My scale continues to surprise me in ways both pleasant and mysterious.  I lost 3 pounds this week, dropping from 181.5 to 178.5 — first I’ve been below 180 since August.

And, since making my declaration three weeks ago, I’ve lost a total of 6.5 pounds.  Only 23.5 to go by June 20!

I admit that I am surprised by the pace of my own progress.  Obviously I’m doing something right here, but I am by no means the perfect dieter.  I still drink more wine than is recommended (that would be virtually none) for optimal weight loss.  I continue to have my setbacks with compulsive eating — like the night I ate half of a large bag of peanuts.  I’m sure I could have eaten a whole bag, but I only had the half to begin with.  At least they weren’t salted.

And although I work out regularly, there’s nothing maniacal or over-the-top about my workouts.  I made it to the gym four times this week.  I only did the eliptical once or twice.  Other than that, I just did my four miles of fast-walking on the track.  Not all that impressive.

So, what exactly am I doing right?

Well, I am tracking faithfully on Weight Watchers.  That goes a long way to keeping me in line.

But more importantly, I’m changing the way I eat.  Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, made a big impression on me.  His arguments for a less-meat/processed-food-centered diet are rooted in reasons not primarily related to weight loss but to personal health and environmentalism.  WW’s new plan is also more focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which is basically what I’m doing.

In fact, I’ve had very little meat the last couple of weeks.  Instead, salads and vegetable dishes are my mainstays, supplemented with beans and fish.  I’m surprised that I don’t miss the meat — in fact, I don’t even think about it.  And I can’t swear to it, but I seem to get full more easily, so I must be eating less in general (as suggested by my scale).

A typical day for me looks like this:

  • Breakfast:  A cup of non-fat Greek yogurt, loaded with whatever fruit is handy (a banana, fresh pineapple, mango and pomegranate seeds, etc.), and a cup of coffee.
  • Lunch:  Huge kitchen sink salad, with olives, feta cheese and sometimes a small can of tuna packed in water (drained).  Topped with either a commercial low-fat salad dressing, one that I’ve made myself or just balsamic vinegar.
  • Snacks:  A piece of fruit, like an apple, orange or pear.  I keep fruit around all the time.
  • Dinner:  A vegetarian dish, ranging from Tuscan Beans to Not Your Usual Ratatouille to this fabulous Greek Baked Vegetables recipe from The New York Times that I just tried over the weekend.  (Leftovers of all these dishes are great for lunch.)  Sometimes I’ll also have a piece of fish, like cod or sole, or sea scallops.

In addition to meat, I generally shun simple carbs like breads and pastas made from refined grains.  I do have potatoes sometimes — like a baked potato with broccoli and roasted red pepper sauce — and occasionally rice.

I’m careful about where I eat out and what I order.  The sushi restaurant down the block is my safety.  Indian and Thai  restaurants are good if I stick to vegetarian or vegan dishes.  I’ve avoided my favorite neighborhood wine bar because of, well, the wine, and also because most of the food they offer is not for the diet-conscious, i.e., cheese plates, pot pies and charcuterie.  But, fortunately, they have brought back their grilled octopus salad, which works perfectly for my plan and which I thoroughly love.  As for the Austrian place at the corner (where they always pour me a glass on the house!), if I stick to their excellent soups, like the lentil soup I had for lunch yesterday, I’m good.  Just say no to the weiner schnitzel (not really a problem for me).

I’ve tried a few new things, too:  for example, sashimi instead of sushi.  Who needs the rice?  The fish tastes better without it.  I’ve discovered that I love sashimi as a once-a-week indulgence.  I’m also curious about tofu.  I’ve always looked down on tofu, because its squishy texture turns me off.  But I’ve learned that not all tofu is squishy, that there are not only different types and grades of tofu but different ways of cooking it that can affect its texture.  So I resolve to try some cooking with tofu and see where it goes.

Very importantly, I’ve become more aware of my own personal danger zones:  namely drinking wine and watching TV.  If I avoid those two activities, I am less likely to fall off the healthy eating wagon.  If I combine them, though, watch out!  That’s exactly what I was doing when I dug out the peanuts the other night.  Lucky I didn’t have any chips around.

That’s another thing:  If you simply refrain from buying unhealthy foods in the first place — like chips and dips and cheese — when you do have a late-night food craving, the worst you’re going to do is eat, say, a bag of peanuts.  That beats a box of saltines with a block of cheese any day.

And even though my workout routine isn’t what you’d call strenuous, I do believe it is making a difference.  It feels good and it feels like something I can do without dreading going to the gym and suffering immensely after I’m done.  Over time, especially as I lose more weight, increase my stamina and build my muscle tone, I hope to do more, but for now it seems like what I’m doing is just fine.

There are challenges ahead:  more bad weather that portends being stuck bored and restless indoors; travel, which means less control over food choices and the potential for too much fun (i.e., eating and drinking); a planned visit with a very dear, fun friend who is also a Bad Influence; and of course the Superbowl!  (But I have a plan for that; more to follow later this week.)

So I will keep plugging along during Week 4 and doing the best I can without beating myself up about it.  Hopefully I will have more progress to report next week!