Money Diet, Week 14: Comments and children and snacks, oh my

Money DietJellybeans, hollow chocolate rabbits, an Easter ham, a few dozen, dyed, hard-boiled eggs that later became egg salad: Considering all the ways I could have sabotaged my diet this week, I'm feeling pretty victorious. No, I didn't lose any weight this week, but I didn't gain any, either.

Welcome to Week 14 of what I call "The Money Diet." As regular readers know (if I have any regular readers), since January 1, 2010, I've been adding up what I'm saving every time I avoid eating snack food and junk food. I'm sure there are better, more effective diets out there, but it's worked out pretty well for me so far. I've lost 19.5 pounds this year and theoretically saved more than $200 (I say theoretically because sometimes, instead of buying, say, chips, I'm buying fiber bars and nonfat yogurt, which aren't cheap; on the other hand, sometimes I simply don't buy anything, so I know I'm saving something).

Not much has happened this past week, since during most of it, I've had a nagging cough and haven't really been in a position to snack and wolf down junk food. I haven't been out, driving down the road, seriously tempted by any fast food restaurants, for instance. And I skipped an Easter get-together and feast at my parents' house, which probably saved me a lot of calories. Nope, instead, I stayed home.

And as luck would have it, last week's "Money Diet" ran on the Welcome Screen of AOL on Easter Sunday, and I received about two dozen comments, more than the usual three or four I might get. A few of the comments were off-the-charts nice ("Geoff, this was one of the best articles I've read on dieting of any sort") while others were witty and insightful. One reader said, and I wish had thought of this, "The first irony of losing weight in this country is that people make a profit by making us eat LESS."

And then some comments were a little more biting. One woman, and I can't find her comment anywhere, so maybe it was deleted or perhaps she didn't activate it -- but I know I read it -- said that subjecting my children to fast food outlets will, in the future, be considered "child abuse." Yeah, nothing like sitting at your computer on Easter Sunday, feeling sick and being equated with a child abuser -- or, worse yet, a murderer. One woman said, "Shame on you for buying the death food for your family."

It was interesting reading, I'll give them that, and I completely agree that parents need to watch what their kids eat. And I concede that the Williams' household could do better with our daughters' diet than we've been doing. We probably average one meal at a fast food restaurant every week, and maybe that's too much. And while we often have bananas and grapes on hand, I'm not going to lie, because at any given moment, we generally have something along the lines of Oreos or potato chips in the house, too.

On the other hand, my six-year-old's favorite drink is water, and she doesn't like soda pop. My oldest, who's eight and who does like soda pop, probably only drinks it once or twice a week, and never finishes what she's given. Our kids could eat and drink more nutritiously, to be sure, but they could definitely be doing a whole lot worse.

And it's so tricky to straddle that happy medium. I don't want to let my kids run amok in candy stores, but I also don't want to put an iron fist down and outlaw snacks, possibly causing them to dive into the snack food cupboard every chance they get when we aren't around or make them paranoid about everything they put in their mouths. My kids are well aware of my attempts to lose weight, and we're constantly talking about eating healthier. But I think both my wife and I were a bit alarmed when our oldest daughter said she didn't want chocolate in her Easter basket because it might make her fat.

We told her (truthfully) that she had nothing to worry about and made sure there was some chocolate (but not a lot) in her basket. In any case, I don't have the answer when it comes to how much -- a little? absolutely none? -- snack food and fast food children should have.

In any case, the reader comments must have gotten to me in some fashion because I didn't take our kids to a fast food restaurant last week, and I have a sneaking suspicion that our next fast food outing will be Subway, which, of course, has a reputation for being volumes healthier than their competition.

Anyway, to get to my weekly recount, here's what I believe I saved this week by staying away from junk food and fast food. As I mentioned, this won't be a long list:
  • The day before Easter, we went to the movies. My wife and oldest daughter saw Alice in Wonderland, and I took our youngest to see How to Train a Dragon (the 2D version, and it was very entertaining, in case you're wondering). I think my oldest shared popcorn with my wife. Our youngest daughter had a bag of Starburst (and, no, I swear, she didn't eat the entire bag). I bought nothing, although I did end up eating one Starburst during the movie. Estimated savings, since I didn't buy soda or candy, which was what I would have purchased in the past: $7.
  • Every week, I mention how I didn't buy my favorite two bags of pretzels (you buy one, and you get a second bag for free). Well, this time, I wound up buying some pretzels -- purchasing one bag of hard crunchy pretzels for $2.29, which is a dollar cheaper than what I used to buy. So I saved $1, but more importantly, I practiced this crazy new concept called portion control. I kept the bag in the kitchen, instead of in my desk drawer, and shared a few pretzels with my kids. The bag lasted three days, which may still not be great, but for me, who can go through one bag in 24 hours, this is a big milestone.
  • We have some ice cream sandwiches in the refrigerator, and a few nights this week, I've been tempted to take one, reasoning that the ice cream might just be what my sore throat needs. But I haven't touched them yet. Since there are eight in a package and the package cost $2.99, if I'm doing my math right, that's a saving of...$0.37 per sandwich. But I guess since I had two nights when I wanted one but didn't indulge my craving, I'll put that down as saving $0.74.
So that comes to...

My total saved this week: $10.03
Total saved this year so far: $320.00

And my weight (ah, the most "fun" part of this column).

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

Read previous Money Diet articles

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