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Dinner Conversation

Dinner Conversation

by macdaddy on September 17, 2008 · 13 comments

Our meal at Morton’s on Saturday night was full of interesting conversation.  We hadn’t been out with JD and Kris for a very long time so we caught up on our respective families, our homes and gardens, our careers, and on parenting.  I really enjoy talking with people who don’t have kids about parenting.  I like the outside point of view that it brings.  It makes me think about what I do and how I do it in a different light.

Even though the above topics of conversation were great, the topic that I found the most riveting was of course, FOOD!  Here we were, two overweight men sitting down to a decadent meal with two normal weight women.  We all ate relatively the same thing–one drink, one appetizer, one entree, one dessert with coffee.

For this one meal, we all indulged.  And the conversation at one point talked about indulgences.  JD mentioned that he would eat chocolate chip cookies for every meal if he could.  We talked about how healthy food doesn’t taste as good as food that is bad for you.  The ladies frequently mentioned that they automatically budget their food intake and it comes naturally to them.  They never worry about it, they just eat what they need to eat and their weight is relatively stable.  They also mentioned that they view sweets and desserts as a reward, not a necessity.  However,  JD and I really treat unhealthy foods and desserts as staples.  Why is this the case?  I think that JD thinks it’s because of his upbringing, but I’ll let him expound on that.

I think my problem began back in grade school.  We moved cities, I didn’t have too many friends at first, and both my parents worked.  I was shy and I didn’t want to join a new soccer team in a new city and deal with having to make new friends.  I rode my bike to school in the morning, rode it home and spent a lot of time on the couch watching TV and playing video games with my two non-athletic, sedentary friends who lived on my block.  It wasn’t until high school when I had a car, more friends, and an interest in athletics that I became less sedentary.  But by then it was too late.  Habits were ingrained, I was already chubby, and it was a losing battle.

The other thing that really hit home to me during our dinner conversation the other night made me realize the enormity of the battle against food that I’m waging.  Pam asked about what happens when I reach my target weight.  Currently, I’m trying to reduce my caloric intake so that I drop a pound a week.  What happens when I no longer am in a reduction mode, but in a maintenance mode.  Really, there’s no difference between reduction now and maintenance in the future.  I haven’t done the math, but I’m betting my caloric needs now for reduction will be similar to my caloric needs in the future when I weigh less and have less to maintain.

This made me a little sad.  You see, I’m not fighting a battle against food at all but a full on war.  It’s true that every day is a battle.  But over the course of my lifetime, these daily battles qualify as a war.  I’m working on making each battle a little bit easier to win so that they become smaller and smaller each day.  Maybe some day they won’t seem like battles to me and then I can declare myself victorious in the war.  But  the only way this war ends is if I win.  I’ll keep fighting.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BD September 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I think the trick is, eventually the way you’re eating becomes a habit, and that habit forms your expectation about what’s a staple and what’s a treat. After long enough (most habits take 30 days of consistent performance – not sure if food habits take more or less), your new way of eating will become the new normal, and you’d notice a day when you ate more sweets as uncharacteristically bad for you. If you were to eat your old amount of food, even if you replaced the sweets with healthy options, you would feel uncomfortably over-full.

It finally clicked for me a few weeks ago, and the change in mind-set has been really exciting!

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2 Deb September 17, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Mac,

Maintainence depends. I’ve been in M mode all this year, after finally hitting my goal weight and a good body comp. (more important to me than what the scale says).

I work out 3-4 times a week about 1 -1.5 hours each time. A lot of strength training and regular cardio.

I’ve been able to increase my caloric intake because I’m burning a lot of calories. It’s the muscle building that makes the difference.

I’ve found that the times when I slip back to my “old” eating habits, though, everything else changes. Old eating, old workout, old thinking. All goes together.

New (clean) eating, regular exercise and positive thinking. So your journey is so much more than merely eating and exercise. It’s changing your life and your thought patterns.

But if I can do it, you can too.

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3 Greenman2001 September 17, 2008 at 8:39 pm

The war analogy is a good one for both of you. You create pitched battles between your willpower and your circumstances, adjusting your circumstances to make your willpower work as hard as possible, usually pushing it well past the breaking point.

You drastically reduce your caloric intake and then start exercising for hours at a time, increasing the caloric deficit further and starving your muscles for the food they need to recover. You burden your schedules with obligations so that you don’t have time to cook healthy meals, and turn to processed food or fast food or restaurant-sized portions at mealtimes. You drive and shop hungry. You stock your fridge with the leftovers from parties that you’ve otherwise forbidden yourself to eat . You buy processed snack food “for your kids.” You skip meals before parties and dinner out with friends. You dine out while dieting.

Pam is asking an important question, perhaps the most important one for someone seeking life-long fitness: how can you make these healthy choices ones that you gravitate toward naturally instead of forcing yourself to accept virtually against your will? There are lots of solutions to this problem — your readers have suggested hundreds — but as long as you turn to methods that pit your will against your desire, you really will be waging a war against yourself — by definition.

By now, I know that I will never convince you that healthy food can, in fact, taste vastly better than unhealthy food. I know that, in your hearts, you will never believe that you could learn to cook so well that you will actually prefer healthy food to unhealthy food simply because it tastes so much better, and that if you did so the statement you make here — “healthy food doesnÂ’t taste as good as food that is bad for you” — would strike you, as it does me, as completely absurd. By now I know that one of you will send me an e-mail saying that I may be right, but you don’t have time either to cook that well or learn to cook that well, that you have other priorities and life gets in the way.

Up until now, though, you haven’t played the “upbringing” card. I know this will be a rich mine of blog topics, but is there any way I can talk you out of, um, “going there?” No? Oh, well.

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4 Denise September 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

I don’t think your maintenance will be the same as you are eating now. When you are trying to lose weight you are supposed to cut your normal calories by 500 – once you are maintaining that’s 500 extra calories you get to eat again. That doesn’t mean you get to eat pizza or chocolate cake every day, but it does mean you can eat more of what you want when you want.

And if you are working out, on the days you work out you get to add 300 more calories!

Lastly, you and J.D. are at weights where I would no longer call you overweight…maybe you are not at your goal weight, but definitely not overweight.

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5 Peter September 17, 2008 at 9:21 pm

@ Denise

I think their current calorie intake (deficit) will in fact become their new maintenance level. Well … it depends. The body will adjust to the new intake by losing weight. A lighter body needs less energy to sustain itself, so eventually you reach an equilibrium where calorie intake matches expenditure. That’s basically what happens when you hit a plateau, you’re no longer in caloric deficit, you’re actually in maintenance. Now, if that was your goal weight: great! If not, you’ll have to increase your workout and/or lower your calorie intake.

@ Mac, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble maintaining the lower calorie intake. Remember that you’re current intake is in deficit, but when you reach your goal weight that intake will be enough to feel satiated.

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6 Yabby September 18, 2008 at 5:45 am

Your description of the ‘battle’ is spot on! Nearly a year ago I lost the final of 11 kilograms by sticking to a fairly regimented byt healthy eating plan perscribed by a dietician (I had no idea what I was doing, and all previous attempts had failed) and regular exercise through both aerobic exercise at the gym, and PowerPlate classes to build muscle tone.

8 months later, I ahd put nearly half the weight back on, not because I had binged at all, but because slowly, but surely I had dropped off the exercise, and loosened my diet to include a few more ‘treats’ than I should!

I’ve now lost 2 of those 6 kgs, mostly by sticking to a healthy but balanced diet, and incorproating more exercise into my day and week. In short, I’m trying to make lifestyle changes, not short term improvements.

The progress this time has been slower, but I think will be better for me and easier to stick to in the long run.

Good luck to both of you – you’re doing great, and are a fantastic example of how it can be done. Needless to say, your journey has helped me to stick to mine more than a few times!

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7 Lizabelle September 18, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Firstly, I want to say that I think both you and JD are doing really, really well. Your before and after photos show a huge difference, and are very inspiring. So, fantastic work on that level, and congratulations to you both!

That said, I’m sad to hear you sounding so tired when you talk about your “war on food”. It is exhausting – I know this for a fact, because I’ve been fighting it myself on and off (mostly on) since I was eleven, when my mum put me on my first diet.

It’s clear that Kris and Pam are in touch with their bodies – they eat what their bodies want them to eat, and only the amounts that their bodies need, not what their minds tell them they want. On the other hand, you and JD sound like typical emotional eaters, classifying foods as good or evil and constantly trying to control your eating habits – and basing your self-esteem on the results.

This may not be the right time, since you are obviously focused on losing weight and getting fit at the moment and throwing another factor into the mix may confuse things, but I suggest that you both look into intuitive eating and check out a book on the subject, such as “Overcoming Overeating” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/009182561X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top) by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter.

Good luck to you both! I have been following your blog all year, and you’ve made so much progress that has been wonderful to watch.

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8 Another Leanne September 18, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Let me preface this comment by saying that I’m not especially enthralled by a lot of new age-y touchy feely “think positive” thinking. Nevertheless…

I can’t help but wonder if it is all that productive to think about this as “war”? It’s so combative, so all-or-nothing and quite frankly, everything I’ve ever read or heard about folks who’ve actually gone to war (the flak-jacket/rifle kind) is that when all is said and done, the people doing the fighting are probably changed men (and women) but not necessarily changed in a good way. They’re exhausted. They’re twitchy. They have issues. Is that really what you want for yourself when you reach your goal weight?

Might it be beneficial to conceptualize this a bit differently, to look at it (as the woman over at Aprovechar does) as a journey or just as doing right for yourself?

So what if the foods you’re eating right now don’t taste “as good” as the “junk food” you crave? Maybe you need to shift the thinking away from “I’m fighting my impulses” to “I’m going to find something that is unbelievably yummy and delicious AND healthy to eat.”

What would happen if you stopped directing your energy toward “combating” your “bad” habits and inclinations, and instead put all your energy into finding some kind of exercise you really enjoy and finding foods (or combinations of foods) that are so spectacularly delicious you never knew they could be so healthy?

Seriously… What would happen?

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9 Greenman2001 September 19, 2008 at 7:56 am

@Another Leanne: readers of this blog have been making suggestions like your excellent ones for nine months. After nine months of an extraordinary range of creative, helpful suggestions, Mac and JD still firmly believe that “healthy food doesn’t taste as good as food that’s bad for you.” They won’t be swayed.

Mac and JD are most happy when they’re doing so much exercise that they can eat as much as they want and still lose weight. Their posts at these times are joyous and exhilarated. It’s only when their exercise plans fall apart and they’re forced to restrict what they eat that we get these sad, dieting-is-a-never-ending-battle kinds of posts.

Mac also likes to be provocative. Every so often he’ll post about how he’s afraid he’s a bad parent, or is afraid to take his shirt off at the pool. This always brings lots of hugs: affirmation is important. I don’t think he really believes dieting is a never-ending war. I think he’s just really hungry because he’s getting up at 4:30 am to exercise while maintaining a calorie deficit and staring at Sonic commercials at the end of the day.

You mention Aprovechar’s excellent blog. Sally talks about substituting the phrase “self-care” for “self control” in her thinking. This is a great suggestion, but it moves the language out of the realm of combat and into the realm of nurturance. I’m not sure that’s going to fly here. JD and Mac love to set up “willpower contests” where they place temptations in front of themselves and then struggle to make “healthy choices.” JD recently posted about how enormous restaurant portions make it hard to stay within calorie targets. A few days later, he and Mac discuss their diet progress … at a restaurant. This is the world they’ve chosen to create for themselves.

I really liked your comments.

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10 Brigid September 19, 2008 at 8:46 am

When I read this post, I thought back to when I quit smoking over ten years ago. When I decided to do it, I felt like I was losing my best friend. How could I endure such a bleak existence without my smokey treats??

It was tough and for easily a year, I would miss them on a regular basis – especially with my morning coffee or when I was out with my friends drinking. The thing is – each time I got through an episode where I thought I would break, it would get a bit easier. Now I can’t even imagine sticking one of those things near my face. What a hassle – going outdoors in the cold to get your fix, panicking when you had cigs but no lighter – ick.

Food is a bit more problematic because you need some kind of food to survive – cigarettes are obviously not.

The thing is – I think (and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) you guys view food much like a best friend that is always there to comfort you when you need it. You’re moving away from your best friend and now your future seems bleak and gray.

No one says you have to eliminate your relationship with food – it just has to be modified so it doesn’t play such a major role in your life. It can take a lot of time, but it can be done.

As an example, I use to LOVE creamy alfredo sauces. It wasn’t pasta if it wasn’t loaded with cream, butter and a huge heap of parmesean cheese. As I started to make healthier choices, I would reluctantly order the marinara sauce and felt I was somehow being being punished. The odd thing is, over time I started liking the marinara sauces and realized they had a lot more flavor. When I tried an alfredo again – it just tasted gummy. Like cigarettes, I have absolutely no interest in cream sauces. I might try a bite of two of my BF’s meal if it looks interesting, but I know anything more would be too much and make me feel icky.

This particular relationship modification took easily five years before I started to willingly order a healthy marinara, but it did finally happen. The 30 day habit rule doesn’t always work, but everytime you get through a tough patch, you come out stonger. It’s kind of like exercising a muscle of the mind instead of the body.

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11 J.D. September 19, 2008 at 10:26 am

@Brigid

Great comment. I’ve found that if I eat healthfully for some time, when I have something I used to love — like a chocolate bar — it tastes awful. (Sno-Balls always taste good, but that’s just because they’re Sno-Balls.) Some of the things we eat and drink are acquired tastes. Changing habits is about acquiring new and different tastes.

@Greenman

It bothers me when you say that Mac and I won’t be swayed. This simply isn’t true. We are learning. We’re making progress. We can — and have — been swayed. But not on everything. We haven’t reached the point that you and other readers would like, but we’re trying.

Each of us have different strengths and different weaknesses, and we each have different ways of approaching things. I often feel you’re certain that there’s One Right Way and that you’re disappointed that Mac and I haven’t found it. I don’t believe there is One Right Way.

Also, I’m well aware that there are deeper issues involved that hinder my pursuit of fitness. I’m trying to work through these.

I will say this, though. Your constant reminder of what we’re doing wrong is no help. I can’t speak for Mac, but trust me: I’m well aware of the challenges I create for myself. I’m well aware of my personal psychology. Your attempts to evaluate us via the blog or sometimes correct, but often not even close. And negative reinforcement generally doesn’t work with me, yet your comments are filled with it. You’re eager to tell us what we’re doing wrong, and that doesn’t help a lick.

I’m not saying that I need all hugs and smiles and tender hearts all around. Not at all. But the constant discussion of why we fail or why we’re going to fail is counter-productive. I’m much more interested in discussions of what can help us succeed or, better yet, what has helped others succeed in the past. That’s why I like Brigid’s comment above. It provides constructive, practical advice based on her experience.

For example, if you want to disabuse me of the notion that in general healthy food doesn’t taste as good as non-healthy food, then give me some examples. Talk about how you’ve done this in your own life. Point readers to places where they can learn to do this.

Kris and I love to cook. Surprisingly, we even make healthy food that tastes good. But in general, I find that most healthy food leaves me unfulfilled. Again I’ll return to the example of a spinach salad. It’s okay, but why on earth would I choose that several times a week? Why not offer some suggestions on how I can make salads an interesting part of my diet?

Again, I’m not asking you to be touchy-feely. What I’m saying is that I respond much better to constructive criticism than repeated negative re-inforcement. If all you ever do is tell me what I’m doing wrong, it makes me not even want to read your comments. It’s like listening to my dad. (Which is probably one of the issues I need to deal with.)

Tell us about your successes Greenman. What is it that you do that’s worked for you? How do you know so much about this stuff?

One final note: I think that one of the HUGE differences between Get Fit Slowly and Get Rich Slowly is that the latter was started near the end of my journey. Get Fit was started near the beginning. I made lots of stumbles and errors with my money, too (and continue to make some), but I wasn’t putting them out for everyone to see. I didn’t have people telling me that the Debt Snowball was dumb, or that I was setting myself up for failure with comics, or whatever. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. But now, four years later, I’m in fantastic financial shape.

I’m not even a year into Get Fit, but I feel like you’re expecting me to be at the four year point. It’s not going to happen. That’s not how I work. I can’t flick a switch. I need to discover this stuff on my own. To an outside observer, this may be frustrating, but that’s the way it is.

I have complete confidence that three years from now, I’ll be rocking my fitness life. But that’s still a thousand days away.

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12 Another Leanne September 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

@Greenman2001: Yeah, I’ve been following the blog for a while now and have noticed the same thing. It may be talking to deaf listeners, but I figured that if sometimes they get a critical mass of people saying “c’mon already! you don’t have to make it so hard!” then perhaps a bit of it seeps through.

I agree; I doubt Sally’s lingo would fly for JD and Mac because as you say, they seem to be driven by a desire for competition that is very different from what she seems driven by. But still, I’m certain there’s a way to reframe the debate without using a frame that doesn’t work for them as an individuals. If it’s all about battles and competition… and it’s all about eating… why not move the frame from “all health food tastes icky and all junk food tastes delish” and “I’m in a war with food” to “hey JD, I bet I can out-Iron Chef your fat tushy and make a better low-cal entree than you!”/”Watch out whose tush you’re calling fat, Mac. I’ll see your Iron Chef low-cal entree and raise you a 100-cal dessert!” Now *that* seems like a battle worth fighting.

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13 Denise September 19, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I read this blog all the time but I don’t comment very often. The reason I don’t comment is because most of the time I am blasted out of the water by someone (usually one of the regulars that comment in short essay form) telling me that I am completely wrong.

You know what – my tactics and opinions may not be the same as everyone else that reads this blog but that doesn’t mean that they are wrong. I was an athlete in grade school, high school, AND college. I have done a balanced workout of weight training and cardio since I was seventeen years old. Before I got married and had children, I was in the gym five days a week ranging from one to three hours a day. With each of my children I gained over fifty pounds (which I don’t think was healthy, but none the less, I did it) and with each one I have successfully lost all of that weight.

I know how to work out and lose weight and then maintain my goal weight.

That said, I am not perfect – I don’t eat right all the time. I really like brownies. I use way too much butter and salt on my corn-on-the-cob. And if I go out to eat, I will always get desert. And I eat fast food, too (in moderation).

Neither Mac nor JD have ever made me feel uncomfortable about my comments, but some of you others have.

The most important thing about losing weight is doing what works for you as an individual. And don’t get me started about how to calculate calories – I don’t understand how I ever lost three pounds a week after my last baby because I have been told numerous times I don’t know what I am talking about.

So blast away, go ahead, have a good time. But I just wanted JD and Mac to know that I think they are both doing a GREAT job. I like the fact that they buck up and talk about when they get off track and how that makes them feel and how they plan to get back on track.

And, JD, if you ever say ‘tush’ to Mac, please video his reaction. That would be something to see.

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