Friday, October 16, 2009


I had two sometimes conflicting theories about how a diet (lifestyle change?) should impact my friends and family.

The first is that I had to be able to fit my diet or healthy lifestyle into whatever existing life I was leading. This means I had to be able to say no to some temptations, plan to spend splurges on social events, and plan ahead for when to indulge or not in general. I tried not to be a total killjoy (um, kind of successful) and I tried not to fall apart the minute I was in a place with food I didn't want to eat.

The second idea is that it was ok to ask friends and family to alter certain behaviors in order to support me. It is ok to ask for help or accommodation sometimes - not all the time of course! It is ok to suggest healthier snacks at book club, to suggest a walk instead of lunch at a restaurant when meeting a friend, to bring a fruit plate for dessert to a party, to ask your family to not eat out so much, or to say no to parties that aren't going to be that fun. Every event does not need to focus so intensively around food, and every event with food does not need to involve so MUCH fattening food.

In the end it worked out ok for me because my husband and I have a lame social life, which I kind of relish, and because I wasn't tempted by a lot in my hardcore losing period. I don't think I made too many demands on my family and I saved all my extra points for when we went out so I wasn't a tense monster. It is also extremely economically advantageous to eat out less - a point lost on no one.

Some special occasions warrant special foods - a person deserves to go out on her birthday, but I did change my norms about what is socially acceptable in every day life. I have had dinner parties where I served fruit and a small batch of No Pudge Fudge brownies for dessert (horribly high in sugar but the key was in not having enough for people to have seconds). I actually think the guests were kind of grateful for healthy dinner parties. Fruit plates at work parties are always gobbled up.

I did fine at my recent weekends away (last one is tomorrow!), but definitely the constant temptations wear a person down over time, and the more I gave in the more I wanted to give in the next day. It's kind of a vicious cycle. And this applies to a season of holiday parties, or a weekend away equally.

Kessler's theory is that the that the brain becomes conditioned to the stimuli and immediately responds in a specific way, which is basically impossible to over come. He feels no one has enough willpower to overcome these conditioned responses and the key is to get away from the temptations in the first place. Removing the temptations, and not eating those foods very often is the only way to break the cycle of those learned responses. He summarizes his theories very nicely here in the first part of the show.

Anyway, listening to all the temptations people will have over the holidays is sobering. I started my plan on Jan 7. Perfect timing! Really, it was a good time to start after I figured out an indoor exercise routine. Maybe just maintaining is the most reasonable approach to the holidays. But long-term, the balance between fitting in and asking for change is tricky. I think as the obesity crisis becomes more understood the gratuitous parties will become less pervasive.

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