I almost hesitate to write about this, because the subjects of diet and weight are pretty well loaded. But I saw this over on the miniblog at Waveflux, it struck me funny because I am one of those people who buys that food in 100 calorie packages.
The message is clear: Don’t open that big Pandora’s box of sweet temptation! Reach for a controlled calorie portion of foods you know and love but thought were off-limits if you were watching your weight.
The mastermind is the Nabisco company (marketed by Kraft Foods), which latched onto a number — 100 — that doctors and nutritionists approve of for a snack. Nabisco launched the line in July 2004 with five varieties of the company’s popular cookies and crackers reformulated to meet the 100-calorie limit. They’re more expensive than the originals (see “Paying for Portions,” Page 2), they’re definitely less substantial and they don’t taste exactly the same. But consumers like them enough to have generated more than $100 million in sales within a year. Other companies have followed.
The idea seems to appeal to people who care about portion control but don’t want to count calories, those who yearn for familiar foods in calorie-controlled portions, people in search of a convenient packable treat and the weak-willed — meaning most of us — who find it hard to eat just one cookie. After all, with an open box nearby, it’s easy to eat a whole lot more than 100 calories.
And ya know what? It actually worked for me. Or at least the handy 100 calorie packaging helped a lot.
Back in February, I posted about having dieted and successfully lost ten pounds. Well, it ended up being more like 20, which is where things seemed to have evened out and where I’m quite happy to be. But I wouldn’t actually call what I did a diet. It was more like an education in how to eat.
I mentioned before that the main guide I used was a free e-book called The Hacker’s Diet. Despite the rather humorous title, I actually found it pretty helpful because it taught me to look at what I was eating and how my body processed it. But most of all it helped me figure out three things.
- How many calories a guy of my height and age (and activity level) burned each day.
- How many calories I needed to cut to reach my desired weight.
- How to count calories.
When people ask me how I lost the weight, I tell them I just counted calories. And basically that’s what I did. Actually, I think I did it obsessively for a few months; literally keeping a running tally every day. I got into the habit of reading the labels of anything that went into my body, and to pay attention to both “calories per serving” and “serving amount. ” For fresh foods without labels, I looked up the calorie estimates for certain amounts. I even picked up a food scale so I could weigh some foods in order to know the size of the serving I was having. And I weighed myself every day
But, for me, it worked. And I realized that before I had no idea what a serving actually was. It took those months of nearly obsessive calorie counting for me to learn, and to figure out how to balance things out and make different choices depending circumstances. (The article notes that you can get 100 calories from 4 packs of baby carrots, and it’s true. What’s more, the bulk of vegetables like that is rather filling.)
Today, I don’t keep a running tally of my daily calorie count. I still read labels, and generally know about how many calorie I consume each day and how much I need to consume to maintain the weight I’m at now. When I eat out I know that what I’m probably getting adds up to three or four serving, rather than one, because I’m better at estimating that now. And I know I don’t have to clean my plate. And I go a little wild at one meal, I dial it back a bit at the next. And I still weight myself every day, so I’ll know if things start to creep up a bit and I can adjust appropriately.
So, yeah, I’m thrilled that some snack foods come in 100 calorie packages. I can have some of the foods I’ve always enjoyed, and I don’t have to count the calories, because it’s already been done for me.