How to enjoy your food and lose weight at the same time...

Time passes, and people change.

I was always fairly slender while I was growing up. If you were listening to my Mom, she would have told you I was skinny. Take that with a grain of salt, but she trained me to eat well; not to be picky, to try everything, and to finish whatever portion was on the plate. On on the table. Well, whatever was in the pot, since it really shouldn't go to waste.

This policy worked well for a long time. I ate what I wanted when I wanted and my weight remained in the range of 150 to 160 pounds. I always wondered why I could go to the all-you-can-eat (at the late, lamented Golden Dragon in Ithaca, New York, one of the truly great Chinese restaurants I've enjoyed), head back for a fifth plate full, and then still have appetite for dinner.

Of course, we all begin to age sometime. My weight began to creep up one or two pounds a year until the early 1990's, when it stablized at about 170 to 172 pounds.

Enter Puerto Rico. Never mind the long story, but on February 28, 1993 I received a phone message that said, "Ted, we need you down here --right away-- for a week." As of this writing, in late 1998, I'm still spending a lot of time in San Juan.

My work is (officially) programming, and it involves writing a lot of code. Ten to fourteen hours a day (more than that during the crazy days in 1993) sitting at a desk and typing. No more exercise (and no more Golden Dragon).

What I get, in exchange, is Puerto Rican food. There's a lot of very tasty food down here. Unfortunately, to my gringo/granola upbringing and habits, the food is rather heavy. Rice and beans, roots and tubers are the staples, and they're heavily flavored with (not to put too fine a point on it) fat. Oil. Grease. It tastes good..but within the first four months I had gained about 15 pounds.

To be honest, food was about my only entertainment outside of more programming. I ate all my meals in restaurants.

[Some very fine restaurants; with all due respect to my Mom and my wife, I learned a lot more about gourmet food than an ordinary fellow needs to know]
I tried to eat more carefully, and I went out of my way to include North American vegetables in my diet, but trust me, they aren't readily available in restaurants since they aren't part of the Puerto Rican diet. By 1997, I had grown to about 200 pounds. I don't know why, but my weight levelled off there.

The before and after pictures, below, of my left descending coronary artery clearly illustrate the incentive that initiated my weight loss program. I always wanted to get back to my youthful trim, and this was a powerful reason to get started. Let me tell you right up front: if you really want to lose weight, well, losing weight is much easier than it's made out to be. I started on March 19, 1998 and lost something like 40 pounds by mid-July. A few more pounds have come off since then.

Most of the time, I stick to a uniform diet, but I've begun enjoying more treats lately...and maintaining a weight of about 160 pounds.

Breakfast Banana or Apple
a bowl of cereal (sugarless; usually Quaker Crunchy Corn Bran)
about a half cup of non-fat yogurt on the cereal
Lunch Not much...
Some of the time, I will have one of those just-add-water cups of instant soup. Any kind, as long as the fat content is no more than 1 gram, and not much more than 100 calories.
Snacks Any reasonable amount of baby carrots (usually not more than three pounds a week), bananas, or apples.
Dinner I eat at Houlihan's, a warm, but plastic-y, North American chain restaurant in San Juan. They have been very nice to me and, with a few substitutions, their normally filling and fatty menu contains the making of a real gem:
  • Garden Salad (mostly lettuce, unless the waitperson adds some "special" veggies, like carrots or celery) with a fat-free mustard based dressing
  • Brentwood Sandwich platter (5oz grilled chicken), minus the bread, minus the cheese, minus the fries, plus plain rice, plus a steamed vegetable (usually broccoli)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons coarse ground black pepper (about one quarter of a pepper shaker)
  • 15ml Tabasco Sauce (about one quarter of a bottle)
  • About 12 cloves of chopped garlic (the kind in the jar, if I remember to bring it from the States, since the only kind available here is packed in oil)
  • Ketchup, to taste; the pepper, Tabasco, garlic, and ketchup are spread on the chicken
  • Three to four glasses of unsweetened iced tea; eat the lemon...all of it
  • Lick the plate clean
  • Doesn't it make you hungry? I've been eating this fare daily for six months now, and I still enjoy it. Seriously.

    The total daily intake is about 1500 calories per day and, if I read the charts correctly, it contains only about 7 grams of fat (mostly in the chicken).

    [Don't forget to use a paper napkin to thoroughly dry the chicken when it is served. Do it once, and you'll be amazed to see how much grease gets soaked up]
    If you have any reason to believe it's deficient in any nutrient let me know. Otherwise, feel free to use it to lose weight.