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.



  1. Healthy habits are not always easy to maintain. It requires a bit of planning, at least on my part. Case in point, I was invited to a get-together and was told we were having filet mignon and Caesar salad. Well, I no longer eat meat and Caesar salad has more points than I care to deal with. My solution? I asked if I could bring something to add to the dinner. My roasted vegetables were a big hit and I had something I could eat along with an extremely small portion of salad. She was kind enough to have some grapes on the table along with the key lime pie and brownies.

    I don't want my friends to feel they have to tip toe around my diet. I can watch them eat their pies and cakes and don't feel the the slightest bit deprived. I am working toward my weight loss goal and glad to finally have the motivation it takes!

  2. I'm so happy to have come across this post before dinner tonight. I'm going to my favorite restaurant (Jasmine on 84th & 2nd) where I will enjoy the best Thai food in NYC with people I've met only a few times.

    Because I frequent this restaurant (it's just down the block...) they'll know I want 'the usual' which is Chicken Pad Thai..and they'll even go so far as the measure it out for me (1 c. = 9 pts) before bringing it to the table. (Like I said...Best. Restaurant. Ever.)

    And while I'd like to brag to my new friends about all of the trouble the staff goes through to ensure that I eat only what I want to eat, I think I'll save it for my blog. As you said, it must be grating for others to hear about constantly.

    At this point, I am down 59 pounds, and I have a long road ahead. But I've just changed some habits in my life that will remain long after I reach my goal. I count my points, exercise regularly and track everything I eat. I focus on my health when I'm at work, at home or out...and I enjoy it so much more than I ever could have imagined. :)

    So it would be tough to keep quiet about it even if I were not unabashedly narcissistic. Now, thanks to you Mister, I'll keep it to a minimum. I know I can be focused and proud without being obnoxious about it. And that's the goal....thanks for the post.

  3. David,
    your posts always make me laugh. I have a member that calls some of these new habits the "new normal". Why do we have to feel neurotic or strange when everyone else *should* be doing them too?? :)

  4. Being not only a WW, but also an employee can often bring unwanted attention. My mother-in-law loves to chime in while I am ordering and tell the server that I work for WW. While I am proud to have succeeded in my weight loss and I love being an employee, there are times I would like people to wonder, like Maybelline, "maybe she was born with it".

  5. Awesome...I'm my second round of WW and I am keeping it mainly a secret except to those who are close to me. I got tired of those who felt the need to look over my shoulder and tell me what I can and can't have. I guess they think Weight Watchers means they are supposed to watch my weight. So I'm secretly just getting thinner and (17lbs now) one day when the time is right I will tell them how. Most likely after Christmas so I can have a cookie or two (I count them in) without the "You can't have cookies your on a diet!" ringing in my ears.

  6. I, too, appreciate this post. I have friends who are vegan who are constantly talking about what they can and cannot eat. Frankly, it does feel a little like overkill at times. I don't begrudge them their choices, it's just difficult to know what to cook when they come over or what restaurants will suit them when we go out. So, your post made me look in the mirror. It does seem that it should be possible to live our lives without implicating (or indicting) everyone else. Thanks!

  7. To many extents, I do agree with your thoughts behind the "invitation" to leave before dinner however, also want to invite one additonal ieda. After more than four years of maintenance AND Weight Watchers employment, it comes to mind that many of my own friends and family now view me as the "food police" and merely don't want to have self imposed guilt over what THEY are eating in my presence! Ha! Now really, I can't see beyond my own plate long enough to glance at theirs!