Sunday, October 31, 2010

What to do when zombified flesh eating death candy attacks.

To the breach!  Defend yourselves!  Hide the children!  Doom is eminent!

That's right.  It's holiday time.  Today is Halloween, the official commencement of the 60 days of eating bad food until you get sick.  Truth be told, it kind of snuck up on me this year.  There was chatter in the background by the kids talking about their costumes.  Some time last week, I came home from work and found the front yard decorated in a giant mock-spider's web along with a large image of a blood sucking zombie in the living room window.  Yet, my distracted mind was not able to focus on the underlying significance of these trappings and decorations:  it's candy time.

I didn't wake up until today when I took my DSW out to lunch to our favorite neighborhood place.  We grabbed a couple of stools at the bar for a nice meal, and there it was right in front of me:  a bowl of candy on the bar.  It almost looked odd and alien, like a bowl of peanuts that had been strangely transmuted into small chocolate bars.  All the favorites were present:  Reese's (love these), Three Musketeers, Snickers, etc.  It was seductive, yet terrifying and horribly evil all at the same time.

I was about three seconds from pulling my jacket back and doing a quick-draw move on a few of these little guys.  Somehow I was spared the abyss by a last minute thunderbolt of clarity: this is where it all falls apart.  This is where I look at the next two months and casually say:  screw it.  This is where I dive right into a two month calorie binge, telling myself that it will all be better in January (10 pounds later).  The thought of this kind of abysmal collapse bummed me out.  I didn't fall prey to it last year (not too much anyway), and I wasn't going to do it this year.

This Halloween, I'm going to say NO to candy that really doesn't taste nearly as great as it costs in POINTS values.  This Halloween, I'm going to look at candy like the villainous, horrible demon spawn that it is.  I need a flamethrower and a chainsaw!  I'm going to hunt zombie food, kill it all and send it flying back into the vortex of eternal fire!

I admit it.  I loved the old pixilated version of this game.  
OK, I'm being completely over the top, and only about 83% serious.  Yet for my own sake, I have a point. My best strategy when entering treacherous times is to make an overly dramatic statement in an effort to gird my loins.  [For those who enjoy a good idiom, I'm intending this expression in its militaristic form (see Wikipedia):  "The term "gird one's loins" was used in the Roman Era meaning to pull up and tie one's lower garments between one's legs to increase one's mobility in battle. In the modern age, it has become an idiom meaning to prepare oneself for the worst."]   I simply choose not to go into the next two months with a losing attitude.

So what commitments must be made as of today?  Simply stated, I need to choose not to steal from my kids' loot bags that will be hanging around the house for the next two months.  This is the third or fourth time that I have used this blog to proclaim that I will not commit larceny against my sweet, awesome kids.  Sad that I need to use a public podium to not commit theft, but hey, whatever works.

The way I look at it, most of these dwarf bars are about two POINTS values, the same as an apple or a non-fat greek yogurt.  That strikes me as a truly crummy deal.  Particularly in a recession!

This is my strategy, but that doesn't mean it should be your strategy.  My feeling is always this:  know yourself.  In my case, starting with a few small Snickers can lead to a bag full of misery.  Therefore, it's best for me to avoid the whole thing all together.  Many of you have much greater self control around candy than me, so using your WPA to cover a chocolate pop per night might work famously well.

Further, I also know that I'm traveling pretty much every day in November, and there is a Thanksgiving thrown into the mix for good measure.  Right now, I just can't afford the Halloween failure.  That doesn't mean I can't have fun.

Happy Halloween!!!!



Friday, October 22, 2010

In broad daylight

I was thinking about my first time going to a Weight Watchers meeting in January of 2000.  I was incredibly nervous for two key reasons.

  1. The whole process seemed a mystery, and I just didn't know what to expect
  2. It felt weird walking into a place that helped people with real weight problems.  

On the first point, my initial concerns were pretty quickly dispelled.  Frankly, by the next meeting they were gone.  I was totally comfortable, and the people who ran the meeting were unbelievably nice, welcoming, accepting and helpful.

On the second point, it took me a lot longer to get passed those initial anxieties.  Why was I worried?  Was I worried for how I would see myself, or was I worried that I would be seen by someone I knew?  I suspect the answer is both, but the second was probably the bigger issue.  As a guy, you can imagine that it felt particularly strange to me as there really weren't any other dudes to speak of (other than my meeting leader!).  That said, I'm sure lots of people, women and men, feel that way.  The question I have been pondering is this:  why?

The last time I checked, 70% of the US adult population was overweight or obese (1/3 in the case of the latter category).  My weight issue hardly made me unique.  In fact, I was actually doing something about it, which is more than many people could say.  Why wasn't this a point of pride?

The world has changed rapidly over the past 20 years.  When I was a kid, most people weren't heavy.  Worse, heavy people got teased or dismissed.  I am sad to say that this still happens, but that fact that it does seems bizarre.  Most of us are now a product of our environment, one which surrounds us with junk food and bad TV.  Today, most of us are just trying to figure out how to navigate our new world and find a way to live more healthfully and lose weight in the process (order of these two reasons might be switched depending on person).

Back in its early days, Weight Watchers centers were hidden on purpose.  People who were seeking to manage a weight issue wanted privacy.  Back then, this desire made sense because people with weight issues were in the minority.  It's not that way any more.

BIG SIGN (St. Louis)!!!

(Ribbon cutting ceremony with my rock star colleagues in Tampa)

Interior shot...

Recently, Weight Watchers began installing new centers in two test markets:  St. Louis and Tampa.  We purposefully chose highly visible retail locations with great big signs that jump out and say HELLO!  These centers are brightly lit and brightly colored.  To me, they are emblematic of the way we should all start thinking about how we deal with our weight issues:  with pride, with volume, and in the open.  The more people see us doing it, the more they will join us.

Weight Watchers is coming even more into the bright light of day.  It's time for all of us to come into the bright light of day.  It's time for us to recognize that addressing a challenge and seeking personal growth is not a source of embarrassment.  It's a source of pride and a sign of strength and a demonstration of courage.

I big into publicly revealing and sharing my challenges now, so clearly I've drunk the exhibitionist Koolaid.  Why not join me!



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Iron stomach. Wherefore art thou?

Every summer marks the the Famous Nathan's hot dog eating contest. This year, Joey Chestnut managed to ingest 54 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes despite a heatwave. Each year, I find myself repulsed and curious all at the same time. How do they do it? Training! It's a bizarre form of athleticism, but eating tremendous quantities of bad food is apparently hard work.

The infamous Weiner Circle: home of the vegetable garden hot dog

I personally encountered this challenge during one of my stops on my whirlwind September travel blitz. I was in Chicago for the weekend with my wife. Chicago is where we started dating and ultimately married back in the early 90's. This was the time of grunge, Pulp Fiction and many other visceral pleasures. For me, it was the time of big, bad food. Dogs, stuffed pizza, giant cheese burgers, cheese fries, Chinese food, giant breakfasts, huge Mexican, and many other glutenous delights. Despite having my late 20's metabolism (read: higher than my middle age metabolism), this was the time that I really packed on the weight.

Muskies: little joint close to my old apt. Remember: late-night, post-beer cheese fries are never a good idea...

I have a lot of fond memories of that time of unbridled eating (though subconsciously, I think I was starting to get a little sad about the emerging Buddha belly). I rarely eat that kind of stuff any more, so it was with a certain bravery that I gave myself permission to completely blow the doors out on my return to the scene of the crime, Chicago. I gave myself one day to binge like Sid Vicious in a heroin factory. No counting. No POINTS. No good choices. [One confession: I did put in a big workout before I got started.]

First stop: The Twisted Spoke. Located at the corner of Ogden & Grand, we stumbled upon this somewhat indescribable joint when it first opened in the 90's, about a year before we moved to DC. So how would I describe the Twisted Spoke? Kind of biker bar colliding with a burger joint with a serious dose of attitude. We were particular fans of the brunch, which showcased their truly bizarre and inspired Bloody Mary. It is called the Road Rash Mary. It's basically a heavily spiced Bloody served with a spear of deli meat and peppers. Served with a beer back. I had two. Though this could have been a meal by itself, I also treated myself to the Mex Scramble (3 eggs, chorizo, cheese, home fries, toast). And I ate it all. I did this while they were showing Japanese game shows on their TV's. Surreal but fun.

Road Rash Mary: horseradish, meat, peppers with a dash of tomato juice. And a small beer.

So how did this workout for me? Badly. I spent the next 8 hours feeling like I had swallowed an acetylene torch (hotter than a propane torch, in case you were wondering). The entire upper half of my body felt like it was coated in stomach acid. Frankly, I was fairly miserable. I tried to work it off by spending the next 3-4 hours walking through all of our old neighborhood haunts and apartments. It helped a little.

About 9 hours later, I thought I would be ready for more self-abuse. We tried to get into Gino's East (stuffed pizza joint) at 9 PM, but discovered it would take an hour for our pie to be ready. Even I'm not dumb enough to eat a stuffed pizza at 10 PM. Instead, we went for a sweet Wagyu burger served with a heaping of fries. I was only able to eat half the burger and half the fries. Frankly, I felt even worse.

I returned to my hotel defeated by bad food. Back in the day, I could have polished it all without a twinge of bad feeling. I would have owned that bad food. Today, I just don't have the chops for that kind of stuff.

In retrospect, I'm really glad that I indulged this experiment. It's nice to know that I am physically incapable to eating the way that I used to. It's nice to now that this much bad food makes me feel physically ill. It's a bit like a smoker trying a cigarette after 10 years after having quit. They seem to invariably be repulsed by the experience. That's kind of how I felt about my delinquent Chicago day. For me to go back to the bad food place would require diligence and training. Maybe I should apply those efforts to some more noble cause.