Sunday, January 23, 2011

How I got heavy. My eyes deceived me.

Picking up where I left off last week (i.e., placing the blame for all my food issues on my dear sweet mom), I was thinking about how I went from being terribly skinny to quite stout.  As I have mentioned on my prior posts, by senior year in high school I was 6'3" but only about 170 pounds.  Skinny.  Very skinny.  By the end of freshman year in college, I was clocking in at around 210 pounds.  Not a bad weight for me, but it was indeed a 40 pound gain.

To what do I attribute this impressive weight achievement?  Change of metabolism?  I sincerely doubt that anyone's body chemistry can change that quickly in 12 months (of course, did not stop me from proclaiming it was a change of metabolism).  So what did it?  Beer?  I'm sure this didn't help.  However, I suspect most of it came from a very simple change:  unbridled food consumption.  Not a very complicated explanation.

In college, I finally found full access to the food outlet that I cherished the most:  the cafeteria.  Here's the deal with the younger version of me and cafeterias.  I LOVED THEM!  Some people might find the thought of warmed-over food left too long under heating lamps served with giant ladles icky.  Not me.

I can still remember the first time I ever went to a Smorgasbord-themed restaurant when I was about 14.  For the kid who felt deprived of bad food, this was a revelation.  You could eat as much rubbish as you could possibly jam into your gullet.  Seeing an infinite selection of deserts was beyond my comprehension.  The visual impact of the whole thing was dizzying for poor little deprived me.

As a side note, how is it that the country that exported the Smogasbord, Sweden, has much less of an obesity issue?  Maybe it's because they only eat there on special occasions.  Interesting!

Smorgasbord/cafeteria style all-you-can-eat (AYCE) was not an issue from a weight/nutrition point of view when I was still at home because my interaction with these kinds of places was pretty infrequent.  Then college happend.  I spent my freshman year eating in AYCE cafeterias every single day of the year.  I think back now to the amount of food I ate at a single sitting, and it's frankly disturbing.  I clearly remember eating gigantic salads heaped with egg fragments (the awesome reconstituted kind), bacon-like substances, blue cheese and at least a cup of blue cheese dressing on top.  And then I had a burger and fries.  And then I had desert.  I must have been plowing through at least 80 to 100 PointsPlus values a day.  The fact that I didn't end freshman year at 300 pounds was a miracle that I can only attribute to still having a rabbit-like metabolism.

I kept my love of the megadeath buffet for many years.  I was always a fan of the huge Sunday brunch spreads at hotels.  I cannot remember ever going to one where I didn't have seconds or thirds.

So what was it about these roman food orgies that I found so appealing?  I have a theory.  Over the past five or six years, I still have had occasion to indulge a Sunday brunch binge.  Every time I would look at the huge desert spreads, my heart would begin to pound.  Yet, every time I eat what looks like the best looking piece of pie ever, it never failed to let me down.

There you have it.  Buffets look awesome, but the food itself rarely delivers.  My theory is that my love of buffets comes down solely to visual impact.  There seems to be some sort of link between my optic nerve and the part of my brain that makes me act like wild animal shoving its snout directly into the food platters.  Yes, I'm one of those horrible people that will eat food directly from the platter because my table is entirely too far away for me to wait.

In contrast, reading a menu has a totally different effect on me.  I cannot actually see the food, so I tend to make much saner choices.

For the most part, I have now trained my brain to recognize that huge displays of shiny food will rarely deliver the joy I think they will.  Therefore, I am much better at navigating buffets and making good choices.  That's good as I'm going to be in a hotel for most of next week.  Maybe I should wear a blindfold.




  1. If it has a sneeze guard with flourescent lighting above it, we should steer clear. ;)
    It's interesting that when you look at a menu, you make saner choices. That is my experience too! I wonder what would happen if we "menued" our own food at home. Listed the choices we know we have available to us, picked it out, and then ate. That may be something I experiment with this week! Thanks for the idea!

  2. I hear ya~ Last night I turned down an invitation with friends at ab all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet-fest! Ah... Orange Chicken!

    I know that woman, I know that Smogasbord like I had been there yesterday! I too was about 14 the last time I remember going to one -- that really, looked just like that photo!!

  3. I admit, I was definitely a buffetaholic. Although I can control myself much better when faced with a buffet, I still would much prefer a menu in front of me.

  4. I am slowly learning to make desserts at home and wait till I get there to have them, rather than ordering desserts out. As a pastry chef in a family of pastry chefs, restaurant desserts are almost never worth it, but it took a looooong time for me to understand that.

    And yet, I still sometimes feel sorry for myself for not "getting" to pay $8 for a mediocre slice of cake. Lame.

  5. My first experience was also a Smorgasbord restaurant. I never see them anymore for some reason. I stopped eating at the Home Cooking style buffets a long time ago because it's just institutional quality food. Only the meat is good for the most part. I still have a weakness for the Chinese buffet, but only rarely do I go anymore. I steer clear of the fried stuff and look for the seafood mostly. I've got my buffet experiences down to about 30 to 35 PP. I recently did a post on my WW blog comparing my new buffet approach to my old one (pre-WW) and realized that indeed I was putting away 100 to 110 Points Plus. Wow! Across the street from me right now is an Indian buffet that is just awesome. I go there every other week and I'm really only interested in one dish that I've taken a liking to, the goat curry. I have my soup with naan, my salad plate, then one entree (the curry) over rice with a vege dish on the side and that's it. I'm outta there. Who cares if you can eat it all? If I was to order it off the menu, this meal would cost twice as much.

  6. Unfortunately, for me, I still have that thinking that my dad instilled in me regarding buffets. "Get your money's worth" which is why I would eat and eat and eat. I pretty much avoid buffets now for that reason alone because I still can't totally control myself, especially in the dessert area. Ugh!

  7. The great thing about these last two posts, your blog and you is that you are willing to "dig deep" to discover what drives your food habits.You are also willing to put yourself out there as a vulnerable, flawed human (like the rest of us).

    For many of our Weight Watchers members it can be a scary journey to look beyond the actual food to the emotion/reason driving the behavior. But that is the important work to be done.

    Many times it isn't as scary as they think it will be and then, they can start making informed choices based on what the know about themselves.

    Thank you!

  8. Not a fan of buffets either; usually get carried away.
    Even at Salad Bars; where I'm usually making better choices, I still don't handle that in an optimal way.

    Some of the members at our meetings have had a few great ideas:

    1) Don't take anything at first; go through the entire buffet to see what you really want to choose, before going back to put it on your plate.

    2) Don't let the food "touch" on the plate; that will reduce portion sizes overall.

    3) Shiny is usually not a great choice (as you point out.)

    Hope that helps.

  9. NeebieWithASweetToothJanuary 26, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I'm so new to weight watchers and for the first time in a long time I've finally started eating right and I"M LOSING WEIGHT because of it i lost 5lbs and the gain back 3lbs but that cus i had a couple of beers of my own but then i did the most amazing I ran 2.00 miles!!! I love weight watchers! I weigh a lot and could never find a diet that would work but this one has done wonders for me in just a week. I've lost 2 more pounds. Thank you for giving me courage and my love for running back! Love Neebie!

  10. I think delving into the reasons we love food or behave the way we do is a good 50% of the battle of weight loss. Understanding the emotions behind eating can be so liberating. And I've found that sometimes it's okay to say, "I want that doughnut...just because." As long as I'm not indulging often and still eat a healthy, well-balanced selection of foods, I'm fairly confident I'll be okay. I've also realized when I do indulge I have to expend some of those calories in the form of exercise.

  11. My grandfather was Norwegian. In Scandanavian countries, a smorgasbord is a buffet set up something like a tapas bar featuring mainly fish and pickled-style vegetables, whole fried foods, no pastas or mac-n-cheese. They use them more in line of appetizers, not full meals...and definitely not AYCE!! We Americans turned their healthy way of noshing into a gorge-fest full of fat laden carb-rich processed food.

  12. Too much of a good thing is the same as too much of a bad thing. :) Combine the two and you have an AYCE buffet.

    I, too, felt deprived as kid because we couldn't afford to eat out. I had my first restaurant meal around age 14, and ordered spaghetti. I still remember my dad laughing and asking me why I ordered something I could easily get at home. I was ashamed to say that restaurant fare was foreign to me and that was the only dish on the menu I recognized. I certainly made up for my lack of dining-out experience in later years once I was on my own! :D

  13. I have steered clear of buffets since I became a member of WW - 4.5 years ago. There is one buffet I have found, near my workplace, that's actually a little different. It's Indian - there are about 5 choices of vegetable and/or meat combinations, rice, bread, salad, and one dessert. I go once in a while, and have a method. First, I fill half my plate with a vegetable dish (the salad is pretty pithy), and small scoops of the 2 or 3 veg or meat dishes. In the second round, I'll have my top two favorite meat or vegetable dishes, along with one piece of bread. (no rice and only 1 piece of bread). I then have tea and dessert. 1 cup of tea and 1 smallish bowl of rice pudding. I usually don't finish the bread or pudding. I experience it without stuffing myself - and it's a on-occasion only. And while it's all you can eat, there is no reason to think I don't get my money's worth if I don't stuff myself. It costs only $2 more than most of the dishes on the menu.

  14. I approached reading your blog with skepticism - What does this guy have in common with me, anyway? I was WRONG - you have me in stitches and nodding my head as I read - we must have grown up in the same family, LOL. Keep it up, and good luck!

  15. I, too, have a problem with all you can eat. One - the food is right there in front of you. Two - I have the mental - get your money's worth attitude - even at crummy pizza places. Three have the most trouble with high-priced hotel buffets, mostly because the food is usually GOOD and Pricy. I just refust to go to them and have avoided cruises for this very reason.

  16. I just have to post this! My husband's theory about AYCE buffets is insane. Let's say it costs $12.00. He feels that if you eat only one plate, it cost you full price. On your 2nd plate, it's only costing you $6 per plate. And (God forbid) if you make it to 6 plates you are getting an amazing bargain at only TWO BUCKS!!! Needless to say, I now have him following my Weight Watchers food plan.

  17. I went to my second meeting today and found out I was down 2 pounds already! Thank you for this post because I have been thinking all day about my favorite chinese/sushi buffet. I miss it so much but haven't gone in a while because I can't afford to. But now I don't even want to because I know if I do I will not be able to control myself. As least not yet

  18. David I enjoy reading your Blog.. Could You tell me where I can go to give Feedback on the new Points Plus Plan?

  19. Hey Dave,

    In the past, buffets have been a HUGE problem for me. Now, I LOVE them. This past holiday I went to my husbands company Holiday Party and it was a buffet as it has been in the past so I was "ready".

    The cocktail hour was EASY. 2 large tables of cut fruit and veggies ....a WW dream. There were the usual h'orderves but I passed When dinner was served later in the evening, I got on the line and looked at everything first....held my plate and put nothing on it. Then, I went back, filled the plate HALF with a green salad (smuggled in my own dressing) then went to the servers dishing out the hot food. There was only room on half the plate to fill up. I chose shrimp/veggie kabobs and a small scoop of room for much else (a good thing). I went back for more salad. I passed on the alcohol, drank Italian sparkling water, and had a slice of cake. I made sure my PP used for the day prior to the party was low including a bowl of zero point soup before I left the house.

    I lost weight during the holidays and that NEVER happens. Thank for introducing the new program during the holidays. I'm sure a lot of peeps thought you were crazy.

    Looking forward to your next blog entry,


  20. Thanks for sharing, I'm beginning to love your blog! Hope to see more of great article.