Yo Quiero Self Control

July 26th

So, I admit it. I’m one of those SparkPeople currently obsessed with monitoring every morsel that goes in my mouth. And running. And swimming. And occasionally hauling my body on a scale.
I don’t have a horrible body image, nor do I hate myself or ever skip a meal. Ever. I like to eat and do so fast and often.
Working in health, I get to develop programs to fight obesity in the US and malnutrition in Africa. Ah, the brutal mismanagement of resources is divine. I swear there are weeks when I’ve held a malnourished child days from death only to return to the United States and seen enough food in the airport food court to feed an entire village. Fun, no?
I love my job, but I am regularly embarrassed by America’s gluttonous ways. I don’t think a fat tax is the solution, but a good old dose of self control would do this country some good. I simply cannot believe how large we are getting. Everything suddenly seems a bit out of control (including our national debt, but I’ll leave that one for another post.)
To make my point: have you heard of Taco Bell’s new slogan? It’s called “The Fourth Meal. The Meal between Dinner and Breakfast.”
No joke. To point out the obvious, it can’t be called break-fast if you are eating all night. This sort of thing makes my skin crawl.
I don’t like that I’m becoming a bit crazy about the state of our nation’s health, but I can’t help but count the overweight people in public places when I’m waiting in line. It scares me. We are facing a huge health battle in the next 30 years and my generation very well may be the first to die before our parents from preventable disease.
So, not that you need my advice in a world teaming with “easy” ways to eat well, but here are a few things I’m working on. Some are easy, others take a good bit of effort. The effort is worth it.

1. Move, every single day. Even my one non-gym day, I take a walk. My heart and I are becoming the best of friends. I treat her right, she’s going to let me see 80.

2. Buy a pretty water bottle and use it. I drink at least a gallon of water a day (I live in the desert.) I also have become a big fan of Crystal Light. I carry this bottle with me everywhere.

3. Eat veggies and fruit daily.

4. Egg whites, grilled chicken, whole grains are good for me. They give me fuel and make my workouts better. Sugar-free fudge pops are the silver lining.

5. When I go out to eat, I immediately offer to split my meal with my dining companion. If he/she isn’t interested, I ask for a to-go container and take the other half home. Even if I don’t eat it, I surely didn’t need the entire portion.

6. I make deals with myself. If I’m going to stop for a bagel in the morning, I don’t drink wine at night. There are only so many free, fun calories a day and you can’t always have both without jiggle in the mid-section.

7. I find something I like about my appearance every day. I remind myself that I am healthy and take good care of myself and that is far more important than numbers on a scale or in the back of pair of jeans.

8. I try to only eat when I am hungry. This sounds like a “no shit” thought, but I have often found myself — especially now that I live alone — eating when I’m bored, eating in front of the television and eating because food is available. I’m not a camel. I don’t have to stock up. If nothing else, I can always drive through for that fourth meal…

Here’s to a healthier America,

Posted in
Journal, Public Health
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38 Responses

  1. It isn’t always that easy, Kelli. Very cheap food isn’t exactly healthy or low in calories.

    Not everyone can exercise for various reasons.

    And some people eat for reasons that have nothing to do with food.

    Sure, there are people who just don’t care and eat like pigs. But that isn’t everyone.

    I’m sorry you are embarrased.

  2. I’d like to add….eat as many organic fruits and veggies and natural meats as you can afford. I am BIG into healthy eating and have seen the benefits of this in our family. My daughter is 2 and has only been sick once. I really attribute this to healthy eating, supplementing well with elderberry, echinicea, vitamin c and also keeping active and breastfeeding for a LONG time. Kudos Kelli. I have to agree. It does take planning and time to eat healthy and take care of your body but the benefits outweigh the “sacrifices”.

  3. I think it’s a total crock that people in America think they “can’t afford to eat healthy.” Yes, they can. Last time I checked, a can of Pringles or a super value McDonald’s meal was much more expensive than a tub of yogurt or a bag of apples. Same with all the god-awful processed things like Lunchables, frozen pizzas and snacks, etc. And water is much cheaper than soda….I could go on.

    I think Kelli was talking more about herself than the general public…but in my opinion, I think everyone (in this country) has the potential to make choices that meet at least half of her list.

  4. I agree that Americans are letting themselves go. Part of the problem, I think, is the whole car culture and the fact that it is hard to find a decent place to walk without fear of being hit by a car. I think it’s redundant to have to drive to a nice place where you can take a walk.

    Also, there are people who are overweight due to health reasons, but there are also a lot who aren’t. And I don’t think Kelli was judging anyone with her post – it is her blog and her opinion.

  5. Great post, Kelli, and good suggestions. It’s alarming to note the growing size of Americans, especially noticeable when returning here from an overseas trip.
    I just read an article last night about the growing (no pun intended) problem of people being too large to fit in MRI machines for diagnostic imaging. Larger machines are being designed but because of cost, there’ll probably be limited availabilty.
    I think that the car culture is a huge, underreported part of the problem.

  6. uhmm… the intricacies of advertising (the 4th meal).

  7. What?! The 4th meal?? Oh boy, aren’t marketers clever. The sad thing is that far too many people are obese and malnurshied. I was pretty alarmed to discover that you could be obese and starving your body at the same time.

    Heather is right about cheap food being low on the good for you scale, however with good planning and sticking to the non-prepared foods you can make it work. Even top ramen can be spruced up by adding some fresh diced veggies.

    I use Sparkpeople site too! I just have a hard time making it work for dinners since we eat at home (from scratch). 😉

  8. I agree with Kelli. And as for the “not everyone can afford it” remard.. As one of the previous commenters stated.. It does take planning, but you can do it. If you take the time to do it. It takes time to go through a drive-thru and spend $6 on a hamburger, fries and soda.. but no less time than it takes to grill a chicken breast and toss a salad. I can make 16 spinach artichoke parmesan turkey burgers, enough to freeze for 8 meals with the same amount of money and time that it takes for me to drive to mcdonalds and go through the drive through for ONE meal.

  9. And I read this after pigging out at my grandmother’s tonight! In my defense, we had a healthy meal (pot roast, collard greens, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes)…those rolls & cheesecake I ate don’t count, right? Right??? 🙂 You point out some very good “rules” we all need to keep in mind. I can’t even imagine eating at Taco Bell these days…much less in the middle of the night. My uncle is around 400 lbs. It’s sad, it’s sickening…he’s got horrible health problems *duh* Yet he keeps eating. Our country definitely has an epidemic.

  10. rohankitter July 26, 2006

    I think the really scary thing is all the heavy children. As I sit and watch my kids at various things (swim lessons, 4-H, chess club)I can’t help notice how many kids are just big! I mean, if they are heavy as a child, it’s just going to make it that much harder as an adult. I think the key is moderation. There’s nothing wrong with a few treats, but we’ve gone way overboard as a culture.

  11. looks like you have a good program for yourself for health.
    unfortunately a lot of people either do not care what they eat or are so uneducated about what to eat.
    there is so much good information available on all styles of eating.

  12. Yeah, I’m afraid I fit into the category of one of the people you would be counting. Thanks for the encouraging tips. It’s all fairly common sense, but sometimes I need a reminder! And, Becky, I’m with you: I feel ridiculous driving to take a walk. Oh for a sidewalk! ;0)

    As for the ads, my current yuck moment is the BK one where they’re stacking all the meat & cheese. It makes me just a little sick every single time I see it….

  13. I’m the first person to say that Americans have a really bad relationship with food. And I’ll agree that a lot of us should eat less. However, for a very large portion of the population, there aren’t healthy alternatives available in their neighborhood, and it isn’t possible to just run out to the nearest grocery store to pick up something for dinner. A LOT of neighborhoods don’t have a real grocery store – just a lot of fast food and convenience stores.

    A couple of people here pointed out that we live in a car culture with no sidewalks. That’s part of the problem too. In most parts of the US, if you don’t have a car, you can’t get to the grocery store or to other stores where you can find healthy food. And there aren’t any sidewalks to speak of, so you can’t even walk to the store, or just for exercise!

    Check out _Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America_ by Barbara Ehrenreich. I just finished it… it gave me a whole new perspective on living (or not) in America.

    I think this is a great discussion topic, Kelli. Thanks for bringing it up, even if you didn’t really intend for the discussion. 😉


  14. I found out last week that my mentee goes to the grocery store with her mother every week and each kid (there are 3) picks out SEVEN FROZEN DINNERS for the next week. This broke my heart. One of my “missions” is to introduce Miss M to some non-processed, healthy, home-cooked foods so that maybe she can develop a taste for something that doesn’t come in a tray. She is a skinny-minny but lord knows how much trans fat her little body is stocking up. (that being said she is a big fan of fruits & veggies – thank god).

    It’s hard to change your diet but we’ve found if you do it a little at a time it works pretty well. Once you get used to things and know that they’re healthier for you going back to the “cheap crap” isn’t as easy or worth it. Granted I’m speaking from MY point of view as someone who is able to sacrfice a few things in other areas of my budget to afford things like organic peanut butter & tater tots (I can’t resist).

    Great topic, Kelli. (I use calorie-count.com to track foods & activities – I currently have a “b” grade for my diet…here’s to an “a” in my future!)

  15. No. Way. – about Taco Bell’s ad campagin. Horrifying!
    And I too find myself counting the obese people and doing the “3 out of 4 people in this room are well on their way to heart disease and diabetes” ratios in my head. Sadly, being in a classroom all day it is usually during class or school wide assemblys that I’m doing this. It is absolutely heart breaking, heart. breaking. to see a 6th grader twice my size or more, especially because I am no petite thing. And it’s hard to watch because I know that they have a long road ahead of them even beyond the health complications that are sure to come.
    And good tips. Another one for the bored eater – put a message or picture on the fridge that will make you stop before you open it to peruse for a snack.

  16. you’re not a camel … i laughed out loud at that (and my children looked at me like i was nuts!)

    my husband recently told me that he heard of a recent study where children who are obese by the age 10 are more likely to die in their 40’s!!! that is so frightening. my children are thin but most of my nieces and nephews (children) are not. it scares the you-know-what out of me.

  17. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

    He said it, you’re doing it. Excellent post.

  18. look at all the comments? wow. and sparkpeople was new to me. do they send you motivational email and all? might have to try that. i eat so poorly because i’m so tired by the time i get home each early evening that i don’t want to cook. but, thanks for all your tips. i’ll try to do better and life right.

    another kelly friend i have lives overseas and she came home and went to dollywood, dolly parton’s theme park in pigeon forge, tennessee (near gatlinburg, gateway to the great smoky mountains) a few weeks ago. she usually photographs her kids constantly but was very sidetracked by all the obese people she saw there. of course, i saw an obesity map of the us a few weeks ago and all state in the south were way bad off.

  19. Amen, sister! (Although I’ve already eaten 2 doughnuts this morning – but I also had a cup of soy milk!)

    I understand what you mean about being embarassed by America’s over-consumption of EVERYTHING. This was a difficult point for me when I lived in India – and there is no excuse for it. You just have to show people by example that all Americans do not fit the stereotype.

    My mother-in-law just had lap band surgery and she has managed to lose 50 lbs. so far. She still has probably 150 to go… but I am proud of her for taking it on and not just continuing to expand. It has been sad and frustrating seeing all the health problems that she has due to her weight, including asthma (which makes it difficult for her to excercise), joint & blood pressure problems. She is taking an aqua aerobics class and it is doing wonders for her, mentally AND physically. But it takes a lot of courage to put down the fork.

    Great post! Isn’t the web great that we can discuss these things of real importance?

  20. AMEN. Amen, Amen, Amen. Could you possibly get one of those cars with the broadcast speakers on the top and drive all over the US with it? People are not getting the message and we are all going to be paying for it in the future. It is like smoking, only much, much worse. I could really get on a soapbox, but I won’t.

  21. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
    is one of my favorite quotes…thanks for posting it jt.

    I have LOTS to say here. I didn’t get from Kelli’s post that she is embarassed by us individually, but by our standards and greediness as a corporate and lazy culture.

    I think it all comes down to education about food. So many people think eating healhty is expensive, which is not true. We have all these corporate companies shoving all this ‘quick and easy food!’ down our throats but not enough health education!

    Heather wrote, “And some people eat for reasons that have nothing to do with food.” I am one of those people… I eat because of depression, stress and plain ol’ denial. I always have and it’s always effected my weight, mind and health.

    Three months ago I decided to make some changes. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It took a lot of work and a lot of time out of my life but it needed to be done. I was depressed, weak and my cholesterol was sky high. I found the following things to be key:

    1. plan [reasonable] meals and snacks
    2. shop for a pantry, frige & freezer full of healthy food [bread, canned beans and frozen veggies are key!]
    3. make myself exercise at a certain time each day for an pre-planned amount of time

    I found that once I started with a small amount of exercise that after a week I would add a few more minutes, then more, then more. I started off walking around the public gardens a couple of times and now run on the eliptical trainer 3x a week for 45 minutes [500 calories]. You may have to walk in the rain or heat but it’s not easy to start and it needs to be done.

    I keep the freezer at work stocked with frozen veggies and frozen dinners [not all dinners are full of trans fats – as mentioned above] for lunch. I stick to my pre-planned meals, which is key.

    I’m not going to say it is easy and that I am not tempted to throw myself onto the couch and eat, eat, eat but I know that when I do it’s a alarminly quick downward spiral. Honestly, sometimes I want to cry – but the moment does pass and you get back on your feet.

    Liz, at Pocket Farm, recently posted about living simply and gave some great tips as to eating healthy for small amounts of money. The post can be found here: http://www.pocketfarm.com/?p=341

    When you first start eating healthy [and mindfully] it is INCREDIBLY hard and trying but it DOES GET EASIER. Trust me… once you start and create new habits it becomes your lifestyle and it’s AMAZING.

    Kelli – sorry to hijack your comments!! Thank you for such a fabulous post and such helpful tips.

  22. Like others who I’ve seen post it amazes me the number of obese children in our society. I believe if the parents would not only practice moderation with the food but not allow their child to sit in front of a screen (TV / Computer) all day and get up and actually do something it would also do miracles for thier obesity level.

    I need to eat better as I’m one for the quick meal – I HATE to cook and I need to work out more. Thanks for the post Kelly- really made me think.

  23. Hey, as a fat girl I say Amen. I am working very hard on my mid section and gluttonous habits. I excercise everyday. Nutrition has been difficult for me mainly because I have had to learn what is good food and what is not, not unlike most of America.

    To those who would make the excuse that healthy food is more expesive, I would say, indeed you are right but the question is, how many double, triple, quadriple portions of the cheap junk are you eating a day. Compare the expense of the cheaper food you are consuming with the smaller portions (what you should be eating) of healthy food you and you will find that eating healthy food is roughly within your price range.

    I say this with great compassion (I am a fat chick) to those would complain about the price but lets get real. What price tag are you going to dish out for diabetes, cancer etc. I’ve experienced cancer. The healthy food is certainly much cheaper in every way.

  24. I’m with you, Donk. Lots of little things you can do to be a little bit healthier. I am going to start doing the “to-go” box method when we eat out. It’s not too often, but it’s a good idea. Portion sizes are out of control.

    There are so many things people can do to improve their health, and it seems like too many people are choosing to be victims.

    I hope you and I will still be hanging out when we’re 80. Ok, so I’ll be 82 when you’re 80, but whatever.

  25. This is a great debate/conversation which I’m throughly enjoying. It is tough and it’s nice to see people showing their encouragements and offering advice and tips. Its incredibly hard for me to stay on track without that stuff!! (I love to eat!!!)

    And I didn’t mean that all frozen/pre-packaged foods are full of trans fats. My apologies. The ones my mentee is eating, however are. I am glad that there are some healthy alternatives in the frozen category (and if you must know, I work for a company that makes them!!!)

  26. Portion control is a really big part of it.

    I’m not American but I grew up in Africa and lived in England for a while, and they (England) have growing obesity problems. The contrast to Africa was shocking.

    On moving to Holland I was surprised at how much smaller the portion sizes are. Not surprisingly the people are smaller too.

    In Holland fast food is an occasional treat rather than an every day thing, and there are virtually no ready-meals or frozen dinners. If you eat at home, you cook at home.

  27. have you read the omnivore’s dilemma, by michael pollan? i thought i was a somewhat responsible eater, but the book was definitely an eye-opener.

  28. Wow Kelli – excellent post. Thanks for sharing the insight into how you “manage” food. Being someone who struggles with depression and emotional eating, you’ve given me some insight. Saying that, I do eat a lot of whole foods without thinking about it, having grown up with easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables. At the end of the day it is about choices we make for ourselves. I’m assuming you’ve seen “Supersize Me” doco?

  29. A veces yo tambien trato my self control… but no siempre me funciona… en este tiempo me preparo para muchas despedidas, mi hermano parte a Boston, mi prima a ESpa√±a y mas importante… mi amior a Suecia, y no sabes lo dif√≠cil que se me hace en pensar en comer sano, intento no comer sin hambre, pero en estos d√≠as me doy por vencinda facilmente y me vuelvo loca, me salgo de mi!

    Hoy al llegar habia un paquetito para mi…;D no sabes lo ansiosa que me puse, com√≠ muchos dulces mientras lo abr√≠a, estoy realmente muy fel√≠z, gracias Kelli!!!!!

    Te has pasado, tooood me ha encantado!!!! toooodo, ahora solo me falta escuchar el CD… un abrazo gigante para ti!me alegraste mucho el d√≠a…. de mi casa me llamaban mis hermana al cel para preguntarme si pod√≠an abrir el paquetito misterioso… otro abrazo mas!!!!

  30. Great post. With my family’s history of heart disease, I can’t afford to pig out nonstop. But I’ve had a habit of being very healthy and then indulging myself with crap for a week. Mostly I blame lack of time and energy to make something – which is a complete load of crock, I know. But for a month now I’ve been trying to do the eat 6 small meals plan – so I’m NEVER hungry (because when O gets hungry, watch out).

    It’s tough in my case. At my age I shouldn’t have to worry so much about high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but thanks to genetics, I have to. I’m also paying attention to the glycemic index and seeing what foods send me to sleep in 90 minutes and what foods keep me awake.

    I agree with most of the poor areas of the US – access to healthy food is extremely limited. I mean, look at where Whole Foods, AJ’s, and Wild Oats are located. Nowhere near places like south or west Phoenix. And even if they were, can a mother with 4 kids justify spending $6.99/lb on organic ginger? As much as I consider it the evil empire, Wal*Mart is definitely going to change the dynamic by introducing a massive segment of the American population to organic produce. How it’ll be marketed should be interesting.

    But as far your post goes, I agree 100% America’s in a huge crisis and it’s going to pay for its gluttony big time. Should be interesting when “Fast Food Nation” comes out as a movie.

  31. Oh, Kelli, thank you so much for this great post! (and to your commenters who added to the discussion) So many good things to say and so much to offer here. I feel the exact same way that you do. I saw myself becoming another “fat” American, and that I was ashamed, so I made the conscious decision to stop it. And that was 48 lbs ago 😉 Still have more to do though – years of irresponsibility have left their toll.

    Thank you thank you.

  32. there are other reasons these things happen, too. i spent 7 years working with doctors and nutritionists trying to figure out why after a year on a particular birth control that made me gain 60# in a year, it would not come off. 8 years later and it finally is (albeit slowly).

    I think there’s a lot of doctors and others who don’t know how to deal with it — I mean, I was probably 80# overweight and I had to bring up to my doctors that I wanted to change that. They didn’t even mention it (“oh, you’re healthy, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc are all fine.”). That seemed weird to me, and they seemed shocked when I would ask for help managing my weight!

    Yes, it’s my responsibility to bring it up, but you would think that a doctor would mention it in an annual checkup, you know?

    I groaned at the 4th meal thing at taco bell when I saw that ad.

    What works for me now? Getting in two servings of fat free dairy a day, eating generally just one serving of whole grain a day, and eating a ton of fruits/veggies/lean proteins. I also do the ‘if I want to have a beer tonight, I can’t have whatever.’ It’s an interesting balance, but it’s also flexible enough to allow me to have what I want but understand that I can’t have everything I want all at one time.

    Sorry for the long comment! 🙂

  33. Wow I feel like I should have a sign tattooed on my forehead “I have a thyroid problem but I really do try.” I know about nutrition and I do try to incorporate vegetables and plenty of water into my daily diet. I even love to swim laps – like aerobic level laps. I could always do better though.

    But I have to stay on the ball at all times and work three times harder than the average person to have any result even with the thyroid medication. Add that to depression and bipolar meds and it’s a really fun time. Not to mention the emotional cycles that go around when I feel like I’m being judged by the people at the gym even though I’m trying to do something about it which makes me want to go home and eat french fries.

    I was self-conscious being in public before but to know that people are mentally counting the number of fat people in a room, and I know I’m one of them. Guys that’s just creepy and kind of mean.

    I understand that this country really needs to work on its relationship with food. And food additives, commercials, and general corporate culture that’s trying to make a buck no matter how its killing its kids is a bad thing.

    But I also think that those are people with real faces and feelings that you are counting and that the “skinny at all cost” culture can be pretty damned creepy too.

  34. The number of fat people in America is huge and getting bigger. I work at Starbucks, and it’s the largest people that get the worst-for-you drinks. We had one very large lady come through our drive thru a few times a week and would buy all of a certain pastry, usually between 8 and 10. Littered in her back seat were discarded fast food bags, and not a few, TONS of them. We hated catering to her simply because it seemed pretty obvious that all those cappucino brownies were for her. Sometimes I feel like i’m not just a dealer of a legal drug (caffeine), but I am also a seller of fat. On the bright side of all this, it has helped me change my own lifestyle and eating habits, and I eat healthier than anyone I know. I hope more people start to realize that Starbucks will make you fat just as quick if not quicker than your favorite donut or ice cream shop.

  35. PLease eat the yolk in your egg. I find this a truly bizarre thing of people only eating egg whites. Especially egg white only omelletes. Gwenny every morning collects the eggs from the chickens. Her breakfast is always an egg. As I crack open an egg for her and see the wonderful yellow yolk (our chickens are free range), I know that my beautiful little girl is having a good start to the day. Much better than thhose sugar coated cereals, or breakfast bars or white sliced bread. Kelli go buy yourself an egg and eat it all!!!

  36. Amen!!!! I completely agree with you! I work as a Spanish Interpreter at a hospital, and aside from seeing the effects of obesity in the American culture (I’m with you on the being embarrassed by things like that) it’s also a problem among my hispanic patients. New moms come in all of the time with chubby little kids and ask for vitamins and ways to get them to eat more, all the while the doctors are figuring out how to set them up with the pediatric obesity program. Thanks for expressing your opinions and for sharing the things you are working on!!

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