Donna

 is a 25-year-old newlywed from Tacoma. By day, she worked for a non-profit focused on providing aid to Africa. Her new husband had lost 90 pounds prior to their engagement; eighteen months later, he’d gained it all back.

Before the project: At night, she struggled to try to stick to her Weight Watchers diet, an increasingly difficult task as her husband sunk into a regime of fast and frozen food. “I can be as good as I can all day but then at night, it becomes a free-for-all,” she said. Her inability to cook meant that she felt resigned to eat whatever he did. Their freezer held industrial-sized bags of heat-and-serve snacks, such as chicken nuggets and pizza. Much to her dismay, her husband insisted on buying produce in bulk. On our visit, we found three brown heads of iceberg lettuce. The color rose in her face as she got angry. “I mean, I work trying to feed kids in Africa, and we’re wasting food.” She made a hearty hamburger-based dish with canned soup, tomatoes and beans, topped with cheese, a dish that did not require using a knife. She felt so inadequate about her knife skills that she bought vegetables frozen “because they’re already cut up.”

After the project: Donna reported that she and her husband essentially kept to their own diets. “He eats mostly frozen food now, and I don’t want that.” So she started to cook on Sunday afternoons. She prepares most of her food for the week, and then packs it into individual servings for lunch and dinner. Her rotation stays fairly constant, vegetable chili and simple soups. She buys mostly organic produce from a nearby farmstead. “It’s more expensive, but I waste less and my husband has been supportive of that.” Her approach helped her 10 pounds in three months.

Donna’s takeaway: “In cooking, I found a solution to the struggle that I’ve had with weight for so many years. I used to be afraid of cooking. It’s like anything. Once you do it, you wonder, what were you so afraid of?”

Most impactful lessons: Knife skills, whole chicken, inexpensive meats/braising

Videos:
(All are from our initial home visit. They will open in a new window on YouTube.)

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