The Homemade Diet

A modest proposal regarding a way to eat healthy and lose weight.


The Homemade Diet

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Anytime Betsy and I are out and about and the subject of Macheesmo comes up, everyone always asks her the same question: “How do you not weigh a million pounds?”

The assumption is that because I cook a lot and make what I hope to be delicious food that it must mean that we’re getting fat. In actuality, the opposite is true. We’ve both lost weight this year. So I thought I would take a post to lay out in detail what we eat on a weekly basis and talk about my general weight loss plan.


The Goal

I set a resolution this year to lose 10 pounds and I’m well on track to do that. I definitely don’t consider myself overweight at all, but I do have the general impression that my ideal weight is around 175 and at the beginning of the year I was clocking in at around 185 so it seemed like a good goal to get back down to that ideal weight!

Meanwhile, Betsy didn’t really set a goal to lose weight (trust me she doesn’t need to), but to just maintain her healthy weight and incorporate some more exercise into her schedule.

Our Lifestyle

Before I get into the specifics of what we actually eat every week, it’s important for you to know that we try to maintain a pretty active lifestyle. It helps that we live in a city so we can walk a lot of places which keeps us moving. Specifically though:

– I walk at least 2 miles a day commuting to work.
– Betsy walks probably a mile a day but lugs around a 20-30 pound backpack everywhere she goes.
– I try to run at least three times a week and play soccer once a week.
– Betsy does a pretty intense yoga session twice a week (I’ve tried to go and it’s really hard) and she throws in a spinning class occasionally as well.
– I bought some cheap dumbbells at Target and heave them around a few times a week.
– I chase my cat around the apartment regularly.

I think that an active lifestyle is pretty important and I just don’t trust diets or weight loss plans that claim you can lose weight without being active. I know that it’s technically true that you can lose weight and not be active. Trust me. I could engineer a diet that would shed the pounds and you could just lounge around in your PJs every day.

But, for me, losing weight is about more than just looking fab for swimsuit season. It’s about being healthy and happy. And I think that’s really only possible by staying active. I’d rather burn 3,000 calories a day and take in 2,500 calories a day than sit around and burn 2,000 calories a day and eat 1,500 calories a day.

The Homemade Diet

Diet isn’t really even a good word for the way we eat on a weekly basis. While we hope to lose weight eating this way, I don’t think of it as a temporary thing. The word diet implies that at some point you’ll STOP dieting and therefore go back to however you were eating before, but that’s not really what we’re trying to do.

These are the very few rules that I try to follow on a weekly basis these days.

Less Meat

Betsy and I eat meat only a few times a week now. Sometimes we’ll go the whole week without eating any meat. I honestly haven’t missed it all that much, but now when I do eat meat, I make sure to get really quality meat and I really enjoy it.

Very Few Processed Foods

What I mean by processed foods are things with more than 5 or 6 easily recognizable ingredients. These days, I would say that 90% of the food I buy follows this rule. When I shop these days I rarely count calories and instead count ingredients.

You Want it, You Make it

This goes with the processed food one, but basically if Betsy and I want something to eat and it’s normally a processed food, I try to make it from scratch. If I can’t make it then we usually don’t have it. This has led to a subtle shift in the way I think about a craving.

For example, say I want a cupcake. Well, I could go to the store and buy a Hostess cupcake or something, but under this plan, I have to bust out the mixer, flour, eggs, etc and whip up some cupcakes which only takes oh… 4 hours. In other words, I have to really want a cupcake to make it happen. It’s a lot easier to just grab some grapes and snack on them and then I’m usually full.

We Cheat

Nobody’s perfect and I’m no exception. While we both do our best to eat healthily, we also don’t beat each other up over it if we catch each other cheating a bit. Want some examples? Sure.

I have a major beverage problem. Almost all the cheating that happens on my end is beverage related: Coffee (with flavored creamer and sugar obviously), Diet Dr. Pepper, and beer. I’ve cut down on my intake for all of them, but I drink them all every week without fail.

Betsy has a Doritos addiction that is unwavering. I’ve made them, but her favorite flavor (Nacho Cheese) is basically impossible to replicate.

The Weekly Menu

Ok. So I’ve blathered on and on about our lifestyle and rules and stuff, but what do we actually eat each week? Unfortunately, it’s kind of boring. But, here’s a breakdown on our schedule for a week.

Weekend: I usually make a loaf of no knead bread. We’ll use this for sandwiches, toast, and garlic bread throughout the week. I also make a big batch of salad that we’ll take for lunch throughout the week. Something like this quinoa salad. Sometimes I’ll make a big batch of something like burritos and freeze them.

As far as meals go, we’ll usually have smoothies for breakfast and I’ll usually make one weekend breakfast dish that I’ll post for Macheesmo. These are always under the breakfast category. For lunch we’ll normally have quick leftovers or a sandwich or maybe just some pita and hummus.

For dinners on the weekends we usually have larger meals with some wine and a meat or fish dish. Cooking a big meal over the weekend is relaxing to me and I really enjoy it.

Weekdays: Bets is awesome at making smoothies. We typically have one with yogurt, frozen fruit, orange juice and fresh bananas almost every day of the week. I’ll sometimes supplement this with some muesli, oatmeal, or just a piece of fruit.

For lunch, we’ll normally have a mix of leftovers, weekly salad that I make, veggies with hummus, or very occasionally a deli sandwich of some sort. Probably once a week, I’ll grab lunch out with coworkers also.

For dinner, we have at least a small salad pretty much every night. In addition to a side salad, if we’re pressed for time, we’ll have something frozen. Sometimes I’ll make a quick pasta sauce with veggies and serve it with whole wheat pasta. We also eat a lot of stir-fried veggies with rice.

Of course, we intersperse delicious dishes in all of this that are the dishes that you see daily here at Macheesmo and maybe that’s why people assume that we weigh a million pounds. To dispel this myth, I’m trying to post more healthy stuff also.

So that’s kind of an update on what we’re eating these days and how we get through the week.

I’d love to hear your comments on the simple rules I’m using or our basic meal schedule. Now if there was only a way to plan a diet to defeat this pesky receding hairline…

25 Responses to “The Homemade Diet” Leave a comment

  1. I get the "how are you not HUGE" comment a lot, too. Especially because I bake at LEAST two times a week. To that I say, when I make something, I really only want a bite or one portion and then my craving has been satisfied. Then I disperse the calories unevenly among my coworkers :) I, too, gained a little weight early on in the year and am in the process of reseting what I eat and getting back in the gym (last year I was in there six days a week and loving it). Such is the life of a food-lover!

  2. Man, our eating habits are so, so similar. I walk a couple of miles a day, Adam usually bikes to work in nice weather. We only eat meat a couple of times a week, we eat leftovers and/or salad for lunch. I think our biggest "vice" is probably beer, but we've cut back on that this year, too. We also do the hummus and pita lunch regularly, sometimes we do crackers and cheese and homemade jam (I made waaay too much last summer) but we both like snack type meals. I think I'm going to start calling it the homemade diet. I like it.

  3. Confession–I cheat almost every single day with a bag of doritos, or cheetos. I'm so weak!

  4. Well I have major health issues I am dealing with head on. I am newly diagnosed as pre-diabetic and extremely high cholesterol. As of mid March I am down just over 16 pounds. BUT I have 90 to get to my goal. I am following Weight Watchers Filling Foods (Core) program. We have switched to Brown Rice (I make this in the pressure cooker), Quinoa, Whole Wheat Couscous. Lean meats, poultry every once in a while.

    We have really shook up our eating within the last two months. I look back at how I use to eat and shake my head.

  5. Anne, kudos to you for following the WW filling foods program. I rejoined a couple of months ago (after having belonged to WW in the past) and I found the new WW program so practical, current and easy. I swear the schools in this country would really benefit from integrating WW concepts as a core curriculum. And I have no vested interest in WW at all!!

  6. Ooooooh smoothies! Will you post some smoothie recipes since it is starting to get warmer? Tried making a strawberry one once and it was kind of a fail.

    1. Your food week sounds a lot like mine, except I have yet to dive into the bread-making waters (I fear it would be impossibly frustrating in the minuscule cubby that masquerades as a kitchen in this apartment).

      My squeeze and I typically eat separate breakfasts & lunches (muesli for me, oatmeal for him; leftovers for me, whatever he grabs near his office for him — this is typically the only meat he really eats). I wouldn't consider myself vegetarian, but we don't eat meat very often — I'm really conscious of buying humane meat only, and I've only found one or two purveyors I really trust, both of which are a bit out of the way of my normal grocery buying.

      Normally we have a little salad of some sort and then maybe some roasted tofu, grilled portobello-mushroom sandwiches (my favorite after-a-long-work-day dinner), pasta, beans with quinoa, veggies with a poached egg, hearty soup, things like that. No processed foods to speak of in this house — I've even recently kicked my longstanding Diet Coke habit! (Oh, Diet Coke, how I miss you sometimes…)

      I don't really bake, and I don't terribly often crave sweets, so that's more or less one food genre off the table. But treats are treats, and sometimes you just want one. In that case I'll usually wait until the one or two nights a week we eat out and let myself splurge. It gives it a little edge of excitement! Is that pathetic?

  7. I second the motion for a good smoothie recipe! And if Betsy is the smoothie guru, how about a guest post? :-)

  8. Great pointers for a cook who wants to stay trim and fit. I live in Honduras, and my first year I lived in a small quaint town where I walked almost everywhere, all of the time. Naturally I kept my weight within reasonable limits. Now I live in the capital, and walking is not as easy or advisable. However I too follow the rule of I have to prepare it if I want it. I love pizza, so I make my own with lots of healthy stuff and less cheese than any I can find in the city. I am also starting to make smoothies now that I have a good blender. Fresh fruit can make my day pop!

  9. I just wanted to reply to your comment at the end to let you know that bald is awesome! Think Captain Picard! So I hope you don't let it get to you.

    Anyway, this is pretty similar to my philosophy as well: if I don't bring it home, then I won't eat it and I try not to eat anything that lacks any nutritional value (protein, vitamins) because it's a waste of money to buy non-nutritious food. However, now that my cooking is improving and I have pantry items to bake with, I do find myself making cookies on a whim. My boyfriend and I have been dealing with these lifestyle issues as well because we quit smoking 9 months ago and very rapidly started gaining weight even though we generally eat pretty healthy–or at least, I think we do–we were just giving in to more junk cravings. When we both went up a size, we started jogging together three times a week and now we're on our way back down. Not quite there yet, but your recipes are helping. I think I will also adopt the homemade rule, which means I need to figure out how to make ice cream and beer.

    1. Well… ice cream is coming soon to a food blog near you and beer is gonna happen this summer… mark my words. I used to do it all the time and my kitchen is just a bit tiny these days. It's kind of a process though so it might take a week of posts…

  10. Excellent article/post! One of my daughters has been "on her own" as a geology grad student for a year now, the other will be in an apartment for her final undergrad year at college, so I forwarded your email with this post to both of them. They both have very active lifestyles, but are also "on a budget" PLUS the onus of being lactose-intolerant. The younger daughter is also working on some vegan-esque dishes (she calls herself a "meat-eating vegan", due to the dairy intolerance), which have also expanded my own taste-realm. The older daughter so far follows the "if you crave it, make it" and makes her own breads & cookies; any excess goes in to the Grad Office and is quickly dispersed!

    So much of your post sounds like it could fit in nicely with the "Foods & Nutrition" class I took last Fall Semester! Excellent choices you & Betsy make… and have no guilt for the "infractions", since most of what you do consume is so healthy! The high activity level is the important factor in your lifestyle – keep it up, and keep reporting! (Also, looking forward to some Smoothie Recipes!)

  11. My diet is the EAT A RAINBOW EVERY DAY diet. Basically, you have to try to eat as many colors in a day as possible. So, I have blueberries and goji berries in my yogurt for breakfast. Lunch salads have spinach, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, beans, olives, etc. Dinner is fish with veggies and some kind of starch or carb (I'm crazy for carbs, I really am). Dessert is ice cream, which I can really find in any color to help me round out my rainbow for the day. :)

    I've found that if you're eating by color, you tend to eat fresher, more seasonal and less processed foods.

  12. I would love a good "filling" smoothie. Every time I try to make smoothies for breakfast I want to eat my hand at 10:30am! There must be some additive or powder or magic that I can buy?

  13. I've visited your blog a few times and have always enjoyed myself– very easy to read, and some really nice recipes/photos. What I want to know, though, is if you have a recipe for whatever that delicious looking chocolate & peanut butter thing is up there… It looks incredible!

    (So much for a diet– but I guess it will follow the homemade diet!)

  14. Ever read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”? Your rules sound similiar to his (like the ingredients one and the meats one). It’s a really interesting book and changes the way you think about grocery store “food.”

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