I need help with a diet

How does a single person, with an unhealthily small appetite, start eating enough food to finally lose some weight? Without spending a lot of money?

Seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it? I want to eat more in order to lose weight. Well, I ride my bike 7 miles a day - 3.5 miles to work and the same back. I spend my whole work shift on my feet, walking and lifting moderatly heavy boxes. I am about 60lbs overweight and I can’t lose it. No, it’s not muscle. I’d try cutting out the exercise but I can’t afford to put my car back on the road right now. So I have no choice but to get the exercise.

I don’t particularly care for food. The whole act of eating seems like a waste of time to me. I don’t have many favorites and the favorites I do have don’t really help me - Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Cheerios, and other bland low calorie foods. I also have almost no appetite. For instance,

I had breakfast at 2AM today. I had a coffeecake muffin - small.
Lunch was at 4AM. I had about 2 cups of pasta, with a small amount of butter and about 1 cup of french cut green beans.
Dinner was at 9AM. I had about 2 cups of cheese Rice-A-Roni with about 1/4 cup of cut up chicken.
It is now 1PM. I have to go to bed soon. I am not even slightly hungry. Today was actually good for me. I don’t usually eat breakfast or lunch. I doubt I ate 500 calories today. If I had to guess, I’d say that it probably takes me 4 or 5 days to get one day’s worth of calories. When I try eating more, I feel ill. When I try eating small portions of rich food, I get heartburn.

I do not have a lot of money. I currently give my sister $40 per week for food and I’m so blah about the whole subject of food that she usually just gets more of whatever she was already going to get to feed her family and I eat their leftovers. I have found from my past experiences that buying food for 1 person, without wasting food, costs a lot. Those single person meals are insanely high priced.

So, what can I eat, which wont break the bank and will help me to get at least 1200 calories per day? Eating lots of small meals is doable but inconvenient. I’m only allowed two 10 minute breaks and 20 minutes for lunch. That’s 10 minutes from the time I walk away from my machine til the time I have to be back. That gives me about 7 minutes to get my food from the office and get to the break room and eat. Not really ideal for eating something other than a candy bar.

I’m not a super picky eater. I will eat leftovers but after two days, I can’t face them anymore. I will, however, eat the same thing every day of the week - as long as it isn’t an actual “leftover”. I do have some problems with crunchy or cold food because they hurt my teeth. I can usually manage crunchy as long as it’s not cold at the same time. I’ve been considering protein shakes but I’m not sure if that’s practical. I’m worried that protein shakes would have the opposite effect to what I’m looking for. Aren’t they generally used for GAINING weight? Do they have to be mixed with milk? I’m lactose intolerant. Lactaid and Soy milk make me gag. I can have milk in small quantities but more than is required for a bowl of cereal starts to make life unpleasant.
What should I do?

Well, just for starters, you ate more than 500 calories today. 2 cups of rice a roni is 600 calories. Not sure what kind of pasta you had but it’s probably around 300 calories. Sounds like you’re extremely carb heavy though.

If I were you, I would eat lean meats, lots of fruit, lots of veggies. You can eat an apple just as easily as a candy bar, for example. Grapes are good snacks on the go, too.

For lunch, I make a big vat of chili for the week - you can use turkey instead of ground beef, load it with veggies and beans, and just reheat every day.

You seem to be rather inaccurate in your understanding of calories. The two cups of pasta was pretty close to 500 calories right there. So job one is to pay close attention to calorie counts and portion sizes until you get a better sense of them. You seem to be eating enough calories based on what you posted. You also seem really low on protein and fiber and high on refined carbs. I am not a cheerleader for low-carb diets by any means, but you seem to be far on the other direction.

If you hate leftovers, two good options are lean-meat sandwiches on whole wheat bread, 2% cheese, lowfat mayo, and mustard optional, and soup with some meat, veggies and beans, grated cheese and whole wheat crackers (Triscuits) optional. Minestrone, vegetable beef, chicken and vegetable, split pea and ham. They are selling a lot of bread called “white whole wheat” now which provides most/maybe all of the benefits of whole wheat with the taste of white. Eat a piece of fruit for a snack at least once a day-apples, oranges, bananas and raisins are all available in single servings.

As a single person myself, when you talk about “those single person meals” it makes me think you’re buying the pre-prepared frozen meals. Bad, bad choice. Make your own food – it’s cheaper buying the ingredients and spending prep time to make meals. It’s a bit tiresome, but I know when I’m making parmesan chicken or whatever, I’ll be eating it for several meals during the week. Even if you just make deli sandwiches for yourself – make 'em all Sunday night, and skip those overpriced microwavable meals.

Even so, it’s really difficult for me to go through bread and milk and fresh fruit before it goes south on me.

Also, if you’re overweight and not losing weight – you are getting more calories than you think. If you were short on calories, you’d be losing weight. I suspect MissRancher is correct and you’ve got too many carbs in the mix, and not enough lean protein. Your meals really look carby – muffin, pasta, rice. When I was trying to lose weight 10 years back, cutting back on my carbs really helped. And the meals you mention seem quite bland, as well. If you’ve some favorite foods, put 'em in heavy rotation or add them as a treat to your meals.

Also, although you didn’t mention it, but no soda.

Although I never used protein shakes, I wouldn’t recommend them. The ones for bodybuilders and such really will bulk you up unless you’re doing the exercise to make use of all that protein. And the ones that are the diet shakes seem to lead into yo-yo weight loss/gain really easily.

Yeah, as the other poster have noted, you’re eating a lot more calories than you think.

1 small muffin - 150
2 cups pasta - 550
1 tbspn butter - 100
1 cup green beans - 40
2 cups cheese rice-a-roni - 720
1/4 cup chicken - 60 (I used roasted w/o skin)

Total: 1620

If you drank a non-diet soda or had coffee with cream, this number goes up.

You need more protein, vegetables, and fruit but less crappy carbs. Past and rice-a-roni are basically white flour and just “filler” calories. Plus, rice-a-roni is horrible with sodium, you probably consumed over your daily requirement with that meal alone and the sodium will make you hold onto water.

In addition, you’re probably burning fewer calories than you think. A 130-lb person biking at a moderate pace will burn only 165 calories in 3.5 miles. Aren’t you also very short? Your maintenace calories need may well be much lower than a taller person and you may need to revise your required calorie estimates downward.

My advice is to start tracking your calories. There are free online things like fitday.com. Figure out what you’re actually taking in. Get a decent diet book like “The South Beach Diet” (sounds flakey but is actually a decent guide that advocates good lean protein and veggies) or “Body for Life” (both these books were bestsellers and can be found very cheaply used) and educate yourself on what a decent diet looks like.

Here’s the type of diet I go on when I need to lose weight. I’m 5’5" and play a sport so I’m very active. I require 1800-2000 calories on heavy workout days but only around 1500 on days I don’t work out.

Breakfast: string chese stick (90), oatmeal (120)
Lunch: can tuna (120), tbspn mayo (110), high fiber crackers (90), 1 cup veggies with olive oil (150)
Snack: fruit, usually an apple (120)
Dinner: tofu (120), veggies (150), good carb (200)
Dessert: fruit (120), cookie or chocolate (120)

That puts me right at 1510. On workout days, I add some carbs to lunch and a cheese stick for my snack.

Anyway, this food is pretty much easy and cheap. I keep the tuna in my desk and fix it at lunch. The veggies are usually steamed kale or broccoli with olive oil and garlic. Instead of tofu, have chicken for dinner. Good carbs are things like brown rice, corn on the cob, etc.

My understanding of my caloric intake is from 6 months of using a meal journal with a calorie counter. I was getting between 500-700 per day. I made sure I entered EVERYTHING. I haven’t used it for the last two months though because it seemed pointless. There were unusual days where I’d reach 1000 (like if I went to McDonald’s) but that wasn’t a common occurance. I also talked about this with my doctor and he agreed that I don’t eat enough and that my body is just storing what I DO eat. So, that is what I base my belief that I need to eat more on. Oh, and before I used the meal journal, I was keeping just a regular written journal for almost 4 years, because my doctor was trying to find out what was causing my reflux. So, my doctor and I were pretty confident that I generally don’t eat enough.

To be honest, until now, I never could be bothered to do something about it. I spent quite a lot of the last 10 years in denial about the way I treat my body. I’ve been spending the last few months trying to fix my evil ways. I’ve gotten myself out of debt, I moved to a new state to force myself out of my comfort zone. Now I’m working on trying to save money, getting my car back on the road, and taking better care of my body. My eating habits are horrible. They always have been. But, after 27 years of terrible eating practices, I’m kinda stupid about how to fix my habits.

You’re most likely right about today’s calories. Just to clarify, the rice wasn’t actually Rice-A-Roni. That’s just what I think of it as because that’s what it looks like. It’s something my sister makes. I’m usually sleeping when she cooks but I know there’s no rice-a-roni in the house. Frankly, we can’t afford it. Sorry if I caused any confusion with the generalization.

I’m not usually that carb heavy. That was just today, which was a fluke anyway because I actually had 3 meals. I usually eat Pasta/Rice once per week, if that. Now that I think about it, today’s meals were a really bad example to give. :smack:

Let’s try yesterday:
No breakfast - wasn’t hungry
Lunch was a chunk of rotisserie chicken, about the size of my palm.
Dinner was, um - more chicken.
For a snack, I had a big piece of beef jerky.

The day before that, I don’t remember exactly but I know I had some canned tuna, some more of that chicken, and a bowl of cereal.

My diet seems bland because my favorites tend to be bland. I like boring cereals. I like my meat plain and I prefer white meat or canned tuna. I actually do usually eat more meat than carbs.

I don’t typically drink a lot of soda - maybe 1 glass of ginger ale per day. I usually drink water.

I don’t mind cooking. I actually like cooking. My problem with it is that by the time I’m done cooking, I can’t be bothered to actually eat what I made. Making a big batch of something on Sunday seems like a good way to go. If I freeze it in single serve portions, and put one if the fridge before I go to bed, it should be thawed by 4AM and maybe wont seem so much like leftovers.

So, any recipes you can share with inexpensive ingredients? I make a killer beef stew and some great chicken soup. Usually by the middle of the week I am sick of it. I think I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it. :smiley:

Other than the stew and the soup, the only bulk meal I really know how to make is tuna casserole. So, anything you can share would be much appreciated. I’m so used to making food in small portions that I’m kinda at a loss here. It would be really nice if I could actually learn to enjoy the act of eating.

On preview:
I wouldn’t say I’m VERY short. But I am only 5’2". The last time I weighed myself I was 180lbs. My doctor told me I need to eat a minimum of 1200 calories per day. I wouldn’t say I bike at a moderate pace - at least not on the way TO work. I usually leave the house late and so bike at a furious pace. The ride home is much much more sedate.

Get some vanilla flavored protein powder for your cereal. Preferably a type that doesn’t thicken the milk. Solgar Whey To Go is yummy, and it’s not too sweet so it will blend well with the sweetened cereal. It has less protein than the types the bodybuilders use, but suitable for the amount of activity you have.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are burning more calories at the furious pace. That’s only true if you are biking for a set amount of time, but you are covering the same distance each time so the pace won’t matter in terms of calories used.

For some reason, I kept thinking you were like 4’8"; 5’2" is totally average and 1200 calories is probably about right. Anyway, my advice still stands, check out some books and eat more veggies. Glad to hear you’re not always so carb heavy but watch for hidden calories (like ginger ale is probably 120 calories a can). If you’re second post more acurately reflects your diet, you’re already getting plenty of protein, you don’t need to add more. Add a couple of workouts, like maybe a nice hour bike ride a few times a week. And consider tracking your intake again, to make sure you’re hitting your target. The Fitday site I mentioned above will also give you charts that show things like percentages of protein, carbs, and fat as well as vitamin intake, sodium, etc.

I’m not a nutritionist, and Jebus knows I’m the last person who needs to be giving advice on losing weight, but the line

speaks volumes to me. If you are regularly skipping breakfast, your body is getting a very serious message that there’s not sufficient food around to sustain you and is going into a kind of “famine mode,” desperately preserving what food you do take in to save you from starving to death. You’d be much, much better off if you ate a sensible breakfast (hungry or not: it’s about fueling your engine, not pleasing your palate).


This is my main problem - making myself eat when I’m not hungry, and making myself eat actual adult sized portions. I never learned to eat properly. My mom has some issues with food herself. Her mother was a marvelous cook. Unfortunately, she was also terribly abusive. My mom got the worst of her mother’s anger and the fact that my mom was naturally very skinny, majorly pissed off her heavy mother. So, her mom used food as a punishment. My mom always associated food with physical and mental pain. So, when we were growing up, she didn’t make us eat. She let us eat what we wanted and when we wanted. So from a young age, I got into the habit of eating very little. Over the years I just got used to it. Now I have a hard time making myself eat. The one thing I have going for me is that I actually like healthy food. I just don’t generally eat enough of it.

It’s hard to learn how to take care of yourself when you’re almost 28 and never had the inclination to eat properly before. I definitely do usually eat more protein than I did yesterday. I love carb loaded food - bread, cereal, etc. But I don’t usually eat it.

Start simple, congodwarf, because you’ve already got your mind around the biggest part of the problem: you know it’s just a matter of training yourself. There are plenty of people who will not believe that it has anything to do with that.

Pick a cereal you know you like and just have a bowl of it for breakfast. Nothing outrageous, nothing that takes a lot of thought. Just a bowl of cereal. Gradually, as your body learns that you’re now eating something for breakfast, I believe that you’ll find you have more of an appetite for breakfast. Best wishes.

FWIW, my problem with breakfast is that over the years, I’ve trained myself that I “just don’t have time for breakfast” which is utterly ridiculous on a day like today when I’m not going in to work until noon. But if I don’t get up in just a few minutes here and go make myself eat something, it will be 3 or 4 o’clock this afternoon before I do. I then compound that by getting hungry around 10:30 or 11:00, and of course, Jack in the Box don’t sell health food. :slight_smile:

Now, then. Off to stalk the wiley Cheerio.