Posted by: Sara S. | January 11, 2010

Calm down and eat the dumpling.

There are certain obvious items to avoid when you’re trying to lose weight: fries, Twinkies, hot dogs. And then there are borderline dieting behaviors that some people might caution you against, but are not hard-and-fast No-Nos. If you have any chance of surviving a long-term diet, you must allow yourself particular treats that enliven your earthly existence (even if they aren’t A++ healthy). Below, I have listed my It’s-Ok rules. These are the habits that, if I kicked them to the curb, I might lose weight faster. And yet, I don’t really care, so away from the curb they remain.

1. Full-fat dairy. Ever tried eating low-fat cottage cheese? Personal take: Capital G Gross. Yogurt, cottage cheese–I eat whatever fat percentage I want. Notably, I get 2% fat cottage cheese. N.B. I do drink skim milk, but only because I think other milk variations taste like cream.

2. Cheese. If someone told me I had to be vegan, I’d kick him in the teeth. Since I don’t use salt very much, sometimes I use cheeses such as Asiago or Parmesan to flavor my soups or veggies. Also good for eggs.

3. Fruit juice. I don’t keep it in my house, but if I go out to brunch and see fresh-squeezed OJ or grapefruit juice on the menu, I am in.

4. If you go out for dinner, GO OUT FOR DINNER. I used to eat out or order in 4-5 nights a week. Now, I try to limit my weeknight restaurant dinners to 1. This is because I think it’s pure idiocy to go to a restaurant and order something like a salad (unless I want a salad). Life would be too sad if I went to sushi restaurants or pizza places and ordered salads or bland food. Now, I cook for myself most of the week and when I go out or order in, I get what I want.  Ordering dumplings? Get ’em pan fried the way I like them. Side of coleslaw? Eat it.

5. Spicy mayo. I am sure that my large following of Japanese readers is hissing at me right now, but I can no longer enjoy sushi without spicy mayo. I don’t much care if we’re talking 50-100 extra calories, bring on the sauce!

6. Fruit fruit fruit. For the most part, I try not to eat carbs for dinner. I do not, however, adhere to this rule when it comes to fruit. Since they came into season, I’ve been eating clementines like they’re going out of style. I’m sure Atkins & Co. would say I’m wrong, but I’m not terribly concerned. Lately, I have been consuming fruit 3 times a day: pre-workout banana, blueberries in my breakfast smoothie, clementines at lunch and sometimes at night.

7. Wine. I have never been much of a drinker. Jenna, Erica, Tommy and any of my other dinner companions will tell you that 1 glass of wine will last me well into dessert. Still, when I started this diet, I had to make a decision about alcohol. My decision was that, whenever possible (i.e. unless I’m at a dive bar where the wine is more like juice) I would order wine. Red is better for me; white has fewer calories; both will give me wicked hangovers if I have too much. Still, if I am craving booze, I will have me some wine–rare though those instances may be.

8. Coconut water. Maybe I am a gullible loser, but I have totally hopped the coconut water bandwagon. I don’t always need the 50-80 extra calories this little beverage provides, but I use it in a couple cases. First, I use it if I get to work and am feeling woozy after exercising earlier in the day; it provides electrolytes, which makes me feel less woozy. Second, I use it if I have a headache and don’t want the caffeine in an Excedrin. Third, I use it in place of juice when I want a sweet addition to my afternoon snack.

9. Steak. No doubt, I could stand to order more fish when I go out to eat. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I love red meat like I love rainbows and pandas. Whether it’s vaca frita or filet mignon, I can’t pass up beef. Since the only way I know how to make steak is to pan fry it in butter, I no longer cook it at home. Which is why, when I am out, it’s all steak all the time.

10. Dried apricots and raisins. Since refined sweets and sugars are definitely personae non gratae, my only refuge is dried fruit. If I am in the mood for something on the dessert-y side, I reach into my desk drawer for some apricots. And when I go to the movies, I pack a baggie of raisins and almonds. No, it’s not some MEGA SPLURGE, I grant you. Still, there’s fiber in these little guys but not much else nutritional value. And if you close your eyes, it’s almost like a Skittle…



  1. As long as the dumpling isn’t from Mr. Wonton, that is.

    • I just cried a little at my desk.

  2. Sara, this is serendipitous finding your blog on the first day of my master cleanse – basically the anti-whatyouaredoing. As food is on the brain right now I thought it would be worth mentioning that you should avoid spicy mayo at Japanese restaurants as it’s a technique used often to mask day old or (gasp!) two-day old fish. This rule is basically null and void if you are eating sushi at higher end sushi restaurants but, by the same token, if you are eating at higher end sushi restaurants spicy mayo probably isn’t a choice anyway. Caloric content aside, it’s worth avoiding spicy mayo primarily because of what it might be masking… though, food poisoning is a good way to shed a few quick pounds…

    • Master cleanse? I am tres impressed. I have always wanted to try a juice diet or variation thereof, but never found myself with the willpower. As for the spicy mayo, I completely agree and also appreciate the warning. It isn’t a steadfast rule, but I usually try to avoid pre-mixed spicy tuna, scallop, etc. Instead, the spicy mayo I use comes on the side and I dip my sushi in it. I once read an article on exactly what you mention, how spicy tuna or salmon is a way of using up old or low-quality fish by dousing it in flavor. Since then, I’ve been wary. If I ever get desperate, though, I will heed your quasi-advice and find my way to a stomach bug or tapeworm. Lastly, if you have any interest, you should feel free to discuss the progress of your cleanse on the blog–I, for one, am very curious.

  3. It goes almost without saying that the first salt water flush enacted a kind of lower-colon Armageddon the likes of which caught me entirely off-guard and has subsequently sidetracked the first part of my day.

    The “lemonade” itself is totally pleasurable to my taste and is no struggle whatsoever to drink. My only real concerns are about the hunger pangs when the lemonade is gone and the prospect of working a 16-hour day while on the diet. It’s also worth noting that I have no intention of finishing the cleanse if work or serious life matters get in the way. Because this is generally a down time in the production world I feel pretty confident that I’ve selected a brief window in which I feel I can successfully complete the cleanse. Also, filming two of my friends doing the cleanse for nearly two weeks (pre-shooting and wrapping) has given me more than enough insight as to the potential stumbling blocks along the way. That said, I am sure there is plenty of discomfort to come (Day Four tends to be the veritable “valley of the shadow of death”).

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