On April first of this year, I received a wonderful surprise email. It was from Panera Bread – I was informed that I was entitled to one free bagel per day for the entire month of April. (see, Free Panera Bagel Every Day in April).
This offer was totally unsolicited — I had not entered any contest or signed up for this doughy promotion. Who am I to say no to a freebie so I embraced this gift with open arms (and belly).
I discovered the Asiago Cheese bagel. The. Asiago. Cheese. Bagel. Oh my! Was this heaven or what? So each day, on my way to work (conveniently, there’s a Panera right near my subway station), I’d pop in and get one of these puffy, delectable cheesy delights. I got it without butter or other condiment – the flavor was magnificent by itself. I’d leave, paper bag in hand and head downtown to my office. After the daily bagel, I kept lunch simple – something like a salad or veggie with some protein. I believed that this was a good and nutritious balance and each bagel was only 330 calories (at least that’s what’s reported on the Panera website). Plus, I eat pretty healthy foods and I exercise fairly regularly. A daily asiago bagel is so good, it can’t be bad, right?
I was wrong. Very wrong. After my month-long love affair with free Asiago Cheese Bagels, I learned the truth. The pastry is evil. It’s the work of Satan himself. I refused to get on a scale but man, did I feel thick and lethargic. The bagels were crack. I needed my fix – I had to have one every day! Yes, they were delicious but they bloated me up and made me tired and fat. Something clearly wasn’t right.
I didn’t quite realize this immediately. About one month after the end of the “free Panera bagel” extravaganza, without going on a scale, I knew something big had to be done.
Around the first of June, I changed my diet drastically to the MIND diet (similar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets) after learning that this brain-healthy diet (together with exercise, reduced stress and healthy sleep) can help reduce one’s odds of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. (I note that a close family member is battling dementia and I’m sure she’d want me to do everything in my power not to develop this horribly cruel, debilitating illness).
I embraced the MIND diet not solely as a diet but as a lifestyle change. To also lose weight, I cut out or drastically reduced my intake of nearly all carbs (especially breads, pastries and pastas) as well as sugars. I also ditched soda and artificial sweeteners (except stevia) and added almond milk to my coffee instead of milk. What did I eat? Lots of salad, fruits and berries, veggies, beans, fish, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and almonds.
How did I feel, you ask? I felt amazing and powerful!
I always bought into the “you need lots of carbs -especially as a runner” hype believing that carbs created or fueled energy. But here I was, consuming far less carbs than ever before and feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time (and I shed the damn “Asiago Bagel” and other weight as a byproduct).
I haven’t eaten a bagel since May and I don’t miss it at all. I should add two things. First, I’d felt weight creeping up on me even before the Panera debacle – that was just the icing on the bagel. Second, somewhere along the way, Dave has joined me on this health journey which has made the process easier (except for those days when he stops at Halal Guys and pours copious amounts of white sauce on his platter of mixed meat products).
What’s been interesting has been my experiences with traveling while maintaining or trying to maintain my diet. Stay tuned for Part 2 – traveling and dieting.