So what is this famous Jen Plan? It has been evolving as I go along, but I have been building the basic outlines for years. There is, of course, the daily checklist, which covers the basics: Exercise, tracking, supplements, hydration, fiber. Those (except maybe the supplements) are no-brainers.
The real heart of the plan, though, is regular, right-sized meals and snacks. I shoot for 300-400 calories for my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is enough to feel comfortably satisfied but not too full. It's also enough to keep me going for a while.
My snacks are a little less structured, but I find that having an actual snack, on a plate, works much better for me than constantly grazing. I need a solid line between eating and not-eating. When I nibble, I inevitably overdo it, especially since things like nuts and crackers are easier to nibble on than fruits and vegetables. I typically have a substantial snack, 200-300 calories, around 4 p.m. unless we are having an early dinner. This is very traditional -- the British teatime or in French, le goûter. This is usually something like crackers and cheese and an apple, with a few nuts. I like to have a snack later at night, too, which is usually air-popped popcorn. And less often, I will have a post-workout snack, but this is usually less than 100 calories. All of this works out to between 1800 and 2000 calories.
I have a few standard breakfasts and lunches. Dinner varies more. Often I'll make a recipe from one of my many Weight Watchers cookbooks or the Flat Belly Diet! Cookbook. I also like Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. And there are tons of great recipes online, like this potato-leek soup. I look for recipes that use a lot of vegetables and have some substance to them.
What do I avoid? I tend to watch out for sneaky sugar. I will have the occasional cookie or piece of chocolate, but I don't want sugar where it doesn't belong, like in peanut butter or yogurt. I don't drink soda, other than plain seltzer. I don't buy diet anything. I don't drink juice. I stay away from fast food. I very rarely drink alcohol. I don't buy 100-calorie packs. These aren't rules, it's just that these things don't seem worth the calories to me. What it all comes down to is satisfaction -- liquid calories don't satisfy. Fake foods don't either. Junky stuff and sugary stuff just make me want more.
It's easy, of course, right now when I am on break and can really control my environment. That ends tomorrow -- I have to go in early for a faculty meeting and will be stuck on campus all day, and lunch is being provided by work, which usually means it won't be a great one. I'm going to pack some things and be selective with what I eat, and do the best that I can. On Saturday I'll be visiting my sister, and will have a similar lack of control. I'm planning to pick up some KIND bars for that trip.
I have had some days when I went over my calories but it seems easier to just move on from them now that this feels like the way I live my life and not some diet. As Russ and Jeff say, "You can fail a diet but you can't fail a lifestyle." Of course, I'm a little nervous that as soon as I write this all out, I'll start screwing up. But if I do, I just have to get back to what I know will work.
I realize that I haven't posted my Daily Checklist in a couple of days, so I will finish off with that:
Monday, January 7:
Tuesday, January 8:
The fiber and hydration goals are the trickiest. I'm not always great about tracking all my water, so I need to work on that so I have a good record of what I'm doing.