A food log lesson: When your strategy is foiled by the unexpected

When I record entries in my food journal, I sometimes pretend I’m reviewing game film of how the day went, breaking down what went wrong and how I could do it better next time.

I use a lot of sports analogies in this process, and one specific pattern I’ve come across is having the wrong game plan for the day’s schedule.

Most memorably, I remember successfully adhering to a low-carb regimen on a 12-hour drive to Charleston to visit my daughter, anticipating that we’d dine that night at a favorite restaurant whose burger menu includes a no-bun option.

I often go low-carb on long drives, because it’s easy to carry along filling snacks like nuts, string cheese and boiled eggs that keep me from being tempted by convenience-store food. It’s a lot cheaper, too.

On this particular day, I followed my game plan perfectly all day long. But instead of eating at Poe’s, the Sullivan’s Island tavern dedicated to the 19th century horror writer, we wound up at Jestine’s — which specializes in traditional Southern food.

There was nothing low carb on the menu; every type of meat there is coated and fried. Because it’s a Charleston institution and my opportunities to go there are extremely limited, I gave in and indulged, even having a few bites of the Coca Cola cake and a couple of other desserts we got for the table to share.

Recently I had another “wrong game plan perfectly executed” kind of a day here at home. Anticipating going to Sunday dinner at my parents’ house, where we often grill burgers or have some kind of meat and salad, I had cottage cheese for breakfast and a lunch of walnuts, blueberries, and two cheese sticks.

Based on these two core samples from my food journal, it probably sounds like I do a lot of low-carb dieting, but that’s not really the case. It’s just something I do once in a while to change things up, or to temporarily reduce the universe of food options available in an otherwise tempting situation. This strategy often helps me get through Sunday dinner without indulging in dessert or loading up on carby appetizers.

However, on this particular day Sunday dinner turned out to be pizza. Even worse, most of my family had spent the afternoon at a church bake sale and brought back several selections.

Unable to cope with the double temptation of pizza and a well-stocked dessert bar (and not much else), once again I caved.

So: How could I have handled that situation differently? Usually if I know I’m eating dinner somewhere other than home, I have a pretty good idea what my options will be and plan accordingly. Saving calories and points is one strategy, though there’s no way around feeling deprived at a pizza-and-dessert buffet, because you use up your calories/points so quickly.

And when I’m around a bunch of desserts, particularly some I’ve never tried before, I’m going to want to do some sampling.

Finally it occurred to me: the infinite pie slice. One for pizza, and one for the desserts.

If I’d used this strategy, I would have drawn one pizza-slice on a paper plate and one pie slice on another, then filled the interior with as many different kinds of pizza and dessert as fit in that space.

It wouldn’t have helped me win the day in the low-carb sense, but it would’ve at least kept me from going overboard.

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