french women don’t get fat

Saturday mornings have been rough for me lately. I got in to a groove whence I would cut back on my food all week to have a decent weigh-in on Friday or Saturday, and then performed the life equivalent of a bonk at the beginning of every weekend. Today was no exception aside from the fact that I broke through my initiative barrier long enough to explore the Waverly Farmers market for the first time ever.

MAN! Why didn’t I do this sooner. Tomatoes that actually look, smell and taste like tomatoes instead of red wax-covered nerf balls. All the other produce was pretty good too.  Real bread, salad greens with peppery radicchio, honey crisp apples and a bunch of other stuff. Pulling right up to the market while everybody in cars circled the block 10 times looking for a space was just icing on the cake. No less than an hour after getting back I had lunch ready…

Turkey chili, Whole grain toast with flaxseeds and greens with a little olive oil, coarse salt and pepper on top. Those little dark green peppers were HOT. I cut one up and my hand was burning for about 2 hours where I got the oil on my skin. It was a good kickoff to the weekend for me except I ate way to much of the trail mix I bought.

To better explain the title and where I got my initiative for all of this I have to back up about a week. Before we went on vacation my wife picked up this book…

French Women Don't Get Fat Book Cover

She said it was good, and that I should read it too. I only picked it up at first because I thought if I read it, then I could help by discussing with her.  It felt like I was going to be reading a ‘lifestyle change’ type book about weight loss, which it was. After 25 pages or so I really started to like it a bit. I don’t feel like I came away from it learning anything I didn’t already know about diet and nutrition, but there are a few tenets which it reminded me of.

  • Food and drink are basic elements of life and in order to be successful at managing the way we consume there has to be satisfaction and balance in what we do. Diets where we never eat or drink that ‘bad stuff’ we used to will never work.
  • Pay attention to planning good meals and eating great food. The majority of what we eat and drink has been so heavily processed that the only things left to make it palatable are fat, salt, and sugar. Returning to fresh foods and more natural flavors can heal your sense of taste and give balance to your diet while increasing your enjoyment of food.
  • Learning to be cognizant of what we’re eating and why at all times.
  • Activity is just as important, but also needs to be enjoyable and in moderation or you’ll get burnt out here too.
  • We would do well to step away from our ‘American extremes’. Extreme consumption which we attempt to compensate for with extreme activity.

( As an aside, if you want to read pretty much the same thing from a male perspective in far less than 300 pages, surf to Douglas Crokford’s site. You’ll be glad you did, and if you’re a web programmer, you might just learn some other stuff too.)

The ‘idea’ of weight loss has been with me since I was 12 years old. In H.S. gym, I was the kid who walked when we ran for the fitness test. I’ve tried many things over the years, had success for a while here and there, but it wasn’t till I was in my late 20’s before I came across the overarching philosophy that has helped me whittle nearly 100 pounds off my frame since 1997.

  • We don’t ever get rid of old habits, we just build over them with better ones.

To elaborate a little bit I see myself as a collection of all the habits, good and bad, that I’ve been practicing since birth. If I start doing something good today and keep at it for 10 years, then eventually it becomes part of me. To quote Oscar Wilde –

“…every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character…”

As anyone knows who has tried it, the tough part is keeping at it for 10 years till it becomes a part of you. (This blog picks up for me about 4 years ago around the beginning of “long-term personal attempt 2”.) That’s where you have to get creative and choose to do things which are more enjoyable AND better for you. If I had decided to do the elliptical at the gym every night for the rest of my life, I’d still weigh 300+ pounds. I started biking long mile weekends on rail trails and later riding to work or making grocery runs on the bike. It was a slam-dunk because it was better for me AND I could see myself doing it for the rest of my life. The food side is more difficult. The majority of my success here has been from controlling what I eat during weekdays. Thankfully they account for 70% of my schedule, so in the long run I got a positive return from my investment. Gorging myself on the weekends doesn’t work as well either because I can’t fit as much food down as I used to.

Trying to ‘bring it home’ the final 20% of my goals is going to require a little more creativity on my part. 6 months ago I started to think about eating better foods and doing it in moderation but it kind of got derailed. Eating a scoop of good ice cream instead of 1.5 quarts lowfat ice cream is a smart idea. Polishing off a pint in one sitting is a bad idea. ‘French Women’ had a bunch of recipes in it, and while I don’t see myself making any of them verbatim, it got me thinking about new ways I can mix things up with my menu again. My choices have been rather stagnant lately taking me down the path of boredom.

The book said that the hardest thing you would have to do was log all the food you eat for 3 weeks so you could reflect on it–a laughable idea from my p.o.v. having already done that for 198 weeks or 1386 days. Another thing I can tell from reading this book is that I’ve made progress in ‘recasting’ my appetites over the past 10 years. There were many recipes which were classified as appetizers that I would happily eat as a main course.

So where does this leave me? Last October I gave myself a goal and mapped out a plan to eight right and exercise which would help me finish this month under 200 lbs. Well 2 days to go and I can only report progress of about 1-2 pounds over where I was last year. That doesn’t make me despondent, because it’s still better than ‘no’ or ‘negative’ progress. Still, it’s not what I was looking for. I’ve learned some stuff…

Strengths I’ve built…

  • I love trying new foods – learning to eat a variety of foods when I was a junk food junkie in my youth was HUGE. This lead me to #2…
  • There are very few foods left that I would classify as ‘The usual suspects’ – a term from the book for foods that you just don’t control yourself around. Ice Cream, Peanut Butter, Trail mix or nuts, that’s about it. Everything else is either a food which holds no real interest for me in large quantities or I just don’t eat it any more. I can’t remember the last time I set foot in a McDonalds or Burger King. We stop at a Sonic Drive-In when we go to visit my parents sometimes, but that works out to about 3 burgers a year. We almost never go up the chip or soda aisle of the grocery store.
  • I like challenging myself athletically – If you would have told 18 year old me that my idea of weekend fun was riding around on a bike for 9 hours straight he would have laughed at you…
  • Keeping a food journal and counting calories – Doing this for nearly 4 years was a monumental task, but has left me with a literal volume of information and comparative analysis tools (I’m a data junkie) to guide my goals and progress in the future. My failures for the past 2 years haven’t been from not KNOWING what to do, only in not doing it. At some point I will probably hang up the journals for good, but it will be at least a year after I reach my final goal.

Weak areas for me still…

  • evenings 5-6pm, or the first hour home – from my youth, this was a time of the day for ‘grazing’ and I still haven’t replaced that habit.
  • weekends away from home – anything that takes us out of our regular habitats, away from my kitchen scales and the safety of cupboards filled with quick easy options is a threat, but especially if we visit family. It’s almost like I revert to the person I was when someone else cared for me.
  • dinner out with friends – for the most part we don’t end up at Chili’s, but portions everywhere are out of control. They say leave your plate half way full, but my parents instilled that ‘depression-era-clean-your-plate’ mentality in me and I don’t think I have enough years in me to reprogram that away completely. I have an doubly hard time not eating it all when I pay $25 to have someone cook it for me. Triply so when I’m waiting for everyone else to finish.
  • boredom – sometimes I just can’t think of anything I want for dinner, so I just pick at whatever food is around until I decide. Usually too much.
  • overindulging on the weekends – my gut reaction is to cut ice cream out of my schedule completely, but as said before, if you don’t learn to live with your demons, they will reappear.

So in conclusion, I’ve watched my progress over the past 198 weeks and averaged between 0.25 and 0.33 pounds/week weight loss over that time. (intra-week gains/losses skew the figure slightly) My NEW goal is based on sticking to the high-end of that pace through January next year. If I CAN do that, then it will put me within knocking distance of the 200lb door and I think I’ll have to come up with a nice reward for myself. If NOT? well we’ll talk about that in the unfortunate event that it does not occur.

Actual numbers, goals, and concrete milestones to come in the next few weeks after I have a chance to normalize from my vacation excesses last week. Till then I’m gonna unchain from the desk and go for a ride.

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2 thoughts on “french women don’t get fat

  1. Great entry. It’s interesting how similar these kinds of discussion are, in that the boredom, habits and toxic food environment get the best of not one solitary person, but most people with weight issues, especially those who’ve battled since adolescence. My riding mileage has been better than ever the last few years b/c I love riding, but my weight is no good. I’ve yet to change my tune and middle age (I’m 40) will either be the wake up call, or not, and with that the subsequent age-related issues like diabetes and heart problems. Good for you and thanks for the info.

  2. I think as far as eating goes my dieting over the years honed my metabolism. I hit the middle age thing where I’d gain weight even if I ate less YEARS before most people do. We went to the beach for the weekend and I fell off the wagon a bit, but for the most part I’ve been doing a better job of eating smarter since I wrote all that back in August. I just try to keep myself occupied with more activites I like, and ask myself if I really am going to enjoy what I eat before I down it.

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