Using my friend’s information that a reduction of 750 calories a day would result in a one pound and a half loss of body weight in a week, and a rough calculation of my daily caloric need at 1400 calories, I set a daily target of 650 calories, not knowing if that was possible, or even advisable. What about nutrition? I could not afford to degrade my health. I didn’t want to eat dry toast and grapefruit, either, thank you very much. Besides as I mentioned, I didn’t have any clear idea of the caloric value of anything I ate. Would my allergy restricted diet be able to cope with a further restriction? So many questions, so many doubts; I needed some facts.

I started looking for caloric values on the internet. I started with Malaysian foods, since that is what I eat these days. I was blown away. Masala dosai, my regular supper, was 500 calories according to one source! One of those was nearly my entire my daily target. Add a syrupy sweet ice lemon tea at 180 calories and that would be my caloric load for the day. Next on my favourite list was nuts. At 6 to 7 calories per gram, my regular snack of a bag of peanuts in front of the telly racked up another 600 calories. Throw in a Sprite at 150 calories and there was no mystery to why I was losing the battle for my belly. Ouch! These were hard realities. Clearly something would have to change.

I started compiling a list of foods I could eat and their caloric values. Roast beef looked good at only 1.2 calories per gram. Boiled potatoes at 0.8 were going to be okay, as were baked spuds at 1.1. Butter at 7.4 was clearly out, and even margarine at 6.8 would have to go, but gravy was surprisingly ‘cheap’ in calories and soya sauce was clearly the best bet. Veggies came in around 0.3 cal/gram on average, so salads were going to be my mainstay. Most salad dressings are extraordinarily ‘expensive’ in calories, most around 2 calories per gram. I found one at less than ½ calorie per gram. I like it, and it is allergy friendly, which is a huge bonus. A real bummer was finding out that even a tablespoon of peanut butter was 180 calories. A slice of rye bread was 120. Therefore toast and peanut butter, long a favourite, wasn’t going to make the cut either.

My determination to lose some weight was helped by some changes I had already made. I have eaten oatmeal for breakfast for years, and it turns out to be a pretty good choice. Three tablespoons of oatmeal (35 grams), with a teaspoon of brown sugar is only 150 calories and pretty filling. Throw in a black coffee with sweetener, not sugar, and I was on my way to work on only 150 calories and feeling fine. Lunch was a ½ can of tuna (65 cal) on a salad (30 cal) with Italian dressing (15 cal). A few cups of black coffee and a can of soda water with lime I was headed home on less than 300 calories. This looked like it was possible.

I made myself another soda water with lime, very refreshing and practically zero calories while I made supper. I had 100 grams of roast beef, plenty for me, one boiled potato (50g) , about 100 grams of veggies nuked in plenty of ginger, turmeric and garlic salt with a teaspoon of soya sauce. This made supper around 200 calories. I had a couple of cups of sweet milky tea in the evening as a treat and I finished the day at less than 600 calories. I couldn’t believe it! I had eaten better than I had in weeks, felt full all day, and hit under my low target estimate on the first day out! This was not only doable, it was going to be enjoyable!

Since then I have had roast chicken, salmon, roast beef, meatballs and baked potatoes, you name it; I have been eating well. I made all my targets for the month, and did so well that I continued the same regime for a second month. I have not been sick a single day in the last two months and I have averaged around 600 to 650 calories a day. Better nutrition has meant that I am sleeping better and I am mentally sharper when I am awake. I have more energy and am better able to cope with stress at work. And I haven’t had to waste my time in the gym to get fit.

I have learned some things about the process too that I would like to share, and I would be happy to hear what you have learned about this important issue as well. I will add one further post on this topic in a couple of days with tips about such things as bok choy and fish oil that you might find interesting. Anyway, that has been my little adventure in food. I have learned lots and have enjoyed eating the fruits of my labour, so to speak. The next time you see me I will be so svelte you won’t recognize me. Now if there were only such an easy fix for my personality!