Saturday, June 2, 2007

What's for Lunch?

Profitable Weight Loss

Over the last 8-9 years, dieting has been very profitable for me. Every year or two over the past 10 years, some of the Sr. execs at my corporate office get together and have a weight loss contest. The first year, it was mostly confined to corporate based staff, which I am not. I knew of the contest, but was not invited to join.

The contest works like this: each participant puts up $200. At the end of the contest, the pot is split 60/30/10 for first, second and third place based on total loss as a percentage of original weight. Also, at the conclusion, there is a dinner. They would select a high end restaurant, usually a steak place -- the first year was Morton's -- and go to town. The top 1/3 of the losers would eat, drink, smoke cigars for free. The bottom third split the dinner bill, and the middle third split the bar and cigar tab. From what I understand, in the first year, the bill for the middle 1/3 approached $1000 per person! Normally, there are 18-25 participants.

The second time around, in 98-99, I was invited into the "club". After 6 months on Atkins, I had lost about 19% of my weight at that time, achieving third place and about a $400+ pay back. Unfortunately, I was away on business, so I was unable to partake in the dinner festivities, much to my disappointment.

The third installment was around 01-02. I did participate, didn't place, but did finish in the top third. Again, I was unable to come to the dinner for business reasons. Again I did Atkins, but couldn't quite match my losses the prior contest.

For the fourth version in 04-05, I did South Beach for the first time. I was very successful and placed in second, bringing home about $1100. I really liked the program, particularly the emphasis on lower fat proteins and many of the veggies that I missed on Atkins. For the first time, I was able to attend the dinner at The Capital Grille. I remember it vividly, though as the seven Stoli Dolies ran through my blood stream, things got a little foggy. I do remember the 12 oz fillet and 2 lb lobster that I polished off, not to mention just about whatever else was on the table. It was a fantastic meal, but, alas, the beginning of the regain of the weight.

After each of these great losses came equally great gains. Atkins was the worst, with gains back to starting weight in much less time that the losses came. South Beach was much better. Although I did gain, the gain was slower, however, ultimately resulting in all weight being returned to my frame.

The folks at Corporate had all had enough of their bodies last summer again. I was again invited towards the end of last August. In this case, however, my response was much less sure. Since I was already down about 30 lbs, I felt like I was already at a disadvantage, losing out on the initial weight loss start up. More than that, however, was the pressure that comes with avoiding the bottom two-thirds. The previous three times, I was powered in large part by the financial penalty that would come with not losing. Deb and I discussed at great length and ultimately the decision was to skip this year, much as the competitive side of me wanted in.

Ultimately, I was invited to the dinner since I had missed several before. Turns out the decision, though still the right one, cost my about two grand. The winner lost about 15% of his body weight. Based on my early September weight, I would have blown away the competition at almost 23%.

As I mentioned below, I've tried many of the more popular diets to come out in the last 20 years or so for many reasons.

The Atkins Diet

Atkins was great, but I seemed to have a low tolerance to any carbs, making ketosis a very difficult process. During each of my three times through in the last 10 years, I lost between 60 and 80 lbs in a very short period of time. Problem was, I'd eat some of the greens that I really missed and that would throw me out of ketosis and therefore stop my losses. After a couple of weeks of stagnation, I'd be back on the upswing. Gains came faster than losses. Though I understand and don't take issue with the basic concept, it's a painful start up process and the lack of all but negligible amounts of carbs was a plan killer for me.

Ornish: Eat More Weigh Less

I did really well on this plan and have fond memories of it. Basically, all carb, no fat. The concept of eating all you want of the right foods was right up my alley, since portion size was always an issue. I read the book and started the plan in 1994. I recall Ornish pointing out the difference in calories and fat between a baked potato and french fries. I went vegetarian for eight months or so and lost about 83 lbs over that eight month. At the time I was living alone in NJ and my typical dinner was a bowl of Uncle Ben's White Rice with a couple of table spoons of salsa mixed in. It worked well at home, but was very difficult out at restaurants. Eventually, I hit a wall that was insurmountable. After a month or six weeks, I slowly reverted back to meat and other protein, then back to sugar. Took me about a year to gain a substantial amount of my losses back.


I'm not sure if this is still around, but I did this diet about 20 years ago when I was in my early 20's. It was a pure liquid diet that lasted for 12 weeks. I did lost a lot of weight, but it came back fast and furious. I remember doing battle with Goobers (as in Goobers and Rasinettes) and Goobers won!


Deal-A-Meal was a simple program where everything you ate was worth a number of points. (I think Weight Watches works like this today.) I don't remember how much I lost on this , but it was somewhat short lived. Ping pong going up!

South Beach Diet

I'm now on South Beach for the second time. The first time through was for the weight loss contest I chronicled above. This is by far my most successful foray into any diet plan.

I find that it combines the best aspects of both Ornish and Atkins -- lots of good carbs and lots of lean meats and fish.

So, finally, to the title of this post, what's for lunch? A normal day's plan for me:

Usually one of the following:

  • A South Beach Breakfast Bar (cinnamon or ; or
  • one or two eggs, scrambled or hard boiled and a piece or tow of Laughing Cow lite cheese;
  • water and sometimes coffee with Splenda and skim milk.


As often as possible: salad bar from Weis Market (the best grocery store salad bar ANYWHERE). My salad will include:

  • romaine and/or spring mix lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • onions
  • raw cauliflower
  • chick peas
  • mushrooms
  • red, yellow and orange peppers
  • side of marinated mushrooms
  • side of roasted red peppers
  • dry tuna or some other type of protein on top

Dressing can kill the health out of any salad. My two favorites are Maple Grove Sugar Free Balsamic Vinaigrette or Walden Farms No Calorie Thousand Island. While their not exact replicas of the real thing, they're sweet and go well with the salad fixins for my money.

If I can't get to Weis, I'll have some kind of store or restaurant salad concoction.


Dinner is pretty simple -- some kind of protein -- white meat chicken, steak, hamburger, fish, etc. along with veggies -- broccoli or cauliflower steamed is preferred -- and sometimes a baked sweet potato.

If I'm lucky, Deb will make her roasted sweet potatoes.

Recipe for Deb's Almost Famous Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
-- Cut up two large raw sweet potatoes into approx. 1/2" cubes
-- Lay potatoes flat in a glass baking dish
-- lightly coat potatoes with extra virgin olive oil
-- sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper
-- add rosemary (optional)
-- bake at 400 for 40 minutes
-- enjoy

Serves 3-4

Deserts and Snacks

Since I'm now avoiding nuts, although not completely, I've recently taken to dry roasted lightly salted edamame. I wasn't sure I'd like it since I don't like steamed edamame, but I do like these. You can find this at Trader Joe's for 99 cents for a 5 serving bag or any health food store (usually for a lot more!)

For a late night treat, Deb makes cook and serve Jell-O Chocolate Pudding sugar free-fat free with Splenda. This is as close as you'll come to the real thing. 70 calories per serving. We top it off with some lite Cool Whip. I over do it with my definition of a "serving", but it's a nice cap to the day. As an alternative, Jell-O makes prepared pudding, which isn't quite as good, but it does in a pinch. As soon as the kids are out, pudding is on it's way.


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