Monday, November 23, 2009

Battle of the Bulge

Middle age, it has been said, is the time when you stop growing up and start growing out.

I can attest to this. It is a cruel trick of nature that just about the time you can afford to eat anything that appears on a menu, your metabolism turns your body into a packrat. "Sure," I can hear it saying, "eat whatever you want. We'll store it over here … forever."

Personally, I am multiply cursed in this regard. For one thing, I love to cook. Even as other sins come up on the schedule less frequently, eating is always convenient and fulfilling.

For another thing, I'm married to someone who bears more than a passing resemblance to Katharine Hepburn — tall, thin, and opinionated. Her metabolism has not turned her body into a packrat; her metabolism has daily garage sales. She can eat a pound of See's candy and show no ill effects. It is, to say the least, highly aggravating.

To top it all off, she's also a physician, so her conversation is dotted with technical phrases like "pre-diabetic" and "body mass index," as well as less-technical phrases like "heart attack."

I am tired of hearing her use phrases like this. She thinks that just because she's a doctor and I'm married to her, I'm supposed to heed her advice. Of course, one time I didn't listen to her, and I almost died. She has never let me forget this incident, no matter how many times I remind her that I'm not dead.

Her advice to me regarding losing weight: keep my caloric intake down to 1,500 calories per day. This is roughly the equivalent of asking Congress to limit the federal deficit. You think it sounds doable, but some things are just way too tempting.

Speaking of the government, its guidelines really don't help much. Have you ever really looked at the Nutrition Facts box on the food you eat (the one above is for Cheerios)? Here's a tip — don’t look at the calories alone. Look at the serving size. Once a friend of mine took a measuring cup and showed her husband a serving size of Grape-Nuts. He sneered accurately, "That’s not a serving. That’s the dust from the bottom of the box."

And take ice cream. If you go to the Web site The Calorie Counter, it lists the serving size of ice cream as one-half cup. Hey, without too much effort, I can get a half-cup of ice cream in one spoonful. My favorite, however, is its nutrition listing for rich chocolate ice cream. It calculates this as having all of 26 calories. The serving size is the key: it's one cubic inch.

Suffice to say, 1,500 calories a day is a mirage. It is, however, a mirage that keeps me going. I tracked my calorie intake for a month and found, with some effort, that I can hit the 1,600-1,700 range. Exercising helps. I have lost twelve pounds while occasionally having pizza and beef so I do not feel deprived (there was even some Halloween candy in there). I am now wearing pants I have not been able to fit in for years.

The only thing I haven't figured out is how to keep my wife from thinking I’m following her advice.

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