Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Why I’m Not Fat
I know that some readers must think that I’m a huge woman with little or no self control.
I’m a perfectly normal sized woman: I’m five feet, five inches and I wear a size eight.
How is this possible if I’m eating all this candy?
I have carefully chosen my poison. All discretionary calories in my diet are devoted to the consumption of candy. And how do I end up with enough extra calories?
I drink water. Really, that’s all I drink except for coffee (with 2% fat milk) and sometimes plain tea. No sodas, no fruit juices and very little alcohol. I might have three drinks each week outside of the water/coffee/tea style. I don’t actually enjoy sugary drinks, so it’s not like this is a hardship. I’ll have fruit juice, especially when I’m traveling. But sometimes I’ll go on a kick and want grapefruit juice or V8 juice for a while. But then it’s back to water. Think about it - you can have that 240 calorie candy bar if you give up the two sodas or fruit juices a day (300 calories).
I don’t eat much other junk food. I don’t eat red meat, it’s been 19 years since I’ve had a hamburger and I don’t even eat french fries that often (maybe three or four times a year). I don’t eat potato chips (but I love pretzels) or really much in the way of fried foods. I have ice cream about once a month. I don’t go to fast food restaurants very often, though I like McDonald’s Egg McMuffins without the meat (that’s probably not so bad anyway) about once every two months or so.
I don’t eat cake or pastries (except for a good chocolate croissant). The whole cupcake fad is rather lost on me. I do love cookies, but I don’t keep them around the house that much, and when I do have them, I prefer homestyle cookies over the mass produced ones (the exception is those ginger cookies with the lemon creme that I get at Trader Joe’s). When I’m greeted by a fancy breakfast buffet, I’ll head for the bowl full of fresh berries before I’ll ever consider eating a donut. It’s not that I’m making “healthy choices” so much - I just prefer fresh berries and cottage cheese.
The candy is put away. Most of the candy I have for review or just eating is usually put away or at least sealed up. This reduces the urge to shovel things into my mouth without even realizing it. Even at the office, unless it’s something I’m evaluating right that moment, it’s in the drawer or in my bag. Out of sight, out of mind. If I want it, I have to think about it first, then get it out. When I have candy while watching TV, I’ll often put the portion on a little plate or in a dish instead of setting the whole bag down next to me (because I will eat it all).
I don’t eat dessert. Candy is my dessert. Unless we’re going out to dinner, I rarely have “dessert” at home. Sometimes in the summer it’s sorbet, fruit pops or chocolate covered bananas, just to cut through the heat. Every once it a while my husband will make spiked fruit smoothies. Sometimes we’ll cut up a pineapple or have some strawberries and I’m a huge fan of mangoes. There are times that I really want something creamy and I’ll make some cooked chocolate pudding or tapioca. But for the most part, I don’t eat a programmed dessert.
I mix my candy with other snacks. I like to mix other foods in with my candy snacks. I like raw almonds a lot and pretzels. Almonds go with just about everything - licorice, chocolate, toffee, caramels. By diluting the candy with a protein like almonds, I’m satisfied quicker and I also don’t have that huge sugar rush and then crash.
I don’t like dressings or sauces. I love salads and sandwiches, but I can’t stand dressings or mayonaise. That saves a lot of calories. I also get to enjoy the taste of the veggies instead of the sauce.
It’s kind of odd, since I’ve been doing Candy Blog, I haven’t really noticed that I’ve eaten more candy, just a larger variety than I used to. Before this public service, I would eat the same treat, day in and day out for months at a time. Sometimes it was licorice pastilles, sometimes it was Hershey’s Kisses and then a few weeks later I’d switch to Heath Bars. Now I don’t have much room in my discretionary calories for just eating “my” candy.
My husband cooks most of our meals and we have an excellent diet of lean protein (fish, poultry and beans/rice) with lots of whole grains and fresh vegetables. It’s not that this is a chore or a problem for either of us, he’s a wonderful cook and I enjoy all of his meals. I never feel deprived. When we eat out, I enjoy interesting and healthy fare usually seafood as we don’t cook that at home as often. When we order in, it’s more often some won-ton soup and prik king (spicy stir-fried green beans) than a pizza. I love sushi, which is a really lean meal.
My big indulgence when it comes to regular food is cheese. I love cheese and often make it my primary protein for some meals. If I were to excise something that’s unhealthy from my diet, it would be the brie, not the chocolate. A favorite snack is cheese, crackers and an apple (sometimes that’s dinner, too).
Yes, you can have your candy and eat it too, but it’s really a matter of priorities. I generally believe that most of us can listen to our bodies and eat what it says it wants, within reason. If I’m craving something, I’ll usually have it but I try not to overeat. I listen to when my body says it’s hungry and I stop when I’m satisfied. I’ve also found that eating slowly helps with this, because it takes at least 20 minutes for your body to realize it’s hungry. Portion control is probably more important than anything else. “Calories in” must be at the level of “calories out” for a stable weight. I have an innate sense of my own intake and know when to stop. I know I eat about 1600-2000 calories a day (yes, it varies that widely) and I generally front-load my candy intake early in the day so I can make adjustments with my portions for the major meal of the day. I’ve never been on a diet, nor do I ever plan to diet to lose weight. If anything, I should increase my activity to maintain my weight (as that has more benefits for my bones and heart than fewer calories).
I also have to credit my natural fidgety nature and active life. Yes, I know that I am probably blessed genetically with a solid metabolism, but I have to credit my mother for instilling an appreciation for a huge variety of foods which provides me a good counterbalance to my love of candy.
What are your tricks for working candy into your life without it killing you?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.