A while back, I was at a dinner for a large group of people. I mean large both in terms of number (15 plus) and in terms of weight: the group was close to reflecting the new American norm of 1/3 overweight and 1/3 obese.

As the dinner wound down I noticed something interesting: the three thinnest people at the table had their food boxed up while the balance of the table were still finishing their meal. Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not.

If you are happy with your weight, then I am happy for you. Weight is a personal choice, though with health care costs linked across society we all bear the related costs. So that statement does not ring 100 percent true. If you desire to choose differently, read on.

I weigh 150 pounds at age 56 (5’10”). That was my weight when I graduated from high school. It is the weight I’ve been all my adult life. I’ve hit a low of 145 and a high of 154, but generally 150 has been it.

While my weight has stayed constant over the years, other things have changed. I used to be famous for my love of desserts. That fell by the wayside in my 40s, and over the years the amount of food I consider a normal portion has steadily shrunk. I’ve learned to eat slowly to “make the moment last.” It seems only logical. If I like food so much, it only makes sense to savor it, right? Enjoy the process, fully enjoy the meal?

I have never gone on a “diet.” I do not like the word. I do not like the idea. I have, however, continuously and consciously modified my lifestyle and my eating habits to maintain the weight I desire.

Maintaining weight is NOT about abrupt short-term changes in eating patterns. It is all about making sustainable, long-term changes. I observed myself, learning the triggers and cues that lay behind my eating when I was not hungry, or overeating.

I’ve made changes in long-term habits that I once thought were so deeply ingrained as to be with me for life. Now I look back and wonder what the big deal was. I also use the memory of those changes, those successes, as evidence of my ability to make choices, and I ponder what else I could or should change next. I enjoy sculpting myself, being the creator of my own masterpiece.

Self-awareness and social awareness are major tools in any form of self-directed behavior modification. At a buffet, I always pick up one of the smaller salad or dessert plates and use that for my entree. Using a smaller plate I automatically choose less.

The more food that is front of us, the more we tend to eat. The longer the food is in front of us, the more we tend to eat. The more frequently we have occasions to eat, the more we tend to eat.

I consciously avoid structuring my social life around food. I prefer to meet and interact with my friends in active modes, either physically or mentally: taking walks, playing bridge or chess, going to the theater, attending community events.

With my close friends I often split entrees or simply order an appetizer. I prefer to eat at restaurants I know do not confuse quality with quantity, that do not pile a single serving with enough calories to last a week.

At dinners I frequently just make an appearance, say hi to everybody, sit down for a while, move around the table, talk, and generally leave when the entrees arrive. Yeah, it may be weird or unusual to some but that’s the me I’ve chosen to be. And my friends, my true friends, accept me. Also, it suits my hyperactive nature!

When I am at a dinner, frequently I put down my fork between every bite or take a sip of water between bites. It slows me down, helps me “stop and smell the roses.”

I enjoy good food and I figure the best way to enjoy a lot of good food is to live a long time. And the best way to do that is to eat light and to eat healthy.

Even after many years, it is not easy, it is not automatic: Once a month I meet for 3 to 4 hours in the evenings with a group of 8 or 10 executives. Our custom is to have a side table of food laid out. This represents a growth opportunity for me because it ties in to several areas where I have room to make progress. Evenings tend to be one of the lower points in my energy cycle and staying seated or in one room for an extended period is, shall we say, not my norm? I do not have the option of removing myself from the vicinity of the calories and because I wish to remain attentive to the group, I do not have the option of distracting myself from the calories by many of my normal techniques.

If I do not remain on mission, stay on purpose, it is possible to stray, to overeat. My primary tools are awareness, forethought, and remembering repeatedly how committed I am to my goals, how good I feel when I stay congruent and aligned, and that the more I do so, the easier it becomes. I also drink lots and lots of water. It gives me something to do and it fills me up!

Life is choices. The more aware you are of your choices, the more you believe you can make better choices, the more thought-out your goals, the more you desire your goals, better choices you will make.

Got any good choices to make?

As always: Start small, small enough to succeed easily, then build on your success. Rome was not built in a day but a good start can begin in a moment.

Wall Street Journal Article Link: 

On the Table: The Calories Lurking in Restaurant Food