From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Weighing Heavily on His Mind

Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.

William ArthurWard

“Honey, do you think I can get into my tux?” queried my man full of wishful thoughts.

“Doubt it darlin’,” I said as I gave him a pat on the mound that stood guard over his belt. My negative comment fell on deaf ears as Ken rushed to the downstairs wardrobe where his tux and my wedding dress have hung for thirty-four years. Putting on a few pounds hadn’t seemed to weigh heavy on his mind despite small nags over his gluts and guzzles. Nonetheless, a wife knows when extra pounds and ill-fitting clothes bum her guy out.

Now the jig was up.

Moans and huffs spiraled up the stairs.

“This is great. The tie, cummerbund and white suspenders are still here,” he hollered.

“Guess I’ll have to buy a dress shirt, this one’s looking pretty tired.” Tugging at obstinate gaps,my darlin’ emerged dressed to the nines, like Mrs. Astor’s pony. He’d never be a clotheshorse with a single button threatening to take flight under sixty years of baggage. Stiff and staid and popping at the seams, he sucked in beneath an unrelenting waistband.

Bent on conquering the spare tire in days, brainstorms began spilling out. “Maybe if I went on a crash diet. I’m running into town to look at exercise machines.”

Having never been faithful to our stationary bike, I questioned his motives. “Are you sure you want to torment your carcass braving the latest ab-gadgets with your arthritis? Those tummy trainers and stretch-and-roll machines look like medieval torture devices to me.”

Weeks later, we made a handsome couple at the Montana Governor’s Ball, despite the tuxedo fiasco. Ken was in good company, for half the men were decked out in dark suits. But journeying home, grumbles surfaced. “I felt like an old, fat man tonight! Why don’t we go on one of those diets?”

We? Well yes, I could stand a belly bob and knew he’d fall off the weight wagon without a compatriot to share his misery. It would be good for our health.We did our homework, and although Ken wanted to jump in and take the first plan, we enrolled in the one best befitting our lifestyle. At weekly weigh-ins we ran into folks we had known for years, cajoling us with raves of success. The whole thing seemed so easy, and though exercise was recommended, it wasn’t a prerequisite. Okay! Suddenly we were indulging in a food plan for our age group, Ken’s diabetes and our doctor’s hearty approval. It was as simple as adding water and nuking tasty meals three times a day. Portions and nutrition became our bible, although his majesty swore he was starving. The togetherness scheme was lobbing off unsightly bloats and pounds weekly.

Despite the taboo, we cheated on weekends, indulging in Sunday dinner out on the town. Our little gold star reward system was a comfort thing, charging diet batteries for Monday mornings. At just one hundred days, Ken’s double chin and both our middles had departed into hog heaven. Forty for Ken, and my thirty-two pounds had evaporated, and we felt like a million bucks. ‘Twas like being given a precious gift by someone we both loved . . . ourselves.

Now on our own, like two little kids starting first grade, that scary “maintenance” word challenged us. Snarling and goading, the new digital scale sat on the kitchen floor, underfoot in plain sight. The cat and mouse game commenced, gaining one, losing two. Our rules? Garden varieties on demand, medium-sized new and old favorites with no seconds, reasonable desserts, and no bedtime snacks. Gastronomic makeovers inside and out were leaving contented tummies and high spirits. But for good professional counseling in our economical program, we might have slid back into the potbelly pit.

The slender years rolled on and again we waited for our invitation to the governor’s second-term ball. The engraved card said January 14. But this time Mr. Lean and Trim was so comfortable in his svelte person that thoughts of the old tux were ditched in lieu of more modern formal wear.

“Ya know what, hon; I didn’t feel like an old, fat guy tonight.”

Kathe M. Campbell

Diner’s Club

Eating out has become a way of life in our fast-paced society, no longer just the occasional treat. Whether it’s to avoid kitchen duty or to celebrate a special event, many meals are eaten at restaurants. For the weight-conscious, ordering from the menu can be a potential minefield. But, fear not, you can still eat out and enjoy your meal. Try incorporating just a few of these tips into your next dining experience, and eating out can please your palate without wrecking your waistline.

Begin with a starter. Then order another. There’s your meal. The appetizer’s smaller portions allow you variety in your diet as well as potentially fewer calories than if you opted for a traditional entrée with side dishes.

Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid to make special requests (politely, of course) so your meal is exactly what you want it to be.

Remember “G.B.S.” Choose grilled, baked, broiled and steamed foods as often as you can. Try to steer clear of fried foods or creamy or cheesy sauces.

Don’t go hungry. Have a healthy snack beforehand so you’re not ravenous by the time you’re seated. Two good options to defeat hunger pangs are apples or clear soup.

The doggy bag is your friend. Practice makes perfect, especially with portion control. I’ve actually used this method myself and stretched one meal into three. Don’t trust your willpower to let you only eat a small portion? Ask your waiter to box up half of your meal. They might even keep it in the kitchen for you until you’re ready to go. Be on the lookout; some chains will offer half-sizes of their meals.

Get your priorities straight. What would make the meal most memorable for you? Is there a house specialty you’re dying to have? Or maybe their signature dessert? Pick one thing to build your meal around. Then go lightly with everything else. That means not having appetizers, soups, main course, bread and dessert. Now is the time to play favorites.

Try take-out. Practically and dietwise I’ve found you run into fewer temptations with take-out. You can add your lower-fat condiments like butter, sour cream and salad dressing to whatever you order and you won’t be seduced by something not on your plan.

Beware of empty calories. Don’t have wine just because everyone else is having a cocktail or it’s happy hour. Would you rather have that drink or save calories for a special dessert? Likewise, if you’re not wild about the bread, pass it on.

Order a special. If you’re going to treat yourself, try something out of the ordinary that you can’t get everywhere. Save the cheeseburger and fries for another time.

Lay off the sauce. Beware of anything cooked in butter, cheese or cream. If you simply can’t have it without it, try getting it on the side.

Go fish. Most of the time, seafood, depending on the preparation, is less caloric and lower in cholesterol and fat than meat and pasta. It’s especially good prepared following the “G.B.S.” system.

Try a fill-up. On veggies, that is. Include vegetables as integral parts of your meals whenever possible. They help fill you up and meet your nutritional requirements. This is a great opportunity to try an exotic vegetable or one that you would never prepare at home due to time constraints, picky eaters or some other excuse. Otherwise, choose a salad, going easy on dressing and high-calorie toppings, or a vegetable-based soup.

Remember the “F” word. (Not that one!) During your meal, focus on friends and family, not feasting. It’s not your last meal, so enjoy your company and the conversation.

Tricia Finch

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