Food Is Not Your Enemy

When the Number on the Scale Starts to Creep Up …

Inevitably, this seems to happen to all of us at one time of life or another. Maybe you haven’t weighed yourself in a while. And then you do. And the number is not what you expect. Wait, really? When and how did that happen?

I myself have remained in the same five-pound weight range for many years. But I am now in my mid-40s, and it’s clear that as I get older I cannot continue to eat the same way I did when I was 25. Looking down at the scale for the first time in months let me know that some changes were in order.

I didn’t feel any big changes were required. I just wanted to be sure to stop a potential upward creep, and maybe get down a few pounds back into my usual range (or at the top end of it, anyway). So here’s what worked:

-No seconds. I realized that I never really needed a second plate of food at dinner. I would often just take another helping because the food tasted good. I stopped this habit.

-A big lunch, then no snacks. I’m very hungry for lunch, and like having a big hearty meal mid-day. If the meal is filling enough, then I don’t need snacks and can comfortably make it until dinner. This is a good thing for me, because once I start snacking I often find it hard to stop.

-One or two fewer drinks. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health. Unfortunately for women, drinking alcohol raises our risk of breast cancer. Once I read that fact, I decided I wanted to cut down my own alcohol consumption—which would have the added benefit of reducing my caloric intake for the week. So now instead of having two to three drinks when I’m out socializing, I’ll have one or two.

-Dark chocolate is dessert. Sugar is addictive, and the more of it you eat, the more of it you want. I feel much better keeping my sugar and calorie consumption lower by sticking with a few squares of dark chocolate as my only dessert. (Except for perhaps a weekly indulgence in something a bit more decadent.)

-More greens, less charcuterie. When out in restaurants, I now tend to order an appetizer that is vegetable based, like a salad of some kind. In the past I would more often pick charcuterie plates, or pate, or something cheesy.

-More fish, less pasta. And I now order pasta in restaurants less frequently, opting instead for fish when I can.

What small changes can you make to reverse the upward creep?

It’s Always Time to Eat
June 14, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Restaurants, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , , ,

There didn’t used to be a McDonald’s in the children’s department of Macy’s Herald Square. Or a Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. Or a café at the library. Or drive-thrus open 24 hours a day. Or burritos and donuts at gas stations.

Over the past generation, we have seen a new phenomenon develop: the constant availability of food. Every minute of every day has become an opportunity to eat. My favorite example: Last year I accompanied my daughter’s class to Ellis Island, and watched as a family bought several bags of M&Ms from the ferry concession stand at 10 in the morning in order to tide them over during the 20-minute ride. Would this family have otherwise thought that they all needed candy that morning if it hadn’t been for sale right in front of them?

If you go to Macy’s to buy your child a bathing suit at 4 p.m., suddenly he wants a cheeseburger because he sees the McDonald’s right there. Is he even hungry? Would he otherwise have asked you for any food at all if he hadn’t smelled it and seen those familiar golden arches?

When I was in Paris a couple of years ago, I noticed that many restaurants simply didn’t serve food if it wasn’t what was considered mealtime. But in the U.S., it’s always mealtime, or at least snacktime. We’re encouraged to eat wherever we are, and, surprise surprise, it’s not vegetables or fresh fruit that’s pushed on us, but the junkiest junk foods. And no matter who you are and how healthy you try to be, it can be pretty tough to avoid that temptation all the time.

It’s unlikely that this is going to change–food companies want to make money, so they’re constantly looking for ways to get you to eat more. Putting food in your face everywhere you turn is a really effective way to do that.

To avoid getting sucked into the habit of grazing all day long when you’re out and about, before you pull into the drive-thru or wander into the mall food court because you smelled cinnamon rolls, stop and think–am I actually hungry right now? Or am I about to buy this food simply because it’s there? Would I have felt the need the get a snack right now if I hadn’t seen this concession stand?

This may sound simple, and you may wonder if it would actually make any difference, but awareness is the first step in making changes in your life, and can be very effective. Try it and see what happens.

Are You In It for the Soccer, or the Donuts?

Love this piece from the National Action Against Obesity blog about how sideline snacks have seemingly taken on greater importance than the actual soccer game or other sport kids are playing on a given day.

I have experienced this myself, and felt it was crazy that parents assumed my daughter’s AYSO soccer team couldn’t go for one hour without stuffing food into their mouths. And I did wonder if it was the donuts, not the game, that got some kids excited to come to the field each weekend.

Snack Bars: Safe or Scary?
November 19, 2009, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Food/Health Blogs, Fruits, Grains, Sweets | Tags: , , , ,

There are so many different kinds of snack bars available that pretty soon they’re going to need their own aisle at the supermarket. Can any of them be considered a wholesome snack? Or are they basically glorified candy bars? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.