Money Diet, week 13: Progress, finally...

Money DietThere's an episode from the last season of King of Queens that I kept thinking about this week. Doug Heffernan, played with impeccable comic timing by Kevin James, is a character who loves his fast food burgers, chips and other assorted junk foods. Well, in this particular episode, he almost hits a chicken on the highway, and then he winds up adopting the bird as a pet.

Suddenly the thought of eating chicken or any meat appalls him. So he becomes a vegetarian, and pretty much overnight, as I recall, without all of those burgers and chips coursing through his body, he turns into this intellectual who enjoys crossword puzzles and reading, and not comic books but actual novels with feeling and depth.
But then as you're watching the show, you suddenly realize that Doug's doomed because there are some fast food restaurants concocting these amazingly delicious burgers. Doug succumbs, of course, and goes back to his gluttonous ways.

I kept thinking about that episode because here I am, in week 13 of "The Money Diet," and I saw two amazing looking burgers at two different fast food outlets, and really, really wanted them, and somehow managed to not order them.

But before I go on, if this is your first time reading "The Money Diet," here's the scoop: Every Friday, since Jan. 1, I've been writing about my attempt to lose weight. I've been adding up the money I save not buying fast food and junk food, and then, of course, fervently hoping that along with expanding my checking account, maybe I'll shrink my waistline.

At first, the diet worked beautifully. I lost 11 pounds in the first week. Apparently, my body went into some sort of shock, no longer getting a steady supply of Doritos, pretzels, Pringles, fast food burgers and fries, Coca-Cola and whatever else I was typically consuming.

After that, I lost a little more, and had one week where I gained some, and then I lost a bit more, and then had quite a plateau where nothing much was happening. Then last week, I lost half a pound but feared it was a fluke.

Well, not ordering the two burgers I saw (more on those in a moment), and trying to watch what I'm eating in general, and trying to exercise a little more, has all apparently paid off. At least, this week, it did.

I have lost two more pounds.

So here's how my weight's looking now.

My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 246.5
My weight this week: 244.5

I have to admit, I was pretty excited to lose these two pounds. Several days ago, I found myself at 245 pounds and thought, "Boy, if I can just maintain this weight until I write the column..." And to my surprise, the morning I wrote the column, I had shed another half pound. It was nice to think, "Hey, I'm on a roll," instead of, "Hey, I'd like a roll."

So about those burgers. Last weekend, I took my daughters to a park, and my wife called on the cell phone and suggested I pick something up to eat. Foolishly, I let my daughters choose where we'd go pick up our food, and my oldest voted for Burger King, and my youngest, McDonald's. So off we went.

But at Burger King's drive-through, I found myself longingly staring at their A.1 Steakhouse XT Burger. I'm not sure how long it's been on the menu, but it was as if we had met for the first time. I couldn't remember seeing anything quite like it. As their Web site says, it's "an extra-thick flame-broiled 7 oz. beef patty topped with mayo, crispy onions, A.1 Thick & Hearty Steak Sauce, plus American cheese, lettuce and red-ripe tomatoes."

And the photo on the drive-through menu? Well, it was like food porn. Suddenly, I wanted her -- I mean, it -- at all costs.

Order it without the fries, my little voice urged. Cut out the fries, and you'll be fine. That's what you've done in the past.

Yeah, and maybe that's why I haven't lost more weight. I don't know... my reasoned part of my brain stammered. It looks pretty potent.

It's dinner time, my evil little voice pointed out. You deserve this. And you haven't lost much weight lately, have you? All the reason to not deprive yourself. If the diet isn't working, why keep at this?


And you could get a Diet Coke, my evil voice suggested helpfully, and off-set some of the damage.

My kids will notice. They know I'm on this diet. What will they think if they see me cavorting with this hot young dish? What will my wife think?

Then you could come back for it. Nobody would have to know...

I would know. So I ordered for my daughter and drove off to McDonald's and picked up some food for my youngest daughter and my wife.

And then days later, when I was looking up the XT burger online, I saw the nutrients associated with it, and what I managed to avoid. I'm not really sure what it's like to have a chill run up your spine, but I think that's what happened when I looked everything over:
  • 61 grams of fat.
  • 970 calories.
  • 1,930 mg of sodium.
Wow, maybe if I were 20 years younger, with a faster metabolism, I might try that burger, but clearly, the XT is out of my league.

And then everything was going fine for several days, and I forgot about cheating on my diet, until the evening before writing all of this, I stopped at a Wendy's with my two daughters, after another visit at a park and a rousing game of tag. I bought my youngest a kid's size Frosty and found myself staring at the drive-through menu. Wendy's has something fairly new, called the Bacon & Blue Hamburger.

Once again, I was in love... and considered ordering it on the spot, since, well, I had surely lost of a lot of calories in that game of tag.

This burger is slathered in "blue cheese crumbles," according to its Web site, "layered with four strips of thick, fresh-cooked Applewood Smoked Bacon." Not to mention onions, a creamy steakhouse sauce, tomato... The photo on the drive-through menu once again had me wanting to push my diet to the side and start a steamy, sordid affair on the side with this burger.

Well, again, judging from the nutritional information on the Web site, it's just as well that I didn't get this, too. It's nowhere near what the XT Burger is, but still...
  • 40 grams of fat.
  • 680 calories.
  • 1,390 mg of sodium.
So, yeah, I'm glad I didn't fall for temptation, and I definitely saved some money in the process.

And, by the way, after picking up that Frosty, I bought my oldest daughter some ice cream at Dairy Queen. Once again, I didn't buy anything.

Yeah, it was a long week.

So here's my weekly list of what foods I avoided and how much I believe I have saved:
  • Not buying the Burger King combo value meal with the XT burger. Savings (and maybe it's more in other parts of the country): $6.29
  • Not buying the Bacon & Blue Burger at Wendy's. Savings: $4.29
  • I didn't buy a Blizzard at Dairy Queen (not that I have anything against that; you have to live sometime). Estimated savings: $3
  • Avoiding yet again the two bags of pretzels that I used to buy every week. Savings: $3.29.
  • Not raiding my wife's stash of soda: $4
  • Not raiding any of my kids' snacks that we have at the house. Estimated savings -- hard to tell, let's say: $3
  • Didn't buy a giant bag of Doritos that I almost talked myself into because, hey, I had been good at other times during the week. Estimated savings: $4
There might be more examples I'm forgetting, but those are the significant moments.

So, yeah, two pounds this week. It was a good week, and I'm proud that, unlike Doug Heffernan, I didn't succumb to the whims of fast food.

Is it pathetic that I'm now bragging that my willpower is stronger than the willpower of a fictional television character? Yeah, probably, but please let me have my moment.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book, "Living Well with Bad Credit."
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