This scrumptious BLT is one of the lunches I had regularly when I lost 140 pounds in 18 months 30 years ago. This is only one example in a whole repertoire of great meals I’ll describe below that maintain my success.
(This article first appeared in The Huffington Post)
When clients have asked me to tell them what to eat, I haven’t, because it distracts them from what they really need to do. The secret to success in permanent weight loss is in learning how to think differently and develop your own unique set of habits and preferences, with your own favorites. That’s why diets don’t work. We eventually return to our own preferences, the ways that made us overweight. I don’t give people diets because it’s not the diet that makes you successful. It’s the reprogramming technique I teach.
However, in order to dispute those who claim it’s impossible to have great meals without gaining weight or that you need to eat special concoctions or give up everything you like, I’m going to share some of my favorite meals that are not only delectable, but also keep me thin. We’ll start with lunch. We’ll cover breakfast and dinner another time.
Lunch can be the cause of obesity for many people and the main reason they fail at attempts to lose weight. If you’ve read my work, you know that the physical science of weight control is simple. Eat more calories than you burn, and you’ll get fat. Overeat and you gain weight, undereat and you lose. Getting ourselves to do this is the tricky part, and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
The reason lunch can be such a problem is that its easy to eat thousands of calories too much if you aren’t paying attention. Some of the salads at restaurants can be 1200 calories or more all by themselves. (Some women will gain weight if they eat more than 1500 calories per day!) A Whopper, fries and a coke can be 1500. Power lunches at fancy places can be 2000 calories. Same with pizza. No wonder it’s so easy to gain weight. Living large at lunch is one of the reasons we have an obesity epidemic.
My BLT shown above is only 250 calories. I make a great ham and cheese sandwich at only 270. How can that be, you say, with all that bread, mayo and bacon or ham and cheese? Easy. I use Publix reduced calorie bread at 40 calories a slice and Hellman’s low-fat mayo at 15 calories a tablespoon. Three slices of bacon is only 105 calories and ham is only 30 calories a slice. Those sandwiches look decadent and the gossips badmouth them, but they are a great deal for lunch. A Soft Beef Taco Supreme at Taco Bell is only 210 calories and a hamburg at McDonald’s is only 250. The good old-fashioned hot dog is only 250 calories, and mustard, relish and onions adds very little to it. Losing weight and keeping it off can be enjoyed with great tasting food if you decide to keep to a reasonable budget and make it a rule to never again give yourself permission to be a glutton at lunch. Don’t give yourself permission to get fat because everyone else is, or lie to yourself, telling yourself it will do no harm “just this once”. It will. To get that excess weight off and keep it off, you need to make it a habit to keep your calories within a certain budget.
One of the most important mind control techniques in behavior therapy is the simple act of planning ahead. It’s actually a form of self-hypnosis that makes success and self-control easier if you take the trouble to think ahead of what you’ll have and prepare for it. The law of expectancy is always at work in us unconsciously, and the old maxim is true: those who fail to plan are planning to fail.
If you’re eating at home, it’s easy to have those ingredients ready, but it can be done at work too, if you have a fridge and microwave. Eating at the office rather than going out or ordering in is easy and smart. It not only saves calories, but it saves you money and time too, eliminating the time to drive somewhere. At clinics I’ve worked at, I’d stock the kitchenette with the makings for sandwiches, as well as soups and Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choices, and other low calorie frozen meals. And the planning ahead I was referring to does not have to be rigid. Once you’ve learned enough about what’s possible and you’ve practiced enough, your planning can be as simple as committing to “no more than 250 calories”, or to one of the many lunch selections you know will fit into the plan.
Eating out can be more of a challenge, but very doable if you think ahead about how to do things. If you do the research, you’ll find that some of the fast food places have at least one item that will work. Look them all up on their Internet sites, so you’ll know what to order the next time you hit one. Fast food places can be a disaster if you just walk in and start ordering things that sound good. However, if you go on with a plan, you’ll be dropping pounds and dress sizes before you know it. A sub, burger or taco and a diet soda will work just fine.
If you go to nicer restaurants at business lunches, it can be very easy to go through several thousand calories if you approach it as “living large”. You’ll be better off all around by ordering a simple salad and have your own dressing packets, like Walden Farms zero-calorie dressings, ready to go in your bag. You’ll make an impression as a better business person than those who overindulge and are seen as careless and wasteful. For me and my clients, fine dining works well for dinner but is a nuisance at lunch.
There is no need to give up eating things you enjoy to lose weight. In fact, one of the keys to success is creating ways of eating that are more enjoyable than the old ways that made you overweight. When the food tastes good and you know it’s making you successful, you feel a whole lot better than feeling stuffed and knowing you just made things worse. When these new ways become your preferred habits, you’re set for life. And just as there are strategies to turn lunchtime from a problem to a solution, there are strategies that are just as effective for breakfast, dinner, weekend parties and holidays too.