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Eat happy: A boot-camp approach to cleaning up my eating habits

10 things I did to try to "eat very right"

by Gretchen Rubin  |  10458 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Recently I resolved to “Eat very right.” I wouldn’t be able to eat this right forever – and I wouldn’t even try -- but I decided to take a boot-camp of approach to cleaning up my eating habits.

1. No sweets. Not even a bite. I gave up my beloved Tasti D-Lite -- ah, I miss it. I’d already pretty much given up food like cookies and cupcakes, but boy, I do love to eat candy. For mini Tootsie-Rolls, peppermint patties, butterscotch disks, etc. I’ll have to wait until November.

2. When possible, choose fruits and vegetables, and after that, lean protein. So if I have a choice between rice and roasted vegetables, I choose vegetables. If I have a choice between pasta and fish, I choose fish.

3. Only one bowl of cereal a day. I love cereal and would eat it at every meal. Also, I do the bottomless-cereal-bowl trick, where I eat all the cereal, and when I see the milk that’s left over, I fill the bowl with cereal again to use it up. Not this month.

4. Nothing in the cracker/pretzel family.

5. Keep tempting food in an inconvenient place, keep healthy food in a convenient place. When I’m hungry, everything looks good. If I see a lovely fruit salad ready to eat in the fridge, that’s what I’ll want to eat.

6. No juice and no alcohol.

7. No “bites” of other people’s food. I take one bite of the Little Girl’s grilled-cheese sandwich, then another, and then pretty soon I’ve eaten half a sandwich.

8. Eat at home whenever possible. My brother-in-law worked at a restaurant, and he told me that whatever you might order, and however it might be prepared, it has tons of butter on it.

9. No bread from a bread basket, and no bread as a snack. Well, except that sometimes, when I really need a quick, fast snack that I can eat on the run, I toast a whole-wheat pita pocket and eat that.

10. Don't eat when I'm not hungry; eat as soon as I do get hungry.

When I told my sister about the changes I was making, she said, “You basically eat very well. Why cut this stuff out altogether? You can have treats once in a while. It’s a more sustainable way to eat.”

Well, yes and no. I wouldn’t want to try to live by these rules forever, but the fact is, it’s easier for me to give things up altogether than to indulge moderately. I agree with Samuel Johnson, who wrote, “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.”

Take Tasti D-Lite, which I was eating twice, sometimes three times, a day. It’s easier for me to give up Tasti D-Lite altogether than to eat it three times a week. I’d spend way too much energy thinking about whether I should have it today, or tomorrow; or now, or later this afternoon; or whether this cone should “count” or whether I should get a freebie for some reason. For me, a happier approach is to give it up altogether, so I don’t fret about it.

About the Author

In her blog, The Happiness Project (, Gretchen Rubin recounts her daily adventures as she test-drives the wisdom of the ages and current scientific research about how to be happier.

Read more by Gretchen Rubin

4 comments so far...

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    Flag as inappropriate Posted by llzzmm9 on 3rd September 2011

  • I believe that cleaning up your diet is a great way to lose weight. I have always had a clean diet and worked out, my boyfriend is a personal trainer and he says this is key.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Pandora on 20th January 2011

  • Thanks, i thought I am one of those few strange women who find it tough to lose weight. I have also started a diet regime to keep off the high cal food...its been almost 10 -15 days now and my weighing scale only has shifted by 2 pounds!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by early_quick on 8th September 2009

  • Thanks for this. I am going back to Basic myself - I get up at 4am every morning and do PT (even don my Army PT uniform to do it) outside in the early morning darkness. I'm sure my neighbors think I'm nuts. That being said, my approach to a basic training diet was way more stringent than what you've outlined. Given that most hot, military food is inedible at best, I survived off of cereal (three bowls a day) and salad. Cereal for breakfast and then add a salad for lunch and dinner using the safest looking items on the salad bar.

    My reality is that, if I'm not marching everywhere from dusk til dawn on top of pretending that my cooking is as bad as the DFAC, my "Back to Basic" routine won't have the same yield that real military training and deployments do...but it will - and has - given results. Truly, it's about sustaining the mindset, not the austere lifestyle. If I could do it for months at a time in a military environment, then I can change my mindset at home and fall into a similar routine, right?

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Phe on 19th May 2009