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Why Free Food Makes You Fat

November 8th, 2006 · No Comments

Last month I attended a conference in a major U.S. resort destination. The conference lasted nearly a week and the amount of free food and drinks was not to be believed. I later learned that during one breakout session alone the tab for the chocolates we were served was $12,000. Unfortunately, I ate my share and then some of those chocolates. I gained a couple pounds that week at the conference but my inexcusable excuse was because the food was free.

First, a bit about my health. I am a semi-avid jogger and I still weigh the same as I did when I was 18 years old. I’m 35 now, but I’d like to be more trim and lose 15 – 20 lbs. When I stick to it I have enormous success with weight watchers but I have not been as diligent with it lately. For those familiar with the Weight Watchers system I would estimate a typical attendee could easily consume 100 – 150 points per day at this conference. A Weight Watchers devotee typical consumes 20 – 25 points per day.

My problem was that I ate way more than I normally would have eaten. The first meal of the day was a Bob-Evans-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, waffles, muffins, etc. Lunch was basically the same as what you’d expect from a dinner entree: chicken casseroles, Mexican, Italian…you name it and it was there. Dinner was as bad as lunch except they tacked on rich high-calorie cakes, pies and desserts to it. Plus, I neglected to mention the two snack breaks around 10am and 3pm. Now, if you were to indulge yourself at just one of these meals or snack times you could still recover to your normal eating routine. But gorging meal after meal after meal…I mean come on! Maybe I’m not a typical American eater but could anyone possibly eat a Bob-Evans 2,000 calorie breakfast every single day? And lunch? And dinner?

Back to the title of this post: why do we gorge ourselves when the food is free? I’m going to list my personal reasons as well as some others.

  • this is a rare opportunity. I must eat as much as I can before the chance escapes me.
  • this food is way better than my normal daily routine. Pigging out once won’t kill me.
  • think of the money I’m saving. If I went out to eat for these meals, I’d have spent $300 per week!
  • hey this conference is paid for…I better get my money’s worth.
  • could it be human instinct back to pre-historic times when man did not know where his next meal would come from so the need to splurge makes sense.
  • my buddy/family member/colleague missed this meal so I’d better not let his share go to waste
  • they’re going to pitch this uneaten food anyway so it better get eaten

The part that makes me feel most guilty is knowing that there is no way in Sam Hill I’d have eaten this much if I were at home for that meal (or that day or week for that matter). For me I have found that successful healthy eating habits come from training your mind into thinking this free meal at work, at a conference or at a friend or family member’s house needs to viewed the exact same way as a meal by yourself at home should be viewed. Eat in normal-sized portions with low-calorie, low fat healthy foods. No need for seconds and no need necessarily for sugary dessert. The times I’ve stuck to my diet or normal healthy eating habits are when I try to find a way to make my day’s meals nearly identical to my daily routine. For me personally this is usually:

  1. a low-fat cereal with skim milk for breakfast
  2. a low-fat bread and lunch meat sandwich, low-fat salty snack, some veggies and some fruit for lunch.
  3. a square dinner of 4 – 6 ounces of meat, starch and veggies.
  4. if my points or calories are under for the day then a small dessert is good.

I’ll say what many people all over have said. Weight Watchers works when you stick to the plan. The pounds simply melt away week by week.

Tags: Healthy Living

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