: not the prefab pouches. Of course there aren't any calorie reduced radishes or tomatoes or bell peppers or arugula. All those raspberries and blueberries and apples are by definition "full calorie". I do often choose lower fat or fat free dairy products (yogourt, feta, milk) but I'll eat full fat old cheddar and full fat butter rather than processed cheese slices or ersatz margarines. I will eat full fat cashews or nut butters and avocado and salmon: all good fats. Provided I have them in controlled quantities. Very controlled. And not every day.

I can't have some of these real foods in sufficient quantities such that I'm not going to feel hungry. I do feel hungry. Every day.

Hunger is not an emergency. And no amount of "diet food" will prevent me from feeling hungry anyhow, if I am going to sustain my calorie range. And maintain my weight.

No amount of exercise will permit me to eat whatever I want either.

I am going to be hungry. I am going to savour my hunger, savour my meals. Real meals. Because real food is more satisfying to me.

Gotta grow up and accept this. No whining. No regrets.

Less is more.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not "lecturing" on this topic, not at all.

This is a new core belief I have deliberately adopted, and I'm repeating it here primarily for my own benefit. Repeating it until I believe it, act upon it and realize the results.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • NAVYMOM133
    Excellent blog!! I couldn't agree with you more!! Here's to putting single-ingredient foods together and making a true meal!
    2156 days ago
    Believe it or not, I do not feel hunger every day.

    Is it true that your stomach shrinks with time? That's the only reason I can think of that I am NOT hungry every day!

    I agree with you on the diet foods -- most are worthless.
    2156 days ago
    Real food, what a concept. I agree, I've tried the "diet" foods and treats and have shared basically the same experience as you. I've found the best for me is to eat the "real" (original recipes/treats) stuff in moderation and then stick much more to the "whole" (fresh) stuff in quantity. When I don't keep that balance, my pants tell the story....

    My scale hasn't been budging much, just wobbling back and forth, but I'm feeling better, I'm looking better and I'm firmer. I think I'm going to post a picture on my wall in the bathroom of a scale with the number I realistically want it to read of use that for my motivation (repeating it until I believe it) However, as long as I believe and feel that I'm moving in the right direction, I'm not going to focus heavily on the number.

    Great blog as always. Have a blast of a day. Hope its spring like where you are. CJ
    2157 days ago
    "Repeating it until I believe it, act upon it and realize the results."
    Can't do better than that!
    Namaste my friend.
    2157 days ago
    Vegetables, a little meat, sweetness when we work hard for it, sounds like the stuff that brought us to where we are. I owe my Mum a huge thank you for her knowledge of food.
    2157 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Real Food!
    Commercially chemically processed "diet food"
    I can understand folks wanting the recipe for your soups, cooking real food is so different than opening a box or a bag. Right now I am learning how to cook real food for my family which requires using recipes before I can tweak stuff to our liking. Then like you I will not really have a recipe.
    WTG for knowing what you must do for you!
    2158 days ago
    I'm with you on this topic...no 100 calorie packs for me as well. No egg-white only stuff or rubber fake cheese either! Real food please! :-)

    2158 days ago
  • _LINDA
    I so absolutley agree with this. I could never tolerate anything but real cheese. Most of what I eat is unprocessed. I do not use salt, sweeteners of any kind and only use pepper, garlic and chilli pepper seeds for spices. Real foods rule!!
    2158 days ago
    What a great blog. You said so many important things here . . . and expressed it so well! Thanks for putting these valuable perspective down so we can get a real solid handle on it!!
    2158 days ago
    What a great blog. You said so many important things here . . . and expressed it so well! Thanks for putting these valuable perspective down so we can get a real solid handle on it!!
    2158 days ago
    I'm 100% on your team!
    Real food in smaller amounts for me, too.
    2158 days ago
    Another blog full of wisdom and refreshing tough-love!

    I remember a long time ago, when I was young and had a raging high metabolism and didn't understand a thing about "diets," wondering why people would want to eat nasty SnackWell's when they could just eat a little less of the real stuff. Then I got older, went to college, started gaining weight, and started understanding the whole thing.

    Fortunately, I grew up in a household where my dad baked chicken with the skin on and real butter was kept in a box on the counter. Yeah, we did the processed grains, instant oatmeal, quick cereals, and whatnot, but I don't remember piles upon piles of "diet food" hanging around the house.

    I've been a lot happier since going to as unprocessed a diet as possible. I just feel so completely satisfied by my meals, and I'm discovering how hunger is the best spice. Food tastes so much better when I'm actually hungry for it.

    So thanks again for another awesome post! I'm still inspired to keep it real!
    2158 days ago
    I thought I was the only person on the site who was totally unattracted to the multiplicity of fancy recipes. I do better figuring out how to prepare real food for one.

    It's been a gradual process. I'm not using much butter any more; I might not use any for a couple of weeks. And after a half year, I finally weaned myself off the toaster pastries (generic Pop-Tarts). But I couldn't do it all at once. And most of those Spark recipes would require me to dive into lots of aspects of real food that are unfamiliar, all at once, to prepare one dish. No, thank you.

    In the process, I've found some things that work for hunger control; but they bear no resemblance whatsoever to reduced-calorie recipes for the high-calorie stuff. They look more like, change what I eat to something different, and be sure to get enough water, bulk, and protein in.

    And yeah, sometimes I just have to live with a bit of hunger till it's time to eat again. But that doesn't happen every day.
    2158 days ago
    I totally agree. I avoid low fat, or fat free processed foods. If I want sour cream, that's what I have. I just don't have it very often. Low fat dairy products can contain things like modified food starch, which I can't eat because I'm gluten intolerant. I always read the labels, or buy food like fresh fruits and vegetables that don't need labels. I avoid things like blueberry breakfast bars, even if they're gluten free. Real oatmeal with fresh blueberries - now that is good food. Natural oatmeal is gluten free if it is processed in a gluten free environment. The little packaged instant oatmeals usually aren't gluten free, and honestly, the real stuff doesn't take that long to cook. I think a lot of "diet" food isn't really food at all.
    2158 days ago
    Hi thanks for another great blog..love your blogs..

    it made me think of something I read someplace that your body craves good nutrition..so if you're getting your calories from not "real" foods..your body is still craving the nutritional needs of a balanced diet..feed it the fruit, veggies, proteins, grains and fats..and we are satisfied...who knew the body was so smart!!

    Like that study that if you eat only junk food to required calorie limit you lose weight but it didn't say at what cost and if you were hungry or not...

    Food for thought emoticon

    Your soup ideas always inspire me and I make soup..and almost everything, like you..with whats around and might taste good together. This week in my challenge team we are measuring everything....good to do once in awhile to see how close the eye balling has been :)

    Have a great Sunday :)
    2159 days ago
    Amen to REAL food! I too would rather eat less of the real stuff than eat "diet" food full of plastic and petroleum by-products - bleah!!!

    My lunch was oatmeal (old fashioned) to which I added raisins and almonds (just 18 almonds) - yum!!!
    2159 days ago
    Like this blog, a lot. I believe in "real food", in moderate portions. Although I do purchase food from Jenny Craig or Healthy Choice or the WW Smart Ones... because I live alone and don't want to eat the same thing all the time, and they are appropriately portion sized for one with my calorie range... I avoid the snacky 100 calorie packs. Got the same problem with them as you do.

    The foods I use to supplement: real foods, real veggies and fruits. Skim milk.

    I like the dictionary definition of diet, myself: "what you eat". As in "the diet of the koala bear consists of eucalyptus leaves".

    Spark on! Eat less. Savor and enjoy it more. emoticon
    2159 days ago
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