CRON - Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition

My Personal CRON Experience

I'm 50 (born in 1954) and have been practicing CRON since 1997. At that time I weighed 155 pounds; I've always been pretty slim (the most I ever weighed was about 170). Since 2000 I have maintained my ideal CRON weight of 132 pounds (give or take 2). I'm 5'10.5", my body fat is around 5%, BMI is about 19

My Calorie Profile: 1850/day (with approx. 350 used up in exercise)

Nutritional Profile: Low-fat, very low saturated & hydrogenated fat, high fiber, medium protein: 25% fat (<5% sat), 20% protein (85g), >45g fiber, >1g calcium, <140 mg cholesterol, <3g salt

Other: Moderate exercise: 1 to 1.5 hrs power walking per day, plus occasional running, stairs, push-ups, chin-ups, etc. plus long hikes. Good sleep (around 8 hrs), reduced stress.

Supplements I take (though I'm fairly skeptical about their effectiveness)

  • Vit B-complex (mix) 500 mg - Vit C 500 mg  - Vit E 600 iu - CoQ10 50 mg  - Pycnogenol 50 mg  - Garlic 1g - Calcium 500 mg - Magnesium 300 mg - Boron 1mg - Vit D 400 iu - Selenium 50 mcg - Chromium 75 - Mcg Zinc 1mcg

>> update: I stopped taking supplements in 2007 as I no longer believe that they offer measurable benefits if you eat a healthy (CRON) diet. In fact, some supplements have been shown to be harmful.

The Beginning:

I started CRON too aggressively - I lost weight too fast. For the first year or so I (unnecessarily) suffered from hunger - I should have eased into it more slowly, given my body more time to adjust. Other disadvantages were being cold more often, and having difficulty sitting comfortably. All of these discomforts disappeared over the following years.

Another mistake I made was not to obtain comprehensive biomarkers before I started - I only started getting tests a year later. I have since taken regular tests.

Reduced testosterone somewhat reduced my libido, and made me a bit more mellow in debate (both of which are not really undesirable for me, as I tended to be on the upper end of the scale).

I also experienced various other immediate benefits: Greater appreciation and enjoyment of food, fewer colds (stronger immune system), feeling fitter/ healthier, and of course lower blood pressure, and better blood lipids.

How I Improve my CRON Practice on an Ongoing Basis:

I make a point of learning the nutritional content of the foods I eat, and look for new nutritious foods that I like. Over the years I've become quite good at judging calories and quality of food.

During the first few years I maintained a (very) accurate food diary every 4 months or so for a period of about 3 weeks: Exactly what, and how much I ate every day. This diary was a spreadsheet I designed that accurately calculated the nutritional content of my meals. This gave me the information to tweak my eating habits to provide more optimal nutrition.

I slowly reduced my fat intake (especially sat & trans fats) while increasing fiber & nutrients. Over the years I have continuously discovered new healthy foods that I really like, while phasing out most unhealthy ones.

I very gradually reduce high cal and /or low nutrition components: eg. over 2 to 3 years from 2 tbs (!) sugar per 24 oz tea to 1/2 tsp, then to none; from 1/2 slice of full fat cheese per cracker to 1/8 slice low fat; from 2 tbs salad dressing to 1 tsp.

Strangely, and fortunately, I have found that my taste buds adjust, and food seems even tastier now - I'm now able to discern more subtle textures & flavors. I also simply don't enjoy food that is very fat, sweet, or heavy any more; nor do I feel like eating as much as before - my stomach has shrunk.

By now my habits have largely stabilized, though I still look for and discover new foods, ingredients, recipes, and restaurants all the time. I really love the food I now eat, and miss it when I can't get it.

My CRON Philosophy:

  • This is a lifestyle change - not a diet. Change (eating) habits slowly, but steadily. Implement changes that I'm happy to maintain indefinitely.
  • Make CRON a positive experience; it's not about what 'I shouldn't do or eat'. Focus on advantages. Experience and enjoy new, delicious foods.
  • Work out easy and convenient ways to practice CRON. No annoying special shopping, preparation, or cooking for me. Keep it simple and enjoyable.
  • There are no taboos: I can eat out, go to parties, have 'don't care' meals, whatever. Regular, habitual caloric and nutritional content counts, not the occasional 'heavy' treat.
  • Crowd out bad foods with good foods.
  • Eat a great variety of foods. I find it more enjoyable, plus I get a much better nutritional profile (less risk of missing crucial nutrients).
  • I don't beat myself up over limitations/ failures, but celebrate my CRON achievements.

How I Eat:

  • I hardly ever cook (unless you call tossing a salad, or steaming veggies cooking). I look for ready-to-eat, and low effort healthy foods that I like (see below).
  • I don't weight my food any more. I did that in the first few years (though not all the time) to educate myself. After a while you learn how many calories and what nutrients a given food portion has.
  • I buy virtually all my food at the local supermarket chain store - very little specialized food shopping.
  • Important: I have desirable food readily available, no junk food at home (Fruit on counter, veggies in fridge).
  • I eat numerous snacks all during the day, and usually one small to medium meal around 1 pm. I try not to eat a large meal late in the day.Drink lots of fluids (for hydration & hunger): Mainly hot black, green, or Rooibos tea (usually with a 50-100 cal snack). Also, cold water with lemon juice.
  • I eat out frequently. I carefully select my order - what I select, and changes I request. Minor adjustments can make a huge nutritional difference (sauces, dressing on the side, etc.).
  • I often share portions, and /or order a starter.
  • I stop eating when, or before I'm full. I leave or dispose of food I don't really like (even if it means wasting money - longevity is more important than saving a few dollars.)

What I Eat (typically):

  • Numerous snacks (6 or 7 per day) of tea together with low or non-fat crackers such Ryvita or Ak-Mak plus non-fat cottage cheese & tomato, peanut butter & banana, unsweetened applesauce, or some other topping.
  • Strawberries (about 8 to 16 oz), sometimes with a little plain, non-fat yogurt & a sprinkling of cereal.
  • Other fruit, including blueberries, pink grapefruit, dark grapes, orange, cherries, mango, or whatever else is seasonal - often on romaine lettuce with cottage cheese.
  • Other snacks: Almonds, raw carrots, red pepper, red cabbage, corn (air popped or on-the-cob), etc.
  • Several times a week I have salad - either at home or eating out (I have found a number of restaurants that have really great salads). Sometimes I'll have chicken-breast or turkey with it. One of my regular salads comprises spinach, mixed greens, tomato, red pepper, a few nuts & low-fat dressing ('Follow Your Heart' Low-Fat Ranch Dressing is great).
  • Several times a week I have steamed veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, tomato, onion or whatever else is available, topped with a little ground flaxseed and 'Follow Your Heart' dressing, or fat-free mayo ('Kraft' is great), or marinara sauce. May also add some turkey or chicken breast.
  • Salmon twice a week: Once at home, and once a week eating out: teriyaki, all sauces on the side.
  • Five bean chili soup
  • A great eating out option is 'Thai Lettuce Wraps' from the Cheese Cake Factory (believe it or not). I order it with half serving chicken, half serving portabella mushroom.

  • An occasional treat is steel-cut oats with skim-milk, banana, strawberries, raisins & cinnamon.
  • Once a month, I may have pasta, pizza, lox & bread or bagels, or a Thai rice noodles dish specially prepared for me with very little oil.
  • At times when I really feel like baking, I make a really yummy apple-raisin strudel with phyllo dough, virtually no fat (I have 2 servings of 110 cal ea - recipe avail.)
  • Another healthy recipe is a great coleslaw with raisins, non-fat mayo, non-fat yogurt (210 cal for a huge helping - recipe avail.)

In addition, I also have occasional (perhaps 10% of overall calories) sushi, Indian or German food, red meat, pasteries & various other healthy or unhealthy foods.

Lastly: What works for me, may not work for you. You'll have to discover your own CRON lifestyle that is practical, that you can maintain, and that you enjoy!

Peter Voss - updated April 09

Comments and suggestions always welcome: