Problems I was having last July:  I’m 20 pounds overweight.  Food costs too much. I hate feeling hungry and deprived. Am I getting enough nutrients to be healthy?  I don’t like writing down everything I eat. Fancy supplements and vitamins cost too much.  Does red meat cause cancer?  My joints ache. What can I take to the potluck?  The upcoming election is making me nervous, and when I’m nervous I eat too much of the wrong stuff.

Three word solution:  Fruit and vegetables.

More revelations below the golden pumpkin souffle.

Here’s what I started eating:

•    A piece of fruit before eating the rest of breakfast
•    A piece of fruit or raw vegetables mid-morning
•    Two servings of vegetables and/or fruit before eating the rest of lunch
•    A piece of fruit and some nuts around 3 p.m.
•    Two servings of vegetables before eating the rest of dinner.

It turned out that the order of the food was as critical as what kind of food.  Eating fruits and veggies before eating the rest of each meal meant that the rest of the meal could be quite sensible and modest—a smallish serving of fish or chicken or beans or yoghurt or low-fat cheese and a slice of whole grain bread.   Sometimes some olive oil.  Cup of cocoa or diet instant pudding for an evening snack.

And the miracle was I could eat a meal and not be hungry or even thinking about food for a few hours.  (For me this is a miracle.)  I even avoided bingeing on simple carbs during the week before the election.  I always know the general outlines of what I’m going to eat, and I never have to write anything down.  

How this got started
:   It’s all because of my book club.  First we read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver.  Later, we read In Praise of Food, also by Michael Pollan, whose memorable line “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” stuck in my mind. Then, a member of the club told us how she and her husband got their son to eat vegetables by calling them appetizers and serving them when he was really hungry, while they were cooking the rest of the meal.  If they waited and served everything together, their son would eat the entrée first and then say he was too full to eat any vegetables.  Finally, I read a book about primate behavior, and focused on the fact that most of our closest primate relatives do, in fact, eat mostly plants.  

I have always liked fruits and vegetables, especially if they weren’t too hard to fix and there wasn’t much of anything else around.  However, since I decided to try putting fruits and veggies first, my whole attitude has changed.  Bonuses:

•    Cooking fruits and vegetables in imaginative ways is actually fun, although it uses more dishes.
•    The Internet is a vast source of ideas.  Two good things I cooked today are at the bottom of the page.  A great potluck dish is roasted Brussels sprouts.  There are recipes online.
•    I have discovered spices.  Try turmeric to preserve your memory.
•    My grocery bill is noticeably lower.  
•    I live in California’s Central Valley, and the farmers’ markets and local stands were overflowing with good stuff this past summer. I turned into a major admirer of produce.

So far, since last July, I’ve lost 10 pounds. It went so slowly, compared to my many episodes of grim dieting, that at first I thought nothing was happening. However, it was good enough not to be gaining, and not to be thinking about food all the time.  But then, last week, I got into my old, skinnier jeans, weighed myself, and discovered I was 10 pounds lighter.  I’d still like to shed another 10 pounds, to the weight where I feel most comfortable, and there is still a bunch of smaller clothes that would be nice to wear again.  But it doesn’t matter to me how long it takes because I like the way I feel and how relatively easy it is.  

On joint pain and exercise:  Drinking a glass of tart cherry juice every evening (from Trader Joe’s) and no more nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) have helped quite a bit.  (These ideas also from the Internet).  I also walk a couple of miles 3 or 4 times a week.  

Sweet potato "home fries":  Slice sweet potatoes into pieces about the size of a Girl Scout thin mint (the old days are gone, but not forgotten).  Shake them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic power and/or curry powder.   Spread on baking sheet and bake for 15 or 20 minutes at 425.

More-or-less apple crisp:  Slice apples, sprinkle them with cinnamon (I add artificial sweetener, but you could use sugar or stevia or nothing).  Nuke them for a minute or two. Serve them with whatever you like.  I use artificial whipped topping (I like it) and a few Cheerios for crunch.  You could try yoghurt or low-fat sour cream.

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