Saturday, May 31, 2014

My play Sex with Friends will be performed at the East West Players David Henry Hwang Writers Institute Lab on June 14, 2014

Come hear a reading of my play, Sex with Friends, on Saturday June 14 at 1:30pm. Space is limited so please arrive early to secure a seat. The location is Maryknoll Japanese Catholic center: 222 south Hewitt street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. 

Please let me know below if you have any questions. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Does Nutrisystem work? My five days on the Nutrisystem plan

I bought Nutrisystem's five day kit from Target (you can also get it from Amazon), and this kit included five breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. The box itself seemed somewhat small and sat on a shelf, so I was curious what the heck was inside and how the hell they could fit twenty items in the box. Because I'm still on the search for nutritional help that is convenient and affordable, I decided to try Nutrisystem, which I calculated to be about $10 a day, which is not exactly "cheap" but fairly affordable for a diet plan.
Purchased this box from Target. Note the color coded entree items 
When I got home, I removed the items inside, and I saw that the breakfasts were blue-coded and the lunches were orange coded, etc.  I liked how easy the color system was. Every day I would just grab one of each, and that was easy enough. However, then I looked at the included meal guide, and I learned that I also had to supplement between meals my own fresh snacks--one protein and one carb. I also needed to provide vegetable servings with the entrees. The guide was helpful in naming in detail what was considered a good protein and good carb source, but I was slightly bummed that my initial thought that this magical box from Target would take care of me for five days was incorrect. Not only was I buying the Nutrisystem meals, but now I had to go to the store again. This lessened the convenience factor and raised the overall cost of the program, but at least I was eating some fresh foods and at least something was telling me exactly what to put into my body and when. I know this makes me sound really lazy, but this is my reality and the reality for many--so bear with me.
The 20 mysterious items in the box, color coded for lazy eaters like me.
Day one:
Breakfast: chocolate muffin
Lunch: chicken soup
Dinner: chicken pot pie
Dessert: chocolate pretzels
The Nutrisystem meal guide had its own list of what to eat on Day One, but I figured as long as I grabbed one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one dessert I would be fine. My day started off eating the chocolate muffin, and when I opened it, I actually laughed. The chocolate muffin was tiny. "Ah!" I thought. "That's how I get to eat whatever I want. I have to eat kid sizes for the "good stuff" and then a bunch of vegetables to stay full." And then I thought, "I'm paying over ten bucks a day to learn this lesson? What's wrong with me?"

The muffin itself tasted okay, but it wasn't enough to fill me up so I added the protein (a yogurt) and carb (some fruit) like the guide said and I felt okay. Lunch time came around, and I had the chicken soup which was low sodium and came in a container that reminded me of those microwaveable Chef-Boyardee ravioli cans I used to like when I was a kid. The soup was flavorless but took only a minute to blast in the microwave so that was easy, and I ate a large salad as my vegetable addition.

Once I got home from work, I ate the chicken pot pie, which tasted decent but a little bland, and the chocolate pretzels, which were good but had a chalky aftertaste. All in all, the Nutrisystem guide was easy enough for me to follow and I'm guessing I probably ate 1200-1300 calories that day.

Day two
Breakfast:  Peanut butter granola bar
Lunch:  fudge graham bar
Dinner:  CHEATED
Dessert: DIDN'T EAT
After Day One, I was not very excited about Nutrisystem because the food was so bland and fake-tasting, but I figured I should finish off the box and see what happened. On Day Two, I ate the peanut butter granola bar, and for lunch I ate the fudge graham bar. Both bars tasted pretty good and did not have a funky after taste. In between the bars, I had a yogurt and some fruit.

Day Two appeared to be on the up and up, but then I found out that I needed to work late. I didn't bring my Nutrisystem dinner or dessert with me, and  realizing that I just couldn't wait, I bought a Chipotle chicken burrito and I devoured that whole thing in ten minutes. It was AMAZING to eat real food, but in one sitting, I probably had more calories than one day of the Nutrisystem portioned meals. This moment of weakness made me realize that convenience comes at a price. Since I'm too lazy to cook, my only option is to spend a little and get junk food or spend a lot more for fresh, healthy meals. Even though Nutrisystem might seem unnecessary, it actually is perfect for people like me. It's not the best tasting stuff, but it's healthy and convenient and moderate in price.

Day three
Breakfast:  Cinnamon Struesel Muffin
Lunch: Loaded baked potato
Dinner:  Italian herb flat bread pizza
Dessert: Chocolate chip cookies
The Cinnamon Streusel Muffin tasted better than the chocolate muffin (it was less "fake" tasting) but it was the same size--SMALL. To get an idea of how small this muffin is, think about the muffin tins you buy at the store and imagine one of those slots filled up 3/4 of the way. That's actually pretty small when you compare what is being sold at coffee shops or restaurants.

On day three, my lunch was good. I had the "loaded baked potato," which was really just a portion of mashed potato flakes with some seasoning. By now, the whole Nutrisystem diet was reminding me of a my childhood where I gorged on processed American-style foods when my parents weren't around. For dinner, I had the flat bread pizza, which tasted like a microwaved pizza lunchable.  For dessert, I ate the chocolate chip cookies, which were hard cookies, but there were enough in the package to satisfy my sweet tooth. Throughout the day, I had the usual--yogurt, fruit, salad, and almonds.

Day four
Breakfast:  Honey wheat bagel
Lunch:  Red beans and rice
Dinner:  Chicken Alfredo
Dessert:  Cheesecake flavored bar
The honey wheat bagel tasted like a regular bagel, even though it was half the size of a regular one and accompanied with one of those packs that keep proceeded foods tasting fresh. For my carb and protein snack, I had a Nutrisystem shake which they recommend, and the shake kept me full for hours until lunch time when I ate the red beans and rice. I actually really liked the red beans and rice. The portion seemed bigger than other lunch entrees, and it had a lot of flavor.

For dinner, I had a salad and the Nutrisysten chicken alfredo, which looked like cat food and was edible at best. For dessert, I had the "cheesecake flavored" bar, and although it was much better than the chicken alfredo, it tasted nothing like a real cheesecake. Day Four may have started off good, but it ended on a bad note.

Day Five
Breakfast:  Granola cereal
Lunch:  Double chocolate caramel bar
Dinner:  Rotini and meatballs
Dessert: Peppermint cookie patty
I was very happy to reach Day Five. Even after only four days, I felt lighter and less bloated, but I also found that I didn't look forward to eating. Eating became a necessity and not a joy, which I guess is great for dieters but sad for me, a big foodie.

For breakfast, I had the granola cereal, which tasted like any old granola you could buy at the store. The special thing about it was that it was perfectly portioned, but I still had to supply the milk which counted as my snack protein. For lunch, I had a double chocolate caramel bar. The bar tasted fine, but it was forgettable. For my snack, I had another shake, and anyone who has been following my blog probably knows that I love meal replacement shakes!

For dinner I had the choice of lasagna or rotini and meatballs (I had an extra dessert and dinner because of my Chipotle cheating on Day Two.) I was not looking forward to either option because of the chicken alfredo so I randomly chose the rotini and meatballs. To my surprise it was actually tasty and comparable to a frozen Lean Cuisine. The peppermint cookie patty was also good.

OVERALL RESULTS
I weighed myself the next morning, and I saw that I had lost two pounds in five days. Even though I did not look forward to eating when I was on the Nutrisystem diet, I did appreciate the structure of it. I never felt bloated, like I would if I was just eating the way I normally do, and I never felt tired or craved sugar the way I did when I was on my meal replacement shake diet. Even though I did not like all the entrees, I would recommend the system to someone looking for a weight loss plan that produces results, is cost effective, and convenient. However, like most diets, I don't think Nutrisystem is a long term solution, but it could be a nice starting off point for those like me who need guidance.

Nutrisystem ® Jumpstart 5 Day Weight Loss Kit can be found on Amazon for about $50. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

My review of the Meal Replacement Shake Diet

When I had moved to Los Angeles nearly seven years ago, I was in my early twenties and my weight tended to stay in the range of 115 lb. to 120 lb. I was fortunate that I didn't have to think too much about what I was eating because I exercised daily and I was born with a tall, slim build. However, the metabolism of my early twenties did not prepare me to age. My habits of eating processed foods, dining out, and not caring about portion  control soon began to catch up with me. My bad eating habits compounded with me working in an office, writing in my spare time, and exercising less eventually led to me gaining fifteen pounds. I was fairly comfortable at my new weight of 135 lb., but then I was given good advice from someone who had experienced something similar to what I was going through. Like me, she had great metabolism in her early twenties, but after college, she slowly started to gain a few pounds every year until those few pounds became 30 lb. on her petite frame.  "Be careful about the "whatever" mentality," she advised. "Or one day you'll wake up and realize that those few pounds added up to something a lot more."

Even though she had given me something to think about, it was only until last winter when I saw a picture of me with chubbier cheeks did I finally decide to break out of my "whatever" mentality. I began to limit how often I ate out, and I was more careful about reading food labels. However, I was still having trouble controlling my portions and finding the time to prepare healthy meals  so I decided to try meal replacement shakes. I ate whatever I wanted for breakfast and dinner, but I stuck to replacing my lunch with a shake four days a week. I did this from January 2014 to March 2014, and I'm happy to report that I lost 15 lbs (about one pound a week). Below is a before and after how this change affected my face:

My before and after. This picture probably would be more
effective if I wore a bikini, but I was too embarrassed. Sorry.
I tried four meal replacement shakes, and my favorite was the Kellogg's Special K protein shakes. They taste like a milkshake, and they are good at room temperature or chilled. The bad thing about these shakes is that they have a lot of sugar, but I still prefer them because at least I enjoy drinking them daily.
My next favorite shake was the Nutrisystem shake. It actually was low in sugar, and it tasted good. However, from its packaging, it appears that it is intended to be more of a snack instead of an actual meal replacement so keep that in mind.

My third favorite is the Slim Fast shake. Like the Kelloggs' shakes, Slim Fast has a lot of sugar. However, it does taste like a milkshake so that helps. With all of these shakes, I tend to buy the chocolate flavors because I prefer those the most.

Lastly, I tried Muscle Milk's protein shakes, and these were my least favorite. The shakes should have been a solid choice because they had 20 grams of protein and less sugar than Special K and Slim Fast, but I hated their chalky taste. The shakes were very unpleasant, and I found that it was hard to finish a container. If you're looking for a low sugar option, grab a Nutrisystem.

PROS OF THE SHAKE DIET

  • Convenient
  • Inexpensive ($1.50-$2 a bottle)
  • Fast amount of weight loss (Some sites say you can lose weight even faster replacing two meals a day with a shake, but I don't recommend that. See the cons below.)
  • Has a balanced amount of nutrients
CONS OF THE SHAKE DIET
  • High amount of sugar in some brands
  • You're getting your nutrients from a processed food, not from real healthy food.
  • I had headaches and low energy the first month of my diet from the drastic cut of calories.
  • You lose weight, but you aren't teaching yourself long term habits. (I gained five pounds in two weeks after stopping the shake diet. I am now back on the shakes to retain my weight loss. That's something to think about…)

OVERALL:

Eating fresh healthy foods is always preferable, but if convenience is important to you, then the shake diet may be a good short term solution.

If you have any questions about my shake experience, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you have any long term dieting tips for people like me that crave convenience, please share below.