Monday, January 22, 2007

Ground Hog Diet

Like many Americans, every year my list of New Year’s resolutions always has, “lose weight.”

While I don’t jump right into dieting; I do stop indulging, and will resume my normal eating habits. And I don’t weigh myself until about the third week of January. By then I figure my body has registered the extra calories from the holidays but might have dropped a half pound or so from my eating normally again. This is what I call my“Eeeek” revelation, or baseline weight.

From there it’s simple to set a goal of how much weight I want to lose – generally an amount equivalent to one step lower on the standard Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. Nowadays this generally amounts to a modest 4-5 pounds. But don’t pooh-pooh me by assuming I’m just a lucky, small person. Over the years I’ve probably lost close to 300 pounds, but that’s not such a big deal. What’s significant is that for the past ten years I’ve managed to keep 12 of them from coming back!

According to actuarial charts from the dark ages of my youth (“If you are 5’ tall you should weigh 100 pounds, then add 5 pounds per inch to see your ideal weight.”), I was always hopelessly overweight. I carried a residual poor body image forward far into my adult years. Then, about a decade ago, the Body Mass Index became trendy. The BMI chart is far kinder, with its broader (so to speak) categories. (There’s a link at the end of the blog in case you aren’t familiar with it.) It made me feel better about myself because I wasn’t as overweight as those other charts had dictated. (It was the same delight I felt when the clothing industry revised women’s pant sizes, and I started wearing a size 10 for the first time ever!)

Anyway, I have my goal, so I outline my diet strategy. Since I have always been a calorie counter, I’ll calculate how many total calories are contained in the pounds I want to lose, then divide by the number of days I plan to stick to the diet (28). The resulting, astoundingly small figure is the number of calories I may consume daily for one month. (There’s a calorie calculator link at the end too.)

Sometimes I like to quick start the diet with a few low-carbohydrate tactics borrowed from South Beach and Atkins, etc. But I can’t stick with those for long; I’m too much of a carb lover. Mostly I aim for a diet eliminating the usual ‘naughty white stuff’ (sugar, butter, cream cheese, white flour, etc.), while allowing modest amounts of meats, whole grains, nuts and beans and lots of fruit and lots and lots of veggies. And, I’m sorry, but I don't ask me to give up potatoes. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the Irish lived off nothing but spuds for a century. I’ll give up butter and I’ll give up sour cream, but not the potato itself.

Then I start read about dieting. I buy books. I look up dieting tips and hints on the Internet. I think about dieting. I start eliminating or reducing a few of my major dietary weaknesses (wine with dinner every night becomes wine on weekend nights only), soups and salads replace sandwiches; portions shrink; I measure oil when I cook instead of eyeballing it.

Then, on February 2, Ground Hog Day, I start my diet. It’ll be a bit harder than usual this year because Ground Hog Day falls on a Friday and weekends are hard times to start dieting. But I will gird my burgeoning loins and set to the task.

Join me? I’ll give you lots of tips and support during that month. And there is only one simple rule that you have to abide by.

I’ll tell you about it next time…

Now, if you’re interested, here’s some fun/interesting/useful information to get those juices flowing (unfortunate imagery).

Here’s my favorite Body Mass Index (BMI) site: The whole site offers an entirely pink and pleasant visit.

You can find the official BMI chart and what its ranges indicate on this reliable, non-commercial site:

Want to figure how many calories you burn a day at your current weight and how many you have to cut back to if you want to lose a certain amount? Check out this professional nutritionist website with a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator:

And for low-techies, here’s the gold standard, handy, dandy portable reference book to figure calories, The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, 2007 by Allan Borushek. It’s a jam-packed compenium of diet facts, tips and recommendations, with calorie lists for fast food, canned, frozen and brand name foods as well as generic foods like apples, salmon, etc. The 2007 edition has updates for net carbs and fiber for folks opting for low-carb regimes. It’s available at for $7.99 + S&H.


  1. Thanks for the encouragement. I agree with the phased approach to dieting. I tend start by studying up, then thinking about my approach, begin paying attention to what I eat, and finally eliminating the obvious overindulgences.

    The comment about the Irish and pototoes led me to one of my favorite, but somewhat indulgent, potato preparations. I found this "lighter" Champ recipe in Cooking Light

    After reading this post, I'll give it a try.


    2 1/2 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold or baking potato (about 1 pound)
    1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
    1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    Vegetable cooking spray

    Place potato in a medium saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook 15 minutes or until very tender; drain in a colander, and set aside. Combine milk and green onions in pan, and cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Add potato, salt, and pepper to milk mixture; beat at medium speed of a mixer until smooth.

    Divide mixture evenly between 2 (8-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray; broil 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

    Yield: 2 servings

    CALORIES 180(6% from fat); FAT 1.2g (sat 0.5g,mono 0.2g,poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 6.6g; CHOLESTEROL 2mg; CALCIUM 112mg; SODIUM 340mg; FIBER 3.5g; IRON 2.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 36.9g

    I think I will slightly decrease the amount of milk and double the green onions

    Champ is traditionally served with a well in the middle that has a dab of butter melting in it. The potatoes are usually eaten from "outside" to "inside," dipping each bite into the butter. I suppose I agree with Aunt R's approach to be resolute and will forgo the butter, for now.

  2. Hi Auntie Rose: I tried to reply to the original blog posting but, alas, it said your email address was not valid so I sent it to your npc address – did you get it?

    I’m a bit of a health/weight nut myself but since I’m not a librarian I don’t put much time into research. I do get several health publications and keep up with “what’s hot and what’s not” vitamins (they seem to change every week or two). One advantage I have is that I don’t like to cook so food for me is just something to quell hunger – it’s not an “event” or a reward. My usual diet consists of Oatmeal, cold cereal or soft boiled eggs and w/wheat toast all with fruit for breakfast. Lunch is usually an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad w/ low cal dressing. Snack is a piece fruit. Dinner is steamed veggies + cottage cheese or sweet potato + spinach and cottage cheese (ok, low fat smart balance too), or baked potato + chili + cottage cheese, or veggie burger on w/wheat toast. Does cottage cheese seem to be a common thread here? Obviously most folks would quickly tire of such a boring menu but it suits me just fine because there is hardly any cooking and it’s really fast. I didn’t gain any weight over the holidays, but I have put on a pound since the weather got really cold and snowy. I haven’t jogged my mile in two weeks – too icy. I am back to walking a mile but it’s not the same. I feel like a blob. It’s hard to get motivated to walk out the door when the temp. is 6 above. Yuck.

  3. Regarding Leslie the Pious's comment about food not being an "event" or a reward...If only us foodies could be that way. Still, it's helpful to note the way Leslie eats -- pretty much the same things all the time.

    That is a useful way to lose weight. For one, your palate gets bored and you eat less. Two, you know how many calories or exchanges or carbs you are eating at each meal. You don't have to do a bunch of calculations every time you sit down to eat. And three, it does help you retrain your appetite to regard food more as sustenance than hedonistic pleasure. Sort of.

    Regarding the comment by 'hatchaz,' I may have to eat my words rather than my spuds. The current issue of Nutrition Action considers the potato a nutritional pariah. I quote, "eating mashed potatoes is not that far from getting an intravenous load of glucose." Eew.

    They do add, however, that the attendant rise in blood sugar accompanying eating tots is dampened when you have them with fat or other foods. So, go ahead, 'hatachaz,' add butter to your lightened version of Champ. Just eat half as many!

  4. 1.) You haven't mentioned exercise
    yet. You WILL, yes?
    2.) Cottage is a wonder food, and
    3.) How about turnips, instead???

  5. Yes, April. We'll talk about exercise (I have a theory about that, too, of course.) And we'll start with probably the two most difficult of all exercises: (1) the stifled cookie grab and (2) the table pushaway -- using both arms while exhaling a large sigh of regret.

    French fried turnips... Why not? I mean, who would have imagined pomegranates hitting the big time? Now there's a diet food worthy of some attention.

  6. By the way, April, turnips are related to cabbage (who knew) and are members of the Brassica family.

    {Potatoes are members of that notoriously naught nightshade family (love apples and peppers!)

  7. Dear Aunt Rose,

    My sister lost over 7 lbs. on Ground Hog Day alone!

    Oh. She had her baby that day.

    I guess that doesn't count. . .

    Lynda's mom

  8. Hi, Aunt Rose,
    Thanks for the info on food. I didn't realize the inherent danger in potatoes. Being Irish, or of Irish descent, I have eaten them regularly as a kid, then less so as an adult. Now I am more inclined to eat cabbage, but not boiled. In my salads. I had a lovely salad recipe to include, but alas, cannot find it. It's along the lines of 'everything but the kitchen sink', and I never truly follow the recipe, but I liked the way it looked on the page. Thanks for your fine blog.

  9. PS. Congratulations and blessings to the new baby born on Ground Hog Day. What a lovely gift.