Wednesday, May 13

The $60 weight-loss nanny

I've mentioned recently that my depression caused me a lot of problems, including weight gain. In fact, I had to buy some new clothes while I work on losing the extra weight.

Most of the time that I am awake and not actively focused on another activity, I want to eat. It's not just a desire, it's an active fascination. So even when I'm successfully curbing these urges more than half of the time, it quickly adds up to more calories than my poor body can burn. And it's not like I can just go work out more at the gym.

So I made a difficult decision. I decided to go ahead and buy some Alli. It was expensive, but things were getting desperate. I need to take this weight off, both for my energy and my overall health. While Alli will help me lose extra pounds, I wanted to take it for the simple fact of real, immediate consequences. That is, if you eat more fat than recommended, you run the risk of some very messy, embarrassing gastrointestinal symptoms.

And that's what it comes down to: the need for short-term consequences. Abstractly, I know that if I eat too much, I'll gain weight. That will make me feel bad. But it's too far in the future, and the eating is too emotionally motivated.

In the end, I needed to make a short-term, non-frugal decision in order to help my long-term frugality. For example, if I can revamp my overall eating habits, we'll buy less junk food, which means a smaller grocery budget. And there are plenty of articles citing the savings from being more physically fit.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing is going to happen overnight. But I nabbed 16 frozen dinners for $1.88 at a QFC sale a week ago. (That was how many our freezer could hold.) I eat my Kashi Go Lean Crunch for breakfast. I got sliced cheese -- again not as frugal as block cheese, but calories are easier to ascertain -- and some lunch meat. I cram as much lettuce and tomato (and sometimes cucumber slices) as I can reasonably stand. No mayo, just mustard on 12-grain bread. Tasty and healthy. A low-fat yogurt snack. And for dinner, a frozen meal.

The meals aren't bad. They just aren't great. But they have vegetables included, which I othewise skip, and the (small) dessert fruit crisps are actually quite tasty. It's fast, the calories are right on the back, and no one has to worry about what I'll eat for dinner. I often still have enough calories leftover to have a double-serving of my favorite ice cream: Dryer's Slow Churned Chocolate Fudge Chunk.

This week, I need to reintegrate exercise, which fell by the wayside in my new calorie-counting ordeal. But overall, I'm very happy with my progress so far.

What I really like about Alli is that it's sensible. Jenny Craig charges you money to starve yourself. (They put everyone on 1200 calories a day, whether you're 20 pounds overweight or 100.) Weight Watchers was an option I considered, but my fatigue would interfere with meeting attendance, and it's just not the same when it's online.

Meanwhile Alli would have me eat 1800 calories a day and no more than 19 grams of fat in a meal. Both very achievable goals. Because I do want to get the weight off a little more quickly, I set my own goals at the next notch down: 1500 calories a day, 15 grams of fat a meal. This gives me wiggle room. Most days, I hit my goal or am close. Some days, I need the full 1800 calories. But this way, if I go over my calorie-goal, I know that I'm still in a perfectly acceptable range and don't berate myself.

I did take the weekend off, since we weren't at home. With the two-hour shopping trip and the breakfast we took Tim's mom to, it was simply too difficult to worry about fat. So I simply stopped taking the pills for two days. Not ideal, but better than letting myself suffer when I could simply be realistic.

Incidentally, in the end my Mom decided to buy the Alli for me, so that we didn't take the money out of the budget. Very thoughtful and generous of her. I certainly appreciate it. But the point is that I was willing to spend the money. It proves once again that sometimes what's most frugal doesn't always seem like it in the short-term.


Blogger Meg said...

Good for you that you're really working on this! You gotta take care of your health, and I think a lot of people don't understand the long term costs of not. I do, so I am willing to "splurge" on stuff to help me get/stay healthier: healthy fresh food, a treadmill, good walking shoes, etc. Of course, as Oprah shows, no amount of money makes up for making bad decisions and those can be easy to make when you're battling cravings, low energy, etc.

Have you talked to your doctor(s) about this? They might be able to suggest something for the cravings. Also, a lot of meds can cause those cravings (and psych meds are notorious). That might be unavoidable, but it's good to know, especially because -- if you're like me -- you probably thinks sometimes that you should have more willpower.

May 13, 2009 at 11:43 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Yeah, my doctor basically told me that willpower has very little to do with it. Which was very refreshing coming from one of those lithe, energetic, late 40s guys who has clearly never had a weight problem in his life.

But my therapist did suggest agave, same substance they use to make tequila, to help my sugar cravings. She swears by it. So I may have to check it out at Trader Joe's sometime. She says it helps keep her blood sugar better in balance and helps her sugar cravings overall. It's on my list of things to check out. But mostly I'm just trying to focus on one thing at a time, so that I don't try to do too much and end up doing nothing at all!

Luckily, the meds I'm on don't create any particular cravings. (Though when I don't have enough anti-depressants my body craves chocolate as a serotonin boost.) But given that I'm eating less sugar/junk with the Alli plan, I'm also having fewer cravings because my blood sugar isn't all over the place. It's kind of refreshing overall!

May 13, 2009 at 1:25 PM

Blogger Meg said...

Careful about the agave! It's tasty, wonderful stuff, but it's high in fructose -- which has pros AND cons.

The good thing is that it doesn't spike blood sugar, so fewer cravings. The bad thing is that its been shown that fructose leads to more *belly* fat than other sugars -- and it's the belly fat that is particularly unhealthy.

Have you tried stevia? It's a natural herb that's sold in powder form as a supplement and used as a very low cal sweetener. It also helps regulate blood sugar. I don't know if you can bake with it, but it's great for sweetening drinks.

May 13, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Blogger Abby said...


I will be careful in re: fructose content of agave. I knew it does have calories. But I think the idea was mainly to put in a drink or two during the day, to help kill sugar cravings. Depending on how my overall diet goes (and the imminence of strawberry/cherry season at the Farmer's Market) I may or may not need it.

Stevia. It works. Sorta. Certainly, after drinking it with some water, I can't even IMAGINE wanting sugar substances. I know they also make it in a tea. Can't remember if I tried that last time or not. I remember not being thrilled with it overall. Mainly because I had to gulp down the water. I think I'll keep an open mind about it and agave, up until I actually need to consider either one. Then do more in-depth research. Including, apparently, talking to you some more about it.

May 13, 2009 at 3:25 PM

Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

I'm proud of you for having a "realistic" weekend. Sometimes the biggest step is just not torturing ourselves.

May 13, 2009 at 9:56 PM


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