Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 62- Think I Figured Something Out, and a $5 Blog

Blog first- Ruby Leigh has started a blog/ experiment in which she and her husband eat on a combined $5 a day for 3 months. It looks pretty neat so far, and it will be interesting to see what little gourmet luxuries she adds while staying in budget.

A couple days ago someone (Cyndee?) pointed out that people seem to have breakthroughs with diets- Ah Ha! moments, if you will (like a mad scientist, not an 80's band). I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, thinking about all the crap I have to do, and I guess you could say I had one re: the whole cheating thing. It pretty much comes down to 3 things

  1. I'm lazy
  2. I'm not getting enough calories, and
  3. I'm going too long between meals
So that's what I need to fix. Knowing is half the battle (or so GI Joe always told me...), so I just need to take care of the other half. Two or three simple things I can change to fix (or avoid the negative parts of) each one of those three items.

Starting off with #1-
I'm Lazy-

This one is easier than it sounds. each week on Saturday or Sunday (depending on schedule) I will:
  1. Make sure there's a week's worth of cooked beans in the fridge
  2. prep veggies so I can just toss them in the pan to cook/ heat
  3. Make at least 1 breakfast item and one day-meal in advance for the next week.
This should help because with stuff already done, and needing only a quick spin in the microwave, eating what I've already got will be easier than going out to fetch chips.

I'm Not Getting Enough Calories

I have a fast metabolism, and run a little warm naturally. I also have trouble keeping cool in summer. This problem is actually multi-part, but I'll just work with the stuff I can fix. On $365 for the year, with the purchase split I picked, I'm running at about 1200-1400 calories a day in staples. I don't remember if that was with or without oil, but it doesn't make that much of a difference. In someone with a slower metabolism that'd be a *great* number. In me, not so much. Think of me as your average 1960's gas guzzler- fun to drive, but hell on the fuel budget.

I'm going with the idea that gaining or maintaining weight can be done using some of the same methods used for losing weight, and some of them can be flipped on their heads, so I'm going to
  1. Keep track of calories burned (for an average person doing my level of activity) and consumed, so I know (about) how far off I am- If the average woman my age would burn 2400 calories a day doing what I do, but I only ate 1600, I've got problems.
  2. Pre-portion ready made meals, so I don't over or under estimate intake.
  3. Time eating so that I'll be in a cool place 2-6 hours after eating my biggest meal. I convert that energy pretty much straight to heat, and if I burn that heat while I'm out in hot weather I'll be less likely to eat enough.
Two supporting (undermining?) problems with this are low caloric density in a lot of vegetarian foods, and the higher than expected price of staples. I could easily round out my diet with more calories on an additional $0.20 or $0.30 a day, but I want to hold off on that.

I'm Going Too Long Between Meals

This one's an easy fix.
  1. Keep snacks on hand at all times (homemade granola, maybe?)
  2. Eat more, smaller meals
  3. Eat *something* right after waking up and before going to sleep
I think these 9 actions/ goals should help cut back on the cheating. Obviously some will still happen, I wouldn't be me if I didn't occasionally crave chips. But these three groups of three are easy, actionable, and able to (mostly) be made into habits.

Part of the whole thing is re-training my mind, too. It feels hungry and thinks "Chips are high in fat and salt and calories... Missing just about everything else, but they'll keep me alive."

My mind is not too smart.

On the food front- it was hot today. I cheated with an avocado, sliced and hit with lime juice and salt, eaten on cheat-purchased chips from about two days ago. Om nom nom. $1.50 + tax for an avocado is much better than $4 for chips, so I don't feel too bad about it. But it was still enough energy to over heat me while I was trying to sleep.

I know, I know, would that we were all so cursed, etc.

Anyone else use easy steps/ habit forming to deal with something in a healthy way? If you did, how did you keep your motivation up until the habit set?

Note- I know counting calories is a slippery slope, but I'd rather know if I'm getting the numbers then fear the scale. I'd rather run out of money and declare the whole thing a big goofy full-on fail then have to stop it due to excessive weight-loss. YMMV, etc.


  1. you know, on the whole, you're smarter than the average bear when it comes to personal insights.
    i'm partly reminded of Bill Murray in "What about Bob?" Baby Steps. Baby steps in the elevator, baby steps on the bus. (If you haven't seem the movie - the point being to take it one small step at a time.)

    I, personally, do a lot of baby steps to get habits to set in. Which is to say if there are 5 things I want to do better to eat healthier, I pick on and spend a week focus on that. The next week I focus on the next one and the habits from the previous week have a way of carrying over.

    I also TRY really hard NOT to use words like fail, lazy... It's more difficult if you are judging yourself all the time.


  2. Sounds like you are developing just a healthy understanding of what your body needs to live. Living off $1/day is a volume that almost everyone would view as difficult. Also, many if not all of the people who live on the cheap have months of trying to do so before being truly being successful in their daily lives, so consider yourself successful for how well you have done overall.

  3. Hi there! I am a vegan doing $25/week on food and it's tough! I don't know how you'll do it with just $1/day but I wish you luck and will follow along with your blog to see what you're doing so I can copy. :)

    In response to calories - you may also want to consider fat too. Too little fat can really mess with your body. I do not have this problem as I am obese (which this strict budget is helping with) but I like peanut butter and snacking on nuts. The avocados are good for you too...good fat and calories. Another high calorie food is hummus. I make my own with chickpeas, olive oil, tahini (optional but calorie dense and lasts a long time), lemon juice and spices.

    Looking forward to reading more of your ideas!

  4. I can't seem to post a comment on the blog you referenced above, so I will do it here. There is another blog, which is focused on the idea of $30/week. The couple is not doing it as an experiment, but as a regular way of life. Not sure how long they have been doing this, but it is well over a year. They are vegetarian, by the way.
    The blog:

  5. You have an overactive Thyroid.

  6. @Maureen- I remember that movie... I find that Fail and lazy lose their power over me the more I use them. I "fail" at so many things, the chance of failing at something big doesn't scare me.

    @Ruby- I could increase the calories by cutting out pretty much all the veggies, but without replacing them (and I don't have time, space, or skill to grow them all) it'd be pretty pathetic and really unhealthy. Pleh! to the rice shortage!

    @panther- Oh, I consider fat. I consider it in the oil I fry my veggies in, and the oil i dip my bread in, and the oil I fry my wheat-meat in. For just about anything I make, it can be assumed that there's 1-4 tablespoons of oil included. I need to work in more healthy fats, though- and you're right, for that avocado is great (and so tasty...). I've actually been craving "traditional" hummus for weeks, but can't find chickpeas for less than $2 a pound. It's crazyness.

    @Christine- I've been to that blog- I have total envy for their co-op. The prices they pay for stuffs make me want to fly up there and roll in affordable organic veggies (not really). I can't imagine eating *in* all the time in NY, though... it's so easy to just grab a bagel, or falafel, or pizza...

    @nibbles- nope, thyroid and pituitary hormones are right where they should be. Doctor wondered too... I'm just weird.

  7. Try using for free tracking of nutrition. It will calculate your nutritional needs based on weight/height and then you can track your consumption, evaluating according to the allowances they provide or flex with what you know your body needs. For example, I have diabetes and therefore try to go a little lower-carb than it recommends, but also end up a little higher fat because I substitute carb snacks with nuts, cheese, etc. The website has pretty excellent tools, though, to use as you need.

  8. First...I love your blog! About habits...I have this 'inner-self" that dictates to me..for example, if I feel that I am drinking too much pop (which i usually am), then I completely cut it out for a while to break the habit. It's a personal sense of accomplishment, knowing that I have self-control...when i want to. I am also vegetarian (don't ya love it when people hear that, then continue to go through a list of meats and fish, hoping there is just one that you actually eat?). I am currently omitting sugar. I have done this before, and felt so much better anyway. As a veg..I find myself having issues with carbs, and since i am..uh..not skinny..I have had to set a carb gonna check out that snarkpeople site and see if it's helpful. Gotta tell you, sometimes when i read your blog, I just want to send you some money! Keep up the good work!

  9. Nancy- thanks, I'll check that out.

    juls- I've quit my soda habit about 4 times now- it's great when I'm not drinking it, after the first month. But oh, the headaches. So I'm trying a half-assed step-down program this time. My *father* actually goes through lists, looking for things I can eat. I've introduced him to the idea of "calling ahead" to avoid springing me on an unsuspecting kitchen. Other than the diet soda and some sugar in my oatmeal, I really don't have much (if any) additional sweeteners in my diet. I even buy unsweetened applesauce, which is plenty sweet, I think. Unfortunately, my inner self is a bit of a dare-devil, always telling me to book tickets and eat chocolate bars. I'm trying to swap her out for one that favors moderation, but she's not moving.