Saturday, November 24, 2007

Please Stop Either/Or Holiday Eating

I seriously considered posting this on Thanksgiving, but I figured the last thing you guys were going to do is read my blog. Hell, I know I wouldn't! OK, that being said, let me address an important weight loss issue that comes up around this time of the year; however, it serves as a great opportunity for you to start practicing portion control.

Yes, it's that time of the year when you probably attend more parties and dinners than you do for any other time of the year. This is also the time when many guys usually react by either just shrugging off the thought of losing weight and pig out until the next New Year's resolution which is right around the corner or they are in sheer terror of the thought of so many opportunities when the fat guy is given a free pass, and even encouraged in many cases, to eat till his gut's capacity has been reached. I'm very familiar with both because I've been each guy and will give you the pros and cons of each one.

President of the Al Bundy for President Club

What guy (uh, fat guy) in his right mind doesn't like being stretched out on the couch scratching his belly with one hand and a remote in the other? Oh, and there is the mandatory drink, usually a beer or something sweet, at our feet and snack food at arm's length. Flashes of my couch potato hero, Al Bundy, come to mind and that's probably why I silently declared myself the president of his upcoming, yet undisclosed, run for the White House. Well, during this time of the year, especially in 2002, this is what I did because I had made up my mind that 2003 was going to be the year that I stopped being part of the 300lb, my boobs are larger than my wife's club anymore. So, I basically did an Al Roker for the last two months of the year and here's the pros and cons of doing this fellas:

You are in absolute gluttony heaven because you are eating the best prepared and made food you'll get all year long. Hey, two days ago you got a nice taste of exactly what I'm talking about. As you went house hopping, especially for dessert, everyone's specialty dish tasted just that much better, right? Of course it did because these cooks knew that their house wasn't the only house you were going to. So, they put that extra special touch or, as my mom would say, put their foot all up in the dish. And I'm sure that you, as the fat guy, was expected to eat a nice size plate no matter whose house you went to or how much you politely tried to refuse. Well, taking this approach is great because you don't have to feel guilty about eating more than you know you should eat! As a result, you make a lot of cooks out there very happy and your wife loves you too because you will be eating leftovers for a couple of weeks. If you decide to go this route, have a clear conscious, regret nothing, and tell them to pass the sweet potatoes.

Rapid weight gain is the main bummer about this approach. Not only are you consuming way more calories than your maintenance level, but you're also not moving around that much. We have more parties and excuses not to work or move around during this time of the year, which makes sense because it is a festive time of the year. However, eating more calories + moving less = weight gain. So, you'll start noticing that simple tasks, such as walking, become a bit more difficult and you get winded a lot faster. If you have knee joint problems, then the extra weight ain't going to help them, and they're going to let you know. This may not be too much of a problem depending on what you do for a living because all those extra calories cause you to become pretty lethargic and not really want to do anything that involves moving around. My wife at the time was pretty pissed at me during this time of the year because, unfortunately, I didn't have energy or desire to do a lot of things. Also, be ready to buy larger clothes if you don't already have them handy because this was the time when I believe that I was close to wearing a size 50 pants. Lastly, it makes starting your journey that much more difficult because you've been pigging out for close to two months and then you expect yourself to stop on a dime and be ready and willing to be on a new diet (usually reduced calories) and exercise (usually tons of cardio) routine. Yeah right! Very few guys have the willpower to maintain this change, so they hold out for as long as they can and then eat, feel guilty, and resemble this guy:

Mr. Atlas Bearing the Weight of Weight Loss

I can hear Willy Nelson's voice in my head singing his version of "You're Always On My Mind" when I think about this guy because knowing that you need to lose weight is the first thought you have in the morning and the last one you have before bed, just don't tell your wife this for obvious reasons! You, like Mr. Al Bundy above, have tried and failed at different attempts to lose weight; but, unlike Al, you can't just let loose and eat as much as you want during this time of the year. You know that you need to lose this weight and stuffing yourself is not the answer, but it's so tempting because all of your favorite dishes are right there for you. This is the dilemma I was faced with in 2001 after I started to regain weight after I had stopped taking doctor prescribed weight loss pills. I felt that I couldn't stop myself from eating more, and I would feel absolutely terrible and guilty about this. I've come to learn that, for me, guilt is a useless emotion that doesn't truly help you reach your weight loss goals. I just wished I had known this back then.

I know this is going to sound like I'm contradicting myself here by mentioning guilt as a pro when I just said it was a useless emotion--just hear me out here fellas. What's useless about feeling guilty is the stress and anxiety that usually comes with it. Being aware that your behavior is working contrary to your weight loss goals is a good thing; it's just our reaction to it. So, since you are aware that you shouldn't be eating like a damn cow, is a step in the right direction, and that's what you need to focus on. Just don't beat yourself up when you eat to the point that you need to unbutton your pants like you did the other day.

The stress and anxiety from being guilty causes you to binge, especially when you are in the midst of food and feel bad about what you've eaten already. You know that feeling and voice in the back of your mind reminding you that you shouldn't be eating this or that. Also, since there is more than enough research showing a direct link between stress and heart disease, I think that the cons of this approach is actually compounded. You eat just as much or maybe a little less than Mr. Bundy above, but you still consume more than you need and all of Al's other cons apply to you too.

OK, now consider this . . .

Whether you pig out with or without guilt is really not that important when you consider that the end result--weight gain--is still the same and not the desired result. So, what should you do? Deny yourself all the treats and goodies that are calling your name? Buy one of those fat burner pills you see on TV to help you "melt" away the fat? No, I want you to try three simple techniques that I continue to find very useful:

  • Stop either/or thinking when it comes to eating. I teach my Basic Composition students that even though we live in a country whose political machine falls in this category, when one is making a logical argument s/he should avoid this mistake. Once I started applying this to my eating habits, I found that I became less emotional about eating and more conscious about how much I was eating. So, there's no need to be either Mr. Al or Mr. Atlas because these are just two of many options for you to explore and imitate.

  • Drink plenty of water, especially before a party or dinner. You need to be drinking as much water as you can anyway, so why not drink a couple of cups to help fill your belly a bit before you are presented with a buffet of food. Drinking more water will also help you to watch those deadly liquid calories in sodas, juices, and other sweet juices. It's not just the sugar/carbs but the calories that we seem to overlook, especially during the holidays.

  • Save room for dessert. While you are fixing your plate, keep in mind that you want to save room for dessert and if you get that full beyond belief feeling before dessert, then no dessert for you! Make this promise to yourself and stick with it because you'll enjoy the dessert more because you don't feel like a stuffed pig. Also, be conscious of your portion sizes. If you plan on starting your weight loss journey in 2008, then now is a perfect time for you to be conscious about how many helpings and plates you're eating. I'm not asking you to count calories, as much as I am asking you to be an active eater and not passively shovel food in your mouth. Don't deny yourself, just limit the amount. This approach allows you to eat what you want without guilt, but you are learning to see how much food you're eating.
I hope these tips work for you as they have for me.

On another note, thanks to all those who participated in the poll. I will be posting about my daily diet next. And, I'm still waiting to hear back from the photographer. As soon as I get the pics, I'll post them. You have no idea how anxious I am to see them.

No comments: