"The turkey you're eating," my brother told me as I bit into my sandwich, "is actually tofu. And the cheese is actually rice cheese."
That's probably the most memorable thing I heard during week 21 of "The Money Diet." I was on a hike with my brother, Kevin, and we were sitting on a bench on the trail, somewhere in a forest in some park near Germantown, Ohio, overlooking a scenic river. We'd been hiking for about an hour when we decided to stop for lunch. This activity -- the hiking, not the eating of lunch -- was some time coming, and something I need to do more of.
As anyone who reads this column regularly knows, I'm in the midst of a quest to lose weight, and I've been primarily trying to do so by cutting out snacks and junk food and then, as motivation, adding up what I'm saving by not buying this stuff.
While it worked pretty well for awhile -- I lost 20 pounds then gained a few back -- I'm in my "plateau stage," as I like to call it. That, in a sense, is what brought me to the tick-infested woods in 87-degree weather, eating a rice cheese and tofu sandwich on low-calorie bread.
"Where do you even find this?" I asked Kevin. "I mean, this isn't bad. The tofu is surprisingly tasty, and I could even see me buying rice cheese."
"On the perimeter of the grocery store," said Kevin. "You know, around the walls. It's, like, a whole different grocery store there. We hardly ever go into the middle of the store any more."
"Wow, that's what the Food Cop told me," I said, adding, "She's this nutritionist I interviewed a few weeks ago for The Money Diet column thing I write. It's like you're channeling her."
For anyone looking to eat a healthier sandwich and unfamiliar with tofu and rice cheese, I can now tell you that it's tastier than you'd expect.
As for how I did this week, well, I still haven't lost any more weight, which I find mystifying. It seems like it's been years -- instead of weeks -- since I've been to a fast food restaurant for anything other than a diet soda -- and I've gone light on the snacks for months now. And, granted, it was just one hike, but it was about a three-hour hike across some really steep hills. In fact, I even had an Indiana Jones moment, in which I tripped, twisted in the air, fell on the ground and was suddenly clinging to a tree root. If I'd rolled over, off the path, I would have kept going down a 50-degree incline and landing either on another path, 20 feet down, or perhaps, another that was maybe 300 feet down. It wouldn't have been pretty.
But do the diet gods reward me for this? No. I haven't lost a thing. Here's how my weight, once again, looks:
My weight when I began: 264
My weight last week: 245
My weight this week: 245
But at least I have extra money this week. Here's what I think I saved.
I had two, day-long business trips this week, during which I drove from my house to a company about two hours away. In the old days, I would have grabbed breakfast at a fast food place and would have bought a snack on the way back. Other than Diet Coke, I purchased nothing, packing my own breakfast and ate no snacks. Total estimated savings, given that I had four opportunities to spend money: $14.
The day before my hike with my brother, I went to two parks with my oldest daughter. Then I treated her to some ice cream and bought nothing for myself. Savings: $1.99.
On the day I went hiking with my brother, I was invited to a dine-in restaurant with my parents, grandmother and some relatives. It's a monthly thing, but Kevin and I decided to do our hike instead. While the restaurant wasn't really a fast food joint, it does serve burgers and fries, which I probably would have ordered, so I'm better off, nutritionally speaking, for having skipped it. Estimated savings: $8.
I went to the grocery store at least twice this week, and I avoided buying chips and candy, two of my weaknesses in the past. The worst thing I believe I purchased were some fiber bars to snack on. Estimated savings: $6.
My total saved this week: $29.99
Total saved this year, so far: $438.11
What's really troubling is that I'm on the verge of driving several states away, to Milwaukee, to be in a wedding with a bunch of my old college friends. Not only will I show up at this unofficial, almost 20-year college reunion not looking slim and trim, but there'll likely be plenty of opportunities to eat high-calorie, delicious but unhealthy foods. Oh, joy.
Geoff Williams is a regular at WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.
The Money Diet, week 21: Exercising, Indiana Jones-style