Thursday, March 31, 2011

My terrible breakfast secret.

No.  It does not involve cannibalism.

About a week ago, I was flying in on a redeye to London on a Sunday morning.  As the plane was approaching London, the crew came around offering breakfast.  Due to what I can only assume was a mind-distorting lack of sleep, I found my resolve melt away, and I went off the healthy breakfast reservation.  I had eggs.  And some meat.  I may have even had some toast with butter and jam.  The horrors of it all!!!  Given recent events around the world, this does not really seem to qualify as a source of national tragedy or even worth a tear-filled confession.   Yet, I still felt more than a little guilty and down on myself afterwards.

I have been on a breakfast roll for almost four years.  I am the self-proclaimed king of breakfast discipline.  I worship at the altar of regular oatmeal with fruit, 0-fat greek yogurt with grapes, and coffee.  While I have loudly touted my breakfast awesomeness for the past few years, I now have a confession to make.  I do once-a-weekend cereal splurge.

I grew up a big cereal eater.  When I say a big cereal eater, perhaps I should say a big bowl cereal eater.  As a kid, I used to hide the largest bowl in the kitchen (think small mixing bowl) so I could have it for myself to fill to the brim with cereal.  By the time I filled it with milk, my Oats of Cheery (see previous post on my use of generics food stuffs) would be spilling over the top.  Of course, I would compensate for the tastelessness of my fine generic cereal by using heaps of sugar.  It became my huge bowl of fake Captain Crunch.  And I loved it so.

Once a cereal eater, always a cereal eater I suppose.  Like all good Weight Watchers people, I discovered much later in life that a third of a box of cereal actually contains a great deal calories and that a third of a box should not be confused with what the manufacturers refer to as "serving size."  [As a side point, for whom is this serving size appropriate?  I'm guessing fasting Leprechauns.]  Like many dutiful Weight Watchers people, I made the shift to Oatmeal, and I've been very happy and satisfied with the change.

It doesn't look like such a terrible vice...
However, once a week, it seems I needed a secret splurge.  Most Saturday mornings I have a big bowl of cereal.  Second confession:  up to today, I haven't had the guts to calculate the PointsPlus values.  I was afraid just how many PointsPlus values would be in this huge serving.  It was time to man up and accept the consequences.  Here was the damage:

  • two cups Special K Red Berries cereal:  6 PointsPlus values
  • 1/2 cup Cracklin Oat Bran:  3 PointsPlus values
  • one cup of 1% milk:  3 PointsPlus values
  • Total damage = 12 PointsPlus values
This compared to 3 for my oatmeal with fruit.  Frankly, I thought the cereal damage was going to be worse, so I am somewhat relieved.  Nonetheless, it's obviously not an every day splurge.  Frankly, it feels a little disturbing to admit to inhaling 2 and 1/2 cups of cereal.  It's a little gross.  My only point of redemption is that I always get in a workout before I do the damage.  

This weekly indulgence aside, I have to self-administer back pats over the number of breakfast items that are now on my verboten list that used to be on my every day list:
  • Breakfast burritos.  My all time favorite early morning indulgence.  
  • Omelets with meat & cheese served with breakfast potatoes and toast.  I haven't tried to calculate the PointsPlus values on this and frankly I'm afraid to.  
  • Muffins and pastry of all sorts.  This was a big change for me when I got serious on Weight Watchers.  I used to knock back muffins the size of Brontosaurus eggs.  I was once a completely unrepentant coffee cake trollop, until I discovered that the crunchy top effect was achieved by infusing gelatinized butter with a gravel made of sugar.  Scones were another big favorite that I later learned were about 500 calories a pop.  
  • Toast.  Childhood favorite recipe:  spread butter on bread, coat with sugar-cinnamon mix and bake in the toaster oven.  It was my very excellent poor man's pastry.  These days, toast sort of feels like empty calories without enough taste (outside of the jelly) to justify.  
  • Granola.  This one made me sad.  I freaking loved granola.  But.  It.  Just.  Had.  Too.  Many.  Calories.  And no, I cannot be happy eating 1/4 cup of it and calling that a meal.  
These days, I almost always treat the items on my verboten list as though they were heroin.  One shot and I'd be re-addicted, so I avoid at almost all cost.  

It's funny.  I write out the list of things that I now avoid like a bad case of the plague, and they don't seem nearly as appealing as they once did (except the breakfast burrito).  That said, I do question the all-or-nothing approach I sometimes take toward certain foods.  It feels as though I should be better at managing my indulgences, and that I should not have to be so black & white.    

Maybe I'm over-thinking all of this (try not agree to quickly).  Frankly, I like my oatmeal breakfast.  It's a lot of food, it tastes good, and it easily keeps me full until lunch.  It's not as though I am deprived -- far from it.  It just sometimes feels that way when I put foods on the banned list.  

What about my cereal splurge?  

Here's the thing for me.  I just weighed-in today, and I'm now 3 years at Lifetime at goal.  Throughout the past year, I have been having my little cereal blow-out once per week.  It obviously hasn't had any effect, so maybe I need to be a little less freaky-deaky (to use a technical term) and stop secretly beating myself up for this apparent vice.  I might also take a moment to laugh at my own ridiculousness for sweating an over-indulgence of Special K (you know, the diet cereal).  I mean really Dave, get a manly vice.  

In summary, I think I'm good with my effective ban on the aforementioned breakfast calorie bombs.  I'm also good with my weekly giant bowl of cereal.  It's a sad and un-masculine vice, but it's my sad and un-masculine vice.  

My learnings from this.  
  1. Don't be a baby when it comes to calculating PointsPlus values for known indulgences.  Knowledge is power, and hiding my head under a blanket won't make the bad numbers go away.  
  2. Openly acknowledge and incorporate my indulgences.  I recognize that if I ate my responsible breakfast seven days a week, I might run the risk of throwing the whole bit away. 
There.  I got the confessions off my chest.  Thanks for listening!  




  1. I had a weekly breakfast indulgence, too, and it was 2 buttermilk pancakes with 1 tsp of whipped butter and 1/4 cup light syrup at a local restaurant. They then added a very healthy multi-grain pancake and I switched to that and was quite satisfied (my normal breakfast is steel-cut oatmeal with 1 tsp of brown sugar and a banana). Eventually and to perhaps aid in my weight loss efforts, I gave up my weekly pancake fix and haven't so much as missed it.

    I, too, LOVE a good breakfast burrito with eggs/bacon/cheese/hash browns but can't recall the last time I had one although I did lust after one this week but did not indulge (mostly because I recall vividly how heavy I felt after consuming even half of said burrito when I split it with my husband).

    I try not to ban foods but I am honest with myself about which foods I can't be trusted around. I have 24 lbs left to lose and after losing 40 most of the time the food in question just doesn't seem worth it (but, sometimes, like like night it does. There was a 63% dark chocolate fountain at my disposal that I could NOT turn down. So, instead of eating a meal + dessert, I opted to ONLY have dessert and was satisfied with about 1/3 of what I might normally have consumed. And, no guilt this morning).

  2. Funny, everyone's different. I *always* have an omelet - one egg, one egg white, with veg, usually Canadian bacon. Other, more carby bfast options just leave me starving. It's worth the points to make it to lunch.

  3. I want YOUR oatmeal as mine went from two points to four on the new program. I eat oatmeal five days a week but on one day I'll have a serving of Total cereal and on another I'll have a bagel thin with Laughing Cow cheese or an egg. I love eggs. :)

  4. I think it's important to incorporate our foody vices into our regular routine. I found that by eating a small piece of cake every single night, I did much better staying on track through the day, because I knew I would get to have a bit of cake. (As long as I had the points to do so!) What this did was force me to really watch portions at the 3 regular meals, and it kept my emotional responses from making me eat an entire cake. (Cause we've all pulled crap like that.)
    Embrace your food strongholds, and take away their power and allure. That's the way we win the diet war!

  5. For me, on the weekends, I usually have lunch for breakfast since I sleep in. ;-)

    Great job calculating the PP for your vice!

    What's un-manly about Special K?

  6. I love cereal too! I have switched to oatmeal as my breakfast of choice, which is why I let myself have a bowl of cheerios at nighttime for dessert! It works for me and helps me to not feel like I have banned everything I love.

    P.S. I don't think Special K is un-manly, but what do I know I am a woman.

  7. I just love this blog. You are so dang funny, week after week. As for breakfast burritos... Not even hard. Whole wheat or low carb tortilla, egg whites, baby bell and I make my own little breakfast "sausage" patties with lean turkey and spices... whole kit-n-kaboodle for 3 of the old timey pts (sorry, so sorry, points plus and I may never see eye to eye. Still love WW, though)
    Also, for oatmeal lovers, sub half coffee for half of the water. Love it! A little ff half and half and it's "coffee and cream" oatmeal.
    again. Thanks for the chuckle. "Cannibalism".... snort.

  8. I am with Caron, and want to know what kind of oatmeal you are eating. 1/2 cup of rolled oats is 4 points for me.

    I don't think the airplane breakfast was as bad as you thought. My guess is that it was less than your cereal extravaganza. Eggs are low in points and airplane portions are small. Bread and jam aren't high in points either. I don't know what kind of meat you had but generally it seems that carbs are what you pay and pay for on the new plan, not protein. I have actually been eating a lot more eggs since the switch.

  9. I love cereal for breakfast too -- big bowls, but have started putting a whole bunch of cut up strawberries (or other fresh fruit - blueberries/peaches, whatever's in season) in the bottom, then the cereal and milk. It makes a little bit of cereal seem like a whole lot and is quite tasty!!

  10. Fabulous post! As an ex-cereal-junky I totally relate! I would have 2-3 bowls in a sitting and the best ones are always the sugary ones because of the "high" you get from it. I'm back to oats for brekkie now and I have dark rye bread with ricotta and apricots other days. I do have a healthy fried breakfast from time to time on the weekend but I find I don't have the stomach for it much anymore. Your "splurge" breakfast at 12 points actually isn't that bad - you could easily make up for it with some exercise or absorb it into your weekly points total. I'm equally careful about breakfast while travelling.. next week I'm in Paris and it's SO HARD to avoid all the lovely pastries!

  11. Thank you for this article! I love it. I'm with you with my banned foods list. I think it's just the way it needs to be. Weight watchers has helped lose the weight that I needed to lose. Your blog keeps me inspired and laughing!!! Thank you.

  12. I'm a cereal girl, and I continue to love my Kashi GoLean - 1 c each morning (4PP) and 1 cup of skim (2PP) with banana! That's been my breakfast 98% of the time over the last 5 years, and it works for me.

    But I also like what Incredible Shrinking Woman said, and it made me think: why do we still use phrases and words like "guilty pleasure" and "indulgence" and "food vice" .... if we're really trying to change people's relationship with food, and not have it be an antagonistic one? It's not a WW thing -- it's something that has become pervasive throughout American culture: Certain foods are bad, evil, awful, torture, omg-i-gotta-have-just-a-little, oh-i-ate-some-i-am-bad, repent, repeat........

    When are we (as a culture) ever going to have a revolution from that line of thought?

  13. BTW, I do love the line about "fasting leprechauns".... another cereal I love has a svg size of 2/3 c .... figuring out the PP, I can have a whole cup for 3 or the 2/3 for 2... Uh, guess which one I pick? :D

  14. I, too, am a virtuous healthy breakfast eater. Fat free greek yogurt with fresh blueberries, a touch of honey, 2 tbsps of crumbled cereal on top for a little crunch... except on weigh in days, then it's a piece of fruit, a string cheese and tea (but only AFTER I'm done at the scale, and sitting in the meeting... you all know how that is, lol!). I really love my breakfast, and look forward to it every morning. I think I am going to try and have something a little more "weekendy" tomorrow. Hopefully I won't feel like I am cheating (on my yogurt, I mean ;) )

  15. I hear and understand. I had a bad day on monday and was trying to ignore it, but I relented and calculate the 82 PP damage. I felt a lot better after that. And the omlette thing is not as bad as you'd think, provided you eat a reasonable omlette rather than what you'd get at any restaurant. My wife and I get a kids ham and cheese omlette with toast and potatoes, and split it. It hit the spot, and is only 10 points. that's for half. a kids portion. can you imagine what a 'regular' omlette would be? Just goes to show you that our restaurant culture is definitely not into portion control.

  16. On the question of Oatmeal. My two brand choices are Quaker Regular Instant Oatmeal (the little packet) and McCann's Irish Oatmeal Regular Flavor (also a little packet). Both have: 2g fat, 19g carbs, 4g protein, 3g fiber which works out to 3 PointsPlus values. Cheers, David.

  17. Sometimes I have breakfast for supper and 'indulge' in 2 blueberry pancakes made with white whole wheat flour, 1 TB of pure maple syrup, scrambled egg whites on the side and a piece of fruit. Worth every point!

  18. Dear Dave:

    I love your blog, first off. Very human and I love the "technical terms" you use like "freaky deaky", to read and there is a lot I know I can relate to so I am sure many of us do! Now, my thoughts:

    I never was a cereal girl but defintely was a big fan of the eggs, meat, potatoes and toast (or better yet a big big piece of coffee cake--preferably cinnamon with vanilla icing of some sort) I do love Cheerios and I love them cooked in a pan with melted margarine till they are toasted (a recipe a girlfriend taught me as a kid)....

    I never ate cereal because I knew about the carbs and was petrified of them (and forget pastries or doughnuts they would go right to my waist!).....(I was an original Atkins diet freak in Jr. High)....what I have done so I can enjoy some of what I love without the guilt is this.....I make egg white omlettes (6 egg whites is only 3 plus points!) I put my favorite veggies I love mushrooms and so I buy the whole ones and cut them just in half and toast them first, then add the egg whites (sometimes I will throw in a yoke too).....then maybe some grape tomatoes or bits of spinach.....spray the top with butter spray and cook well....some days I add a bit of swiss cheese....only about a half an ounce or a bit of cheddar. Then one slice of toast. This somehow satisfies me. Sometimes I do the potatoes. But because I am getting in the 2 or so veggies early I am so proud of myself. And that only means 2 more fruits/veggies for the day to work in.

    And this lasts me a good part of the day. If I omit the toast and cheese it is only like 3 pts and that is a great start to the day for me! But I do try to do the oatmeal and fruit/yogurt thing too. Very healthy.....good for you for sticking with it! I seem to remember my leader saying we are supposed to mix it up so we don't get bored, so that is what we all have to do, I guess.

    Another option is buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat is so healthy and these can be eaten with fruit only or just a bit of SF syrup.

    Thank you for a fun blog and for reading my suggestions, I hope they help.

    And we all need to let go of the guilt and enjoy sometimes.....the trick is learning to trick the guilt into it being on our side, I guess. i.e. use the guilt to stay within your points and have fun eating "modified points" foods by experimenting with new ideas.....this way you are "working the plan" (oh mother was a minister.....can u tell? Sorry!)

    Have a great week, I'll be reading you again soon!

  19. Great blog. Cereal is my heroin too, and I've switched to oatmeal as well. I cook a big batch of steel cut oatmeal and a package of frozen fruit in my crock pot, and then portion it into individual servings.

    I have to say, though, that cigars and whiskey would beat out Special K and Cracklin' Oat Bran on the Manly Maleficence Meter.

  20. I pretty much eat the same thing during the work week-I actually wait until I get to work and then make my breakfast-if I eat when I get up Im starving by 9am. I have one packet of maple/brown sugar cream of wheat 3pts, banana sliced on top 0pts and one mini box of rasins (1pt)-I know its sounds gross but its really tasty and holds me until mid morning when I usually grab an apple. I save my 1 egg omlette with salsa, 1pt weight watcher string cheese and low fat sour cream for the weekend. Yum looking forward to morning already

  21. Childhood cereal junkie as well & loved your terrible breakfast secret.

    I know of a mobile application that helps manage weight using photos and friends on social networks (hasn't hit the market yet). How can the developer get this product in front of you and Weight Watchers?

    Amy Wheeler

  22. Love this blog. My usual breakfast is eggbeaters, morningstar sausage crumbles and laughing cow cheese with either mushrooms or broccoli. My splurge breakfast? Toasted bagel with cream cheese and lox. Yes I have avoided like the plague recently and u r right, I totally need to calculate the pp values.

  23. Just found your blog..and I'm hooked.

  24. Don't feel so bad...I have a large cereal bowl fettish as well! At my heaviest ( getting close to goal at 187 thanks to WW!) I was good for about a half of a box of cinnamon toast crunch, now I satisfy that urge with fiber one cereal (6 points worth) with almond milk splenda and cinnamon (who says you can't add your own flavor).

  25. ok dave!if you get to Whole Foods early they have cheesy eggs with bacon(thick cut and slightly sweet) on a big white roll!already prepared!how many points is that?i have been eating them every other morning and losing weight!