Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week 5: The Family Struggles With Do or Diet Situations - Can you Cheat without Cheating?

I really blew it this week and I still lost 7 pounds.

Actually, the family lost 10 pounds during our Friday weigh-in bringing our 34-day total to 77 pounds!

We have lost a small child but no need to issue any kind of Amber Alert. In this case, it’s good that we ditched that chubby little kid and I hope we never find him again.

Between my 7 lbs and the grand total of 77 lbs, we should have gone to Vegas and played the slots because, to me, we hit the 7-7-7 Jackpot!

As elated as I am, I must confess I have cheated in a way that may be the worst possible way to break your diet.

I have cheated without cheating. This phenomenon is something I call Pre-Cheating.

Pre-Cheating is anticipatory cheating. If you are familiar with the Philip K. Dick short story Minority Report (or the Spielberg/Tom Cruise movie) you know that the storyline is about foretelling the future and changing the outcome. As the story goes, in the distant future there are psychic beings that alert the Pre-Crime Police to murders before they happen. The Pre-Crime Cops track down the suspect and swoop in before any violence can occur.

Well, if you saw the film, (which is different from the short story) when the psychics name you as a murderer, your name gets etched onto a very cool looking wooden ball. Well, in the Pre-Cheating world, my name is on one of those little suckers and Amy has one and so does Lucas.

We are all diet criminals on the run.

This was just a week of weakness. Through the last seven days, we struggled with enormous temptation. And I would be a fool if the outcome didn’t worry me more than just a little.

Now I don't mean to sound dire or dramatic. Our determination and dedication has not evaporated into a fantasy of breathing THIN air.

But this is more a cautionary tale. Here is what happened.

Since we began our diet, we have lived in our own little cloistered cocoon. And that may be the problem. We have prepared all of our own meals in our own kitchen and have not really ventured out to our normal stable of restaurants in the real world.

So, while we remained protected in our little bubble, I thought our resolve was stable and strong. Instead, I have discovered just how incredibly delicate we all are as dieters.

The first blow came when we booked a future vacation. Amy said something to the effect of, “I am telling you now, I am gonna have dessert on the first night we are away.”

This was Pre-cheat #1.

Now Amy has a truly legitimate reason to celebrate a forthcoming occasion with dessert, and as I really think about it, when she threw down the “Get Out of Cheaters Jail Free Card” it was actually the second family Pre-Cheat in as many days.

Those following this blog already know we are allowing Lucas some pizza and a small piece of cake at an upcoming party. That is actually the first recognized family Pre-Cheat.

As a brief aside, part of the curse of being a little kid is you are invited to every other classmate’s birthday party. So, as fate would have it, that same weekend Lucas was invited to yet ANOTHER party.

Choices, Son, choices. Get used to ‘em.

Of the two invitations, Lucas has been told he has to pick one party where he can splurge.

This is a tough choice for a kid. Is it gonna be cake and pizza, or will he opt for what’s behind door number 2 – the cookie cake?

I know what I would do, but this is his little food nightmare.

Like Hannah and Amy, he has been so good, I feel lousy about this situation and a kid should be a kid. Unfortunately what was going to be his little celebration has now turned into a bit of a dilemma. Instead of being understanding and empathetic parents, now I feel like we’re really just strict dieting dicks.

This stuff is hard, people, and we are winging it as it comes. We just want to keep everyone on the right path. 

The next family hurdle occurred last Sunday night, when we attended Lukey’s end of the season Basketball team party.

As Team Mom of the Nuggets, Amy volunteered to help the Coach by picking up the food. We got to the restaurant and by the time the trunk was loaded and the rear hatch was shut closed, the back of the SUV was packed with no less than three Pizzas, two kinds of chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, breadsticks, BBQ tri-tip and whatever else was in those damn foil trays.

As I started to pull the car out of the parking lot, it was almost as if the scent from the food took on a life of its own and had its way with us.

You’ve heard of shell shocked, right?

Well, I think we were all just a little bit smell shocked when we arrived at the coach’s beautiful home about 10 minutes later. I honestly couldn’t wait to get out of that car.

As we escaped from the BBQ scented Audi and unloaded the trays, we walked the food into the kitchen where we stumbled into an orgy of freshly baked cupcakes that were just being frosted for each of the team members.

The coach’s wife seemed to need a helping hand with the frosting and, well, leave it to Hannah to volunteer for the tough assignments and jump right on in.

To me it was like an accident on a freeway. I really didn’t want to see the blood, so I just turned my head.

I honestly don’t believe any of Hannah’s frosted fingers made a detour into her mouth, but later in the evening, I did see a few things that gave me pause. A little extra nibble of tri tip, maybe a few extra ounces of grilled chicken. Nothing that appeared too heinous in the scheme of the spread that we confronted.

After dinner, as each of the kids was presented with a trophy for leading their team through an amazing, undefeated season, they were also given one of the aforementioned cupcakes. When it came time for Lucas to receive his award, we had pre-arranged with the Coach that he would only be handed his trophy, and my heart sank just a bit as he stoically sat down while everyone around him ate their Hannah frosted goodies.

What I didn’t know was that the cupcakes were really just a team teaser – an appetizer, if you will, for the grand finale – cheesecakes from The Cheesecake Factory.

When they rolled out those two irresistible bad boys, I felt like a defeated General waving the white flag. Enough! I hustled the family together for a hasty retreat and we bolted thru the door with the urgency of a man with Montezuma’s Revenge.

When we climbed into our car - our safe haven - we discovered that it still reeked of BBQ food. I had to laugh.

We survived the party and our first major journey across a road riddled with land mines. We all had our limbs.

Just a day later, I was barely over the escapades at the Team Party when I received an email marked urgent from a good friend. He knows how committed I am to this life change, but he also knows that I am beyond freaky and geeky when it comes to certain wines and winemakers.

To me, there are a handful of genuine wine Gods and apparently a dinner was in the works with one of these true world-renowned wine titans. He believed I would want to know about this particular event, despite my self-imposed hiatus from all things wine.

I think he probably was under the impression that had I discovered this event without being given a courtesy “head’s up,” I would have been angry. And I hate to say, he would have been right.

When he laid out the evening, my curt reply was clear.

“Fuck the diet,” I hastily wrote.

It was a phrase I now regret.

There is no question this forthcoming dinner is a once in a lifetime opportunity with a genius I genuinely worship, but this diet is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to regain my life and my dignity.

So my mind went into overdrive. How can I do this? What are my options? What if I just show up and do a quick fly-by and say hello? What if I go to the restaurant and bring my own food? What if I attend and don’t actually swallow the wine. I’ll just vigorously swish it around my mouth and spit it out in a cup, like a professional taster.

Yeah, that’s it!
The problem: I am a swallower, not a spitter.

By the time I talked myself into how I could attend and still be observant to my diet, Pre-Cheat #3 was barreling down on me.

My month long resolve caved like a house of cards and over what? A five course meal with a living wine legend?

So I had a heart-to-heart with my bad self, “Are you really gonna trash all this great work for this?” He replied, “Damn straight ☺ And I am gonna do it Wine God style.”

I guess you are gonna have to continue reading the blog in a few weeks to see what
really happens. Frankly, every hour I have another silly thought about how I can make this work.

Now, I wish I could say that the family’s collective weakness ended there, but like a chimp on Xanax, sad stories sometimes turn tragic.

Yesterday, my straight A girl discovered that her speech on Saving the Rain Forests was judged as the First Place winner in the school’s Toastmasters competition. So in the coming weeks, she will represent her school in a district wide public speaking competition. Normally, when something this special occurs, we would have gone out for a celebratory dinner.

Instead, after our weigh-in, Hannah had her first gathering to meet the players and coaches on her new softball team.

But of all the gin joints they could have picked, they chose Farrell’s.

“Play it, Sam. Play as Diets Go By.”

Normally, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor would probably be a great place to hold such an event.

But these days… not so much.

And this isn’t just any other Farrell’s, this one is located smack dab in the middle of Mountasia, a kiddy complex on steroids with an arcade, batting cages, go cart racing and every possible dollar sucking machine known to man. It’s like a child’s heaven on earth if heaven was in the suburbs of LA County.

In our touch-and-go lives, perhaps this was a meeting we should have just been wise enough to skip. But Hannah, Amy and Lucas braved on. Mountasia and Farrell’s or bust.

Everyone was getting nice and cozy and acquainted with each other when the stampede occurred. A Zoo was delivered to the team table.

For those of you unfamiliar with the legendary feast known as The Zoo, let me read from the Menu to describe the 40 scoops of insanity that is in this concoction of cream:

“So huge it takes two strong Servers to deliver it to your table. Their knees sag under FIVE flavors of our famous ice cream. THREE fruit flavor sherberts, FIVE delicious toppings, whipped cream, cherries, nuts and bananas. All for only $49.99.”

Wow. $50 bucks. That’s a veritable binge and purge bargain, is it not?

Just reading the description makes me wanna puke like a super-sized Monty Python character after eating a wafer thin mint.

So, as this monstrosity was being devoured by the spoon-wielding 12-year-olds, little Miss Frosted Fingers decided she, like Lucas, was entitled to her own special do or diet moment.

Oh, what a tangled web we parents weave….

Hannah had a few bites from the Zoo and called it quits. Still, I can’t help but agonize over the boundary testing that we have all exhibited this Week.

How do I find peace with any of this? I wish I could say I can, but I can’t. We are strong, but we are equally weak. Despite the parties and the Zoo and The penultimate Wine Dinner, we still remain completely dedicated to our diet. And we are taking these encroachments on a case-by-case basis because this is now our life in the long term.

We can’t live each day thinking we can never have this or we can never eat that.

But all this Pre-cheating is giving me a little Pre-look into our future, and I am not sure I am entirely comfortable with what I see. If I am skeptical or cynical, it’s only because of the life I have lived until now and there is no Pre-Crime Division to stop us.

No cops are gonna swoop in on ropes and crash through our windows so we better learn fast how to Police ourselves.

 copyright, Steve Elzer, 2009


  1. I love this. Truly humanizes the trials and tribulations of what you are going through to make this amazing choice for your family's health. Outstanding! Paulie D

  2. smell shocked - brilliant - and its not cheating if you don't do it - like great looking men (i mean women) - you can look - just don't touch - unless you want to suffer the wrath of mom...

    love you - me