I am not one for gargantuan New Year’s resolutions; they simply don’t work beyond the first week. But this January 1st, after mindlessly shoveling enough Christmas cookies down my craw, feeling run-down and tired, and looking at how my silhouette was beginning to resemble Alfred Hitchcock’s when I turned sideways, I knew it was time to make a few changes. John was feeling the same way, and we were starting to wonder how best to stop this downward spiral. Despite the winter doldrums slowing things down, however, the food world didn’t stop spinning. There were still artisan cocktails to sample, restaurants to explore, tasting events to nibble at, and editors waiting for stories on all of them. There was no way I could go on a diet and do drastic things like eliminate carbs, or certain categories of foods. I simply needed a strategy, a plan. Something to give me accountability and awareness as to what I was actually consuming.
It seemed my best bet was Weight Watchers©. After doing some research, I found I could get behind the new Points Plus© system, mostly because it rewards you for eating whole, fresh foods (which is how I always eat, even if it involves too many calories). I’d be dammed if I was going to drop pounds using nasty fake breads, butter sprays and other horrible hyper-processed products that claim to be “healthy”. And if you think I’m getting paid to endorse Weight Watchers, think again. I neither have the time for meetings or the money to drop on all this; I researched all I could on the Internet and implemented it from there. I may not be following it exactly, but I figured that I’d be close enough to make a change happen.
A typical day at home is an easy no-brainer: salads, homemade soups made with a little less oil, last night’s grilled chicken, snacks like carrots and hummus or cheese. Even dessert is easy when you don’t go nuts: really good dark chocolate and Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies are only 1 Points Plus© each…it gets me back to slowing down and truly savoring the finer tastes in life. No problem. But then the inevitable will happen: a day of insanity when there isn’t time to cook. Decent Chinese takeout options, sushi, even a slice or two of pizza from a typical pizza joint works (especially if you eat a salad with it to round it all out). And I thank my lucky stars once again that I can often lure my kids away from Ronald-McPusher-Man in favor of quesadillas at Surf Taco (really good, fresh tacos are available for no more than 4Points Plus©-hold the chips).
But then it’s time for a big tasting dinner at one of South Jersey’s latest fine-dining establishments, one we’ve been anticipating for months. Are we going to stick to salads and water? Are we going check out the latest craft burger joint and order a grilled chicken, hold the bun? Hell no, we’re going to order the dishes that we find most intriguing, and will most likely make our toes tingle. Typically overheard in our household the following morning: “How many points is a serving of foie gras?” (2 oz. is 7 Points Plus©, God bless the French Internet) “What about a nip of house-made aqua vit?” (Best guess: 4 Points Plus©)… Did I mention the 35 extra “flex points” you get each week, that allow a bit of “give” in your intakes? Yeah, that’s when I gave up and just decided to dedicate the whole flex-point enchilada to one big fine-dining tasting menu, or a few lunchtime burger or sandwich samplings. The thing is, though, you don’t really have to do more than just a bite or a sip of everything in front of you in order to gauge the flavors and write about them. What’s served me well is following the snooty rule of Anton Ego, the smarmy, scarecrow-like French food critic in Ratatouille. When dining out at restaurant that he’s reviewing (or getting ready to tear a new one), he insists : “If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow.”
Have I lost weight? Yes, though I have no idea how much. I don’t own a scale, nor do I want to take on the obsession that goes with having one in the house. But I don’t need one to know my “skinny” jeans are getting a little baggy, and the Hitchcock belly has morphed into a simple muffin top. And I intend to keep going, my life still joyfully filled with artisan breads, panna cottas, and craft brews.
Bite on that, Dr. Atkins.