Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Bread Budget


As the Frugal Bagel, I love bread in all its forms: French and Italian loaves, Irish soda bread, seven-grain, rye, challah, scala, pita, tortilla, naan, rolls, buns, scones, muffins, cake, pretzels, breadsticks, and just good old-fashioned out-of-the-oven bread. I've always believed that an entire baguette is a good anytime snack. So it may not surprise you to learn that I've been gaining weight of late. I'm in my 30s, my metabolism is changing, and I can no longer wolf down a brick-sized olive oil focaccia and a handful of blueberries (for balance!) and call it lunch.

My main motivation for losing weight? Clothing. I've hovered between two dress sizes for a long time, but I was drifting out of range of the larger one, and after all the time & money I've poured into my wardrobe, I did not want to replace it all! So I had the motivation, but I needed an idea for diet plan. Counting calories isn't sustainable; I do it for a week or so, then lose interest. It had to be something simple, that I could remember easily and retain; something like a permanent change in diet. Cutting down sugar two years ago, for example, had been very successful and left a permanent legacy.

I've always avoided anything that smacked of a low-carb diet, in part because I'm vegetarian and what would be LEFT, and in part because of my intense, intense bread love. But after taking a long hard look at my eating habits, it was clear that bread was the main food that could be called excessive. Toast for breakfast, a sandwich or pasta for lunch, maybe a muffin or a roll for a snack, pizza or a burrito (or two) for dinner; I was easily averaging the equivalent of 6 slices of bread per day.

So, two weeks ago, I set my Bread Budget: two slices per day. Two was chosen to leave the door open for a sandwich or a veggie burger. None of my favorite meals or snacks are completely eliminated from my diet; it's just a question of, well, budgeting!

The end result has basically been that I remove the least enjoyable breads from my diet, since they're not worth using up bread credit on. Store-bought tortillas; sliced bread; grilled cheese sandwiches. I've still been able to enjoy everything I actually adore; just not in the same day.

If I have a sandwich for lunch, I have to eat a bread-free dinner: say, rice and beans or an omelette. If it's Pizza Friday and I know I'm going to use up all my bread units with a nice deep crust, I pick something bread-free for lunch: sushi, maybe, or rice and stir fry. I've had to completely revamp my breakfast, as my habit of eating a slice of toast in the morning would have severely limited my choices for the rest of the day. Lately, my breakfast has been scrambled eggs and vegetarian bacon. It was hard getting used to this breakfast without toast or an English muffin on the side, but the bacon provides a nice crunch, and the protein-filled meal is filling an energizing on its own.

So far, the plan has been remarkably successful. In just under two weeks, I lost 7 pounds. I don't know if this is bread-specific or if it's the natural result of any diet: paying attention naturally leads to more careful eating. And I don't know if I'll keep the weight off in the long term. But for now, my clothes are already fitting better, I'm breathing a sigh of relief that I don't have to rush out and buy new things just yet, and I'm going to stick with this bread budget - much as I'll miss those carefree days of shotgunning a footlong banh mi.

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