Dieting Meets Spreadsheets – Diet Day 25

One of the important aspects of the Take Shape For Life diet is the small meal replacements that you eat throughout the day. A typical day consists of five of these meal replacements and something called a “Lean & Green” meal, which is a protein and fresh vegetables that are portion controlled. The meal replacements are ordered through the program and they recommend getting a month’s worth to have food on hand and to save on shipping.

So far I have placed two orders each consisting of a month’s worth of food and I have only been on the diet for three weeks. Why do I have two month’s of food you ask? Well mostly because I was clueless when it came to what the food tasted like and which items would be convenient for me to eat daily.

In the first order I went very heavy on eggs and puddings according to what is left in the box. The eggs did not set well with me and I needed to place an order quickly in order to have replacements for the eggs. The pudding on the other hand I have no idea what I was thinking. Why I thought it would be a good idea to eat pudding twice a day for a month is beyond comprehension.

You would have thought that I would have learned from the first order and did a better job of managing the meals. No, it appears that I am incapable of learning bringing truth to the old adage that you really can’t teach old dogs new tricks. That’s not entirely true, the second order I didn’t get any eggs so I did learn a little.

The second order though seems extremely heavy on chicken noodle soup, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies for whatever reason. I’ve been on the diet long enough now that I have at least tasted most of the items and can tell which ones agree with me and which ones make me gag.

Over the weekend I began reviewing the contents of what is left of the two orders and trying to understand what my meal plan should be every day. I’ve decided that walking over to the box and randomly picking a package of food usually results in bizarre meal replacements. I can’t help but think that a day of chocolate chip pancakes, a chocolate crunch bar, a chocolate shake, a chocolate mint bar, and chocolate pudding is probably not the mental reinforcement that I need to begin making healthy choices.

One of my goals in this diet is not only to lose weight but also to begin to develop the skills necessary to choose the right foods in the right portions once I have completed the program to maintain the weight loss I am trying to achieve. I can promise you that after I am off this diet if I consume that much chocolate during the day it is not going to be a healthy day of eating.

I have never been one to conform to a lot of structure or rules so the idea of having pre-defined meals at specific times is not something I am comfortable with. Adding now the idea of menu planning and pre-deciding what I will eat in a given day is an entirely foreign concept. But I realized that is going to be necessary for my long-term health goals.

At first I considered just writing down what I ate as being enough structure but as you can see from the meals above that didn’t work out too well. No I needed to be more proactive in deciding what it is that I am going to eat.

Being a techno-geek I immediately began developing requirements for some software program where I could plug in a list of possible food combinations and it would spit out a list of what I should eat each day. After looking at the problem and analyzing the ideas for an application I had to admit I was trying to kill a mosquito with an elephant gun. I didn’t need to develop software to do this; it could be done with a simple spreadsheet.

I sat down with a blank spreadsheet and listed the dates along the left column of how long I think I will be on this diet to reach my optimum weight. Next across the columns I listed the five meal replacements along with the “Lean & Green” meal.

For each day and each mealtime I entered what I thought might sound good to eat. Shortly a pattern emerged of combinations that sounded good. I quickly repeated the patterns from week to week and soon my spreadsheet was built with a meal plan for the next two months.

Once I had the sheet filled out I went in and randomly tweaked some meal replacements to break up the pattern and give variety to my diet. I made sure that puddings and cookies were not together and that each day included breakfast and lunch items to get my body in the routine of eating those meals where I didn’t before.

When all the minor adjustments had been made I added a second spreadsheet where I listed each of the menu items from the first spreadsheet one per line. There were a total of 20 different food items I had selected from the Take Shape For Life catalog. With those items listed I did a few formulas, lookup tables, and threw in a pivot table just to impress the non-geeks in the audience. The result was how many of each type of food I needed for the remainder of my weight loss portion of the diet.

I then added a column for how many of each food item I needed to get through each upcoming week and month. This was compared against the inventory and resulted in two food orders that will be placed taking into account lead-time and shipping so that I won’t run out of food during a particular month.

The result is a meal plan where everything is laid out so that I can anticipate what I will be eating during a given day. I can pull those items from the box and those that need preparation time I can take that into consideration so that I will be able to manage the meal times as well as the meal contents.

Who would have thought that a spreadsheet might hold the key to obtaining my weight loss goals? I didn’t see that on any of the advertisements for Microsoft Office.


  1. Kevin says:

    I’m trying to develop a spreadsheet, but if I don’t have to re invent the wheel, I’d like to work off what you got. as far as layout etc. Any chances you could send me a copy?

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