Holiday food log 25-26: 2 valuable lessons


I keep wondering if this holiday food log is a frivolous waste of both my time and yours. This is a busy time, right? Yet learning how to eat during the holidays in a way that feels enjoyable without losing self control would be a HUGE advance in reducing dietary stress. If anyone else can glean any ideas from my struggles, all the better.

The last couple of days have been technical failures. But both yielded important lessons that will be a huge help for next year. One is the perfect game plan for surviving my single most challenging holiday party, while the other is a simple discipline-building and calorie-burning strategy for recovery days during the celebration schedule.

Because the party strategy is more complicated, I’ll lead with the simple diet/exercise plan I’ve borrowed from Bonny Damocles, who’s honed his method in 25 years of successfully managing type 2 diabetes without the use of drugs. He only carries around 137 pounds on his 5-7 frame, so you know it’s good for calorie burning as well as blood sugar control. (And at age 80, he can hardly be accused of having a teenager’s high metabolism.)

Bonny’s simple diet/exercise plan:  Bonny eats two filling meals per day and typically exercises in four blocks of 15 minutes. His primary exercise is walking up the stairs in his home, (walking down backward to reduce knee stress). His meals are typically a modest amount of lean protein, up to half a cup of unsalted nuts, a few prunes for digestive purposes, a scoop of plain Greek yogurt, a cheese or peanut butter sandwich, and as much fruit and veggies as he wants.


Bonny Damocles

Bonny’s plan seemed perfect for a week in which I need to give my plantar fasciitis time to heal, especially since I’m coming off a weekend of overeating. Unfortunately I didn’t have a good understanding of the nature of my injury. Turns out it’s not so much just avoiding putting weight on my painful heel; apparently I need to be stretching and icing the inflamed ligament that connects my heel to my toes. So even though I wasn’t even even stepping on my heel on the stairs, by the third session I was in serious pain. It wasn’t until then that I did some reading on the injury, but it was too late: In my discouragement I ate a couple of Christmas cookies. Sugar is a definite no-no in Bonny’s diet, and so is eating anything outside the two large but planned meals.

I am going to try this again soon because I found my two “Bonny meals” pretty satisfying and the stair walking seems doable if I’d realized what was going on with my sore foot.

For the record, here’s what I had for my two meals:

  1. Five prunes, half a cup of walnuts, canned salmon, two kiwi and two small apples, and peanut butter on a homemade whole wheat bun.
  2. Half a cup of cashews/walnuts, a 12-on pkg of thawed frozen berries topped with 1/3 cup uncooked rolled oats, a 100-calorie whipped Greek yogurt (didn’t have any plain on hand), cheese on a homemade whole wheat bun and a plain turkey burger.

See what I mean? Those are giant meals, and you get to eat nuts.

The Decker Christmas game plan: This family gathering scores off the charts in terms of calories per square inch. Yet I think I’ve almost got it figured out. The key is that Aunt Ellen, who hosts this bash in her old-fashioned farmhouse, always has lots of elegant fruit and veggie platters on her appetizer table. Both are “freebies” on the Weight Watchers Points Plus system, so that’s obviously what I should be counting the day of this party.

On Sunday I played this perfectly before making a bone-headed mistake toward the end of the game. That won’t happen next year.


One of Aunt Ellen’s fruit platters from a past Decker Christmas. 

Earlier in the day I had sufficiently fueled up on filling foods that used up only 12 of my allotted 29 points: two banana “hot dogs” (with 35-calorie slices of Healthy Goodness bread as “buns”), a 12-on pkg of frozen cauliflower (only 100 calories),  a tuna sandwich with mustard (200 calories), and shortly before time to go, four boiled egg whites on two slices of bread (protein plus fiber for 139 calories).

During the grazing period, I consumed only fresh fruit, veggies and dainty cucumber slices topped with more veggies in just a dot of cream cheese.

During dinner, I ate only salad and a generous portion of Ellen’s old-fashioned bone-in ham that she cooks until it’s so tender it just falls off the bone.

That brings me to dessert. I had plenty of room left, points-wise. If only I’d remembered to use the infinite pie slice method, this would have been a stunning victory in terms of eating a lot of really filling and pretty food without going over.


My infinite pie slice from the 2012 Decker Christmas included tiny pieces of brownie, coconut torte, strawberry pretzel dessert, a molasses cookie and a small star cookie.

Instead, I made the mistake of telling my dad (who for decades has served as my immediate family’s dietary referee, calling fouls much too liberally, in my opinion) I was only going to choose one thing. And then I picked a raspberry fudgy thing that was absolutely delicious but only about the size of half a domino.

If I’d went with the infinite pie slice, and filled the space a piece of pie would’ve taken up with an assortment of goodies, I would’ve been perfectly satisfied and probably come in on budget, or been close.

Instead, I kept grazing later in the evening, and wound up eating 2-3 cookies, some peanut butter bread  and more of the raspberry fudgy things, which probably packed more calories per square inch than anything else on the dessert table. (Using the infinite pie slice method, I would’ve limited myself to only one of those and balanced it out with less calorie-dense options.)

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Holiday food log 23-24: Race day munchies


Boy, were we relieved to be done with this race! The snowy woods was beautiful but exhausting, especially with all those hills.  

You know a trail race is gonna be tough when your car has trouble making it there on icy roads. We finally arrived at the HUFF about half an hour before the start, but had to trek half a mile through the snow to pick up our packets. I was in the portajohn when I heard Race Director Mitch Harper give the countdown to start the race.

My sister Traci and I had signed up for 10-mile “fun run” instead of the 50K this time, and we were really glad we did, because wading through several inches of snow – often uphill – was exhausting, not to mention disorienting.

“This feels like trying to run while you’re drunk!” Traci shouted. Everyone around us agreed, including the large doe that scrambled out of the bushes and staggered across the trail right in front of us.


I almost didn’t get a “baked potato blanket” at the finish, then went back after I started shivering. In our wet clothes, we couldn’t get warm the entire ride home. Definitely should’ve changed after the race!

This race was particularly tough on my sore heel, which felt like it had embedded glass inside. I suspect it’s plantar fasciitis. Now that we’re past the HUFF, I’ll likely take the next week or so off from running. But after the way I ate yesterday, I’ve got to come up with an alternative exercise plan.

Given all the calories we burned trudging through that snow, my plan was to aim for a calorie deficit. And I think I might have stayed on that track if we’d gone past the aid station with the homemade turtles. I was really looking forward to that – there’s nothing like eating gourmet chocolate in the middle of a winter trail race – but our 10-mile course took us a different way. Exhausted and limping around on my sore heel the rest of the day, I kept reaching for something that might taste as good as that fabled turtle. Here’s the damage report:

PBJ with a banana around 4 a.m.

Protein bar as we arrived at the race.


“This race was like trying to run up 10 miles of sand dunes!” was my sister’s assessment. So true.  

Gatorade and a handful of peanut M&Ms during the race.

Black bean soup, a small homemade cookie and a cup of craft beer in the runner’s tent afterward.

Starbuck’s oatmeal cookie and a black coffee on the ride home.

The day could still have been salvaged at this point, because Traci and I avoided a stop for Heyerly’s donuts, primarily because we didn’t feel like crawling out of the car unnecessarily.  But once I got home, mindless munching commenced:

A big bowl of bran flakes with banana

Two homemade molasses cookies.

Two Christmas cookies.

Two or three pieces of garlic cheese.

For dinner I had a turkey cheeseburger on a homemade wheat roll with homemade vegetable soup and two MGD low-carb beers.

Later in the evening I had microwave popcorn, and then, later still, I had the misfortune to notice that Ben and Colleen had brought some homemade Christmas chocolate back from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Finally, after about a zillion calories, I had my turtle. (Two of them, actually.)

Friday’s pre-race menu:

Thanks to two unscheduled Christmas cookies – at 250 calories each – I found myself at 1,550 calories after lunch. My plan was to have a big plate of broccoli and two boiled eggs for dinner, but I succumbed to the pasta I’d made for everyone else. I didn’t feel too bad about going over my calorie total with a grueling race scheduled for the next day, but now after back-to-back overeating days, I’m gonna have to be really careful at today’s Christmas party on my mom’s side of the family.  

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Holiday food log #21-22: ‘The Gingerbread Girl’ diet

For a while now I’d been wanting to try eating like this character in a Stephen King story called “The Gingerbread Girl.”


This is the audiobook cover. The novella, which originally appeared in Esquire, is most easily found in a short story collection called Just After Sunset. Another story in there I like a lot is “Stationary Bike,” which is another diet and exercise horror story.  

In the story she’s literally running away from unhappiness, fleeing to Florida and doing a lot of compulsive beach jogging. This being a Stephen King story, she also must outrun a psycho killer. But before that happens, we find out what she eats in a typical day: black coffee and orange juice for breakfast, a green salad for lunch and Stouffer’s mac n’ cheese for dinner.

Though the story itself creeps me out, I liked the image of the lean sad beach runner. I was under no delusions that mimicking the diet of a fictional character for a day would give me her equally fictional physique, but hey – when it comes to food, I’m easily amused.

The problem was, I couldn’t see going for a late morning run on just coffee and orange juice, especially since my sister and I were going to be tromping through cold and snow on a State Park trail. So I rearranged her meal plan to fit my purposes: I had the mac and cheese for breakfast to fuel my run, then had a cup of orange juice as a recovery drink. The salad made an early dinner.

I allowed myself 1500 calories within this menu template, which is a good thing because the mac and cheese got me off to an 875-calorie start. (I used a 19-ounce container of Hormel’s I got on sale for a buck at this Amish grocery store I like. That sounds like a lot, and it was 2 ½ cups/servings. But that’s about the size of a generous bowl of cereal. Very doable in my book, though King probably envisioned the Gingerbread Girl eating about half that much.)

Another 100 for a cup of OJ put me at 975. With the 525 calories I had left for dinner, I made sure to include plenty of protein: 3 boiled eggs (210 cal) and a 3-oz can of tuna (120). I used a low cal vinaigrette (30 cal per 2T). So I actually came in a bit under what I’d budgeted, at around 1350 calories (assuming I went heavy on the vinaigrette).

So, was this an eating experience worth repeating? Maybe. It was fun to pig out on mac n’ cheese, which I hardly ever eat. I also rarely drink OJ, so that was a treat. And I like knowing this meal plan gives me an automatic calorie deficit if I do any kind of run or workout.

Probably the biggest thing, though, is that I feel like I have a better chance of sticking to this one-day diet because in a way it’s a role-playing game: It’s not me eating that mac ‘n cheese, it’s the Gingerbread Girl.

Day 22: The Potato diet.

I thought it made sense to follow up a day of following a regimen with a day where I could eat as much as I wanted, provided I only ate potatoes. I also thought the carb load would be helpful, coming two days before tomorrow’s HUFF 10 mile trail race. I wavered a bit in the morning, when I was really craving peanut butter, but decided to follow through and I’m glad I did. Despite eating 15 red potatoes (though most were on the small side) AND an entire stick of butter, I didn’t weigh any more when I stepped on the scale this morning.

Which is kind of surprising considering I didn’t get in a run, only a short circuit workout. Looks like my holiday run streak really is over. I’m having trouble with heel pain, possibly plantar fasciitis, and I want to give my foot a break in hopes of completing Saturday’s race.

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Holiday food log #19-20: Salvaging a day that seemed doomed


This stuff is so creamy and decadent, I can’t keep myself from eating all 8 ounces – and on Tuesday I had TWO! Guess it’s better than keeping Ben and Jerry’s in the house, but now I only buy it when it’s a super good deal. 

How do you salvage a day when you’ve already had 1,000-plus calories before 9 a.m.?

This holiday food log has really clarified something I already suspected: Tuesdays are a problem.  I typically have a really light dinner on Mondays, following a specific meal script, and then the next morning I want to EAT. Yesterday I had my version of “cherry cheesecake” – a 290-calorie container of that high-fat tart cherry Noosa Aussie yogurt with 2T of ground flax seed – followed by two slices of leftover thin crust Pizza Hut cheese pizza, followed by another “cherry cheesecake.”

It was 8:30 a.m., and I was already at 1,080 calories!

Having noted my Tuesday fail problem, however, I was determined not to let it happen again. Noting that I still had room for one of my favorite prerun snacks – PBJ with banana on two slices of Healthy Goodness bread (320 calories would take me to 1400) – I resolved to save that for an hour before my 2 p.m. run.

Mission accomplished. Unfortunately, I added a bonus banana wrapped in a second slice of bread for an additional 135 calories, taking me to 1535. A problem, given that I was shooting for a 1600ish total on a day that included a 4-mile run.

The solution: Dinner was a 12-oz, 120-calorie bag of microwaved frozen chopped broccoli.


This bag contains 200 percent of a day’s worth of Vitamin C. 

I used to feel funny about eating an entire bag of veggies all by myself. But hey, it’s filling, gives me four veggie servings all at once, and it typically costs only a buck. On a day that looked like I was headed for another bender, it was just what I needed.

Monday’s food log: Half a cup of almonds for breakfast, grilled chicken salad with two glasses of red wine for a Mexican restaurant lunch, and 4 oz of cheese, a few carrot sticks and an apple for dinner.

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Holiday food log 17-18: Willpower strategy for cookie decorating


My niece Kyla frosts a cookie with the help of her dad, my brother Brent. 

When I asked my dad what it was like physically handling large amounts of cash as a banker – decades ago he would actually ride a bike down to the post office to pick up an $80,000 shipment from the Federal Reserve – he said it was just part of the job, something you got used to.

After awhile, it’s just like you’re handling tires or something,” he told me.

This was the mindset I decided to adopt yesterday when we were decorating Christmas cookies at my parents’ house. If somebody who grew up without much money could learn to handle bundles of $20 bills without stuffing some in his pocket, couldn’t a recovering sugar addict learn to spread icing on cookies without stuffing a bunch of them in her mouth?

See, plain old “willpower” doesn’t work for me. I always need a storyline in my head, some kind of challenge that makes the effort involved more interesting. As a secondary insurance measure, I decided to make it an Atkins day so I would be focused on a much more limited food universe.  The combination worked. I didn’t eat a single cookie or or a single drop of frosting.

Was it worth it, considering I still managed to consume more calories than I likely burned on a day when I only jogged 1 mile to fulfill the holiday run streak quota? I think so. I like the idea of deciding when and where I’m going to indulge during the holiday season, and not just go careening from one temptation to another.

I also think that the less sugar I eat, the less tempting it is. None of this necessarily helps me lose weight, as I still eat too much way too often. But these small victories nonetheless feel like progress toward healthier eating.


Kyla samples her artwork. 

Here’s the damage report for Sunday:

Breakfast: Large salad with 4 boiled eggs, a can of tuna and ranch dressing.

Lunch: 1 cup of almonds.

Snacks: An Atkins bar.

Double serving of jalepeno turkey sausages.

Dinner at my folks’ house: A little salad and the toppings off two slices of meatlover’s pizza. (No crust).

Several handfuls of cashews.

On Saturday I was thinking I could maybe get away with 2,000 calories because Traci and I ran 8 miles or so. Unfortunately I went over that, at 2,190:

Large bowl of bran flakes w/banana and milk 400

2 apples 200, 600 total

Liberal amount of PBJ on Healthy Goodness bread 370, 970

Yogurt 100, 1070

2nd banana 100, 1170

2 boiled egg and cheese sandwiches on HG bread: 460, 1630

2 oz cheese 200, 1830

6 small boiled eggs (the prepackaged kind, which said they were 60 cal each) 360, 2190

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Holiday food log day 16: Triumph over temptation


Sometimes the holiday season feels like a trip around a giant Candyland game board. Yesterday’s challenge was making it through the homemade molasses sugar cookie trap, then staring down the decadent display of goodies at the Tim Horton’s where I stopped to grab a coffee after a doctor’s appointment. (Why is there a bakery inside a hospital, of all places?)

I was the cookie culprit, stirring up a batch of dough in an attempt to show the girls I was finally getting in the Christmas spirit (and also to use up the last of a bottle of molasses in the cupboard). Usually when I make cookies these days I just mix up the batter and store it in the fridge, so that we only bake what we intend to eat. I baked myself two cookies yesterday afternoon. They were absolutely delicious, and I was not “done” when I finished them. But since there weren’t any more sitting there ready to eat, I ate a couple of apples instead. And those apples were so sweet-tart tasty I quickly forgot about the cookies. Besides, it was time to go pick up Cass for her appointment.

As for Tim Horton’s, I must admit the conquest eater in me has been plotting for a while now to “investigate” the lineup there. This chain is relatively new to Fort Wayne, and I wasn’t even sure what was on the menu. One of these days, I’m going to save up a day’s worth of calories and/or Weight Watchers points and go have my way with whatever catches my eye. But I knew I didn’t have that kind of maneuvering room yesterday, especially after those cookies, so I reminded myself I was on a scouting mission, nothing more.

In a way, there was almost too much to choose from. My eyes didn’t fixate on any one sugar bomb. So I will continue biding my time on that one.

By my calculations, I managed to make it through the day with 1450 calories:

Breakfast: Small homemade whole wheat roll (150) with 12 chocolate chips (35) and 1 T peanut butter (100) — let’s make it 300 in case I lowballed the roll.

Lunch: PB&J (150) with banana (100) on two slices of Healthy Goodness bread (70). 320 for lunch, 620 total.

Meal-sized snack: 2 homemade molasses cookies (100 each) with 2 apples (100 each) and ½ cup plain almond milk (30). 430, 1050.

Dinner: Large bowl of bran flakes (220) with banana (100) and skim milk (80). 400, 1450.

When I run this by my sister on this morning’s run, she’ll say this was way too many carbs. But I’m OK with just going by calories once in a while, especially if it allows me to have a holiday treat and not get off track.

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Holiday food log days 14-15: Eating large

You may have noticed by now that even when I’m not on a binge, I eat A LOT.

Scaling back to tiny portions is something I’ve never managed to master. It’s literally easier for me to fast than to be a dainty eater.

Still, when I’m on my game it’s kind of amazing how much I can eat for the calories. Here was yesterday’s 1,564-calorie intake:

12 ounces frozen broccoli microwaved

6 ounces fresh raspberries

6 ounces fresh blackberries

16 oz lite nonfat vanilla yogurt

1 cup uncooked rolled oats

½ cup walnuts

2 ounces cojack cheese

2 egg whites

2 slices Healthy Goodness 35-cal bread

The real winner in there is the berries. You can eat an entire container of raspberries for 88 calories and the blackberries are just 73 calories. That is a whole lot of satisfaction, plus berries are just so good for you.

On Wednesday I was in Atkins mode, mostly to help get me focused after an out-of-control eating day. I still managed to eat too much, including a boatload of nuts. But my (delusional?) thinking is that if I successfully limit myself to the types of food allowed on that diet, then that’s an iota  of discipline that I might be able to build on later.

1.5 cups of nuts (almonds + cashews)

4 ounces cojack cheese

2 chocolate peanut butter Atkins bars

Plain turkey burger with 12 ounces broccoli and 1 oz cheese

1 cup red wine

Note: I did not tally the calories on this. Not sure I want to know!

Holiday run streak update: As I mentioned the other day, I blew the run streak over the weekend. But I couldn’t resist restarting it. Nothing very interesting or impressive, just a mile run with Colleen the other day and then treadmill runs since. I’m still waiting for Colleen to come up with a penalty for the days I missed.

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Holiday food log days 12-13: Haunted by a 30-year-old commercial


Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!

Remember those old Reese Cup commercials where the guy eating a chocolate bar comes around the corner and bumps into the girl holding a jar of peanut butter? Well, that was me yesterday, playing both parts at once.

It wasn’t a small Hershey’s bar, either: The 4.4-oz hefty size. My soon-to-be-disowned sister-in-law sent some of those back with us in birthday party “treat bags” for our adult-sized “kids,” and I thought I deserved something fun on the day I finally finished up a months-long project. Heck, I’d been up since 2 a.m., working for seven hours by then, with another 10 to go (though I didn’t realize it at the time). Besides, Ben would never miss a treat bag he didn’t know anything about….

Well, that held me until the girls got home from school. But then I microwaved some popcorn (94 percent fat free!) and things got ugly from there. The good news is, I finally hit “send” on my project. But here’s the damage report on what it cost me, calorie-wise:

— a second bag of microwave popcorn.

— the last cup or so of Saturday night’s leftover mac and cheese.

— three handfuls of almonds.

— 1 ½ cups of Raisin Bran crunch.

— the last third of a jar of queso with tortilla chips (which I eat maybe four times a year)

— a leftover homemade whole wheat roll smeared with more peanut butter and chocolate chips, followed by a large glass of milk.


For what it’s worth, Monday wasn’t too bad:

— The last smallish slice of Ben’s birthday cookie for breakfast.

— A PBJ and an apple for lunch. (No time for going out to lunch this week!)

— A turkey burger with a homemade whole wheat bun and a 12-oz pkg of cauliflower topped with queso for dinner.

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Holiday food log Days 10-11: Feast & famine

It’s funny what you can scrounge to eat when you haven’t been to the grocery store in a while. On Saturday, I found a container of cooked quinoa in the back of the freezer and a partial can of Asian barbecued baked beans in the fridge. I dumped the beans on the quinoa, popped it in the microwave, and was good til the middle of the afternoon, when I had an apple with peanut butter. Up to my elbows in a project, I didn’t get around to making dinner. Colleen and I had microwaved popcorn. I think maybe Bob and Cassie had Raisin Bran.

Sunday was just the opposite. It was my niece Kyla’s 4th birthday party, so it was appetizers all afternoon and then grilled shrimp for dinner. Before we went over there I’d had a banana, apple and a “banana hotdog” (wrapped in a piece of bread like a bun) with extra peanut butter and chocolate chips. Then at the party I was in low-carb mode for some reason – just as a limiting factor, I guess – and ate tons of black olives, veggies and cheese. For dinner I had FOUR skewers of grilled shrimp, green beans and cottage cheese. I really wanted to avoid dessert, because my brother Brian has lost a ton of weight lately – like, upwards of 50 pounds – and I wanted to uphold his good example. I successfully avoided Kyla’s ice cream cake but then caved when I brought out the decorated chocolate chip cookie for Ben’s birthday. He turns 19 today, and he was headed back to college and so we gave him his presents yesterday. (I would wish him Happy Birthday, but I know he won’t read this.)

My holiday run streak hit a snag over the weekend. I hate to just abandon it, since I like to get in some fun December runs and I’m afraid I won’t without the streak. So how I’m going to handle that is, start back up today and have Colleen design a “penalty” workout to make up for the day I missed. Works for me. 

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Holiday food log Days 8-9: Running fuel

Is there any better running fuel than peanut butter stirred into oatmeal? Yesterday I had that for both breakfast and an early lunch (along with 7-8 dates) before meeting my sister for a hilly 10-miler along the Wabash River east of Vera Cruz.

Afterward I was super hungry and could hardly wait to pry the lid off a can of tuna for a tuna-cheese melt on Healthy Goodness bread. That was 3 p.m. By dinner, feeling hungry again but not wanting to dive headfirst into the mac and cheese, I microwaved a 12-oz pkg of frozen broccoli with 3-4 oz colby cheese. I’ll have to remember that works pretty well as a mac and cheese substitute. Cheesy but more substantial as well as more nutritious. 

I’m a little disappointed that I’m already a couple of days into December but haven’t had any particularly festive food. In fact, I’ve been so busy wrapping up a project that I’ve hardly bought groceries this week.

As for Thursday’s menu: I like to fold a banana into a slice of bread like a hot dog bun, and I had two of those for breakfast. Lunch was a ham and mustard sandwich. My afternoon prerun snack was peanut butter and a banana on an English muffin and I downed two slices of Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza for dinner. The only problem was, the long run we’d planned never happened because  my sister texted to say she was held up at the orthodontist’s office. I wound up running the obligatory holiday run streak mile instead, and came away feeling like I’d had too many carbs for the amount of exercise I got. (Out of curiosity I tallied up the Weight Watchers points and came up with 28. My old “weight maintenance” number was 24.)

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