Holiday Action Plan

12.24.07: A few ideas for keeping weight gain at bay


There I was, innocently sitting on my couch watching a House rerun, enjoying my nightly snack stack, when the phone rang. It was a girlfriend in need of a pep talk. She's got a power job as a communications project manager for a big corporation in my town, and handles contracts with every photographer and ad agency in the region. This makes her a very highly desired party guest this time of year, and since about December 1, her life has turned into a social whirlwind. (I find it taxing to even think about her festivity schedule.)

This night, she was having a crisis. Her clothes weren't fitting--not even the fat clothes. She'd gone to her go-to hide-everything black skirt, and felt exposed. I offered hollow words of comfort--she knows well that I am struggling with my own weight, and can relate to her feelings. I think she looks just fine, but that's really not the point--it's about whether SHE thinks she looks just fine, and right now, she most certainly doesn't.

"My eating has just gotten out of control," she sighed. "I guess I'm going to have to put together an action plan here."

I had to laugh a little. Spoken like a project manager! Then I had to gasp. A food-related action plan? In December!?! Heresy! She couldn't be serious! Could she?!?

She was. That night, she explained, she was off to a dinner at a restaurant known for delicious fried crab cakes, awesome rich lobster bisque, and decadent Caesar salads. She'd be skipping them, she reported. Broccoli, fat free dressing on the side, steamed fish. "What better time to start than now?" she asked.

If I were in her shoes, I'd indulge myself, and put off my start on my brand-new plan for tomorrow. But that thinking is what's gotten me stuck in my 150-pound rut. I looked around my kitchen, at the seasonal exceptions I've made to my own diet plan: the Hershey's kisses, the oatmeal cookies, the chips and dips, the fudge the neighbor brought over. The things I'm indulging in just for now, just until tomorrow, just through Christmas, just until January 1, when I make my resolutions.

It made me suspect I need an action plan of my own. Here are a few ideas, a list I've made for myself and am sharing with you just for the fun of it--in hopes that in the writing a few will finally stick:

• Eat only when I'm hungry. I find this easy to do during the day when I'm busy, but at night I find myself eating for other reasons--for comfort, reward, out of boredom or regret or anger. (Read next entry please...)

• Don't eat in front of the television. This is where the most damage is done. Though occasionally, I do learn something profound. Last night I was watching Private Practice, and the character Naomi was stuffing her face with chocolate cake and she noted that sometimes, when you're stressed out and not in a position to change anything, the best thing to do is stuff your feelings down deep and cover them over with some delicious food. Sounds about right--not exactly functional, but right.

• Ixnay on the sour cream and cream sauce. This was Eileen's advice to me the first time she saw my diet, and I was so attached I simply couldn't consider it. Now I can. My girlfriend is right--sometimes the rich stuff just has to go.

• Lay off the bread. I will sit and eat bread endlessly. I will work to reduce my exposure to it. (Like, not request a full bread basket at restaurants, not put bread on the table with pasta.)

• I will learn to snack on carrots and celery. These are always in my house, but I seldom reach for them. I want to model positive behavior for Truman, so I will eat them more often. In place of, say, Doritos.

• I will stop eating bad candy. My sister in law, Cynthia, has been lobbying me on this issue for a long time. She lives in Berlin, and, having cultivated a taste for the good stuff, can't believe I eat so much bad chocolate. Truth told, I don't enjoy it much any more. I enjoy the memories of having enjoyed it. I'll switch up to dark, where at least there's some antioxidant benefit. I just got a special-delivery box from her yesterday, so the timing is right!

• At holiday parties, I will not loiter near buffet tables. This is an invitation to graze, especially when you are a buffalo to begin with. I will loiter by the bar instead!

Hillari Dowdle is working very hard to muster some holiday spirit. Ho-ho-ho.