Before we get to this week’s weigh-in, I wanted to share a story about an unforgettable meal I had as a young man while living in Europe as a missionary for my church.
One winter night in Geneva, Switzerland, my missionary companion and I were invited to eat dinner at the apartment of an Italian who lived in that beautiful city. It was always a pleasure — and a culinary adventure — to be a dinner guest in a foreign country. We were poor college-aged kids who were trying to spread the Good Word. About once a week, we were fortunate enough to visit and break bread with generous and kind-hearted people who wanted to help out.
On this occasion, I was very hungry and excited to chow down on spaghetti that had been prepared for us. How often do you get spaghetti made by a real Italian!? We sat at the small kitchen table, said grace and I began devouring the overflowing first plate. It was delicious. I eagerly accepted a second heaping portion of pasta, which was pretty much expected of me as a bigger dude (a much smaller dude than I am now, but big nonetheless).
After Round 2, I was completely stuffed. I mean, really stuffed.
Minutes later, I found out something about Italian culture that this 19-year-old American hadn’t known. Turns out, pasta is merely an appetizer for Italians. I have two thoughts about this delicious fact. First, how awesome is that!? Second, this would’ve been very helpful information to know before I inhaled two monstrous servings of saucy al dente pleasure.
For the next hour, my generous Swiss-Italian host proceeded to bring out the rest of the meal.
Salad. Meat. Cheese. Bread. Fruit. And, of course, a pastry dessert.
I’ve been to innumerable all-you-can-eat buffets. I’ve gorged myself on 40-plus Thanksgiving Day feasts. I’ve had a free-food perk as a McDonald’s employee.
In other words, I have a history of eating a lot of food in one sitting.
However, I’m pretty certain I’ve never eaten as much as I did that night. It’s unlikely I’ve ever sweated so much while eating, either. That might’ve been the most pain I’ve been in after a meal, too.
I’ll spare you the details, but just know that I discovered the unfortunate fact that a kiwi causes saliva on your tongue to tingle in a manner similar to the warning sensation you get in your mouth when the contents of your stomach are about to be unpleasantly projected the wrong direction in your body.
That story is an extreme situation — and reminds me of the night before my wedding when I conquered Fuddrucker’s One-Pound Challenge, which included an enormous one-pound hamburger on a bread-bowl-like bun, a platter full of cheese fries, a large dessert and a drink in an hour for eternal glory and a T-shirt.
(Friendly advice: Guys who do this challenge the night before their wedding shouldn’t call and brag about it to their brides. To quote mine: “If you’re sick tomorrow, I will kill you.”)
While I don’t always pig out to these levels on a normal basis, it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to eat way more than I should. I eat seconds or thirds of almost every dish. I always order the largest size available. I then often eat junk between meals, too.
I have what some people call portion distortion when it comes to food. I lack self-control and good eating judgment.
That’s the biggest reason why I recently tipped the scales at an all-time high of 373.7 pounds.
In early March, I began to cut back on how much food I ate. On April 1 — no joke — I started an eating program based on optimal-health principles. The portions I now eat in my six daily meals are tiny compared to what I used to eat. I jokingly called it “The Snack Pack Diet” at first.
Something weird — and, frankly, awesome — has happened.
I eat much slower. I take much smaller bites. I take time to enjoy the food and company I’m with while eating.
As a result, I’m satisfied on much, much less food than the 4,500 or so calories I used to snarf down every day.
While I don’t usually experience that full sensation at meals — and certainly not the stuffed-to-the-gills feeling — I never get famished like I used to either. I even got more than satisfied on a couple of cups of spaghetti pasta with healthy homemade tomato sauce this week.
Eating small nutritionally balanced meals every 2.5-3 hours has been one of the best dietary changes I’ve ever made.
I’m also guzzling a ton of water and diet sodas (don’t tell my health coach), so that also helps keep my belly full.
Not only is it keeping my blood sugar levels in check and helping me feel great, but my weight-loss machine is churning along at a very encouraging rate.
This past week, I lost another eight pounds. That brings my total weight loss in three weeks of healthy eating per my program’s guidelines and while participating in Jody’s Changing For Good Challenge to 19.8 pounds. Since early March, I’ve dropped 35.5 pounds.
One thing’s for certain: I won’t let an Italian prepare me a celebratory meal.