As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. So as I start my umpteenth attempt to lose weight at my second-highest starting weight and what is now my third SparkPeople account (I have a thing about starting fresh) I decided I needed to do something different this time.
So as I set up my newest SparkPeople account this time when it asked me if I wanted to use their meal plans I thought... well why not? Having a menu planned out for an entire day will save me from my usual diet habit of healthy breakfast, healthy lunch, seemingly healthy dinner that turns out to be 800 calories because I have a love affair with olive oil and cheese. I'm not intending to do it forever because I like to cook and I'll miss being able to try new recipes, but I figured if I can stick to the meal plan for four weeks that will help me relearn how to eat.
Last Saturday, I sat down on looked at the planned menu for the week. And well, the first thing I did was I started changing things around. In part because I can be a little bit of a picky eater but mostly because I needed to make sure my lunches were things I could pack and take to school and there are some days I know I'll come home and cook dinner and other days that I'm just going to want to heat up some leftovers. And then I looked at the shopping list. Well, then I went back into the meal plan and swapped MORE things around because I'm not going to buy a bag of six bagels and only eat two of them and I'm not going to try and buy fresh peaches in January. So I fussed with it until I had a meal plan for the week that had enough variety to keep me from being bored (I don't need much) and also somewhat minimized the number of ingredients I was going to need to buy (that wasn't as successful as I'd hoped, but more on that in a minute). And the thing that I ended up really liking about the SP meal plan is how easy it was to do that - I'd swap out whole meals for something else, but I also swapped a lot of ingredients using their equivalent suggestions, which may be my favorite feature of the plan. Because when I decided my dinner needed cheese, I added in some feta instead of drinking a glass of milk, and so on.
Meal plan completed and grocery list in hand, I go to the store to do my shopping for the week. And the first thing I realized was... holy crap that was a lot of produce. My produce list was almost as long as my non-produce list and that was after trying to limit the different fruits and veggies I was going to eat. Two big cartons of strawberries, a bag of grapes, apples, oranges, lemons, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, a giant container of baby spinach, asparagus and a few other random things I'm not remembering at the moment. And I live by myself. I was staring at all of this produce thinking that there was no way I was going to eat it all before it went bad. But I was determined to do this.
The other thing I noticed as I was going through the store was that my meal plan barely took me into the middle aisles. I had to pick up some brown rice and garbanzo beans and one or two other things from the aisle, but the rest of it all came from the periphery of the store. This was my first clue that this meal plan was going to go a long way towards showing me what I've been doing wrong with my eating all these years.
The final bill? $150. Which... on a grad student budget had me freaking out a little in my head. (Although if I exclude the couple of things I picked up that weren't on the meal plan, it was more like $135.) Still, that's a lot of money for a week's worth of groceries for one person. I was panicking a bit as I drove home and thinking that this brilliant plan of mine wasn't going to work because I was going to go broke before I lost any weight. But then I started thinking a little more rationally and I realized that it was high because there were quite a few healthy eating staples I had to pick up, my fridge was pretty bare because I'd just returned home from vacation and a lot of the stuff I bought was going to last more than the one week so if I planned it right, I could remake a lot of the same meals for a second week and would only have to pick up more fresh produce. Hopefully.
That was last weekend. And now a week later, I've stuck to my meal plan for an entire week (minus one lunch that I ate out) and while my "official" weigh in isn't until Monday, I peeked this morning and I'm already down two pounds from where I was last weekend. As for the food, well....
It was really good. I don't think I could eat on the meal plan long term because although it does have quite a few options to choose from, it would get boring in the long run. But four weeks is definitely doable.
Sweet potatoes are DELICIOUS. That was part of tonight's dinner. I've only ever had them for thanksgiving or as french fries, neither one of which I've been too enamored of, but half a sweet potato and a small pat of butter and now I want sweet potatoes every day.
There were quite a few dishes that I really enjoyed. The aforementioned sweet potatoes, grilled lemongrass beef, chicken with couscous and asparagus, swiss cheese melted over a bagel, etc.
I also discovered a few combinations on my own through substitutions. An egg salad pita that was supposed to be served with summer squash turned into an egg salad pita with a cup of cucumber slices shoved into the pita. And I took a strange combination of garbanzo beans, tomatoes and sour cream in a pita and spiced it up with a bit of feta instead of the milk I was supposed to have on the side.
The meal plan has you eating a LOT of food. I found myself undereating on quite a few days, not because I was starving myself but because after eating a plate of whole grains, an appropriate portion of meat and a veggie side, I just wasn't hungry for the blueberries and cottage cheese that were supposed to go on the side.
As a result I do have a bit of food that I bought but haven't even touched, mostly dairy, but that will last me through next week at least.
The only thing I had all week that I can say I didn't like was the brown rice. Which may have been my own fault for making instant brown rice but it was just bland and dry and tomorrow I may take the butter that's supposed to go on the sweet potato and put it on the rice instead.
I ate a lot of pita sandwiches this week, which I enjoy, but SP seems to have rather absurd ideas of what you can fit into a half-pita. When I was at home I just ate the extra on the side, but that didn't work as well when I was taking things to school.
Almost all of the produce is gone! This really is an accomplishment for me because I am ALWAYS throwing produce away, either because I forget to eat it or I use what I need for one recipe and then don't have anything to do with the rest. I still have some spinach and half a cucumber and some grapes, but I'll make a dent in that tomorrow and probably won't head back to the store until Monday night.
When I sat down today to do the menu planning for this upcoming week... my grocery list consists of produce, croutons and paper towels. So at least my fears about spending $150 every week weren't true. And after doing some reading about how to eat more fruits and veggies, I should be able to keep the costs down more by buying some things frozen and limiting the variety in favor of buying in bulk.
All in all, it's been a successful week and I'm feeling good about my ambitions for the month. I was going to write out some January goals but this post is long enough as it is so I suppose that will have to wait for another day.