Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2009 Issue

Do Not Eat This...Or, How to Lose Weight

Eatthisnotthat

Eat This Not That can help you hold down the pounds.


By Michael Stillman

There is a most useful, at times jaw-dropping series of books out today with the title Eat This Not That, by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding. I will not attempt to review these books, for starters because...well, frankly, I haven't read them. Not that this would necessarily stop me. In college I wrote reviews of many books I never read. No snide comments, please. You did the same. However, I have read the abridged version, that is, samples the authors have provided on websites such as Yahoo. Besides which, the purpose of this article is to share some of my own tips on weight loss. For Zinczenko and Goulding's advice, it is only fair that you buy their books. Their advice is worth every penny. So is my free advice.

What Z&A (I don't want to write out their names anymore) did was to visit a lot of restaurants and count the calories in some of their meals, drinks, and desserts. The calorie counts are astonishing. They then recommend alternatives you can order with a fraction of the calories. Some alternatives sound okay, others sound like they are recommending you substitute for the black forest cake a sugar-free, fat-free tea biscuit. You aren't going to do it. That's the problem with so many diets. You aren't going to do it, at least not for long. So, my advice recognizes that basic fact and attempts to offer a few incremental steps. They will not enable you to lose 100 pounds, but they may help you lose 20, or at least not gain any more. I lost 20.

Most people seem to go on serious diets - special low calorie meals, salads for dinner, whatever. Most go off of these diets, either too soon to lose weight, or they put it back on when they stop the diet. It would be nice if we could stay on these diets, but it just seems that most of us can't. The problem is that too many of us look at diets as all or nothing. Either you eat nothing but Weight Watcher meals, or you eat anything you want, no matter how unhealthy. My advice is based on a middle ground. If you can stick with Weight Watchers, great, but if not, don't throw all good sense to the wind. Find a middle ground that will allow you keep your weight from going out of control, even if it is not perfect.

There are basically two kinds of food: those for which you know the calorie counts and fat content, and those for which you do not. The former includes most packaged foods, which have calorie and fat quantities printed on the label. They make good reading. The latter is found mostly in restaurants and with prepared food, where this information is a mystery.

Now I am not a perfect dieter. I like things like pizza and cake, and while I have reduced my consumption, I have never been able to stop. That's okay. So, sometimes I will find myself in a restaurant, and the waitperson will bring around the "decadent chocolate cake, with whipped cream and a filling to die for." They mean that literally. I look at that thing and say to myself, there's another 300, maybe 350 calories. This isn't great, but figuring 1,800 calories a day, once in a while, as a treat, my feeling is to go ahead. Dieting can't be all about denial, because if it is, you won't stick with it.

But wait. What Z&G tell us is that piece of cake does not have 300 or 350 calories. A normal piece of cake may, but one of these "decadent" types the waiter brings around on a display tray may contain, 1,000, 1,500, maybe even 2,000 calories, and God only know how much fat. That is never acceptable. If you knew it had so many calories you wouldn't touch the thing. But, you don't know the calorie count, and so you order the 2,000 calorie item you would reject if you believed it had a quarter that many. So stay away from anything that looks dangerous if you don't know what evils lurk inside. For example, Z&G tell us Cold Stone Creamery offers a peanut butter and chocolate shake with 2,010 calories. Who would have thought that possible? You can substitute their peanut butter ice cream, which has 370 calories. Uno Chicago Grill offers an individual "classic deep dish" pizza with 2,310 calories. They offer another pizza with 405.

So, let's say just once every other week you go out and unknowingly order one of these grotesque shakes or pizzas. That's an extra 2,000 calories, or over the course of a year, 52,000. Based on an 1,800 calorie diet, that is almost a whole month's worth of food. Is that material? Look at this way. If, come December 1, you didn't eat anything at all for the rest of the year, do you think by January 1 you would lose some weight? That's what avoiding these terrible foods you never thought much about can save you.

That's my advice. Check the calorie/fat content of things you buy, avoid items with unreasonable amounts of either, but substitute with things that you like, even if they are not perfect. Do not eat foods that you do not understand, or if you do, only in very small quantities. Avoid foods that combine several dangerous ingredients, like the frosted, whipped cream cheesecake, even if you don't know the exact calorie count. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

I have more ideas, but I think I'll save them for my invitation to appear on Oprah.

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