Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The naughty/nice list: taking a tally of my habits

I've been reflecting on the fact that I've been successfully in maintenance mode since late February, which has been a great. Yet I've also been trying to get my head wrapped around the feeling that my work is not yet done. I do not have any interest in losing any more weight (really!), yet I still feel there is more for me to do. Am I over-thinking/obsessing or am I being suitably prudent? [I do realize that I'm inviting a wave of snarky comments from friends and loved ones, so please do restrain yourselves.]

So here is how I make sense of all of this. The point is not where my weight is, and it never was. The point is where I am on my behaviors and habits. A healthy lifestyle is not a monolithic state, but rather the summation of numerous habit. In total, I've been able to incorporate (permanently I hope) a new host of healthy habits that have allowed me to lose my weight and keep it off. Yet, if I'm being honest, I still have habits which would certainly fall under the category of not so great from a health and nutrition perspective.

My goal therefore is to continue maintaining my new, better habits to the point where they truly become second nature (and some are) and to continue converting my less healthy habits into better ones. My goal is not to further change my calorie equation, but rather to have a lifestyle that makes my equation permanent. This is what will allow me to stay healthy and fit. The more it becomes second nature, the less I need to think about it. But I'm not there yet.

So what's on the plus side of my habit ledger?
  • Exercise (this is a big one): I've been exercising at least three to four days per week since 2000. Over the past year, I've been closer to 6/7 days per week including resistance training (four days per week) and cardio (4-5 days per week). It has gotten to the point where I get pretty fidgety if I don't get exercise in for the day. To say the least, this has been a pretty key part of keeping my weight off and my health strong.
  • Breakfast: as I've noted before, having breakfast every day and having a healthy one at that has become pretty automatic.
  • Lunch: See breakfast
  • Dinner: Not bad here either. I am pretty consistent in making better choices, particularly in restaurants. No fish is a bad fish. Unless it's rotten, then it's just gross.
Habits in progress but not yet automatic:
  • Clean plate club: if I order something healthy with reasonable portion sizes, finishing my food to the point of a spotless plate is not a problem. When I order something less benign, I am probably 50-50 on having the presence of mind to push some portion of it away.
  • Eating off my children's plates: ugh. This used to be a huge issue for me to the point where I would encourage them to order pancakes and food with lots of fries. Not such a nice dad thing to do. I'm now at the point where I don't Hoover their leftovers, but I try to just grab a fry (or four). Still, have my moments of weakness here.
  • Going for seconds: pretty much done with this one.
Problem areas:
  • Mindless grazing (particularly after dinner): this one just kills me. Wandering around the kitchen between the hours of 8 to 10 PM looking for things to eat. To be clear, I'm mentally hungry, not physically hungry. I trick myself into thinking I can do it with healthier food choices, but let's be clear: it's boredom eating.
  • Airplane eating: see post from a couple of months ago.
  • Temptation weakness induced by a glass of wine.
Trigger foods that continue to torment me:
  • Nuts. Any kind of nut will do. All nuts, all the time. Makes me nuts.
  • Cheese, crackers, crackers, cheese, and then more cheese.
  • Low fat ice cream. One is fine. Why do I always eat two?
Way too much information, right? Writing it down like this has become a helpful way of being more honest about the demons that are still camping out in my brain. Not that much different than sharing in a meeting, except I get to do all the talking. Which I like.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ooops. Minor setback, now corrected

There was a nice interchange after I wrote my first post on the Pump Energy Food with the owner (who I will seek to take up on his lunch offer). It prompted me to go to their website, and I noticed that they had posted nutritional information for a big selection of their entrees. I went ahead and researched my favorite dishes, and discovered a mixed set of results:

1) it turns out they have Regular and Jr. portions. I, of course, was having regular portions. If it seems like a huge amount of food, it probably is.
2) my primary dish, the Lean Body (formerly known as the Lean & Mean) is only 8 POINTS for a regular size (nice!)
3) my secondary dish, the Baseball, is 15 POINTS for a regular. Oooops. Fine for dinner (maintenance POINTS, remember), but way too pricey for lunch. Add on top of that 2 POINTS for the pita is comes with, and we're at 17 POINTS. Definitely too pricey.

What to do? Not complicated. Now that they have nutritional information posted for most of their items, I just had to do a re-scan of the options. I've already had two that I'm pretty psyched about:

1) Chicken & Spinach Twist: 8 POINTS for a wrap (21 g fiber, 140 cal) w/ a nice collection of chicken, spinach, non-fat cheese and tomato sauce. HUGE portion for few POINTS.
2) Turkey Burger Pizza Style: 9 POINTS for a wrap (see above) w/ turkey burger, non-fat cheese, and tomato sauce. Tasty.

So what's my point? 1) I cannot always assume that I can ball-park the nutritional value by scanning (translation: I'm not nearly as smart about this as I think I am). 2) Better and equally satisfying options are always out there. Knowledge is power.

BTW, kudos to the Pump for posting their nutritional info -- definitely a best practice!

I'm still trying to figure out the nutritional content of a Big Arms entree. I'm a little afraid to ask.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scene of the crime, fondly remembered

Most of us have a local restaurant that we grew up with and that made an indelible impression on our lives. We remember it for all the birthday lunches, the special one-on-one meals with fathers, and too many other occasions to keep track. Mine was a popular restaurant in Gaithersburg, MD by the name of Roy's Place. My dad practically lived there while he worked as a scientist for over 40 years (he had his retirement dinner there not too many years ago). My brother and sister both worked there.

Roys Place is an unmitigated disaster for people trying to follow Weight Watchers. It has a menu with over 200 sandwiches all designed with creativity unmatched. Some of my favorites (excerpts from their online menu):


THE DOUG LLEWELYN (Llanguidly Llounges Llizard-like on Lladies’ Llaps.)
Baked ham, shrimp salad, chicken bosom, lettuce, tomato & mayo

THE DRACULA (A bloody mess.)
Two Polish sausages wrapped in bacon, with broiled provolone cheese, buried in cole slaw & Russian dressing on French bread

THE WHICHIT (Son of Whatzit)
5 oz. Whatzit brisket, mother Roy’s very own homemade baked beans, cole slaw, crushed cherry peppers on choice of bread

LASSIE’S DOUBLE REVENGE (Flavor tested by Al Po.)
Two knockwurst, provolone cheese, bacon, fried onions, baked beans on a hard roll

The grand daddy of them all was delivered with a cacophony of cymbals and cheering...

THE BENDER SCHMENDER (The One and Only 5-Decker Club.)
Corn beef, turkey, roast pork, chicken liver pate & golden brisket with lettuce, tomato, golden sauce & a psychiatric appointment

Of course, one could go the other direction...

A GOOD COLD SANDWICH (Because of inflation the price was raised.)
Two stale heels of bread enclosing a freshly-made ice cube


But my standby growing up was the Dirty Tom Glenn (Ham, salami, provolone, chicken bosom, tomato, onion, hot crushed cherry peppers & garlic mayonnaise on French bread). No sandwich has ever tasted as good, and I suspect none ever will.

I was at Roy's Place last summer when I was in DC to help celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. I put my program in a safe place, and dove into a Dirty Tom Glenn (picture, again with daughter's face for size reference) with reckless abandon. Sometimes a healthy lifestyle needs to take a little vacation, and I quite enjoyed this little break.

Roy Passin first opened his eponymous restaurant in 1955. He passed away this past May. He was a good friend to my father and family, and he was a luminary to sandwich fiends everywhere. He will be missed.

Should you ever find yourself in Gaithersburg, MD and are looking for an opportunity to destroy your program for the day, look up the restaurant. If you are going to go off program, do it in style and with flare.

Monday, June 8, 2009

In praise of gym rat food

For the benefit of clarity, what I am about to provide is not an official Weight Watchers International endorsement, but rather a David Kirchhoff Weight Watchers member endorsement...

I seriously HEART food from the Pump Energy Food in NYC. A lot.

I first discovered this place back when our offices were at 7th and 57th. I remember when I first walked in back in 2002 and was greeted by a wall full of autographed pictures of scary looking body builders. It was clearly built for the gym rat crowd. I'm not saying that in a negative way as I have embraced the gym rat culture myself.

The Pump has come a long way over the past years. They have six locations throughout Manhattan, including one close to my current office. They will deliver within 20 minutes in most cases, but that's not why they have my unending affection...

This place is basically all Filling Foods all the time. None of their food is fried. They avoid the typical dollops of butter and other related goops that restaurants often use to make the foods more palatable. These add-on's result in the calorie bombs we have learned to fear when dining out. The Pump uses whole wheat instead of refined flour resulting in a healthy dose of entres with whole grained race, whole wheat pasta, grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, etc. This place is a safe zone for people on the program.

Better than that, they sell big food that's low in calories. Lots of protein and veggies that keep me full and content for hours. Despite the way it sometimes looks and the completely ridiculous names they give their dishes, the food tastes great. To me anyway.

My favorites include notables such as "the Lean & Mean" (see attached photo), "the Big Arms", "the Turbo Omelet" and a personal favorite, "the Baseball." Don't cast judgement on the names, which can be a little off-putting for people with delicate sensibilities. Further, just because I eat the Big Arms doesn't mean that it gives me big arms.

For me, a big part of staying on plan is finding Safe Places where I can eat tasty, big food and not worry about staying on program.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Don't be such a baby. Scales don't bite. Much.

Confession time:  it's been 4 weeks since my last weigh-in.  I don't feel like I looked any bigger.  I am being pretty OP in my food choices.  I am still exercising lots.  Why look at the scale?  How much could my weight have changed?

The beautiful, nurturing fields of successful maintenance have been scorched many times by failing to get weighed.  One pound here and two pounds there turns into 25 pounds someplace else.  It has happened to me before, and according to much established obesity research, it happens all the time to lots of people.  

I was reading an article clipping from USA Today discussing Kirstie Alley's People Magazine confessional on her weight regain.  The USA Today article had a nice quote from Dr. Tom Wadden, Director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Wadden was reminding the readers that regular (weekly or daily) weigh-in's "are mandatory" in maintaining weight loss.  This statement is very consistent with the research from the well regarded National Weight Control Registry.  Regular weigh-in's allow us to recognize when we are falling onto bad habits and quickly make adjustments before things get too far out of our control.  

[By the way, in the same article Dr. Wadden also made the very kind and unsolicited suggestion of participating in programs like Weight Watchers to help people tackle the weight regain challenge.]

Before I could let myself get into a snarky place over Kirstie's lapse, I had to make the decision not to hurl large rocks against my many glass walls.  I had not partaken of the scale in about a month.  

If I'm being honest about why I did not, I have to say I was a little bit concerned that I might not like the answer the scale gave me.  What if I was outside my Lifetime weight range?  Would there not be some possibility of spontaneous combustion?  So, I had to play out the scenario.  Assuming that spontaneous combustion cannot be caused by an unfortunate weigh-in, nothing bad would really happen.  In fact, I would know that I needed to course correct, which is a lot easier to do at +4 pounds than at +20 pounds.  MUCH easier.  

So I gathered my courage, and stepped onto a scale in a meeting in Rockville, Maryland (White Flint).  The result:  +2 pounds vs. my goal weight.  Not as good as 0, but within the range.  By the way, if it had been +5 pounds, that would have been OK too.  

The irony of all of this hand wringing is that the Weight Watchers people who have previously weighed me in are super nice people.  Not one of them has ever resorted to beating me or verbally assaulting me.  In fact, they have always been very supportive and encouraging.  To prove the point, I'm attaching a photo of my regular leader, Liz, showing how nice she is even when wielding a scale.  

All I had to do was man-up (no offense to the naturally more courageous women who do this all the time), step on and go forward.  So I did, and I'm glad.