Sunday, November 29, 2009

Train Wreck! Beware of flying holiday debris!

OK, maybe that's a slight overstatement of this weekend's wreckage, but not much of an understatement.  Time to confess to my numerous transgressions:

  • Thanksgiving day:  Not terrible, actually.  Definitely had a big dinner.  Definitely enjoyed finger food.  A lot.  Went slightly berserk  on dessert.  This all being said, it was always my plan to let it go for these 3-4 hours, and I executed that plan masterfully.  
  • Friday after:  Ummm.  My parents were in town, so I was playing tour guide, which apparently included a variety of restaurants.  I tried to be reasonably non-insane with food choices, so I didn't have too much post-meal remorse.  Oh wait.  Almost forgot that I dove into a pre-dinner wine & cheese session with a bit too much gusto.  
  • Saturday after:  Getting nervous.  Again, I was pretty/very good for breakfast, and not awful for lunch.  Then dinner came, and again with the wine & cheese.  This was followed by Thai food.  Not just Thai food, but a lot of Thai food.  Definitely fell under the eating until I'm stuffed paradigm.  Blech.  
  • Sunday after:  OK, this is just gross.  Took my parents & family to a brunch buffet, and proceeded to wreck the place.  News alert... eggs benedict and sausages are not on plan.  Not even a little.  This was followed by a Christmas tree-lighting dinner buffet where more wreckage ensued.  Including a bountiful troll through the desert section.  
I write this feeling bloated, slightly grossed-out, and a tad embarrassed.  What if the National Enquirer had been there and taken photos?  

So what happened?  Very simply, I didn't have a plan for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I could have navigated all of those situations just fine and stayed in a normal eating pattern.  To be honest, I just kind of let it all go, and I did what I pleased.  

A secondary observation might be that buffets are inherently evil.  Everything on a nice buffet line looks fairly awesome, pretty and sparkly.  Truth be told, the food does not taste as awesome as it looks, and it's not nearly as rewarding as it should be.  I think this is particularly the case with buffet desserts which look like beautiful decadence at its apogee.  Yet somehow the pies and cakes are never nearly as spectacular as I think they will be while I'm contemplating eating them.  Buffets are perfectly designed for over-the-top consumption, and are able to bend the strongest will to their devious intent.  

Any silver lining?  Sure.  I exercised and moved around a lot each day, so that helps a little on calorie deficit and more on redeeming moral turpitude.  Kind of like a little positive healthy lifestyle karma to slightly offset a bounty of negative lifestyle karma.  

Perhaps a more important silver lining is that I know what to do next.  I will go back on plan tomorrow morning in a rational way, and I will track Monday through Friday.  This should course correct any sad habits that might otherwise try to creep in and embed themselves (like doing whatever I please in restaurants).  In the final balance, I will be just fine.  

I would ask you to wish me luck, but you should save that for someone who needs it more.  At this point, I know better, and I've got a pretty great tool kit to help me dig out.  Should any of you feel the same post-holiday remorse, please do join me in getting our respective trains back on the rails.  


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Do as I say, not as I do. On Thanksgiving, anyway.

As all of you (or at least those dialing in from the US) know, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving.  On this day, I will give thanks to my successful maintenance stretch on Weight Watchers this year by gorging myself like a deranged viking fresh from conquering a village.  Well maybe not that bad...

Here is my view on my personal big holidays (e.g., Thanksgiving and Christmas):  leave them be and mostly forget about the program for the day.  This is not an official Weight Watchers recommendation.  It is merely my choice.  I work pretty hard to be pretty good most of the time, and I have no problem giving myself the day off.  Frankly, I think it is a bit of a relief for those around me as well (see Plastic Bubble post), so I am happy to do my bit for myself and my broader community.

What will this entail this Thursday?:

  • I will enjoy everything put before me, but I give special consideration to starchy concoctions such as stuffing (mmm) and sweet potato casserole (double-mmm).  
  • I see little to no use for vegetables on Thanksgiving.  They take up too much real estate on the plate.
  • I will probably have seconds.  
  • I will enjoy dessert.  
  • I will enjoy the turkey-induced, post-meal coma in front of a football game. 
  • I will enjoy the time with friends and family.
I will also try to make myself feel a little bit better by working out like a crazy person that morning (this has now become a Thanksgiving ritual).  I will also keep it reasonable in the morning and evening.  

Why am I not concerned about this?  A few years ago this would have been an issue, not because of the caloric impact of the day, but rather as it would have been the start of a 30 day campaign to eat my way to a 10-15 pound weight gain.  This year (as was also the case last year), I am treating Thanksgiving as a day, not as an 30 day bridge holiday.  There is very little weight damage that can be done in one day unless it unleashes a month of bad days.  Therefore, Friday, I am back to healthy eating and a sane and sustaining lifestyle.  

As the saying goes, all things in moderation including moderation.  


Lose for Good: tallying part deux

The second Lose for Good campaign is over and the accounting is all done.  It seemed pretty impressive last year, but 2009 blew by 2008 with big gusto.  Just a couple of fun stats from the 7 week campaign:

  • 4 million pounds of weight lost
  • $1 million contribution from Weight Watchers to be shared between Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger for the benefit of children's hunger and health
  • 3,300 volunteer food drives run by our leaders and receptionists:  a 65% increase from last year
  • 2 million pounds of food donated by our members: a 33% increase from last year
I am thrilled by all of the above results, but I am particularly gratified by the kindness and giving of our meetings staff and members.  The gift of time and food during an incredibly tough economic environment has never been more needed, and they responded with amazing energy and commitment.  

The new Person 2 Person food pantry (note the whole grain pasta -- tres filling food!)

I stumbled upon one specific example of this giving last night.  I went to a ribbon cutting event for a food pantry run by an organization I have known for a long time, Person to Person (in CT).  It's a wonderful organization that has long been supporting clients in Stamford and Norwalk, CT in the form of clothing, toys, and most importantly, food.  Last night, they unveiled their new food pantry that will allow people in need to shop as though they were at a store.  It's an increasingly popular and dignified way of helping and getting help when times are tough.  

While I was there, the Person to Person folks informed me that for the second year, they had been selected as the primary beneficiary from the local Weight Watchers meetings in Stamford to get their food donations.  The idea for choosing Person to Person (P2P) came from a staff member of ours who was a prior client of P2P's.  Just in time for the opening of the new food pantry, our staff and members came through with 962.8 lbs of food.  It was karma at it's finest!  

These stories have been happening across the country in equally touching ways.  [I tried to tweet all of the articles covering them, but I finally got swamped by the sheer volume.]  

For all who participated, please accept my very sincere thanks.  



Saturday, November 14, 2009

On program, but not hermetically sealed

Jonny Lubitch (Todd's dad):  "My son is not a freak!"

Those of you with a penchant for made-for-TV movies and are 40+ years old might recall the John Travolta magnum opus, Boy in the Plastic Bubble.  Travolta played the part of Todd Lubitch, a young man with an immune deficiency disorder that required him to live in a hermetically sealed plasticized room.  Todd deals with all the challenges of living in his plastic bubble, untouched by others, so that he might live out the days of his life.  Until he falls madly in love with Gina Biggs.  In the final scene of the movie, Todd bravely leaves his bubble to embrace Gina in a tender embrace on the beach and thereby embraces life.  And then the credits come up.  And then Todd presumably dies (not filmed).

I recently discovered that Todd and I have a little bit in common.  Some of my neighbors and friends are concerned about invading my Weight Watchers plastic bubble.


It's a Saturday night, and my wife informs me that friends have invited us over at 6:30 PM for a drink.  My wife also informs me that we need to be on time as they need us out of there by 7:30 PM, presumably because they have other plans afterwards.  While we are over, our friends mention that they are having a very casual taco dinner, but they understand that I cannot stay as it is probably not Weight Watchers friendly enough.  Although they offer up the fact that they are using 97% lean beef, clearly seeking to avoid a scalding nutritional rebuke from yours truly.

OK, I'm a little crazy, but not nearly that crazy.  Of course I stayed for dinner, and of course I ate the tacos.  And they were very good.

I wondered how my being on program had become such a point of notoriety.  To be clear, my hosts were being nothing other than considerate and thoughtful, and I really don't think they were acting crazy.    If I were just a thin person who had always been thin, I don't think they would have thought twice about having me over for their Mexican treats.

I started reflecting on the fact that it must be something I'm doing.  Maybe there is some sort of Weight Watchers pheromone that I have been kicking off that causes other people to have the biological impulse to shield me from bad food?  Some of the response certainly has to do with the fact that my friends know that I work for Weight Watchers (heaven knows they tease me enough about how I have to stay on program or suffer unspoken consequences).  I started thinking that perhaps a more likely explanation is that I have been so vocal about being on the program that I am scaring the epicureans away.

I remember an observation that Jean Nidetch had made.  She noted that naturally thin people often don't eat all that much food.  They usually do not finish what's on their plate.  They may only eat a bite of dessert, but they will usually stir it up with a fork so it looks like it's been eaten.  In other words, they don't make a big deal out of the fact that they don't eat every single thing in front of them.  If anything, they try to pretend like they are big eaters, even though they aren't.

I am starting to think that naturally thin people might be on to something.  If I always make a huge vocal point about the fact that I'm being careful about what I eat, it's inevitably going to create awkward situations for the people around me.  That in turn can make it harder for me to fully live in the real world.  This in turn makes it harder to create truly sustainable eating habits.

It's one thing to ask the people who are incredibly close to you, like your family, for their support in helping you stay on program.  Most other people do not need to know.  Or at least they don't need to know during the act of eating.  In fact, I suspect it gets a bit grating for people to listen to someone else constantly talking about their eating regimen.

The great thing about Weight Watchers is that it teaches you how to navigate real world situations without having to ask for special help from your host.  In addition, I might do well to consider that a friend is not a restaurant proprietor.  It's perfectly fine to ask your server to bring dressing on the side or to prepare your food more simply.  I'm pretty sure that Emily Post would instruct us that this is not proper etiquette for friends.

Therefore, maybe the alternative is to engage in healthy habits without verbal accompaniment.  After all, I'm not on a diet.  I'm just living my life.

So to all my friends:  feel free to tear down the walls of my plastic bubble.  I'm quite sure it won't kill me.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Far from perfect...

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas, the world capital of unnecessary extravagance and possibly the world capital of big food.  Really big food.  Yet, as I write this, I'm drinking coffee with skim milk and having a plate of fruit.  I'm not really being a saint about this.  It's just what I eat in the morning these days.

In fact, I'm pretty far from perfect in a Weight Watchers context.  As noted earlier, I am not a religious tracker, particularly now that I'm on maintenance.  I do get weigh-in's, but probably only every two to three weeks when I stop in and visit a meeting.  I got my last weigh in about two weeks ago when visiting a meeting in Queens (still at goal weight -- go me!)

However, in that meeting, one of my Weight Watchers shortcomings became uncomfortably on display.  I was minding my own business, and the Leader suddenly asked me whether I followed the Good Health Guidelines.  I think she (reasonably) presumed that as the CEO of the company, I must be pretty observant of these types of rules.  I was a bit stumped because I knew the answer:  not always.

Upon reflection, here is where I stack up on the GHG's:

Follow 'em:

  • 5 servings fruits and vegetables:  yep.  I consume fruit by the truckload (more out of desire than discipline), and I like my vegetables just fine.  That said, I don't tick off each of the five each day.  I just know that I easily hit these target on most days.
  • Whole grains:  I do in fact choose them whenever possible.
  • Milk:  also an easy one as I eat a lot of yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Protein:  also an easy one.  I'm a big fan of both fish and chicken.
  • Sugar & alcohol:  I don't go over-board here, and I don't have a huge sweet tooth (or at least it's not that hard to control)
  • Activity:  no issues here
  • Water:  although I drink diet soda, which technically counts, I should really drink more water.  Less artificial sweeteners and more bona fide/nature supplied hydration would be better.  
  • Oil:  this may happen naturally as my wife uses good oils when she cooks, and I would normally order entrees cooked with olive oil in a restaurant.  That said, I do not actively track this, and I certainly am far from disciplined about it.
  • Vitamins:  I think I had my last vitamin when I was roughly 7 years old
As you can probably see, I follow the GHG's more by accident than by design.  I think that's a good reflection of the Weight Watchers program that it naturally steers you to the GHG's through things like filling foods.  I have also learned that the only way I can stay OP and not lose my mind with hunger is by eating the kinds of foods promoted in the GHG's.  Therefore, the program naturally saves me from my own lack of discipline and difficulty following rules.  

That also said, the GHG's I don't follow really do represent good health practices, and I really should follow them.  Popping a vitamin each morning would not be such a hard thing to do.  Although, I do struggle to remember to feed my dog her pills in the morning.  Water is a bit more of a challenge, but I could get into the practice of walking around with the big Weight Watchers water mug.  Oil is something I should just be more aware of.  

My observations on all of this:
  1. I am not a super-disciplined rule follower, yet I generally fall in line with Weight Watchers rules.  I attribute this to the fact that the Weight Watchers program is based on a lot of common sense, so it's easy to accidentally follow the rules.  
  2. Having been on the Weight Watchers program (mostly) for roughly ten years, most of the rules are kind of second nature.  As I noted on an earlier post, the rules and guidelines are not a lifetime sentence to drudgery.  They really do become second nature over time.  That's why lifestyle-based programs, rather than fad diets, make more sense.  
  3. I am pretty good on the program, and I'm at goal weight.  Yet, I ain't no saint.  BTW, that's perfectly fine.  I do what works for me, but I'm not the perfect model of the Weight Watchers program.  Most of us aren't, and that is totally OK.  
  4. I can do better.  Being more disciplined about the GHG's would be less about getting a gold star (or Bravo star as the case may be), and much more about living in a healthier way.  That's always a good thing.