Wednesday, April 11, 2007


On waste and waist management

I've been trudging along on my healthy-living / weight-loss campaign. I was doing okay in fits and starts - didn't lose anything for the month of January, lost steadily a pound a week through February and into March and then it happened. The pepperoni arrived and blew my diet all to hell.

I was doing so well on watching what I was eating, until the week I ate FOUR ENTIRE PEPPERONI STICKS. And not just those little ones, either, but the ones as long as your forearm. What the hell causes a normal person to eat FOUR pepperoni sticks in a week (cough cough four days cough), you ask? My brother has this totally amazing butcher near his house, and he makes spicy pepperoni to die for. My folks visited one weekend and brought no less than six pepperoni sticks home for me.

I'm telling you, that stuff is meat mixed with crack. I'd cut myself a small piece and put it back in the fridge, intentionally hiding it behind other stuff so I couldn't see it. I'd finish the bite I'd cut and start smacking my lips, salivating for more. Okay, I'd think, just another little piece, just a tiny bite. I'll eat less at dinner. And after cutting off some more, I'd put the pepperoni away and the knife in the dishwasher and I'd still be back in the fridge five minutes later looking for more. And once it was half gone, well, there's no sense in leaving it around for me to agonize over all night, right? Might as well polish it off. And at about the 3/4 mark, with my mouth tingling from the spiciness, I'd start to think that maybe I should stop now, but I wouldn't be able to stop and so I'd just eat the whole damn thing. And then I'd have a righteous bellyache, because that's really a disgusting amount of meat and fat(*) to consume as a snack. And yet, the next day I'd be right back at it, cutting myself just the tiniest sliver of the next one, just for a taste.

In the end, after four straight days of my pepperoni-stick-a-day habit, I threw the last two sticks in the garbage. I just couldn't garner the willpower to resist them. I'm not kidding when I speculate that they are made with crack. Yummy, spicy, fatty crack. I gained two pounds that week.

Throwing food away is something new for me, and I'm very torn about it. I've been doing it since January, and I honestly think it's one of the liberating concepts that have helped me actually lose weight this time. More than just leaving food on my plate, I've started to throw junk food away. I'll eat a few chips and throw the rest of the bag away. Even more liberating, I'll take a bite out of a cookie and throw the rest away. This works for me largely because I often only want a taste of something. Other than the crack-filled pepperoni, I've realized that I'm usually satisfied with most treats after a single bite or two.

The waste bothers me, of course. I've mentioned before that I have Scottish and Dutch roots, which combine to make me ruthlessly frugal when it suits my needs, and the idea of actually throwing away perfectly good food that I've spent perfectly good money to acquire disturbs me on a fundamental level. My grandmother on my father's side would be rolling over in her grave right about now. Like so many people of her generation, she didn't waste a scrap of food (or anything else for that matter) and the idea of taking a bite out of a cookie and simply tossing the rest of it in the garbage would have been horrifying to her.

But I remember reading a while back an article about controlling your eating that asked the question: are you a garbage can? When you are satisfied with something, you have two options: you can throw it away, or you can continue to eat it. When you continue to eat it, you become the garbage can, because the food has outlived it's utility to you. I've really started to internalize this concept lately, and I try to find the point at which I'm satisfied and sacrifice the rest to the garbage can. It's strangely empowering.

(Saving it for later is always an option, I suppose, but to me it defeats the purpose. Especially if something is a treat, like chips or a cookie, I will obsess about it if I know it is in the cupboard waiting for me. Throwing it away eliminates the temptation.)

And yes, I suppose simply not buying it in the first place is probably the most sensible option, but my willpower is a fearsome beast and if I can trick it into being placated with this simple sleight-of-hand, I'm willing to pay the price. Bottom line is, although the the pace has been glacial, the weight has been coming off. It took me three weeks to work off the two pounds of pepperoni weight, but I'm back on track.

(*) According to my favourite nutritional database, a single 10 inch (25 cm) pepperoni stick contains: 187% of your recommended daily sodium intake, 202% of your recommended daily saturated fat intake, more than half your daily calorie intake and a whopping 156% of your recommended daily fat intake. Yikes!