Looking for a good diet to follow with my exercise routine
January 22, 2005 12:29 AM   Subscribe

DietFilter: I am looking for a good diet to follow with my exercise routine. [MI]

I am looking for a good diet plan to follow with my exercise routine to help me lose my excess weight. I currently weight 270lbs , 6ft tall. I workout 5 days a week.

The only problem I find with other diets is that I do not eat vegetables. I know it is bad but I HATE them. I like fish, chicken, pork, beef, potatoes, rice, pasta most all fruit and sweet stuff. Is there a diet plan that goes with this type of diet?

Any suggestions of where to look?
posted by chiababe to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Personally, I’ve found that (within reason and common sense) it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you restrict the calories properly. Most diets are just fancy ways of dressing this up. Start out, at least, by finding out how many calories you should eat in a day to lose weight (search for “recommended calories calculator” or similar in google) and eat that much chicken, pork, pasta or whatever. You can worry about macronutrient ratios and such later, but limiting calories is the most important step. As far as I can tell, Veggies are usually recommended because they are filling and have surprisingly few calories. (They have fiber and vitamins and other good stuff too, but there are other ways to get that).

Another good tip is to break up your calories into 5 or 6 meals during the day. This helps curb hunger and is supposed to keep your metabolism running better.

Website Recommendations:

If you’re technically minded, I found the introductory chapters of The Hacker’s Diet (recommended in a previous AskMefi) did a great job of explaining things in reasonable terms instead of a lot of the nonsense you hear these days. It’s also very reassuring to know that your weight will fluctuate, and that most of it is water. So don’t freak out if you have a big meal and weigh 3 pounds more the next morning. It’s very unlikely you ate 10,500 too many calories.

NutritionData to be a good site to find out how many calories are in regular food, and DietFacts has a good list of how many calories are in food at popular restaurants.

The forums over at John Stone Fitness (also from a previous thread) have lots of great tips once you have the basic calorie counting down and want to start tweaking your diet. Some of it is very weight lifter oriented, but lots of their “cutting” techniques are completely applicable to a standard weight-loss diet. It’s also a lot easier to recommend the site now that he’s put on a lot of muscle. He looked very thin when he first dropped the weight, but is quite built these days.

(sorry for the extra long answer, I hope I actually answered what you were asking…)
posted by Gary at 1:40 AM on January 22, 2005

Vegetables are important because they lower your chances of getting scurvy, going blind from vitamin A deficiency, beriberi from insufficient thiamine, pellagra from insufficient niacin, rickets and osteoporosis from vitamin D deficiency, and the chances of getting just about every cancer there is. You're probably not going to get any of those dieases, but rest assured that lacking them does hurt you. They provide lutein, lycopene, beta carotene, tons of antioxidants, and dietary fiber.

Taking a multivitamin will help, as will varying your food intake. Try to eat more of your carbohydrates in whole grain form, eat lean cuts of meat and back off the saturated fats. Cook with olive oil, eat more fruit and vary the kinds, eat nuts in limited quantities, eat more fish and drink your vegetables if you can. Part of the benefit of eating vegetables is that you eat them in lieu of foods that are worse for you. A diet heavy in meat is linked to increased levels of cholesterol and higher risk of heart disease, so eat to prevent this. And remember that your dietary preferences are changeable. If you eat foods with an open mind and eat small amounts regularly, you will start to hate them less. If you are resistant to change, then make the foods that you do eat as healthy as possible.
posted by hindmost at 2:21 AM on January 22, 2005

The other part of eating vegetables (see above) is that they are an essential part of balancing a meal for your palate -- much the same role that wine plays on the table.

I have a difficult time getting around the "I don't like vegetables" comment because you know what you need to do, otherwise you would not have said it. If you don't like vegetables it might not be you -- but them -- and I don't mean that because they do not taste good.

It is possible that the quality of the vegetables you have seen is quite pathetic (a common problem in the average United States supermarket where it is even difficult to get the best vegetables when they are in season) or the offending sprout, floret, leaf , stem, fruit* or seed is not prepared well or balanced with other ingredients.

I speak from experience. Your palate can be trained. And it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

*I say fruit to toss-in a generic reference to tomatoes and eggplant. I have a job opening at my desk for "stickler of details" if anyone is interested.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:43 AM on January 22, 2005

(sorry for the extra long answer, I hope I actually answered what you were asking…)

I can't say if you answered his, but you sure as hell answered mine despite me not actually asking it. Thanks very much, particularly for the hacker's diet link :)
posted by Savvas at 2:52 AM on January 22, 2005

Here's a very interesting article about research indicating that some people ("supertasters") are genetically sensitive to bitterness: Like color-seeing people in a color-blind world, veggie haters may actually taste flavors that veggie lovers don't.

If this seems like it might apply to you, there are some tips here for integrating vegetables into your diet, and you may want to use it as a jumping off point for more research on this theory.
posted by taz at 3:06 AM on January 22, 2005

In addition to a diet, I can offer two sound tips. Must be followed or else.

1. Never eat fast food. Ever again.
2. Never drink sodas, or if you must, only on weekends. Drink water water water water during the week.

It's harder than you may think, but after two months you'll be amazed at what a simple change can have.
posted by orange clock at 3:12 AM on January 22, 2005

In terms of vegetables, I always eat raw vegetables right after a good workout. Chomp!
posted by orange clock at 3:13 AM on January 22, 2005

Water, water, water. Avoid soda and caffeine. And, obviously, fat. Lean meats are best. Fish is your friend. What you eat is less important over the short term, but beware of fat -- the magic ratio for me was 40% carbohydrate, 40% protein, and 20% fat. You may want less protein if you're not doing lots of weights, but stay away from more fat.

It's also likely that there is some vegetable out there somewhere that you can stand. I'm a vegetarian that hates mushrooms, squash, eggplant, etc. and I get by. You'll manage. Try everything, see what you don't hate, and go with that. I mostly detested vegetables before my workout routine forced me into them. Now I can't get enough. My tastes evolved; I hope you have the same luck. No good news: it's taken me 7 months of diet and exercise to get to the point where I crave the things I used to hate.

In the mean time: water, water, water. One of the best things I ever did to help my workout was consume at least a gallon per day. More if possible. I also ate lots of pasta with tons of garlic (~1 head), some red pepper flakes, and a touch of olive oil when I was tired of cramming protein (in the form of fake chicken and sausage patties or isolate powder).

My reward for the stricture was wine with dinner. Costly in terms of empty calories, and certainly not the thing diet gurus would champion, but it made my day.
posted by amery at 3:47 AM on January 22, 2005

Agreed re: vegetables and all the other advice above. Veggies aren't gross, they're great--but only if you buy nice ones and prepare them well. I seriously doubt that you are genetically predisposed against them; far more likely that you've just had bad ones your whole life.

My advice is to buy a cookbook that has reasonably healthy, tasty recipes that involve lots of vegetables. The Chez Panisse Vegetables book has a ton of recipes for each vegetable, all of which are great (some of which are bad for you)--but you'll learn how to cook them at home and have them taste great. Then eat vegetarian every other day.
posted by josh at 4:51 AM on January 22, 2005

Look, we can be as old school as we want about vegetables. We all love out mommies. But the reality is that it's the only food group that can more or less be substituted for by a pill with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you don't like veggies, get the appropriate multivitamin. Ultimately that stuff will have virtually no benefit on weight loss anyway relative to the appropriate balance of carbs/fat/protein.

If you're already willing to workout 5 days a week (which is the hard part, if anything), then just get a decent calory count, generally cut down on carbs and fat (esp. saturated fat), and adjust your protein according to your muscle building needs. As above, 40/40/20 is standard. A powerlifter might go for 30/60/10 as goal, but ultimately the overall calories going in must be less than the calories you expend. I would highly recommend incorporating free weights or some other form of weight training. People underestimate the impact additional lean muscle will have on your metabolism. You may gain muscle mass, but in the long run you'll get rid of more 'bad' weight, and slim down more rapidly.

And always, plenty of water. It'll make it easier to cut the calories, and it's generally just a damn good thing.
posted by drpynchon at 4:58 AM on January 22, 2005

Look into the low carb thing. If you cut out all sugar (that means fruit too) and stay away from bread, pasta, rice and potatoes but eat all the other things you mentioned you like, the weight will just start falling off. Partly, it's that sugars and starches make you hungry again soon, so you will find yourself just generally eating less without effort.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:06 AM on January 22, 2005

But the reality is that it's the only food group that can more or less be substituted for by a pill with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

People get by fine cutting out any of the "food groups", just not all of them...

I would've linked to the hacker's diet too - the exciting truth is, there's no magic system; just "eat less and exercise".

Personally, I love vegetables, so I'm inclined to encourage a bit more exploration on your part. As a vegetarian, I have been subjected to some quite terrible food posing as "vegetables." If you're judging based on mostly on frozen or canned food, forget it.

And tastes do change; I noticed after I began working out regularly that I began to like eggs, nuts, and coconut, tastes I had always eschewed. My theory is that they're high in protein & my body needed more protein when I stepped up my exercise... could have also been random, but honestly, I used to hate them, and I now love them. So you really never know...
posted by mdn at 6:32 AM on January 22, 2005

But the reality is that it's the only food group that can more or less be substituted for by a pill with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

I couldn't disagree with that more. Taking 'equivalent' vitamins is no substitute for fresh vegetables. Minerals and vitamins in their natural form are much easier for the body to absorb. The protective coating on multivitamin pills means a substantial number are passed, undigested through the body. The other big thing you'll miss out on with a vegetable-free diet is the huge amounts of fibre that they provide. With plants you basically get maximum nutrition for(usually) minimum calories.

Like mdn said, consider different methods of preparation. I now eat a lot of produce that I couldn't bare when I was younger simply because I've found a way to cook them that appeals to my palate. But if you find you really can't get along with veges then the best advice I could give would be try and stick to foods that are not processed, because it's the evil corporations of the world that pollute food with horrible corn-based sugars and mutant hydrogenated oils. Processed usually means hollow calories that'll leave you hungry sooner.
posted by isthisthingon at 7:14 AM on January 22, 2005

Tastes change with age, be certain of it. Stuff I love today is stuff I hated as a kid, especially in the vegetable department. Sure, that's partly because my mom cooked vegies really BAD, but only part of it.

I use the "3 Day Diet", British style (where I was living when I started). There are different versions for different countries. I lost 25 kilos last year this way. Diet for 3 days, then skate for 4. Rate of loss is easily 1 kilo a week for the first month or 2. BUT that diet is heavy in vegies and very low in starchy food. But you do get icecream every night!!!
posted by Goofyy at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2005

I lost 60 pounds on Weight Watchers, and I have kept it off for 3 years now. You can go to meetings for support, if that helps you, but my wife and I did it on our own. We figured out the formula for point calculation, and found a bunch of web sites that give point information.

You could go once to get the basic materials, and the basic idea, then decide if you want to go to meetings. The WW stores have some very yummy low-point candy, too.

> 1. Never eat fast food. Ever again.
> 2. Never drink sodas

I lost all of my weight while eating at Wendy's about 2 or 3 times a week, and drinking diet soda. A classic single or a spicy chicken sandwich with *no fries* and a diet soda is a pretty good lunch. And there's always Subway. In general, find the most filling foods for the lowest points. Jack In The Box's chicken pitas are very filling, and very low point.

I wish you well, whichever plan you choose.
posted by agropyron at 7:36 AM on January 22, 2005

Chiababe, you mention liking meats very much... have you looked at the Atkins diet? It might work well for you, if you already like foods that are high in protein or fat.

A less controversial diet is South Beach and the Zone diet - they are high in protein, low in carbs, but they also include lots of vegetables, so this may be a little less appealing to you.

Important tip for losing weight: portion control. Watch how much of each food you put on your plate. Weigh it, if necessary.

Also, consider cutting out alcohol when you diet. There are many hidden calories and carbs in beer, wine etc.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2005

But the reality is that it's the only food group that can more or less be substituted for by a pill with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Keep in mind that nutrition is an extremely new science -- we only began really studying what is actually in most of the foods we eat about a hundred years ago. It is not only extremely likely, but certain that we do not know what we need out of the foods we eat. For example, when was the first time you heard of lycopene? Lignans? Probably in the last couple of years, right? There are all kinds of phytochemicals in real fresh food that we don't even know that we need.

What we do know is that the best way to prevent cancers and other nasty stuff is, sing it with me now, to eat vegetables.

I'd recommend getting a good juicer and slugging the stuff down shot-style if you can't stand the taste. But we need it, and it can't be replaced by a pill, no matter how much we would like it to.

oop, on preview, what isthisthingon said.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:58 AM on January 22, 2005

Eating healthy and eating to lose weight are not necessarily the same thing. You don't have to be the perfect veggie-lovin', meat-shunnin', tofu-eatin' rockstar if you just want to lose weight. It's healthier, but not necessary. Record your calories on Fitday every evening and DO NOT STOP counting even if you aren't losing, don't feel like dieting, etc. Just keep a record.

To actually lose the weight, you have to eat less than you burn. Duh. The hard part is figuring out how to do that without being miserable. My advice is to figure out how to maximize satisfaction while minimizing calories. For me, that means tons of protein (6xday), a big salad (yes), soups, and a dessert or two almost every day. I try to eat mostly "good" carbs besides the desserts. I also added a meal a few hours after dinner since I used to just eat a bunch of junk food then. If I'm hungry, I eat "real" food. I've found I can lose weight (slowly) on 3000 calories a day since I work out a lot, so I can keep from getting too hungry. It's also good to have "go-to" foods, for when you don't want to think about what to have. I find subway sandwiches useful for this.

This Fullness Factor concept looks like a step in the right direction for the maximizing satisfaction idea.

If you're a binger/compulsive overeater, you might want to look into working on that by yourself or with a cognitive therapist. Here's an article about that.
posted by callmejay at 9:28 AM on January 22, 2005

On second thought, I'd like to reconsider my answer after looking through these responses. As agropyron points out, there are multiple ways to lose weight. You can indeed lose weight just by eating less, without worrying about what it is you're eating per se. The whole veggies thing is not really absolutely necessary. Just for the sake of honesty here, of course.

At the same time, I think that as long as you're changing your whole life around by exercising and losing weight, you ought to add as a separate goal "eating well." This is different from just losing weight, and it has a lot of other effects as well. I took this step shortly after college, when I learned how to cook and committed to eating healthier, fresher food that I prepared myself, as well as exercising. Beyond dropping a few pounds I also feel a lot better all around. Even though I keep up my exercise pretty religiously, I can still feel like crap if I go for a week of fast-food-type food. Even just eating out for several nights in a row, instead of making a fresh healthy meal at home, will do this to me.

So, my advice to your general question is: to lose weight, do what works and whatever you can keep doing without overstraining yourself. If that means subway, so be it. But think about setting a goal of eating well, period, which means eating veggies, fruits, and so on, learning how to prepare healthy food, and trying to move towards a lifestyle where you eat 'regular' foods--i.e., not 'diet' foods--that are also good for you. I'm not trying to be preachy--it's just that the benefits of doing this in my own life have been really big. I can't imagine living any other way--say, for example, eating health bars or shakes for lunch, drinking diet soda exclusively, eating frozen 'diet' foods, and in general staying in the processed food loop. There are lots of benefits besides just losing weight to committing to eating well as an additional goal beyond just losing weight. For one thing, it will be a lot easier to stay healthy when you can eat a very, very wide variety of foods instead of a small number of 'safe' prepared foods. you will also acquire new skills, like cooking and buying fresh meat and produce, that you will be able to use in a household.

And on preview, I agree with jennyjenny; people have lived healthy lives for most of human history without fad diets and nutritional supplements; meanwhile nutritionists change their minds with great regularity about what is healthy. For me, anyway, I don't find nutritional supplements, etc., to be trustworthy substitutes for regular, fresh food.
posted by josh at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2005

But the reality is that it's the only food group that can more or less be substituted for by a pill with the necessary vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you don't like veggies, get the appropriate multivitamin. Ultimately that stuff will have virtually no benefit on weight loss anyway relative to the appropriate balance of carbs/fat/protein.

That's shockingly ignorant. Fiber is essential-- it fills you up, chases poison out of your body, keeps you regular, and prevents cancer.

Most important in this scenario-- vegetables fill you up without providing many calories.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:02 AM on January 22, 2005

If I were you, I would cut out sugar and try and eat only whole grain breads, no rice or juice, and whole-wheat pasta. If you are working out five days a week, you will need to get energy from somewhere, so that's why I recommend not cutting out breads and pasta entirely.

It's too bad about the vegetables. Vegetables have a lot of mass from water. They fill you up and are good for you.

Anyway - if you stick the above diet you will lose weight almost immediately. Especially if you are working out. Frankly, you might be working out too much.

Look into the South Beach diet. Worked for me. In two weeks I had people coming up to me and asking me if I was on a diet, because it was obvious I had lost weight.
posted by xammerboy at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2005

I have had fantastic results (and kept them) with the No S Diet: no snacks, no sweets, and no seconds, except on days that begin with S.

Of course there's the general subject of nutrition on top of that, but if you need the structure of an eating regimen (as I do, else I'd be snacking all day long) then it doesn't get a whole lot more sustainable than No S.
posted by mendel at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2005

Someone I know recently had great success with MyFoodDiary.com. She lost a pound a week very safely, without any fad dieting, and also found it a useful tool for keeping up proper nutrition in general.
posted by scarabic at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2005

I've used the above linked Fitday and found it helpful in tracking my caloric consumption.

Generally, you do have to consume less calories than you use. However, low carb diets (Atkins, So. Beach) allow you to consume a much higher ratio of calories and still lose weight. I'm a big fan of low carb diets, but I know that not everyone understands or appreciates them.

It's also important to eat 5 - 6 x per day. This helps keep you satiated and keeps your metabolism up. Serving size general rule: protein < the size of your palm, vegetable/fruit the size of your fist.br>
Frankly, you've conquered the most important aspect of weightloss and that's exercise. Five days is not too much, but I'd be interested to know what your routine is. I would not recommend doing free weights unless you are properly trained. You get very little benefit from exercise that is not done correctly. For free weights that means that your form is as important, if not more important than the amount of weight that you're lifting. Not to mention, you could seriously hurt yourself.

Don't be one of those people who rests on the bars when they're doing ellipticals, treadmills, or stairclimbers. If you do the stairclimber, remember that you need at least an 8" span to get much benefit.

You're working out at a gym, right? Have you considered a personal trainer? A good personal trainer will write a program for you and show you how to do each exercise. For people just starting out, a personal training will give you lots of guidance, feedback and moral support. They will also be able to give you some basic dietary feedback. Plus, there is a difference between strength training and fat burning (kinda). A trainer knows the difference and will push you to your max, which you're unlikely to do on your own.

And don't give up. You can certainly meet your goal. I did.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:38 AM on January 22, 2005

Serving sizes: protein = no bigger than the palm of your hand; vegie/fruit = no bigger than your fist.
posted by Juicylicious at 11:39 AM on January 22, 2005

Regarding low carb diets:

I think it's important to remember that the whole point of Atkins, et al. is to reduce the amount of insulin that your body pumps out in a day's time. This, it is argued, will cause you to lose weight. Many (including me) would contend that it does. But if excess insulin is indeed a problem for you (It certainly was for me, but then I have health issues above and beyond weight), a larger waist size is probably not your only health concern and merely losing weight may not resolve the issue. So if it were me, I'd want to first determine whether insulin/blood sugar was an issue and then go from there.

Oh, and one other quick note: Some dieters, afraid that they're consuming "too many" calories, will refrain from eating even when they're hungry. This has always struck me as totally insane and physically destructive. If someone wants to cite a study proving otherwise, okay, fine. But you'll never convince me that it's a good idea to go hungry.
posted by Clay201 at 1:38 PM on January 22, 2005

Another vote for the The hackers diet, was good for 50 pounds for me. The daily tracking with out obsessing is what makes it great for me. I'd recommend anyone who is serious about it buy a palm (if you don't already have one) and run the eat watch app. You can also run the app in a palm os emulator.
posted by Mitheral at 2:15 PM on January 22, 2005

When it comes to to personal experiences, I've got it covered; I lost about 135 pounds, getting myself to a BMI of 22.5, and have stayed within 10 pounds (on a 6'1'+ frame) of that mark for the five years since. So I do have a few things to share.

Whoever said to drop soda spoke truth. Drink water, get used to it being your only beverage, and drink lots of it.

Reinterpret hunger. Understand, and BELIEVE, that when you are trying to lose weight, hunger is how you know you are making progress right now. Any diet claiming you can lose lots of weight without hunger is a lie.

Those are about the only two universals I will assert from my experience.

As for my individual experience, a critical factor was altering my environment and habits to make sticking to the diet easier than cheating. I removed all food from my home that could be eaten without cooking. I brushed my teeth immediately after finishing my meals. I stopped eating at my desk, so that the idea of having food in my workspace was alien.

In the beginning, I didn't weigh myself at all. I was determined that I was not going to put up with dieting and still end up chubby, so I was resolved to drop pounds until I was no longer overweight (a BMI of 24 was my original goal), and I knew it was going to take a good long time, so tracking changes on day 3 or 4 of 500 seemed less important than just getting used to the fact this was a new state of being, not just a activity I was undertaking.

When you're we can cover maintenance topics, like forcing yourself to throw out 2/3 of a bag of chips, and learning that opening snack foods after you've been drinking is bad juju.

One proposition--if you're interested in trying to get veggies in your diet, consider soups. It just so happens that I know where you can look for some reviews of veggie soups. Many canned soups are great diet foods: lots of nutrition, few calories, must be eaten slowly, filling, and portion controlled. I myself am eating a lot of soup these days as I finish up undoing the holiday bloat. I've gotten back a bit below the 22.5 BMI mark, and have only a few pounds to go hit the bottom of my range.
posted by NortonDC at 8:34 PM on January 22, 2005

That's shockingly ignorant. Fiber is essential-- it fills you up, chases poison out of your body, keeps you regular, and prevents cancer.

Metamucil, hi.

Show me one well-designed study that strongly supports the benefits of a reasonably managable vegetable diet over alternative supplements. I have yet to see it in the literature. The bulk of the studies we have on these matters are retrospective epidemiological studies on veggie eaters vs. non-veggie eaters, or generally prospective studies on vitamin supplementation. Much of what we know about the benefits of vegetables actually comes from studies in which patients took supplements. And what we know, besides how to treat extreme vitamin deficiencies (hint: supplements work), is not much.
posted by drpynchon at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2005

Any diet claiming you can lose lots of weight without hunger is a lie.

This simply isn't true. I've lost quite a bit of weight on a low carb diet and I've not been hungry at all. Many other low carb dieters have reported the same phenomenon.
posted by Clay201 at 2:33 AM on January 24, 2005

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
posted by NortonDC at 6:28 PM on January 24, 2005

Most of what I have to say on the subject is from personal experience, but my experience with food isn't very typical, so it might be worthwhile to consider.

First, when I was 17 I stopped eating anything that came from animals. This caused an immediate 30 pound weight drop that stayed off for a 2.5 years, from 170-5 down to 140-5. My body regained 10 pounds after six months, but stayed at that weight until I overwhelmed it with junk food. I hate fresh veggies and I hate cooking, and I love salt and oil. I actually lowered my BMI and lean muscle by not touching meat, but that was probably some weird puberty thing. Instead, I ate a steady diet of Tostitos, microwave popcorn, fries, and anything else I could fit in my mouth. Because I managed to increase the amount of junk food to something like two family-size bags of Ruffles a day, I was back up to 175+ by my sophomore year of college. At the tail end of 2003 I sort of got to realizing how bad this was for me and started eating Uncle Ben's white rice that I covered in oil and salt myself instead of the potato chips others covered for me. I also switched to Arby's curly fries, which aren't as nasty and have a lot more interesting combination of spices on them. Instead of soda, I did coffee & tea, and I started buying lots of canned chili and soup. The addictive, cooking-averse behavior that characterizes my diets since I can remember was still there, but I found it was fantastically easy to switch my addictions to less abominable food. They put salt in everything and there were other places to get my fix. Not perfect but a step in the right direction.

Now that I've lived in China for a year, I've learned even more tricks to turn my diet around. The first is - stir-frying. The oil is definitely not as bad as you think. I mean, these people usually don't ever use anything else, and they're all bony. The typical Chinese kitchen (and the one in my apartment) is a cutting board, sink, and two propane ranges with a super-powered hood fan. Cooked food here comes in two varieties - add water/heat carbohydrates, like noodles and rice, and chopped stuff cooked in a wok. Ovens and microwaves take up too much space and are pretty rare. Stir-frying is an excellent way to get veggies into your diet, because after five minutes in a wok over a properly powered burner, they don't taste like veggies. They taste like whatever garlic/spices/Sichuan red pepper combination you put in there with the chopped veggies. Supermarket funk can also be neutralized with your wok. You can also use weird combinations of food. My favorite is spicy eggplant/green pepper salad. Stir-frying, when it's done right, is all about texture and strong flavors, and if you've ever liked garlic or anything spicy, this is the way to eat your veggies. Garlic-fried kelp is another favorite of mine. Fresh veggies are best, but if you loathe them (like me) there's definitely other ways to make veggies edible. Also forget ye not tofu. I can't say enough about tofu. The more the better. It's got tons of protein, and it's not disgusting if you stir-fry it in with strong flavorings (but cold it's like eating dead brains). There are tougher varieties of tofu that actually make good alternatives to meat. For god's sake though, don't touch imitation meat. Ew.

Another thing I've learned from Chinese cooking is the joys of hot water. Chinese convenience food is based entirely around hot water. Green tea, the national coffee, is dried leaves at the bottom of a glass full of hot water. In addition to being cheap and without physical side effects, one pinch or two of leaves will get you through about two days of steady drinking. You just keep refilling the cup. So if you need something other than water, consider raw green tea (stay away from teabags, they're expensive and just bad quality). Buy $100 worth from a Chinese website and you'll have enough for two years. I second NortonDC's canned soups, but don't forget they sell instant soup baggies at supermarkets too. You should just be able to add hot water or boil for a few minutes. Again, with the right spices and dried stuff it's hard to go wrong, and that's a lot of volume in your stomach without very much of anything you won't pee out later. I find that hot stuff is much more psychologically filling than lukewarm or cold. Don't forget how much temperature affects the feeling of what you're eating. And try to get addicted to flavors. As long as I get my salt/garlic/pepper/vinegar flavor fix, I'll eat whatever now. It makes it much easier to change diets and introduce new food.

Last, raisins & lightly salted popcorn make fantastic snacks. If you just need something to compulsively shovel into your mouth, make popcorn. Buy some oranges. They don't need to be washed, just peeled and eaten.
That's not exactly a diet I'd recommend to a power-lifter, but it's kept me at a healthy, non-crappy feeling 165 for a year now. It's getting even better now that I'm cutting out the coffee (coffee costs 5 times the equivalent amount of green tea here, and since I'm getting by on everything else locally, why not?). Caffeine does weird stuff to you. It's good if you need a crutch, but once you don't, get rid of it.
posted by saysthis at 9:51 PM on January 24, 2005

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