Losing Weight - Difficulty Level:Parent
December 15, 2014 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm reaching the upper-limit of my weight range where I can even comfortably call myself "chubby." If it was just up to me, I'd be able to change my diet pretty drastically, but I live in a household that doesn't lend itself to any food changes or restrictions. I need some advice before I give up and buy several pairs of mom jeans.

I have hit a point in my life where I think medication (bipolar/depression) and perhaps pre-menopause have slowed my metabolism down to a crawl. I don't overeat, but I don't eat particularly well either. At this point, I'm 5'9" and 190 lbs. At my fittest, I was 140, but I'd be happy getting back to 175.

- I have a herniated disc in my lower back that goes out frequently with most exercise, even walking. I also have extreme depression-fatigue and an insanely-long work day, so daily physical activity is not sustainable.
- My husband likes to bring home salty and sweet snacks, and take-out, even when I ask him not to. And, to be fair, I don't say no when he takes the kids for an ice-cream run. And I'm often the first to suggest pizza when I can't get out of bed to cook.
- My children distrust new food. My youngest likes pasta, my oldest likes steak. Both love bread in all forms. We can supplement with a few raw veggies and fruits, but that's it. We tried exposing them to new food from a young age, but they defeated us, and I'm not able to fight this battle right now.
- I'd like to cut out/down on carbs, but I have a hard time cooking even one dinner, let alone multiple options.
- I have to eat breakfast and often lunch on the run.
- My depression has left me without much energy to make food or cravings for specific types of food. Again, I'm not snacking too much or otherwise overeating, but I need to redefine my calorie intake for this new, exciting stage of womanhood.

So I'm looking for diet advice (diet as in "eating mindset," not short term weight loss) that would work with these restrictions. Would juicing be a good option? I don't trust best-selling diet books or miraculous detox claims, so I'd love to hear some advice from specific mefites who have lost weight under similar circumstances.
posted by bibliowench to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Look you and your husband know that your food choices are less than optimal. You BOTH need to decide that you're going to do better.

As for the kids, make one dinner for the family and let them pick and choose what of it they'll eat. If they don't like anything a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich that THEY make is in their future.

If you don't have energy to cook a regular meal, Juicing isn't going to work well for you. Hell, I'm intimidated by cleaning a freaking juicer.

Low carb is relatively easy to do around cooking a family meal. Our meals growing up were Meat, Starch, Salad and Veg. So you could have baked chicken, rice, broccoli and salad for dinner. Easy to put together, and you can skip the rice if you like.

You can do Italian Chicken sausages, with pasta, and a salad. You can skip the pasta and eat the sausages with sauce and lots of salad.

You get the idea. Shift the focus of meals away from the carb to the protein and veggies.

As for breakfast, you can make egg bakes once a week, and just heat and eat on work days.

Lunch can be a salad with various meats in it.

It's not so much about dieting as changing how you and your family eat. Of course everyone likes junk food, we're wired to, but it's not healthy and even if your kids aren't overweight or suffering health-wise now, it can hurt them long term.

Husbunny was a super picky eater, and I've been helping him broaden his food horizons. He's never going to want to eat liver and onions (nor will I) but he does get a much larger variety of foods these days.

If you can't do it for yourself, do it for your family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2014 [10 favorites]

How about adding 1-2 extra veggie sides to dinner? They can be as simple as microwaving frozen peas, or slightly more exciting. If your kids don't eat any of them, then you'll have extras to pack in your lunch for the next day.

This is a tiny change, but I'm thinking that making a small, positive change in your diet might be helpful. I find that when I'm eating more vegetables I feel better. (Advice I am trying to take myself right now) Good luck!
posted by chocotaco at 8:57 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your only real chance is to count and control calories. It will be hard as you will be surrounded by temptation. I dropped 50lbs doing this but I did it with my wife dieting at the same time and with lots of exercise so I could still indulge in some of the treats I love.

Even just gradual weight loss of 1lb a week will be extremely hard for the first few months. You will constantly feel hungry and obsess about food.

Get a food scale and don't cheat or lie to yourself. Track your consumption and exercise using something like Livestrong's DailyPlate.

Popcorn without oil or butter is a great face stuffer for when your cravings get out of hand. I have all kinds of spice mixes to make it taste a bit better.

It's possible. It's difficult in terms of 'psychic energy' but the actual thing you have to do is simple and the results are pretty quick (as long as you don't cheat and most people do - sometimes even lying to themselves!)
posted by srboisvert at 8:59 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

As far as I know, most experts agree that if you want to lose weight, you simply have to eat fewer calories than you use up. It's not necessarily about the kind of foods you eat, but simply the overall calories. So you shouldn't need to change what you eat; You just need to change the quantity.
posted by sam_harms at 9:01 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Make a serious pact on no snack food if this is a problem (you say you don't snack, but one of your complications suggests otherwise). If there's no junk food in the house, people will eat fruit instead.

Make a serious pact on treats (ice cream/take out, etc). Once a week? Three times a week? Only you can judge what will cut things down to sane levels, but give yourself a number and stick to it.

Whole grains. If your people love bread and pasta, get whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread (check labels carefully--big difference between a local bakery whole wheat and factory-made high fructose stuff; be willing to pay more for quality).

Portion control. Buy yourself a smaller plate if that helps.

Breakfast and lunch: what do you mean "on the run?" Fast food? Breakfast can either be Spartan (who doesn't have time for a bowl of cereal?), make-ahead (hard boiled eggs), or large enough to keep you responsible at lunch time.

Most of all, you need to express to your husband how important this is to you, and how much you need his help. Can he do some (or all) of the cooking? At the very least, he needs to get on board with a program you work out together, and he needs to be serious about doing his part.

The key for me has been eliminating processed food (except a few treats), going with whole grains, smaller portions of meat, and more fruits (which almost everyone loves) and vegetables. Yogurt & fruit smoothies can be a great way of getting more fruit, or subbing in for a treat, but don't overdo it.
posted by rikschell at 9:03 AM on December 15, 2014

I actually think step one here is probably getting your husband on board. I would have a serious talk with him and get him on your team.

You don't say how old your kids are, but are they old enough to make PB&J? My mom was a short-order cook, sometimes making like 4 meals for different people. I don't know how she stayed sane, and she was stay-at-home! I think that's just impossible if you are also working. I would say focus on preparing a healthy meal, and anyone who doesn't like it is welcome to make themselves something else (leftovers can go into quick lunches to take to work).

Also - check out HEALTHY delivery options in your area. There are usually some healthy steamed dishes at Chinese restaurants, some healthy choices at Indian places, etc. Pizza joints often also sell salads. Figure out what they are now so that when you're "hangry" you can pick off the list.

Finally, you might see if you can get an appointment with a physical therapist to figure out what would be healthy excersises for you. Since you have back problems, you don't want to jump into something and get injured, but I do think ONLY dieting and not moving isn't very healthy (among other things, you might lose weight but you're not going to be getting fitter and helping your heart/lung/muscle/etc. health). Even if you can only commit to 2-3 workouts a week, I think this would help you out. You just need to figure out what you can safely do!
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:05 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is your depression being properly treated? Have you tried physical therapy for your back problems? (Do you have health insurance? PT is often very cheap under health insurance plans.) I suspect that if your illness and pain were better managed it would be a lot easier to tackle the weight issue. Physical therapy can be fun and relaxing if you find a person you like - it's not like going to a gym trainer.

I realize these things cost time and money, but they are less costly than chasing fad diets and treatments. It also sounds like you know you need to invest more in *you* and that's a very healthy impulse.
posted by stowaway at 9:17 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you nailed it in your original question: it's a question of metabolism. While men and women are obviously biologically different, after age 40 we do not need nearly as many calories as we once did, especially if we're sedentary.

I recently lost about 70 pounds. I did it by cutting out carbs entirely (except for fresh fruit), and also salt. The result was a radically different, low-calorie diet.

I had to do it because I was very sick with high blood pressure. It's under control now.

I also started walking for at least an hour a day, often more. It's not that walking "burns off calories" but exercise helps reset and manage your metabolism.

My wife has a herniated disc that left her incapacitated for 3 months. She restored her mobility by swimming, and then by weight training.

So you CAN overcome your herniated disc, but you've got to build up your core muscles. Swimming and water walking is a low-impact way to do it.

My wife ran her first 10k a couple of years ago. You can do it.

But you've got to (with the help of a doctor) cut down your calories and lose that weight.

Despite all the "positive body image" propaganda, it is profoundly unhealthy to be chubby or overweight past the age of 35.

I'm the living proof of that.
posted by Nevin at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

This only helps for snacking, really, but... Portion control via cute bowls.

Buy yourself a couple of pretty small plates/saucers and bowls - my personal tastes run toward Japanese children's rice bowls, but you can also hit up your local Goodwill/Salvation army for some cheap vintage-y stuff since you don't need a matching set. If you find you are drinking a lot of your calories (soda, etc) a couple of smaller glasses wouldn't be a bad idea either.

I know it's silly, but I've noticed a big difference in how I snack (I buy way too many of those cute bowls) and how my sister snacks (regular soup or cereal bowls). If we both get snacks and then sit to watch TV, I'm eating way less than she is. It's the kind of snacking where you eat because it's there - having half as much there is just as satisfying and I'm not just eating hand-to-mouth when I'm not longer hungry.

Maybe this isn't quite the right solution for you, but I seriously believe that my weird preference for smaller plates and bowls has helped me control my appetite/weight to some extent. It's an "eating mindset" thing.
posted by maryr at 9:20 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Instead of cooking multiple options for dinner, what about just skewing the portions? Your kids get lots of pasta and steak and as much veggies as you can convince them to eat. You get a ton of veggies and a small portion of steak. If you have a meal with a starch, a protein, and a veggie, just don't eat the starch.

Are you eating the unhealthy snacks your husband brings home? If not, good for you! You are a stronger woman than I am. If so, try stocking the fridge with easy healthy snacks, like precut cantaloupe and baby carrots, and sub those instead of chips and cookies.

Also, you don't say what kind of treatment you're getting for your depression or your back issues, but that should be a priority, obviously. And is there any end in sight for your "insanely long work hours?"
posted by mskyle at 9:22 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, I'm you! Spouse and kid love carbs, I can't control what they bring into the house, I can't deal with dinners that take a lot of effort every damn night.

I lost 30lb earlier this year doing low-carb. I didn't make multiple dinners, I just didn't eat the carby parts. So if we made steak, potatoes, and broccoli I only ate the steak and broccoli. If we made pasta with meatballs and salad I only ate the meatballs and salad. If we had pizza I picked off the cheese and toppings and just ate those. Etc. After a few days low-carb you really don't miss the carbs and you don't crave them anymore. If we are having something that just isn't good without carbs (hot dogs and hamburgers and the like) I use a slice of whole-grain bread instead of white flour buns.

I didn't exercise at all and the weight flew off. Now that my weight has been stable for a few months, I can have carby stuff 3-4 times a week with no weight gain. If my weight starts creeping back up I just go back to strict low carb for a couple days.

You can totally do it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:37 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd like to cut out/down on carbs, but I have a hard time cooking even one dinner, let alone multiple options.

So the thing about the low carb diet isn't really that you're cutting out carbs. It's that you're restricting your diet so that you don't eat certain high calorie foods. In other words, keep making rice, potatoes, bread, and so on, for everyone sle, just don't eat them. Don't drink sodas. Have the pork-chop and green beans, skip the mashed potatoes. Have the chicken, skip the mac and cheese. And make yourself a salad instead of eating spaghetti.

It's really all about calories, not carbs.
posted by empath at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Before you try to change anything or make any pacts, spend a week or two eating as you normally would but keeping an honest food diary. Sometimes I am absent-mindedly consuming stuff that I don't even remember, really, and it takes a food diary to properly assess things. This will help you take a step back and evaluate where there may be easy changes you could make.
posted by bimbam at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Family: eat just what they usually do.
You: eat frozen microwave dinners.

It's not an optimal solution, but I found that the very first thing that fell to the wayside when I was tired or the schedule was too tight was cooking a special diet meal for myself. Once I outsourced that to Lean Cuisine/Amy's et. al., I found I was much more likely to stay on track. Good luck!
posted by apparently at 9:47 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is so, SO hard to be on a healthy diet when other members of the household are not on board. You have my sympathies.

My suggestions-- don't juice. Juicing is pointless, as far as I can tell.

You need quick, on the go breakfast, my recommendations are twofold: hardboiled eggs (boil a batch and put them in the fridge for the week) + bananas (or other portable fruit), and overnight oats. Overnight oats are a little cute and pinteresty, but so convenient (very portable) and filling. The ingredient list can look slightly intimidating but it's actually very simple once you buy the items and learn to keep them on hand. My recipe:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
1/2 cup fruit (any fruit)
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp chia seeds
any spices, powders you want to add (cinnamon, cocoa, protein powder, &c.)

You can also lower the proportions to 1/3 instead of 1/2 for the first four ingredients, if you find it's more breakfast than you need. Feel free to omit the honey (I sometimes do, depending on the fruit I add). Faves of mine: mango, apple cinnamon, cocoa raspberry. I alternate these with hardboiled eggs + fruit, depending on if it's a workout day (when I like carbs), so that I don't get sick of either.


You want to go low-carb-- low-carb lunches are simple. My go to lunches are usually low-mercury canned fish and vegetables. To wit:
- tinned salmon + an avocado (American sushi-ish)
- tinned sardines (I eat the skinless, boneless kind, try mashing them up with whole grain mustard and red onion, great topper for an avocado or spread for a cracker-- similarly, in non-carb-fearing meals, mashed with soy sauce is a good topper for rice)
- lentils or lentil soup
- black bean salad
- hummus + pre-chopped veg (be careful with beans/hummus, as they are somewhat high calorie, but if you're eating well and not snacking on bad stuff it probably will not become a problem for you)
- dried fruit and nuts (in smallish/controlled amounts) and a big salad

An avocado is a great lunch element or daytime snack, because they're good for you and the fat will keep you full. Squeezing lemon and adding a little salt and pepper is quite good, as is sugarless hot sauce. You can keep things exciting with spices and sauces, and there's nothing easier than throwing a tin of sardines and an avocado or a bowl of pre-chopped vegetables into a bag. I also often buy a bowl of chopped 8 vegetables from Trader Joe's and eat it throughout the week with various protein sources (fish, beans, lentils, &c.), sometimes adding no-sugar salsa (like Trader Joe's hatch chile salsa).


Dinner is both easier and harder-- portability isn't a concern, but cooking sucks when you work full-time. My go to dinners:

1) Nitrate-free chicken sausages can go a million different ways. I do an Indian version with garam masala and tomatoes and serve with cauliflower rice (the rice is somewhat labor intensive so sometimes I omit, or do it with a few boiled red potatoes). Chicken sausage with tomato and kale (and white beans). Spicy chicken sausage with peppers and tomatoes. If you can find turkey kielbasa, it goes great with Trader Joe's totally delicious sauerkraut (the ingredients list is totally guilt free). Nothing is easier.

I know these are not particularly child-friendly recipes-- healthy eaters with kids may have better advice. Other go-to, low-carb meals in my house:

1) Pork chops with sauteed apples and cabbage (the pork cooks for 6 minutes all together, chopping apples and cabbage and cooking probably takes 15-20 minutes, and done).
2) Simple chili-- we just add onion, chopped red and green peppers, ground beef or chicken sausage, and sometimes beans. Construct as you would a typical chili.

I have done a Whole30 and I think it was a great reset for my body and my tastebuds. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it-- I lost 8-10 lbs without working out at all. (Now I work out again so I have added in some occasional carbs, and I eat beans/legumes and various oils that are usually restricted.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:51 AM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]

I also second everyone above-- normal dinners are fine, just don't eat the high-calorie, hi-carb parts.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:52 AM on December 15, 2014

When I was ten years old, my dad decided to massively change his diet and lifestyle in order to ultimately lose 100 pounds.

At that point, food changes were made that affected our whole family. It was unilateral and permanent. Yes, we were picky kids. Yes, we were used to X and Y family traditions involving junk food. There was one dinner. Period. But my parents decided they wanted to make this change, and they laid down the law, and it was what it was.

Stop thinking of this as a battle you are going to have to fight. You're the parent. You shop for the food and cook the food. It is your decision.

(As to your husband, YMMV. It was probably easier for my dad because my mom has always been relatively health-conscious. But the radical shift was driven by him.)

FWIW my dad lost this weight without cutting carbs drastically, as that was not the done thing at the time. I'm not sure you have to do the low carb thing in order to accomplish what you want. It may be easier for you to go about this in other ways, if the bottom line is that you need to provide something your kids will eat. My parents definitely sold the shifting household diet to us by saying that we were welcome to just have plain pasta or rice or potatoes or whatever, if we didn't like the sauce/main course/veggies/what have you.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]

Well, your attitude is all wrong here. You're pre-sabotaging your own efforts by insisting that your children's picky eating and your husband's fast food fixation come before your own needs. You know you need to make this change. You worry about the health consequences. So decide that your needs for the next few months are more important than their preferences. Stop coddling the husband and kids. Start making the food you wish to eat, and they are welcome to cook whatever they'd like if they'd prefer not to eat what you make. If you're feeling generous, cook some extra sides for them, but it isn't your job to please everybody else before you take care of your real needs.

Diet-wise, I've been losing weight VERY successfully of late. Low carb is 100% the way to go because protein makes you full and then you aren't miserable and starving all the time, it's much easier to maintain. I'm also doing low-fat (aka "clean eating" - the kind of stuff that bodybuilders eat), but people on keto seem to have similar results.
posted by zug at 9:52 AM on December 15, 2014 [14 favorites]

Also, I have to agree-- not only are you the grownup, you're the cook (it seems?), so you have the most possible control here. If your husband and kids don't like it, they will eat take-out or learn to cook. Hopefully, they will see the light to an extent.

Also, batch cooking is very helpful when eating low carb, when it comes to things like sausages or whatnot. (And by the way, I kind of fucked up my list above in my haste-- beans are not really low carb, they weren't meant to go on the low-carb list-- but they're still a good source of nutrition.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:57 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am actually not the cook lately - by mid-afternoon, my energy is totally gone after a day of teaching/driving/cleaning - so the kitchen completely intimidates me, and I couldn't think of anything I crave if I tried. So my husband usually makes pasta/burritos/stir fry/chicken breasts/pancakes. If it was up to me, I'd be happy to eat a pill that somehow contained all my nutritional needs and somehow made me not hungry. But we haven't invented that yet. Thanks, science.

Just another note, and I'll bow out of the thread: I am actively treating my depression, and I like my medical and therapeutic support. But the progress is slow and prone to setbacks, as is often the case, and I find my energy and willpower are gone by the end of the day. I have cut out soda, even diet, and try to eat protein breakfasts (usually bars) and lunches, but it seems I now need to reduce calories to a baseline much lower than I previously observed. But thank you all for your help. You're giving me great ideas and inspiration.
posted by bibliowench at 10:07 AM on December 15, 2014

If it was up to me, I'd be happy to eat a pill that somehow contained all my nutritional needs and somehow made me not hungry.

Have you considered Soylent? There's a lot about them on the web, from The New Yorker to various blogs and reddit.

Disclaimer: I've never tried it, and it doesn't fit with my personal relationship with food so I probably never will - but it sounds like Soylent might be something you'd be interested in trying.
posted by aimedwander at 10:19 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not a total solution, but I am finding meal replacement shakes to be somewhat useful. I don’t use them daily, but when I just don’t have it in me to make a meal, they help keep me from eating crap. I’ve always been into whole foods so never thought I’d do this, but desperate times…

I use Idealshape because it seemed to have the best review/ price ratio, but I’m sure others are just as good.
posted by metasarah at 10:23 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing smaller portions. Eat whatever you like -- there aren't magic solutions; I gained weight after having a kid in part off of enormous salads -- just less of it. And that sounds like it would be the least fuss for your situation; you only have to think about one aspect of your intake. There's nothing wrong with pizza if you stop at a slice or two.

You don't have to eat breakfast and lunch on the run because you don't actually have to eat them. Meals are social constructs; your body does not require "breakfast" and "lunch" as one normally thinks of them. If I don't eat during the day and start to suffer for it, I sometimes cram in a bit of hummus on crackers; the little protein hit is just enough.

My metabolism never went back to what once was, so I don't eat much during the day. I have a late-night meal that is a "luxury meal" that I look forward to; it is always something I very much want to eat at that particular time. This takes a little advance planning and freezer space but it's not too much effort, and leaves me happy, food-wise, without taking in too many calories.

Once it dawned on me that I could no longer eat like I was 20 I started eating out of Dixie cups; it's simple portion control, and I also made a rule that if I was still hungry after my little Dixie snack, I could have more -- in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes later it'll either be apparent that you really do need to eat more, or -- quite often -- your body will decide it's fine with what it's been given already.

Looking at the list of stuff your husband cooks -- can he add frozen veg? It's so easy to have on hand and so easy to prepare. A big bowl of it on the side with any of those meals would give you something to bulk out your plate without having to rely too much on the starch.
posted by kmennie at 10:32 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am in the canoe with you.... but, I think, think! I have found a solution (for dinner anyway). I recently spent 3 days mincing and chopping and assembling a TON of freezer to crock-pot meals. I add a salad or veg to the meal and I'm done. The great thing for me is that I decided what went into the meal when I was NOT hungry and exhausted, so they're all healthy things.

Due to my newly implemented dinner regime, my two kids have been a little grumpy. That's too bad, they can have a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich & an apple. Suck it up. They have to learn to eat right and they won't do it if I keep ordering from the pizza place. I just keep telling myself that I'm more stubborn than they are (I hope).
Feel free to MeMail- we can commiserate.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you have more muscle mass, you burn more calories doing the same activity (even at rest) compared to someone who has less muscle mass.

I would encourage you to ask a physical therapist for some recommended stretches, gentle yoga, or other exercises you can do to strengthen your muscles without aggravating the disc.

If you could spend even 5 minutes a day building muscle, it would be like an investment that pays off in better metabolism, allowing you to eat a more comfortable and pleasant amount of calories over the long haul.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also derp, I was going to link to an actual overnight oats recipe but didn't-- all you do is mix the ingredients together in a sealed container and pop in the fridge overnight. In the morning the oats are softened and the chia makes it into a delicious, healthy breakfast pudding.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:07 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's what I discovered, an unexpected surprise, in the roller coaster years from the onset of perimenopause through to the recent completion of menopause (12 months last month) - I started losing the weight I'd gained by around September and now am lighter than I've been in the past 5 years. My appetite and cravings (no more snacking between meals for example) just changed. And I'm wondering whether now that the volatility of the homones is settling down so are the concurrent swings in metabolism and appetite. Just something to keep in mind fwiw.
posted by infini at 11:15 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am you.. Currently struggling with severe stress and anxiety, and even my doctor says we need to tackle that before the fat. But..
I've been watching this series over the weekend, about food, and they have a lot of good advice I'm going to try out. But I started today, so I can't show any great results.
Some of the advice:
- It is true that protein-rich diet makes you feel fuller for longer time. So even as I love my carbs, I'm going to cut down on them, specially for breakfast and lunch.
- Surprising news: drinking a lot of water doesn't help, unless it is in soup. I'm thinking of taking a thermos of soup to work for lunch, instead of a sandwich. Less carbs and calories, more filling = less snacking. My local store has hearty soups both frozen and fresh which I can heat up and pour into the thermos before going to work . Obviously, instant noodles are not good here.
- Dairy products are really good for binding the fat you eat and getting it out of your system. Yogurt or cottage cheese (no sugar) with fruits for breakfast is really a good thing.
- Watch what you drink. Oftentimes, you feel you aren't really eating anything, but actually you are getting a lot of calories from sodas and alcohol.
- Five portions of vegs or fruit a day. You already know that one, but do it. Look at the color of your fruit and veg. (I forgot what that was about, but will rewatch)
- Eat fish at least twice a week. This can be tricky in a picky family, and in a family where cooking is a stress-factor. But my kids have always liked fish-cakes, and salads with canned tuna or salmon.
posted by mumimor at 12:04 PM on December 15, 2014

Don't forget that half a cup is a portion of fruits and veggies. A large banana, a cup of broccoli and a carrot and you've probably already hit the five servings goal.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:29 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I've always had a problem with my weight. We have put changes into place that have made a big impact with small effort. First of all, measure your food. We serve everything with measuring cups. A half-cup of rice is SO much rice. However, I bet you would serve a full cup (thinking it was half) if you just eyeballed it.

We then found tricks to getting dinner on the table quickly and healthfully. I marinate a lot of meats and fowl for quick, flavorful cooking. We use Trader Joe's microwavable brown rice. (This stuff is amazing and tastes good.) Portioned fruits and veggies.

It takes planning, but it's worth it. Since late July, my husband has lost over 50 lbs and I've lost over 20.
posted by heathrowga at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2014

I agree that tracking calories is a very effective way towards weight loss. If you drop 150 calories per day, you will drop half pound a week (in theory - not all calories are created equal). Still, just the act of tracking makes a big difference.

In addition, you can play around with the meals you listed very easily. Burritos - wonderful. Lose the tortilla - even if just for yourself. My kids love tacos. We serve tacos. Mrs. Plinth and I put the fillings on a huge bed of lettuce.

Pasta - fantastic. We put chopped spinach in the sauce and since my daughter has Celiac disease, we use black bean noodles. Slightly fewer calories, way more iron, lots of fiber.

Also, I try to hack my hunger. My breakfast is typically Rice Chex and a banana, which lasts until roughly 10:30. At that point, I have 1oz of trail mix which is pretty filling and will hold me over until lunch. Lunch, I either have Trader Joe's frozen lunches picked for being < 400 calories (or a salad with leftover protein from dinner) and a piece of fruit or two (depending on the season). That leaves me with roughly a 900-1000 calorie budget for dinner - which is a lot. That means I can have a glass of wine or a beer or some ice cream after.

Remember also that your body is an equilibrium machine optimized for slight weight gain. You don't have to plunge your calories (which is dangerous), but instead just shift them slightly.

Finally, the most freeing phrase I've ever learned as a parent was "you don't have to eat," said with no anger or bitterness. I know you don't want to fight that battle. When you're ready, have that in your repertoire.
"I HATE THIS!" You don't have to eat.
"YOU KNOW I DON'T EAT THIS!" You don't have to eat.
"WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS?" You don't have to eat.
"THIS IS DISGUSTING!" You don't have to eat.
I will point out that I have each and every one of those from my son at dinner. He is now to the point where he will make himself a peanut butter and banana sandwich without complaint.
posted by plinth at 1:16 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think others have said this, but basically, make a lot of protein and veggies and a little carbs. Let your family eat the carbs, and you eat the rest.

As far as prep, this can be EASY (if a little boring). We have NO time most nights - husband gets home about 6, I get home at 6:40, dinner time is ideally 7, so we can eat before the kids go to bed. Oh, and we have a toddler and baby who both need a lot of love/snuggles/nursing/etc as soon as we get home. So our strategy is cook a big load of meat on Sunday, get a lot of easy to prep veggies, throw it all together each evening.

- So choose some meats you and your family like that are easy to make and reasonably priced. Our go to's are: brats, costco rotisserie chickens, chicken thighs (marinated with some braggs and mustard and grilled), carnitas/slow cooked pork, beef (often flank, grilled and sliced up rather than in individual 'steak' portions)

- Make LARGE portions of two different meats on Sunday

- Add easy to cook veggies. Our go to's are easy salads (bagged salad mixes or bagged lettuce plus a few veggies, and maybe a cheese - the important thing for me is that the lettuce be pre-washed, otherwise we won't eat it 80% of the time), and steam in bag veggies
(broccolli, snow peas, snap peas, cauliflower, green beans).

- Simple/easy carb - for your family more than you. Again, our standbys right now: rice in a rice cooker (one of our favorite appliances) with a can of soup/broth/something to give it a bit of flavor, rosemary potatoes (potato discs, liberal dried rosemary, salt and olive oil, bake at a high temp till they look yummy).

- For dinner: reheat one of your meats, make one salad (don't dress the whole salad, let folks do their own, that way it's still good for your lunch tomorrow and not all wilty and gross), make/reheat your carb, microwave a veggie or two (toss with butter, salt, lemon juice, whatever for a bit of flavor), done. Options for you, options for them.

- For your lunch the next day, take the salad with meat and veg either on top or on the side (I think a lot of salads are good with reheated protein on them, but that might just be me).

This is working well for us because it's super easy, relatively inexpensive (more so than carryout), pretty health (lots of veggies), and perhaps most importantly neither of us has to THINK about what we're having each week (oh, I forgot to mention, write up a brief menu for the week on Sunday that way you, um, don't have to think :).

As for juicing, I wouldn't invest in a juicer if I was you but you might want to look into a good blender. Fruit smoothies can be a great way to sneak some spinach and kale into your (and maybe your kids diets). Whether you want to do this will depend on whether your wanting to go really low carb (where whole fruits are restricted) or not. If you do this though, you'll probably want whole fruits (i.e. put the whole orange, peeled, in there rather than a cup of orange juice) that way your still getting the fiber as well.

I generally feel better when I eat low on the carb spectrum but periodically my diet goes to hell (pregnancy and breastfeeding most recently) and I start eating all the mashed potatoes and almond croissants in the world, and one of the things that's important for me in breaking this habit is making sure that I can eat as much meat and veggies as I want, which right now (breastfeeding) means some pretty hefty portion sizes. Just my 2c, but I'd say work on breaking the carb addiction and wait until you feel more "meh" than "gimmie" about rice/potatoes/pancakes, before working on reducing portion sizes.
posted by pennypiper at 1:18 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

What plinth said is really, really good advice. You don't have to eat. Remember as a parent, you are in for the long haul.
When my kids were small, I would often just shrug my shoulders if they wouldn't eat good food, even against the advice of the doctor and school nurse, who were worried about their growth. Because they did starve themselves for weeks, and with some foods, months.

Yesterday my 5ft 11inch 16-yo girl suddenly announced: "Mum, I know it's weird, but I truly love celeriac".

Both my kids eat almost everything today, and though it was a pest back then, I'm happy we took that struggle as a family. It seemed like ages of fighting and crying then, but in reality it was perhaps 18 months out of their long, now veg-eating lives.
posted by mumimor at 1:33 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know if calories in->calories out rhetoric is going to be a huge lot of help for you if you're on antidepressants or other medications that drastically alter your metabolism.

You're dealing with a lot here: a challenging job, chronic pain, depression, caring for young children. I suspect you're eating calorie-heavy comfort foods because you need comfort and care, not because of poor self-control. The weight gain is a symptom, not the problem. I suspect the suggestions to pursue physical therapy are going closer to the mark than those to cut calories even further. Be kind to yourself. You have a lot on your plate, so to speak, and it's not just carbs.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:46 PM on December 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

As far as not eating the carb-y parts of your family dinners, tons of protein dishes taste great on top of a salad. Think of taco salads and Asian lettuce wraps and greek or middle eastern foods without the pita. Grab bagged lettuce if it's too much work to prep it yourself. The things about carbs is, if you can cut them out for a week, maybe ten days, you're cravings will really subside. Hurray for little victories!

- My husband likes to bring home salty and sweet snacks, and take-out, even when I ask him not to. And, to be fair, I don't say no when he takes the kids for an ice-cream run.

I would be very upset if my SO was aware of my health/stress issues and weight concerns and ignored this request. You're not asking him not to eat that food himself (let him hide it in the garage or something without telling you if he's that desperate to eat that stuff at home), you're not asking him or the kids to restrict themselves, so wtf? I realize this is only a small component of your weight issues but it would save calories here and there and also probably help reduce your cravings for sweets/carbs. I mean, come on.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:22 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

This question I asked a little while back about how to do a Whole30 with very little spare time might have some other good ideas for you too!

If you allow dairy (which the Whole30 doesn't) it gives you a bunch of other options that involve zero cooking. I particularly couldn't handle making stuff in the morning, even eggs, so I pre-made a paleo oatmeal type thing, this no-oat oatmeal, and just heated it up in the morning and put a little almond milk and cinnamon on it. For lunch, I did raw fruits (with yogurt when I was not on W30), vegetables, incredibly easy stuff like this Waldorf tuna salad (yes, I made the homemade mayo too, but if you use store bought mayo it's even simpler). Then I just had dinner to contend with, and I prepared food ahead of time for that, or made simple recipes of meat. If I was eating your husband's dinner, I would eat the insides of the burrito only (with cheese if not W30), stir fry without the rice - you can make them separately and other people can add the rice in after, for the pasta I would have a sausage or meatball with sauce/cheese and none of the actual noodles…. as for pancakes, well there are a wealth of paleo pancake recipes you could show your husband, but I think while you're dieting he could probably avoid that particular "dinner" choice (as much as I appreciate it, as I am a breakfast/carb lover at heart).

The husband bringing home snacks and treats thing is a thing I dealt with too. But honestly it wasn't that different from the fact that I was confronted by stuff that wasn't on my diet constantly anyway - at parties, at the supermarket checkout line, at work, etc. For me, portion control is extremely difficult, if I eat a little bit it's an absolute war with my mind not to eat a lot. I find it much easier to do something like a low carb diet or Whole30 where certain foods are just off limits and I can tell myself 'no, I can't eat that' - there's no arguing or bargaining about if I eat this now I won't eat something else later, or I can just have a little bit now and then I'll eat something healthy, or whatever. I just can't let myself start thinking that it's something I could eat, and that works for me. Only you know whether that approach could work for you. After seeing how hard I was trying on the diet (and how grouchy I got if he ate a pizza in front of me) my husband also stepped up and started eating better than he usually does too, and hopefully yours would do the same, particularly if you started to see success and he appreciated it.

I know it's incredibly tough - Good luck! You can do it!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:08 PM on December 15, 2014

Stop drinking calories. You could never eat as many apples as go into 8oz of apple juice.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for your help and support. It's amazing how shared experiences and empathy can make a message as basic as "eat less food" less daunting. You all have provided me with the momentum I need to start to change deeply ingrained habits. It's not fun seeing your metabolism crash, but having successful examples to follow is inspiring.
Now if you excuse me, I have an omelet, or more realistically scrambled eggs, to make for breakfast.
posted by bibliowench at 7:41 AM on December 16, 2014

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