Saturday, January 03, 2015

The incredible shrinking Erin

So how did I drop 25 pounds?

Smiling because my favorite blouse fits again ... well, it might still be a little snug ...

As I was writing and researching this article, I became intrigued by the "paleo" diet. I met dozens of people who had lost 30, 40, 80, 100 or more pounds. Many of them were my age and had kept the weight off for a year or more.

But these people weren't like other Diet People, forlornly scanning the menu with big sad eyes. They were having fun. They were eating roasted chicken and carrots sauteed in butter and bacon. They were drinking wine. They were laughing. Most notably, they were not indignantly trying to convince everyone (mostly themselves) that what they're doing is Right. They are not waiting for this to be over.


I started out with the intent to try it for a month. I got the junk out of my diet as well as refined sugar, all grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.), potatoes and legumes (including peanuts). I pretty much whacked dairy as well, except for the milk in my coffee.

I ate stuff like this.

Perfect potato-free pot roast

Readership, at about the four-week mark, I walked into the kitchen and my pants fell off. I am not kidding.

"Mom," said Lil' OB as I pulled at my jeans, "tell me about your diet again."

So a month turned into six weeks, then six months. Now it's been about nine months and I fit into pants that are so old, they are 100 percent cotton--no stretchy Lycra (the ladies will know why that is significant).

I do not follow a strict paleo diet. I'm more of a clean-living low carb type. I have my cheats, but I limit them. By cheats, I meant pretty much anything, but it's only once in a while and not too much (a serving of ice cream is 1/2 cup, people). I think the big thing is getting the sweets and "daily bread" out of your diet, along with the pasta, potatoes and pizza.

I don't limit fat, but I don't overdo it either. I eat butter, bacon, oils, you name it. I top bananas with pure whipped coconut cream (sweetened with a touch of honey; and yes, that counts as a treat) and literally suck the marrow out of beef bones. I don't count calories or track my food consumption in any way.

You will not believe how discerning your palate becomes. You will not believe how much energy you'll have. You will not believe how many aches and pains and little maladies will disappear. You will not believe how much better you feel when you've got enough proper protein and fat in your diet. You will not believe that you don't get hungry.

Weight loss eases some activities

I couldn't do this if I wasn't loose about it.

I still put beans in my chili (not as many). I still thicken gravy with a little flour. I am most lax with dairy. (Ever snack on a crisp cold apple and blue cheese? Pure heaven.) If I go someplace and there are no low-carb options, I just deal with it, although the only place where I couldn't find one thing to eat was under the Golden Arches (go figure). I still sop up the deep red au jus from the bottom of the steak platter with half a piece of bagged bread. I don't grill a host about what's in his food. I share a bit of the dessert with the Goat, take a small polite scoop of the scalloped potato and skip the bread basket.

This is the only way I can hope to make the change permanent.

Some tips:

--Always have lots of nuts on hand for snacking. I also like sun dried tomatoes, sort of like a veggie jerky. Meat jerkies are (obviously) great as well. This local butcher makes a salmon jerky that rocks my face off.

--Medjool dates and very dark chocolate are saviors. Raisins, dried apricots and figs are good too. Every day, I have a date or a square of chocolate. I eat it with a few of the Goat's Butter Roasted Pecans. I swear I could not have lost this weight without those nuts.

--My salads are wild affairs, loaded with olives, marinated garlic cloves, shredded cheese or grated parm, tons of sweet pepper and cucumber, onions ... you get the picture. Add shredded roasted chicken and it's dinner.

--Read labels. There is sugar, corn and chemicals in everything. I really try to avoid frankenfood, but I am far from perfect. The ingredient list for these beauties is way too long and awful, but I still cannot resist them.

--Um … avocados.

--Best power smoothie: Take ½ banana, ½ can lite coconut milk and a big dollop of SunButter: blend and garnish with a shake of nutmeg. Get an immersion blender if you're going to make a lot of smoothies. This is the best model I've ever owned.

--Instant breakfast: fill a piece of celery with SunButter, eat as is or roll it up in a slice of deli meat for an extra protein punch.

--You will probably be cooking a lot more. Fortunately, there are some brilliant recipes at your fingertips.

--Mashed roasted acorn squash is a perfect stand-in for mashed potato.

--Get creative. I replace noodles in chicken soup with a whole bunch of sauteed diced onions. I top taco salad with crushed dried plantains. I throw a piece of deli ham in a skillet, melt a chunk of cheddar on top and roll it up for a perfect snack.

--I love my pressure cooker. It turns inexpensive cuts of meat into fork-tender dishes in about an hour.

--I cheat almost daily with four Triscuit crackers topped with Velveeta and a dash of salsa or slice of pickle. SO KILL ME ALREADY.

--If you do nothing else, cut the sugar.

--Um ... mushrooms sauteed in clarified butter.

--Weigh yourself frequently. That's how you stop a binge from becoming a five-pound gain.

--Be on your best behavior the day or two before the party, so you can splurge a little.

Full disclosure: I exercise five to seven days a week with a three- to six-mile walk or an hour on the elliptical machine.

The toughest parts of this diet are:

--Getting used to finishing a meal. Your hunger is gone, but you don't have that full feeling, which is really a bloated feeling.

--Having enough of the right food around the house. It's a lot easier to say no to the kids' pizza when you've got a dish of steaming pork stew loaded with carrots and onions in front of you, but you've got to shop for the ingredients, prepare and cook them. I go to the grocery about two or three times a week.

The truth is, while the change is hard at first, it's not that hard in practice. There is no starvation or "rabbit food" limitations. This is the most successful weight loss I've ever achieved, probably because it's not a fad. When you get into it, you'll see how completely sensible it is. You just have to find a way to make it work for you.

I sure hope I can maintain this. I think I can. After all, I made it this far.

Now just think how great it would be to feel and look better on January 1, 2016 than you did on January 1, 2015.

If I did it. You can too.

*  *  *


Anonymous said...

Damn. I was really hoping you'd become a crack whore.


P.S. I can't help it. It's pathological.

Anonymous said...

Cutting the sugar will produce the most immediate results. I still have the odd candy bar and 'tis the season for hot chocolate, but I limit these now. Weight's been slowly heading south.

Alanna Klapp said...

Good for you Erin! Happy New Year to you!

Kalei's Best Friend said...

You have seen the light- as they say.. My ex bf ate this way and wasn't trying to lose weight... The trick is is to eliminate the processed well as minimalize the sugar.. Sugar is the evil of all weight gain..I haven't had pasta in years and don't miss it at all..Cheese is at a minimum as well.. If more folks would eat to live instead of live to eat there wouldn't be obesity...
U look great and I bet u feel great.

DogsDontPurr said...

You sooo rock. I am very intrigued. May have to check this out.

One question: no peanuts, but other nuts are Ok? Weird. Is it one of those things like tomatoes are a fruit not a vegetable? So peanuts are a bean or some such?

Anyway, very cool. Congrats on your progress! I'm always up and down. This might be the thing.

DogsDontPurr said...

Oh! One more thing: Do you have a recipe for this pot roast? I'm thinking you posted it at some point, but I don't remember where. I would love to hear how you do it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...


Back on the way back when I read about this diet strategy they called it "Neanderthin." I thought that had a nice ring to it.

A diet like this can have huge ramifications for diabetics. My father-in-law lost a good chunk-o-weight-and kept it off- and saw marked improvement in other problem areas like his feet.

I'm with 'DogsDontPurr' about that roast. I'm pretty sure Giant Eagle is running a BOGO, so it's the slow cooker and 'Vinnie-don't put in to much onion' for me today...


Erin O'Brien said...

I remember looking at that plate of food and thinking I can't believe I'm on a diet.

I posted about it here.

The recipe? Aw hell ...

I don't use many recipes. I look at whatever chunk of meat I've got and the time I've got and figger it out.

When I made this one, I was in that first strict month. It is probably a blade roast. I probably did it in the pressure cooker, which means I cut it into serving-size chunks like you see here and cooked it on high for 50 minutes and let the pressure drop naturally (no quick release). I probably cooked it in a cup of water and some Minor's beef base. I probably cooked hte onions with the roast. I boiled the sweet potatoes and carrots.

This is a pretty good recipe if you want a good ol' fashioned pot roast.

Man, I make zucchini fritters and have my meatballs and marinara over that while the fam has pasta. I make salisbury steaks to die for. I even made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving with a nut crust and sweetened with honey and maple syrup.

Welp, I hit my first goal: maintaining the weight through the new year. My next goal is to maintain through my b-day, then maybe try for five or ten more.

Good luck to anyone who tries it. Find what works for you. It's not a race. It's about what you can maintain.

Elisson said...

Many of the changes you've made to your Daily Eatation are similar to the ones I made almost five years ago.

My carb consumption is way down. I still eat bread (damnit, I bake the stuff) but way less than before. During the day, I try to eat small meals every three hours, each one having roughly equal amounts of carbs and protein. Lots of green vegetables.

Potatoes are a rarity on my plate, but I'll eat all kinds of meat, poultry, and fish. (I love fish, and that helps a lot.)

I'm not avoiding dairy, but I try not to go hog-wild eating hard cheese.

Anything with HFCS is pretty much off my list.

You're absolutely right in pointing out that you have to enjoy what you eat and not be too doctrinaire: Those are the seeds of disappointment.

And you look great. If you feel great, too, then you're doing it right!

Erin O'Brien said...

Oh Elisson, thanks for dropping in. Five years! That gives me hope I can maintain long term.

The other day, the Goat and I stopped for a bite. I ordered a platter of mussels. They came in that great wine broth--with two giant thick slabs of buttery garlic bread.


So I eat the mussels--and about half of one of the pieces of garlic bread dunked in the broth.

That's how you do it folks.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

@Erin:'So I eat the mussels--and about half of one of the pieces of garlic bread dunked in the broth.' yep u got it for sure... It becomes a lifestyle and not a diet. :-)

Michael Lawless said...

Great job, Erin...but I think I miss part of you...but which part?