Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

Losing Weight: Moderation Is Fanatical

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | September 25, 2011 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: losing weight, Slim-Fast, weight loss

I've pondered many times the subject of exercise and my effort to understand my motives or, more specifically, my need to tease apart the dreaded surrender to an "ideal" physical appearance (or vanity) from, I guess, some kind of real or authentic (virtuous?) health consciousness, kilo-stone-scale.jpgboth of which concepts are highly suspect but that's not exactly what this blog post is about.

C and I have both gained new-boyfriend weight, which I guess is a thing: the last time I gained 20 pounds was in the first year J and I were together. Here's how it works:

1) you snagged a man, you can relax now; staying in shape was all about attracting men
2) snuggling on the couch is way more compelling than going to the gym, and besides, one of the things that motivated you to go to the gym was that there'd be hot guys working out and getting naked in the locker room, a kind of stimulation you're less interested in now
3) maybe this factor is less universal but a man who loves my cooking is license to go crazy with the butter and cream, cheese, casseroles, desserts, biscuits and bacon on Saturday morning.

Last time - I'm embarrassed to admit - I did Slim-Fast. I would mix up one of those things in a Thermos and take it to work with me for lunch (I was working as a word processor at a law firm) and every night J and I would have a half chicken breast each with a vegetable. I was rigorous about it. I lost the weight.

So, as we know, C and I bought an elliptical machine so we can work out conveniently at home now. The machine tells you how many calories you're burning, and so far I am spending about 25 minutes 4 days a week burning 250 calories a pop. And we're eating mostly protein and vegetables. Meat and salad, usually. For lunch, I have some fruit and maybe a small piece of cheese. I let myself indulge a bit on weekends. We don't have a scale, but my pants are not quite as tight as they were a few weeks ago. I'm making some progress, but I have a ways to go.

My mother told me once that in order not to gain weight she had to get used to feeling a little hungry all the time. What a great argument against intelligent design that what we want to eat does not correspond to what our bodies need in order to function. We all have that infuriating skinny friend who seems to eat and eat and eat and never gain weight. And some of us have to feel hungry all the time.

But what is even more difficult for me to summon than the strength of will to resist my cravings is the ability or desire to put aside my philosophical objection to the whole idea of deprivation. I don't just enjoy dessert, I believe dessert is important. Pleasure is essential. Especially and more and more as I get older, I have no interest in living a life without the things that bring me pleasure, one of which is food. But I do not want to weigh 300 pounds. It's a paradox I can't solve, and it drives me crazy.

What I do know is that the "healthy choices" rhetoric is mostly bullshit.

Yesterday afternoon, C and I were sitting by the pool eating guacamole and chips, and one of the guys here for the weekend (we're on Fire Island, the Pines, where we have a partial share - this is something C has done every summer for years, but it's my first time here) walked by and said something about how unhealthy our snack was. Avocados, lime juice, cilantro, corn, vegetable oil, and salt. I don't know what could possibly be more wholesome, more healthy. But this guy has a body worked out to within an inch of its life and a pathological fear of fat and carbohydrates, and his attitude toward exercise and food is the one generally accepted as "healthy."

There's nothing like the Fire Island Pines to distill this issue to its unadulterated essence and throw it steaming in your face.

I also reject the rhetoric of moderation. Moderation is not the magical answer; it's just one more way to cast puritanical aspersions on someone else's food and exercise habits. I will not lose weight by some vague notion of "moderation." I will lose weight by keeping a careful eye on what I eat and exercising religiously, by consciously, over and over all day, telling myself "No. No, you can't eat that. Potatoes are perfectly wholesome, healthy, but if you eat them, even a moderate amount of them, you will be fat for the rest of your life."

Five days a week, I huff and sweat until my knees are wobbly and I can barely catch my breath, and then I eat a salad for dinner.

That's not moderate. It's fanatical.


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After decades of trying to lose weight, I've come to several conclusions:
--Sugar is my drug of choice--forget crack or smack, give me a bag of "fun size Baby Ruth's. After all it's less fattening in small sizes,
--It takes GUTS to be fat--groan-n-n, and
--Fat's where it's at and thin's where it's been.
You guessed it--I love puns.

I think you hit the nail right on the head with food being a drug of choice. It is also the only drug that you can't quite because if you quite eating you will starve to death. I know Carbs are my drug of choice, anything bread and carb, had a sad day, a stressful day etc Screw the the drugs and liquor give me the bread and pasta!!

I've never known anyone to advise moderation except to justify his own excess, but new-boyfriend sex has no calories! Reach for your mate instead of your plate!

But that's part of the problem. Sex makes me HUNGRY! :)

I don't really subscribe to the idea that food is a 'drug of choice' for people.

Food is not a 'drug' - unlike tobacco, alcohol, heroin etc. If you don't eat then you will die.

Our lifestyles today are far more sedentary than they were 50 years ago.
There was a British study done last year which showed that the average person eats less calories today than they did in 1945. It's just back then people were a lot more active. Hence there was not the obesity epidemic that exists today.

We're at a point in the US that no-one is really hungry. Food is very cheap and very plentiful. Our bodies are simply not used to this eternal abundance.

Well, I generally agree, except class disparity has indeed created a hunger problem in the US. It's probably not on par with India, but there are thousands of children and families below the poverty line struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. There ARE people in the US who are hungry. They're just glossed over by the excess of the the rest of us.

Great op-ed by Mark Bittman this week about this issue. I've always sort of suspected that the issue of hunger in the U.S. is more complicated than the trope that poor people can only afford to eat junk food:

http://markbittman.com/is-junk-food-cheaper-than-real-food

The bigger issue is that people just don't cook. I fed myself and my partner for years in New York CIty on a few bucks a day. We ate nutritious and tasty meals. It's possible and it's not difficult. I don't mean to say that there aren't people who struggle to feed themselves and their families, but I don't think there are as many as the poverty statistics indicate.

I think the problem for so many families of the working poor is that not only do both parents work, but they often work long hours and even multiple jobs, leaving them very little time to actually cook and get the other chores around the house done so cooking falls by the way side.

That's another trope that doesn't hold water. It doesn't take any more time to cook a simple meal than it does to wait in the drive-through or heat up a frozen dinner, or watch a sitcom. Spend 10 minutes throwing some stuff in the slow-cooker in the morning, come home to a delicious meal at night. Or if they just can't imagine life without that sitcom, they can throw some stuff in the oven, watch TV for half an hour, and dinner will be done. I just don't buy the argument that people don't have time to cook. They have plenty of time, they just don't know how.

I hate to brake it to you but NYC is not representative of the rest of the country let alone other cities in the county. As most cities even big cities the urban areas and areas where those of lesser means are living are extremely undeserved when it comes to Supermarkets, (very few cities are like NYC where you have markets and green grocers in just about every neighborhood) instead the middle class and wealthy areas which tend to be in the suburbs are where the supermarkets are and also tend to be "over-serviced" because in most of the country supermarkets consist of the large national chains (with different names in different regions) and large regional chains. Well they don't put much effort into servicing less affluent areas because those areas are not nearly as profitable. Profit dictates that you want to be in areas where people have larger amounts of disposable income to spend on the more "luxury" sort of food items, as well as to have the discretionary money to make impulse purchases which tend to be on higher profit items for the stores. (as well as the economic fact that in many cases the large tracks of land to build modern supermarkets is also cheaper in the shopping districts that surround middle and upper income ares) Thus it is a luxury to have fresh wholesome food easily accessible to cook with, because if your neighborhood is under served and you have to drive clear across town, or out into the surrounding suburbs to shop you are much more likely to pick up food that has been further processed and can be kept in the cupboard or fridge/freezer for longer periods of time. Not only that but lower income neighborhoods tend to be mostly served by quickie mart convenience stores (not you bastion of fresh foods) and fast food chains. (these are all proven statistical facts)

This in a small scale can be easily molded in the midsized (liberal) city that I live in, in the downtown low income area the only supper market is one that's a discount market that sells past sell by/expiration date foods that other supermarket chains have written off, has very little in the way of fresh meats and produce and what they do have is less then wholesome. then in the other lower rent part of town they are not only underserviced but the few stores that are near by are stores from a couple large local chains that are very upmarket high priced grocery whose target and affordability demographic are the upper middle class and wealthy neighborhoods that are located close by. you have only a couple choices of mainstream supermarkets but to get to them you have go further out from the lower income parts of town.

One of the ways in which NYC is different is that groceries are generally more expensive here, and I have still managed to feed myself cheap when I've had to. I know that food options are fewer in poor neighborhoods. I've lived in poor neighborhoods most of my life. It's not fair, but it's not a good excuse to give up cooking and eat at McDonald's. They sell beans and rice at those ratty-ass grocery stores in the ghetto. The veggies might not be as fresh or pretty as they are at Whole Foods but they have them. And they have plenty of frozen vegetables, which are cheap and just as good for you. They have canned tomatoes, they have onions, garlic. The problem is that people don't know how to shop and don't know how to cook.

I cooked myself spaghetti bolognaise from ratty ass grocery ingredients last night - minced beef, spaghetti, onions, mushrooms, tomato sauce. They cost me less than $5 and took less than 15 minutes to cook.

so because they aren't just like you they are lazy and don't know how to do things? Gee that's the way to win people over, and they wounder why gays a viewed as judgmental.

Rachel Bellum | September 28, 2011 12:16 AM

ANWV, you are absolutely right that a lot of reseach has gone into examining the food options and choices in lower socio-economic areas. Also, there is research suggesting that high fat and high sugar foods are addictive. Some food producers have even been accused of consciously engineering their products to produce addictive results. Adipose tissue (fat) releases hormones which increases desires for high fat/sugar foods. The more adipose tissue one already has the more of those hormones are released. Other studies suggest that eating nutritionally poor foodstuffs results in conditions like fatigue and depression (along with increased hunger) which can contribute to making the easier choices (like drive-thrus). I agree that frequently these issues are not taken seriously enough.

Additionally, if I'm reading SteveC's list correctly, I could not have made the same purchases he did for the same price at my local grocery. Other than things like ramen noodles or maybe small cups of yogurt, I would probably find it difficult to buy any 5 things at the grocery for less than $5. And that doesn't factor in the hidden costs of cooking and cleaning. My calculations suggest that it is generally easier and cheaper for a single person to eat out than to cook the same meal, but that as more consumers are added to the equation it reverses. Though one of my favorite meals is the incredibly cheap to prepare bowl of pinto beans with cornbread, maybe with raw onions when I want to get fancy.

That being said unless you are blessed with something like a healthy and cheap local blue plate diner, it does seem to be much easier to get healthy (nutritionally rich) food by making it yourself. And my casual observations do seem to suggest that generationally people are losing knowledge about cooking. Not just shopping and making a preparation turn out well, but the tricks people used to have for making it all be as easy and take as little time as possible. And this growing trend, over about the last ten years I believe, of "cooking" by making dishes through combining already prepared foodstuffs seems troubling to me.

I grew up in and currently live in a rural area. The old men of my youth frequently ate (even when dining out) vegetable (only) plates. They often talked of anticipating a favorite food finally coming into season. It does seem like people are increasingly alienated from what I would call actual food and ingredients. Meat and white bread, possibly with vegetables in the form of things like ketchup, seems to be what is most universally recognized as a meal now.

To be fair, studies have also shown that people will tend to eat the foods they ate in childhood throughout their lives, even when provided other choices. We have been raising children with ketchup as vegetables, hallway vending machines, and MacDonalds and Pizza Hut (and others) in the schools for quite some time now. One of the reasons computer companies donated machines to schools was to secure lifelong customers, I have to assume it's the same for the food companies.

Of course you wouldn't buy 5 things at the store for under $5. You'd buy maybe 6 or 8 things for maybe $20 and use them to make 4 or 5 meals, or more. Your comment only goes to prove my assertion that people who say it's more expensive to eat at home than to eat fast food just don't know how to shop or cook.

There are still many who go to bed hungry, especially at the end of the month when their parent(s) are running out of money. Moreover, many neighborhoods which have no supermarkets, no greengrocers and all that's immediately available and affordable is processed junk and fast food.

I think a big part of the problem with solving this and many problem is that those who have apointed them selves as the ones to solve this are economicly very well off, tend to view those of lowermeans in a nagative light, and are also quite out of tuch with the realities of those less fourtnait then them, and when others try to bring that to light, or even help they simply discard them as basicly stupied.

This plays into problems with the LGBTQ movement which seems to be overly controled by very well to do (mostly white) "liberals" who live in places like NYC SanFransisco, Washingtion DC etc, places that espeicaly in that economic strata are extreamly out of tuch with the rest of the country and a vast amount of the LGBTQ community and what makes up daily concerns for them.