When I was a small child, my family often took the train to Chicago to visit family members. We would have meals in the dining car during the long trips. One day, my mother bought us breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, toast and bacon. I don't know if it was the movement of the train or if I was coming down with the flu or what, but I got very sick and I associated the illness with the scrambled eggs. Ever since that fateful train trip, I could never eat scrambled eggs again. In fact, up until very recently, the only way I ever enjoyed eggs was when they were hard-boiled – like Easter eggs. There was one exception. When I was nine years old, my mother sent my brother and I to Panama to visit family. My uncle, who was a chef, made a huge omelet for breakfast one day that contained veggies and chopped Vienna sausage. I remember enjoying that meal.
Despite the fond memories I have of that meal and that trip in general, to this day, I have never had a sunny side up or scrambled egg. Up until this year, I never had an omelette. Obviously, my negative experience on the train limited my exploration of dishes I could otherwise have been able to add to my food repertoire including, but not limited to, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, breakfast sandwiches containing eggs, omelettes, and frittatas. At first glance, this does not seem like a huge loss since the way those dishes are usually prepared can cause them to have more fat and calories than is recommended for someone pursuing weight loss. However, the invention of non-stick pans and butter-flavored cooking spray (among other things) allows us to make healthy, nutritious, filling, low-calorie and low-fat versions of those dishes.
Variety is not only the spice of life, but also one of the most powerful secret weapons of weight loss. If the only type of egg you can look forward to having is a hard-boiled egg, you are obviously severely limited because there is only so much one could do with a hard-boiled egg. You can have it whole, chop it up and put it into a salad, or make a deviled egg. Period. But, if you can open your mind (and your palate) enough to try different types of egg dishes, then the possibilities are endless. You could, for example, have an egg white omelette with veggies, or a healthy breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich to take with you on those days you have to race out the door. You could even have a quick egg dish for dinner instead of ordering takeout on one of those nights when you just can't face cooking some elaborate meal.
So what changed for me? Being on the WeightWatchers program and striving to incorporate at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day into my diet inspired me to look for low-calorie (and thus low point) foods that give me the most bang for my buck nutritionally, as well as new and innovative ways in which to prepare them so that I don't get bored and revert back to bad habits. My usual go-to weekday breakfast includes having oatmeal or whole grain cereal and a hard-boiled egg. To avoid having eggs seven days a week, I switch that up with having a breakfast sandwich made with turkey sausage and a slice of Galaxy Nutritional Foods Veggie Slices (pepper jack flavor). However, eating that, day in and day out is enough to make anyone crazy (and I don't need much help in that regard), so I came up with the oat bran pancake recipe you can find on my Recipes page, which I have with center cut bacon. I also began to actively look for other ways to incorporate protein into my breakfasts that didn't involve soy or dairy.
On a trip to New Orleans last year, my sister and I went to a restaurant for breakfast. It was a festival weekend and every open place in the French Quarter was packed to the rafters. The restaurant had a set breakfast menu and didn't offer hard-boiled eggs. I was hungry and, at my sister's urging, decided to try a fried egg with bacon, hash browns and whole wheat toast. Even though I instructed the waiter to make sure the egg was fried very hard, with no running yolk whatsoever, I seriously doubted that I would be able to eat it. However, I had an open enough mind to push aside my negative childhood associations and to try it with an adult palate. To my surprise, the egg was quite tasty and, since it was fried hard, the texture didn't bother me. I still avoided the yolk though.
Forcing myself to push past my lifelong aversion to eggs has opened up a whole new world for me. I have now added an Eggs and Veggies dish to my weekday breakfast repertoire that is nutritious, delicious, low-calorie and filling, and allows me to get two servings of vegetables in before I go off to work in the morning. As soon as I figure out how to perfect and accurately record the recipe for that dish, I will add it to my recipes page, so check back.
In this post, I focused on eggs to make my point, however these concepts apply to any foods you might be afraid to try or that you think you don't like because you didn't like them as a child, or that you may have specific beliefs about. For example, I knew a guy who believed that you only eat soup when you are sick. If this guy allowed this belief to stop him from eating soup at any other time, he would lose access to two secret weapons for weight loss: variety and the ability to fill up on low-calorie food (i.e. having a low-calorie soup with a sandwich or salad for lunch or having a low-calorie soup as a first course at a restaurant to take the edge off and avoid overeating the entrée).
I hope that my story inspires you to open your mind and your palate because variety is not only the spice of life, but one of the keys to weight loss and good health as well. Let me know if you make any progress in this area.