Maybe Diets Don't Have to be the Worst?

Like many people, I started a diet with the advent of the new year. There's no practical reason for waiting until then (apart from the gluttony that accompanies the holidays), but something about the calendar roll-over makes it easier to commit to attempting to make a change.

If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? but Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come
Whispering ‘It will be happier’
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Foresters," Act I, Scene III

Despite being a scrawny kid, I've been large-ish since my early teen years; after puberty my metabolism basically gave up, and that coincided with me participating less and less in physical activities. For the last 3-4 years I've maintained my weight, but that weight is Too Much™. The last successful diet I had was when I was 18; I went down from a 38 waist size to a 32—I don't remember how much actual weight I lost—by doing the Atkins diet. In the last 3 years I've tried juicing, meal replacement plans, and Weight Watchers, none of which I've been able to stick with long-term. Juicing doesn't work for me because there's a psychological aspect of not feeling sated even when I've had enough calories, because you're not eating anything. The meal replacement plan didn't work because it just wasn't enough food intake, period, which made it nearly impossible (and it was very expensive). With Weight Watchers, I just wasn't really motivated, and there's a financial aspect outside of the actual food.

So the low carb diet is the only one I've really been able to stick with, and this time around I have a (not) secret weapon, which is that know a lot more about food now and am a pretty decent chef. The main problem with diets, I find, is that diet food generally sucks. There's nothing exciting about a salad; and if a particular salad is exciting, it's not actually healthy. Meal replacement bars and shakes are uniformly gross. Juicing is unsatisfying. So the trick is to make meals that are healthy, filling, and appetizing.

I can do that now. I'm not going to blog about everything I eat while doing this, but I will be posting some of the better/uniquer (is uniquer a word? not really, but it's fun to say, so go with it) recipes I make, especially if it's something I come up with on my own. So here's some of what I've had so far, all of which was good:

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Zucchini Pesto w/ Shrimp
I love pasta. This is a problem, because pasta is like 110% carbs. However, you can noodleize several vegetables*  and it's very close texturally and either mostly flavor neutral (zucchini and yellow squash), especially with sauce, or tasty enough in its own way you can work with it in the dish. Pesto sauce is extremely low carb—basically the only thing in it that has any to speak of is the nuts—and while it's fairly high calorie in bulk because of the olive oil, you don't use much per serving so it keeps the meal total low. I don't love traditional pesto sauce—I think the basil is often overpowering—so I gussied it up and am very pleased with the results.

*Basically anything that's long: most types of squash, sweet potatoes, carrots...

JMac's Pesto Recipe

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Tomato Chips
When you're doing low carb crunchy is probably the most severely limited texture option. Chips of all varieties, nuts, fried stuff...all full of carbs. Sure you could eat raw vegetables, but who needs that in their life. These are extremely easy to make, if time consuming, and are very close to eating proper potato chips.

Recipe from Delish


Butternut Slumgullion
This one I take 95% of the credit for (I did google how long to roast the squash and boil the sausage). It's basically the result of picking up some Italian sausage at the grocery store, then wandering around trying to think of what would go together that wasn't rote. I left with the sausage, a butternut squash, a granny smith apple, a honeycrisp apple, a sweet onion, and about $.50 worth of raw pumpkin seeds. And it worked out pretty well, I think. (Fun fact: "slumgullion" was coined by Mark Twain; in some parts of the US it's what they call American-style goulash.) This is on the edge of being not low carb, but for my purposes—staying below 60 grams/day—it's fine as long as I behave myself.

Butternut Slumgullion Recipe