Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eating is Not Cheating

“Eating is not cheating,” he said in a thick Austrian accent.

So true.

Now this is actually fantastic advice to dieters everywhere and it’s a phrase that should sink into one’s soul if you’re trying to lose weight the good ol’ fashioned way.

Disregard that I first read this sage wisdom many years ago in the now defunct Premiere Magazine and it had nothing to do with dieting.

It was actually attributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger who indelicately blurted out this beauty of a barb when someone barged through the door of his unlocked movie trailer and allegedly caught him in flagrante in the midst of an extramarital affair.

To be clear, I don’t condone Arnold’s wacky view of cheating, but if you are dieting, I do encourage real world eating as soon as you feel able.

For many weeks, the family pretty much stayed at home and declined a number of invitations to eat out (and I don’t mean that in a Schwarzenegger kind of way).

At some point you need to break free of your kitchen and use your foundation and comfort with your food plan and eat in “the real world.”

After two months of almost exclusively eating meals prepared in our kitchen -- an environment that has been completely sanitized for our protection -- this week was a pivotal step forward.

More than ever, we really took our diet to extremes and discovered that eating truly is not cheating. We tackled Disneyland, a poker game, dinner with my brother and two long-time family friends, a few lunches out, and the best frickin’ wine dinner I have been to in about 8 months.

And with all the potential obstacles, traps and land mines we faced, Amy and I still managed to lose 4 pounds each this week. So forgive me if I am a little astonished by the accomplishment.

In the interest of full disclosure, Amy and I actually weighed in on Thursday because there was no way in hell I was going to attend the mother of all wine dinners and hop on a scale the following morning.


I may be fat, but I ain’t stupid!

When I decided to attend this genuinely obscene evening of food and wine, I knew there was every chance in hell that Evil Steve was gonna show up and crash the party, so I planned accordingly.

Now I sense you in front of your computer raising at least one eyebrow. Please don’t give me that look. It was a pre-cheat, for crying out loud. I did what every self-respecting cheater would do.

Yes, I weighed in before the din-din of sin. Sue me in calorie court!

It was still 4 pounds in 6 days and we could have been swallowed whole by any one of our previous encounters with dining out this week. I just figured if something bad was going to happen, it wasn’t gonna be a Mickey Burger in the Magic Kingdom.

Oh hell no, friends, if something bad was going to occur, it was going to erupt like a volcano at the wine dinner.

It was my pre-cheat and I was going to own it – good, bad or ugly. And I have to say, the Elzer experience with pre-cheating thus far has been hard fought and frought with peril.

Those of you following the blog know that Lucas tried to pre-cheat and instead of pizza and cake he ended up with Strawberries.

Amy planned on enjoying dessert to celebrate a special occasion, and then decided to do the right thing and make her own dietetic fat free, sugar free, flour free chocolate cake.

I knew when I heard the shriek coming from the kitchen, it was not a good sound. By the time I arrived on the scene, Amy was literally sitting on the floor in front of a clump of chocolate mess and she was nursing a nasty burn on her arm. But damn if the cake didn’t look good! Apparently she decided to experiment with the recipe and, let’s just say it didn’t end well.

These are important and instructive lessons about fucking with the pre-cheat diet Gods. Apparently they don’t dig it when you play with the plan.

So I set out to conquer the wine dinner like an American taking on Germany in my very own Battle of the Bulge.

As you know, I had been thinking about how to outwit, outsmart and outplay this episode of diet survivor for weeks.

My first plan of attack was to infiltrate the enemy.

I used all my skill and cunning to discover the secret menu for the evening. I then had a serious heart-to-heart with the team at the restaurant - Campanile - to discuss what I will lovingly call “my food restrictions.”

It was an interesting conversation.

“Oh, really, you’re serving pasta. Nope. Can’t have that. And the duck in that great reduction sauce. We’re going to need to nix that too. Same with all the starches, so those mashed potatoes are gonna have to go.”

“Well, what can you have?” the friendly restaurant staffer asked.

“I should be fine with the veal in the first course. We’ll skip the pasta and you can just give me some simple vegetables in the second – but they can’t be starchy. And instead of duck, how about just a few slices of skinless boneless chicken breast.”

And this hysteria repeated itself thru the entire menu course by course.

I felt like I was living a scene straight out of When Harry Met Sally, and I sure wasn’t playing the role of Harry.

Even though all the food and the wines were supposed to be a secret, the staff was wonderfully understanding and especially accommodating.

When I showed up on Thursday night, I walked thru the front door of Campanile feeling pretty good about how I was going to get myself out of this fine mess I had committed to attending.

Note to Amy and Lucas: a successful pre-cheat requires a lot of advanced planning!

It was great reuniting with the guys and just moments after I sat at the table the first plate of Campanile’s famous grilled cheese sandwiches arrived.


These little crusted morsels are legendary and I really had to muster every last ounce of will power to take the plate and pass it down.

Now I don’t know why, but I can honestly say that was the toughest single moment of the diet so far.

I wanted that damned grilled cheese panini with an intensity and passion that has thankfully not reared its ugly head in the last 8 weeks. And once the brain synapses switched from “must eat” to “must pass” I was in control and I remained in the driver’s seat for the rest of the night.

I had a few bites of this, a taste of that and all-in-all, nothing that substantially deviated from the established portions or plan.

“But what about the wines?” I hear you cry.

Well, I looked. I swirled. I smelled. I took a generous portion in my mouth and then promptly spit it into a cup. Through the course of the evening, I would say less than half a glass actually went down the gullet.

And with the wines I was drinking – or not drinking as the case may be – I should honestly be arrested for spitting in public.

Such a hideous waste of some truly magnificent gems. If there is such a thing as wine jail, they should lock me up and throw away the key.

If you are reading this far, I don’t mean to bore you with geeky wine drivel. But nearly 5 hours after arriving at Campanile, I left my friends and the restaurant completely sober and without guilt or regret.

So, amen and hallelujah, does this mean I can return to my life of 8 course wine dinners since I am clearly cured and so blissfully in control?

Fat boy ask what?

The answer is a resounding "no".

I loved returning to my wine group and participating in this very special evening, but there is no way in hell I am going to do that again anytime soon.

Volunteering for this kind of foodie torture is like an Iraqi detainee asking for a transfer from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay because he hears the Water Boarding there is a blast.

If you could read my mind when that platter of grilled cheese passed thru my pudgy little hands, you would know that on any given day, at any given meal, only one bite separates the old way of life from the new.

Once I cave to the cravings and allow myself that deviation, I know all too well it’s often very hard to recover.

That’s not to say that I won’t allow myself the opportunity to enjoy my food faves because at some point I will. But for now, I’ll stick to pre-cheating because I know that you can’t really control cravings. How you react is all about commitment and resolve to be the better you and that can vary by the day, hour and minute.

When you are working your way down on your weigh down, it's taken me nearly four decades to learn it’s not the pounds that count. It’s every bite.

 Steve Elzer, 2009
All Rights Reserved


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