How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

This is a guest post by Tracy, aka Crazed Veggie, who blogs about bentos, amigurumi and personal rants and raves at She’s lost 50 pounds (22.7 kg) so far since June of last year, and uses bentos as part of her successful weight loss program!


The story goes a little something like this. I’ve been overweight all my life. Struggling with the weight had been an everyday thing and I’ve never known anything different. Two years ago I decided to become vegetarian. I did this due to ethical reasons (I just couldn’t go on knowing that an animal had to die for me to shove food in my mouth!). Once I became dedicated and seen how easy it was for me to make such a massive change in my food habits, I decided that I was going to watch everything that I ate and not destroy my body any longer. I joined a calorie counting website and went on a mission to lose weight. That was June of 2008, and so far I’ve lost 50 pounds! 

I began incorporating bento box making into my weight loss program in January. As soon as I began researching the history behind them and the many websites and blogs dedicated to them, I knew this was something that I just had to be a part of. 

We all know that they make it so much easier to stay in control of portion size which is essential to any diet regimen. For me, it goes so much deeper, almost emotionally. Because I’ve always associated food with happiness, seeing something in front of me that looks appealing, is healthy and colorful, and I know I put time and effort into, makes me feel just as happy as I’d be eating a cupcake or a piece of chocolate. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than I ever have before, thanks to the little spots in my bentos that need a little splash of color.


This colorful bento by Tracy features homemade pizza, salad with low-cal dressing, apple bunnies and a checkerboard pattern apple.
Total: 280 calories.

  Bento making also is allowing me to explore food options that I’d never even think of getting into two years ago. I love finding a book or website on making my own veggie sushi. I love trying out a new recipe on my husband and him looking at me in disbelief that I even knew anything about the ingredients we were eating, but that I actually made it myself!  It’s exciting, and very addicting!  I read something one time that if you do something 30 days in a row that it then becomes a habit. Well this is my new habit!  

I feel so much better in everything I do. I have so much more energy and my entire outlook on life has improved. I’m eating healthy. I’m loving animals. I’m doing a little part to save the environment. Yep, life is good!  This just goes to show that you can do anything that you set your mind to and you can not be successful by continuing to feel sorry for yourself and by using words like “I can’t!” when you know full well that “You can!”. If an overweight-meat eating-cupcake lover, who’s idea of a gourmet meal came from a box or the freezer, can make such massive changes in her life - anyone can!


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Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Good for you Tracy!

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Could Tracy comment on which website she signed up for? There are alot of them out there for diets/calorie counting and sometimes choosing 1 is a bit mind-numbing. Just wondering which one she found she liked.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Hi Jenn -- the calorie counting site that I use is on There is a great community there and great tools. We have a little Bento group that does lunch challenges. The application is easy to use and there are many ways to look up food calories or to add your own entries in. It's definitely worked brilliantly for me. Good luck!

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I think it's great that Tracy turned the tide on her weight, but I can't be the only one who gets tired of hearing about *why* people became vegetarians. When you say that you became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, all of the people like me, who pondered the ethics of eating meat, and came to the conclusion that it's not unethical, sighed at the same time. Admittedly, that's probably only like 5 people....

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

As a vegetarian, I find that if I try to get past saying I'm a vegetarian without mentioning why, people almost invariably ask anyway. *facepalm* I lie by omission and don't mention the ethical issues - picked up, btw, in a class taught by a professor who also owns sheep - because that's not exactly polite conversation when you get down to it.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I think the old school vegetarians who have gotten tired of being asked about it usually say that they've been vegetarian for so long that they don't really like the smell or taste of meat anymore... or that they've noticed that they don't feel very well after eating meat. Not that I'm trying to get you to lie or anything... but I always wondered how somebody could dislike the taste of meat... it just seems so unlikely to me.

I probably just overreacted to Tracy's post today because of the oh-so-many times I've been eating something deliciously meaty only to be told by a tablemate that he or she has become vegetarian because of ethical reasons. They don't do it maliciously, but I always feel made out to be king of the sinners or something.

And I think it's strange, too, because even from my view, eating meat IS kinda unethical from the broader standpoint that if we ever feed a cow food that could have gone to a human, then maybe somebody is going hungry. But I've never met a vegetarian who presented that reason to me.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I was an omnivore despite having a vegetarian mother (since birth), sister, and husband... until January of this year when I finally took the plunge after realizing that it wasn't worth it to me to keep eating meat. Believe it or not, the ethical (and environmental) reasons were only a part of it... meat really did made me sick after eating it on such a seldom basis! I call it the Survivor effect (watch the show to see what I mean... it's not pretty).

Want to hear a crazy reason why I'm a vegetarian? I don't enjoy meat. You do. I've given up my carnivorous rights so that you can continue to exercise yours. Go ahead and eat animals... as long as you don't bug me for not doing the same, we're cool.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

actually.. i was an omnivore and i still am. i love meat. but there was a period where i hadnt had meat for 4 weeks and the smell of meat really did repulse me. please dont hammer others when they try to explain how they feel just because it isnt parallel with your beliefs.. for those who want to get back on meat but find the smell disturbing try white meat with a heavily flavoured sauce/marinade.. it was the first meat i could put in my mouth after the hiatus.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I don't see why you should feel as though you are being made out to be a "sinner" when someone says they are veggie for "ethical" reasons; we all have our own ways of formulating our ethical principles and there is no universally right or wrong set of ethics (well, OK, there are probably a few we could all agree on, but beyond the really obvious ones there are no universals). I bet you have friends who hold different moral values to you, but I'm sure you don't judge them too harshly on this basis.

I am a veggie for mostly "ethical reasons" but I don't judge non-veggies as being unethical, I just consider that they have different ideas about the rights & wrongs of eating meat to me. I have many non-veggie friends and it would never cross my mind to think of them as being morally inferior. Of course, there are a few "holier than thou" vegetarians who do feel this way, but it is usually pretty obvious that they are being judgemental. If someone is simply explaining their reasons for not eating meat, it's unlikely they are thinking that you are "king of the sinners"!!

Having said that (and I promise I am not trying to make you feel bad by saying this!), the fact that you react so strongly to people explaining the ethical basis of their vegetarianism makes me wonder if perhaps you do have some underlying sense of "guilt" about eating meat. People do tend to get most defensive about things which they subconsciously feel bad about. On the other hand, perhaps you are just someone who is very sensitive to the perceived moral judgements of others, and this has nothing to do with meat specifically! Sorry for the amateur psychoanalysis, I'll shut up now before I dig the hole any deeper.

p.s. Many vegetarians I know do list the inefficiencies of producing meat as one of their reasons for their choice; it takes a lot more input (in terms of raw food materials, energy, land use etc) to produce meat than it does to produce an equivalent amount of vegetable protein.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

It wasn't the main topic of the post but I always feel the need to tell people why I do it. Me being vegetarian isn't the reason why I lost as much weight as I have. Joe - my husband is an omnivore and I don't hold it against him, so I won't hold it against you. :D

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

It is funny that (some) people expect vegetarians to be hostile and intent on forcing their views on vegetarianism/veganism on everyone else they come into contact with. And in all fairness there are some out there, but I have not come across all that many. Most of us do not even say anything other than, no thanks when offered meat.

And I most certainly do not hold meat eating against anyone either, my husband loves meat which I lovingly prepare for him (...the best I can, since I have not eaten much meat since middle school I really am not all that good at cooking it). I just find it nice when I make something meatless and he will eat it with me, like my crispy baked tofu and kale mashed potatoes last night :)

And congratulations on the weight-loss. Many find it difficult to eat a balanced vegetarian diet, so kudos to you in being able to do this so early on (I know it took me years to do so).

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Well said Stephanie and thank you for your well wishes! I agree - it IS awesome when our husbands eat a vegetarian dish and love it.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I'm not a vegetarian but I have lost 19lbs so far in part to taking a bento lunch to work Monday-Friday. I dont make them on the weekends though:)


Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Congratulations Tracy, that's fantastic work. I've lost a bit of weight making bentos, but often don't get around to making them for myself, I tend to make them for my kids, and my husband if he's well behaved (incentive, if you do the dishes, you'll get bento, otherwise, it's a Marmite sandwich)

I recently discovered that my kids' creche thinks that we're vegetarian, because of all the rice and tofu in their lunches. I find that funny because I don't think in terms of meat, I think 'protein', which might be meat, egg, yoghurt or tofu. It seems around here, a meat-eater eating tofu is still a bit odd.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I'm thrilled to learn you've lost so much weight, but I'm much happier that you've found a way to do it that you really, truly love. I have no doubt that you'll remain successful in the coming years because you are thoroughly enjoying your new diet and not enduring it.

I'm also very excited for you. As you've broken down your boxed-meat-two-veg-&-a-cup-cake habits, and the idea of throwing away a failed vegetarian dish isn't so daunting as ruining a prime steak or some chicken thighs, the world's cuisine has opened up for you. The food you eat and the way you cook it will only get better and better. There's so much left to try!

I'm a fish eater married to an omnivore but both of us are concerned about the ethics of eating animals. I think everyone should be no matter what they eat. Killing an animal is one thing, and people's views on this will differ enormously, keeping it in unnatural, cramped, sunless, often painful conditions is another. I can't see how anybody could argue that this is an ethical way to rear a living being. It's a shame that this part gets swept out of the way by meat eaters who judge ethics solely by their right to kill or not kill another species in order to eat it.
My respect is for omnivores who take care to source their meat from reputable, ethical suppliers who raise their animals with care.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Thanks for this blog! I stumbled onto it tonight and would like to try your bento idea. I think that the calorie control and preplanning are very helpful benefits.

The vegetarian discussion is interesting. I gave up red meat when I was 6; all meat when I was 12. I was the only vegetarian in my family growing up.

I don't mind what other people eat for the most part, but I do think that the meat-eaters who think their diet does not impact the rest of us take a CLOSE look at the statistics about how much fuel and clean water is wasted raising food animals. Our resources are rapidly dwindling and to say it isn't anyone else's business is wrong. It impacts us all.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Most people leave out a huge part in the veggie debate; and that REALLY annoys me. What if you had no CHOICE but to eat meat? Leave ethics out of it for a minute, imagine what it is like to be extremely allergic to all your favourite foods, and spend your whole life not knowing what a slice of bread tastes like.
I myself am a ceoliac (allergic to gluten, found in bread, cakes, pasta, pizza, most cereals, e.t.c.), aswell as being allergic to some fruits and vegetables, and I am slightly lactose intolerant. I get people onto me all the time about eating meat, but you should try giving up all I have mentioned before, and THEN giving up meat and fish, and living on a lovely diet of limited vegetables and water. Sounds great, doesn't it? Not all of us have the choice to decide what we want to eat.

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

You sound rather angry Maria, but the bottom line is - why should you care what other people say or think about your food choices? Just eat what you want to (or can) and f*** them. :)

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

I think most people leave it out because they understand that it would be extremely difficult to give up meat/animal products if you're already on a restricted diet because of food allergies/intolerances/etc. I know I used to be vegetarian but had to stop because health problems forced me to limit my diet in other ways and it was to difficult for me to have healthy meals that fit with my dietary needs and were still vegetarian all the time.

Obviously the number one priority for everyone should be eating healthy food for their particular situation. I don't think you should be made to feel bad that you don't want to give up meat when your diet is already so restricted. Really, with all those restrictions I'd be worried that you'd still be able to get proper nutrition if you cut out animal products(I'm sure a lot of veggie protein sources aren't viable for a celiac, especially one who is lactose intolerant).

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

Nice article, Tracy! My dad has been looking to lose weight and might start packing bento lunches in the morning with me...he works in an office where food for everyone is brought in and eaten communally, which he doesn't like, because it makes sticking to any sort of diet extremely difficult.

Anyway, my two cents on the vegetarian thing: I've met obnoxious, self-righteous vegetarians and vegetarians so mild they don't know how to react properly when offered a dish with meat in it--I've been friends with both! My omnivority ends up being a group joke, because three out of my four good friends went veggie awhile ago.

I think vegetarians get a bad rep because they're typically made out to be a lot worse than they are. Which is sad, because I know some really great vegetarians who are very happy to coexist with an omnivore, and we work with each other--when I'm bringing bento lunches, I try and keep meat separated from my main dish if its possible (obviously not with a pork bun, but for a chicken salad) so the veggies can try some before I contaminate it ;), and when I'm having dinner at their house they make a small meat thing for me, especially when they're having substitute meat.

Self-righteous vegetarians upset me, and I think your aside about your vegetarianism came off as a little bit smug--you could have left it off at "ethical reasons"--but it really wasn't bad enough to elicit such a huge discussion.

...she said, at the end of her 4-paragraph rant.

No more vegetarians attacking omnivores and vice versa please

I am guessing that this post got linked from someplace, but I am seeing a rash of people making nasty or snide remarks about “the other side”. This is not the place for that, and the comments above have already made the points for both camps. All future vegan vs. vegetarian vs. omnivore type comments will be deleted - I have no patience for petty nastiness. Be happy with the way you choose to eat and stop worrying about what other people do, folks!

Re: How bentos help Tracy happily lose weight

My mother have been planning to shed pounds along with could possibly begin packing bento lunches the next day by himself... this individual works within the workplace exactly where foodstuff for everybody will be made possible along with had communally, which in turn this individual isn't going to such as, given it can make adhering to any kind of eating habits really challenging.
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