Tuesday, January 27, 2009

tamales and other temptations

Last week I mentioned how much the Temptations on The Biggest Loser annoy me, because they always presume that consuming any calories is the wrong choice.  In real life, that's just not the case, and it's irresponsible to promote that kind of all or nothing thinking.  What you end up with, in my experience, is a kind of binge/purge (not necessarily literally) routine.

In thinking about temptation, and my upcoming weekend which will include 3 meals out and spending time at a bar, I've come up with some categories of temptations.

1)  The Tamale Temptation:  G and I used to have a rule: if you're counting points and you come across a free sample of food somewhere, you get it eat it, points free.  It's a little bonus.  This can work in some cases, such as if you're at Trader Joe's and the woman gives you a thimbleful of roasted red pepper tomato soup.  But how far can you take it?  What if, instead of a thimbleful of soup, you're offered the whole tamale? 

This is what happened to us this weekend.  The Mexican grocery store around the corner finally opened, and our neighbor informed G that they were offering free tamales to anyone who entered.  Now, think about this: this is not the equivalent of, for example, a free burrito at Taco Bell.  This is a real tamale, made by someone who knows tamales, and who wants to give one to you so you will return to her store.  

We took the tamale.  May not have been the right choice, and obviously there are many factors to consider (what else did you eat that day, can you cut anything from what you plan to eat, etc.) but I don't think it was a terrible choice.

2)  The Special Event Temptation:  You're at a wedding.  Someone is taking you out to a nice restaurant.  It's your birthday.  You just paid off your mortgage.  These are momentous occasions, worth celebrating.  And my general philosophy is that you should celebrate such moments, and not worry about calories.  Obviously, you should minimize what you eat the rest of the day, and make sure you sweat balls at the gym all week in anticipation, but when the moment comes, choosing a wilted salad when you really want the steak everyone else is eating, is not necessary.  Especially on your birthday.

For example, Friday night we are going out with our brother and sister-in-law.  The meal out is our Christmas gift to each other, and it's restaurant week here.  We picked a restaurant we have been dying to try.  Will I order the lightest thing on the menu?  No!  Not unless it's the one that appeals the most.  I will look forward to the meal all week while eating my quinoa salad and veggie stir fry, and I will enjoy it.

3) The Not-So Special Event:  This, of course, is the problem.  It's not your birthday, but you're going out for a nice meal with friends you don't see often.  Or it is your birthday, but yesterday was Christmas and tomorrow is Valentine's Day and as far as you can see are special events.  This is where it gets tough.  Saturday we're meeting friends for lunch at the place that has the best burger and fries I've ever eaten.  Saturday night is a birthday party, followed by watching G's brother's band at a bar.  What gives here?  

Considering Friday night, it all has to give.  I've got to pass on the burger and fries, try to exercise, eat a small serving of whatever is served at the party (no cake!) and perhaps order one light drink at the bar.  Can I still have a great day?  Yes.  Will I be tempted?  Hell yes.  Will I succeed?  Only time will tell, but having a plan should help.

4)  Envy.  This one is pretty simple.  G had a special event, something I missed, and now I want my McDonalds!  This has tripped us up more than just about any other temptation.  I did OK this last weekend while G was away, but these just get harder as time goes by.  This is really where you have to rely on will power, and perhaps, if you've made room for it, give yourself a little treat.  Not McDonalds, but a small dessert, or a moderate snack.

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