The hardest part of this 21-Day Challenge hasn't been eating less food, going to bed hungry or craving things like House Pizzeria.
The hardest part has been eating shitty foods and being unable to cook.
Every other meal provided to us by the good folks at My Fit Foods contains chicken -- and every chicken meal contains the exact same kind of chicken: sliced pieces of breast meat that appear to have been cooked sous-vide style. (We're pretty sure everything on this diet is cooked sous-vide; there isn't a trace of char as a result of anything roasted, grilled or even pan-sauteed.)
So we're eating this bland, tasteless food and we are going to start clucking any day now.
The fact is, I am just bursting - I mean absolutely ready to actually explode to pieces - at the thought of cooking anything (and I mean anything) in my kitchen again. (Though I do take the liberty to throw quite a few of my meals into the cast iron with some olive oil-flavored spray and salsas, which you're allowed in unlimited supply).
The food on this challenge is inexplicably, inexcusably bad. I suppose that's part of the challenge. It's flavorless and made with zero love. I'd like to challenge them to come up with tastier foods. Put some grill marks on this stuff!
But ... this is a business. And what should we have expected from a business? We're paying $7-$9 for three-ounce portions of chicken or fish or occasionally beef with some bland, half-steamed, half-boiled, totally-bland veggies and if we're lucky, they've thrown in a half-cup of quinoa with nothing on it.
And the chicken. Oy! The amounts of chicken on this diet are unforgivable. Last week we finally said no more. We asked to have most of the chicken removed from the meal plan, and I insisted that I will not pay for any breakfast items containing the stuff. (YES, THEY HAVE BREAKFAST ITEMS THAT INCLUDE CHICKEN CHUNKS! FOR REAL, PEOPLE.)
Jessica said she and her coworkers had a chicken revolt, and now I understand why. One more chicken salad, and I will hurt a fool.
Unlike Jessica, I haven't been perfect. I decided after about three days of tear-inducing migraines that I wasn't giving up coffee, and I've learned how to drink it with a half-packet of Splenda instead of a whole one. This is a big no-no for the people at My Fit Foods, but the crying migraines just weren't worth it, and I'm convinced that I'm not 50 pounds overweight because I drink coffee.
A few other things I haven't enjoyed about this challenge? The lack of fresh fruits and vegetables I've been consuming for the past couple of weeks. They should really encourage more fruits as snacks (though you do get berries), and more vegetables (like steaming your own broccoli or sauteeing your own spinach in olive oil spray).
I also don't have the same energy some people have experienced. I'm still sloth-like in my habits, and while I've been working out 3-4 times a week, I'm not *excited* about my workouts. I've never been an active person. Every workout is a struggle; every walk must be planned with a friend so that I have a reason to show up. I'm not an athlete, and I never will be. But I can't help but wonder if I'll be a bit more naturally energetic with another 10, 20 or 30 pounds off my body. (I intend to find out in 2011.)
I've got one other complaint. I'm appalled by the cost of the snacks. The meals are justifiably overpriced, but the snacks are upsettingly overpriced. For example, they charge $4.25 for a small portion of edamame. A whole bag of edamame costs $1.99, and includes roughly 4 portions. So they're charging us $17 for a $2 bag. As Elise would say: OUTRAGE.
I told them from Day 1 that we'd buy our own snacks. That means we'll end up with a balance when we're done in a few days (yippee!! a few days!! did you hear that, my sweet untouched Kitchen Aid?). Maybe we'll get our money back or get store credit we can use for desperation meals when we hit busy season at work. But we're going to have to figure out how to use it; we're probably looking at $100-150 in unused snack money.
And now that I'm done with my ranting, here's the good news.
In just 17 days (I can round up to 17, because I'm done with my meals for today and when I wake up tomorrow we've got just four days to go!), we've learned quite a few things:
Eating for fuel, not pleasure.
How much we miss cooking.
How capable we are of cooking.
How capable we are of cooking meals that are just as healthy as this but that don't taste like shit.
And we've also lost a bit of weight. Mike has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-14 lbs. in 17 days. I've lost nearly 7 lbs. in 17 days. We both weigh less than we have since we've known each other. We are a combined 21 lbs. lighter as a couple.
We are more determined than ever to continue a healthy lifestyle but can't wait to re-incorporate good-tasting, healthy meals - and, yes, fine, all right, even the occasional monkey bread splurge - while losing weight at a slower but much more enjoyable pace.
I don't know if I'd do it again, knowing what I now know. But was it worth it? Probably. Even if I start clucking.
Steel cut oats with walnuts and blueberries.
Chicken and vegetables with corn tortillas, given the cast-iron and salsa treatment.