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Meal Planning for Rapid Weight Loss

19 Feb

P at Christmas 2011

My husband P is on a diet. He naturally tends to overindulge on snacks, and combined with a preference for large portion sizes this leads to slow but steady weight gain over time. Each year he creeps up, then likes to lose the excess in January so he gets back to a healthy weight.

Despite his everyday over-eating, P has great willpower and self-motivation. When he sets his mind to something you can pretty much guarantee he’ll come through with the goods. It’s actually a joy to cook for him when he’s on a diet, because you know he won’t cheat and undo all your good work during the day when you aren’t looking.

He is 178cm tall (5 foot 10 or so) and not a naturally thin build. For this reason, I think his healthy weight is about 78 kilograms (172 pounds). This is right near the top of the healthy weight range of the BMI scale, but any less than that he starts looking a bit gaunt.

We’ve been slack over the past few years, and P has never managed to get all the way down to his goal. On new years day this year he weighed in at 94 kilograms. That was his heaviest ever (leaving him 16 kilograms to lose) and he admitted that he felt sluggish and unhealthy. He actually requested this diet. He’s been chipping away since that day, and he’s now 13 kilos down. We’ve set a finishing date of the 29th of February, so there’s 11 days to go  and another 3 kilos to burn.

Time to lift our game and strive for the finish line.

What’s the secret? I’ll bet he lives at the gym!

I’ve had many family and friends ask how he manages such rapid weight loss. The secret is explained here in my favourite comic sketch of all time. It was from an old SBS mock-lifestyle show called Life Support.

Cracks me up every. single. time.

P is time-poor, so doesn’t do much in the way of kilojoule-burning exercise. The key for him is his diet. And besides, have you ever sat down and worked out how much exercise you need to do to burn off a vegemite sandwich? At more than 1000 kilojoules, P would need to run for 30 minutes to burn off a single sandwich. And then he’d feel like he worked so hard that he deserves a Tim Tam, which would require another 15 minutes of running (that he wouldn’t think to do). And it’s not as though a vegemite sandwich is particularly bad for you. Combined with the appetite-increasing effect of strenuous exercise, working out alone is not the key to getting excess weight off quickly.

Dr Rudi is right.

The key to structuring meals for weight loss is to know who you are cooking for, knowing what their weaknesses are and cutting that right down. For P, it’s fat. For others it might be excess carbohydrates. This won’t work for everyone, but for P I have found that I can almost entirely ignore his carbohydrate intake if I keep his fat intake down to less than 30 grams each day. Fat is incredibly energy-dense, so if you cut it right down then you don’t need to reduce portion sizes as much as if you kept the fat in there and reduced the carbohydrates.

So for a day, P eats:

Breakfast: 2 Weetbix with low-fat milk
Dinner: A nutritious meal with less than 10 grams of fat per serving
Lunch: Another portion of last night’s dinner (leftovers)

We all know that fat = flavour. What stumps many people I speak to is how I manage to keep him interested in food for 1-2 months while he’s on this diet. The key is making sure that meals are absolutely packed with other sources of flavour – herbs, spices, vinegar, salt, sugar (in moderation).

I’ve been posting my Tuesday (vegetarian) recipes for the past several weeks as part of Linda’s Tuesday Night Vego challenge, but I know that not many people are happy eating vegetarian food, even on a diet. So by popular request, from now until Feb 29th I’m going to post my meal plans for the entire week – meaty, vegetarian and all. They’ll be fairly strict because we’re on the downhill run and want to ensure he meets his target.

This week we have:

Sunday: Steamed Fish with Asian Cucumber Salad
Monday: Pork, Lime and Peanut Salad
Tuesday (Vego): Mixed Mushrooms with Garlic and Chives
Wednesday: Cajun Chicken with Chunky Salsa
Thursday: Chilled Soba Noodles, dipping sauce, simmered green beans and sweet soy pumpkin
Friday: Thin-sliced Beef with Sesame
Saturday: Chicken and Konnyaku (Shirataki noodle) hotpot

Steamed Fish with Asian Cucumber Salad
Adapted from the Marie Claire cookbook “Fresh” by Michele Cranston

  • 500g white boneless fish fillets, separated into thick strips


  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped
  • 40 grams caster sugar
  • 60 mls fish sauce

1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
3 lebanese cucumbers

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1 bird’s eye chilli, seeds removed or 1 red thai chilli, finely chopped
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar

Make the marinade by whizzing the lemongrass, sugar and fish sauce in the blender. Separate the fish fillets and coat in marinade. Fish doesn’t need to marinate for long – Not more than an hour, but as long as it takes to get the rest of the meal ready is fine.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Palm sugar comes in blocks from the asian supermarket and needs to be finely chopped. I used to think it was environmental irresponsible (think perishing orangutang babies etc) but apparently that’s palm oil. Thank goodness, because palm sugar is yuummmo! Mix the dressing until the sugar is dissolved. Leave out the chilli if you’re cooking for children, and add it in later.

Wash and prepare the salad ingredients. I actually used a mix of different cucumbers because I’m growing a few different types, but lebanese is ideal.

Rinse the marinade off the fish fillets (the lemongrass is stringy), then strain the remaining marinade and coat the fillets again. then place in a steamer basket over simmering water and cover. It will take 3 -4 minutes to cook. Don’t overcook it- really just don’t.

While the fish is cooking dress the salad, then when the fish is ready, break it into chunks and toss through the salad while hot.

Plate and serve.

This recipe was a complete hit with the 4 year old (wolfed it down in about a minute), but a fight ensued with the toddler.

Eventually he ate it after much persistance on our part – I refuse to have any fussy eaters in my family – I’m going to beat it out of him early ;P


I’ll be back tomorrow with Pork, Lime and Peanut Salad.