Monday, May 6, 2013

One Month in Tony Horton's Kitchen!

If anyone knows anything about me, its that: (1) I love to eat and (2) I can eat put away rather large quantities of food at one time- such is my struggle with nutrition. I try to eat well, but cannot sustain it. If I eat healthy for dinner, an hour later, you'll find me raiding the snack drawer. Since taking up running in 2010, I have not lost (nor really gained, thankfully) a single pound. 205, give or take, is where I reside. The true testament of how much nutrition dictates your weight, so much more so, than excercise does.

So, enter: Tony Horton Kitchen, a (relatively) new food delivery service by fitness guru, Tony Horton, the creator of the ever popular, P90X. THK provides healthy prepared meals and takes the guesswork out of nutrition. One month ago, I took the plunge. Why? While dealing with an ankle injury for more than 2 months (starting Dec '12), at which time I did very little activity, I ended up putting on about 10 pounds. I knew with my track record of eating and nutrition, even with the ankle issues resolved, there was very little chance of taking those 10 pounds off without help. I also knew if I didnt take these extra 10 pounds off, it would likely lead to another injury. This seemed like the perfect time to give this a try and get my nutrition in order.
I also looked at how much I was spending on food. For the "flexitarian" plan (which includes chicken, fish and some beef) is $180 per week for the 5 day plan, $252 for 7-day, which rounds out to $36/day- which is the most expensive of the 3 plans (others being Vegan and Vegetarian). Some will look at that and completely jump out of their skin and say it is too expensive. While true for some, have we all taken a magnifying glass to how we spend on food? Adding up how much I was spending on eating out, ordering in, groceries and lunch during the work week, the amount I was spending was shockingly close to how much THK would cost. Realizing this, the decision to take the plunge was a no-brainer. Ultimately, the cost may be a bit higher, but that was something I was willing to pay for: convenience. No prepping meals. No trips to the grocery store (ok, less trips).

The other angle is: this is your health we're talking about here. We spend all this money on ourselves to make ourselves look better (clothes, gadgets, etc). Why not spend a little on our health?

Onto what you're probably most interested about- the actual food. Let me tell you, no one could be more skeptical about this than me. One who could easily polish off a pie of pizza on my own, wondering if Tony Horton could provide a meal that could satisfy my seemingly unsatiable appetite? And keep me full until the next meal? No easy challenge.

The first delivery arrives on a Friday evening and its packed really well (did I mention its free shipping? a 25+lb package, shipped free? no way!), with ice packs still frozen! After putting all the meals in the fridge, I excitedly tear open what would be Monday's dinner (since I already had dinner plans) and quickly take the leap. Heating is simple- either by microwave, oven or stovetop- I chose stovetop; once that's done, you're ready to go. Directions also indicate that you can "spice to taste". My usual aresnal of spices: any combination of salt, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper.

First meal: Lentil Soup with Plantains. What? Where's the meat, Tony Horton!? You've got to be kidding me! Ok, fine, I trust you Tony. First taste, hmm, okay, its not bad. I'll admit, a little bland, but doable. Though it wasn't terrible, I totally wouldnt have minded a burger or steak. But you know what, it really wasnt quite as bad as I thought it would be. The thing was, though I wasn't hungry anymore, I was nowhere near what I would normally consider as "full", which, again, for those that know me, is- until I cannot eat any more. So that is where my skepticsm was. The "testimonials" on the website and some commenters on their facebook page (most which are women) all said that the meals would leave them "stuffed". The meal definitely did not leave me "stuffed", but to my surprise, I was not starving (but was a little hungry) when I went to bed. Whew.

For the next day (Saturday), I decided I would do all of the following Friday's meals. Thought it would be a wise idea to try this out on a day where I had nothing else planned, so I would be home. Less temptation to run out to grab a bag of chips. Or Twinkies. Or a doughnut, mmmmm, doughnut.

Breakfast was Mixed Vegetable Egg White Frittata, which is essentially a veggie egg white omlette. I chose to heat this one up via regular oven, and it left the outside a little crisp and dry, while still leaving the inside not quite as hot as I would have liked. I added salt and tabasco to this. I normally dont mind veggies, but I was just not a fan of one of the ingredients, I want to say its the onions, since that is my least favorite. All in all, again, not great, but not bad. I did supplement with coffee and a handful of cereal. Level of fullness, on a scale between 1 (least full) and 5 (most full), I'd say I was a 2.

Lunch is where it picked up a bit. Italian Vegetable Lasagna with Beef Ragu. FINALLY! Some "real" food! THK uses brown rice pasta here (quinoa pasta other times), since they are gluten-free. The tomato sauce was really good and really tasty, with ground beef (grass-fed) in it. All I added was crushed red pepper. The only thing I disliked here was that there wasnt enough! Again, I was no where near "stuffed", but was a solid 2.

Dinner that night was Black Eyed Pea Minestrone Stew. Not much is different here- flavor was decent, added some salt and white pepper to liven things up a little. And again left me at about a 2.

With the "flexitarian" option, your meat is included for lunch and is usually chicken or fish (cod, salmon are the most common). Thankfully, I'm a big fan of fish. If you're not, this will not be for you. A lot of the dinners are stews/soups or similar. That may be by design, so you're not eating as much for your last meal of the day. That initially was not enough, but after the first week or so, its been plenty.

My favorites are definitely the pasta dishes and most of the ones that include fish. The apple strudel for breakfast is great also. Least favorite so far (and thankfully only had it twice in the 4 weeks)- veggie purees. It was probably the consistency, but c'mon THK, I'm an adult. Feed me solid foods! I felt like I was eating baby food. It was very hard to stomach. The other thing is that a lot of the dishes (usually the dinners) start to taste the same, but can be helped by adding different spices. Considering a lot of the dishes use similar ingredients, this is not entirely a surprise. Thankfully, I dont require much variety in my meals. If you do, this may be a problem.

I am supplementing a bit, mainly at breakfast. For the "non-frittata" breakfasts, I will add egg whites to supplement. Also need my morning coffee (with cream and sugar, yes, bad, I know!). As mentioned above, I do a bit of running, and most of it is after work. Since I'm eating lunch around 1pm, and runs start a little before 6pm, I do need a little snack. I've been going with fruit (banana, strawberries, apple, etc) or a Larabar, or almonds. Sometimes also a PM coffee (again, with cream and sugar). Some meals will allow me to go straight through without a snack, but is not common. And keep in mind I'm only supplementing in the PM on the days I run, about 2-3 days a week. After a run, I'll have a recovery shake- protein powder, sugar, salt, water.

The Bottom Line
So after 4 weeks of THK, how has it helped me? Here goes:

(1) the 10 pounds I needed to lose? Yea, GONE! (214, 24% fat, down to 203.4, 21.5% fat)

(2) Portion control. This is what was hardest for me, but also means its had the greatest impact. If the food is there, I'm going to eat it. If I'm not full yet, I'll keep eating. This eliminated both- and thus, the weight loss. I feel like I can eat more, but I cant (since there isnt anything left!). It defnitely doesnt take as much as it used to to satisfy my hunger AND keep me full until the next meal.

(3) Decreased cravings. No desire for a chocolate chip cooke from Pret, a Twinkie, or a doughnut (mmmm...doughnut...)! But notice I said "decreased" and not eliminated. I do still treat myself once in a while (even Tony does this!).

(4) I no longer think about food. I defintiely went from "Live to Eat" to "Eat to Live". I'll admit, that first day (listed above), I was thinking about food, ALL DAY. All that was on my mind was when the next time I got to eat was. As the days, then weeks went by, I thought about food less and less, to the point where I dont even wonder when my next meal is.

(5) Detox. Since I'm on the 5-day plan, there are still 2 days where I need to fend for myself. Sometimes, old habits will sneak back and I'll either over eat, or eat bad foods, or both. I find myself wanting to get back onto THK meals to get my body back in order.

You're not getting 5-star restaurant, gourmet chef type food here. What you are getting, is "Delicious, nutrient-rich meals delivered to your door"- which is gluten-free, dairy-free, and organic. It started off shaky for me, but my body did need time to adjust (you dont undo 30 years of bad eating in a day!). These meals won't knock your socks off, but you know what? If this can transform the nutritional mindset of a 6 foot, 200+ pound guy, with an enormous appetite - this will work for you.