Diet (in two quotes)

One of the things I enjoy most about living in New York City is the chance to have dinner with my wife in a great variety of restaurants and cuisines. This has contributed to my middle year’s weight gain and a refrain that in addition to watching my diet I should “go to the gym and workout.” So I was happy to find this thought in the Incidental Economist,

“But one of the most frustrating parts of the show [“The Biggest Loser”], at least for me, is its overwhelming emphasis on exercise.

Because when it comes to reaching a healthy weight, what you don’t eat is much, much more important.”

The blog goes on to discuss exercises’ real value in sustaining a healthy lifestyle including improvement in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and its much smaller role in weight loss. Here is an equation that Aaron Carroll puts forward with respect to the role of exercise and weight control:

30 minutes of jogging or swimming = 350 calories = 2 16 ounce sodas

Which is easier? For me, there is the Siren’s call of the pretzel; I remain torn by exercise or diet and of course the use of the word ‘or’ makes my dilemma clear. For it is not a matter of ‘or’, it is a matter of ‘and’. Truthfully, I find my time on the treadmill, stepper, and rower increasingly pleasant; perhaps from a little endorphin release, or the chance to listen to This American Life, On Being and Radio Lab at the same time.

My wife is a great sharer, especially of food on my plate. I am sure we have all had the experience of someone “tasting” a significant portion, at least to you, of your meal. But over time as our dinner reservation approaches the time of the “early-bird specials” we have more often split courses, perhaps a nod to our slowing metabolism. And this brings me to the second quotation from no greater an authority than Mary Poppins:

Enough is as good as a feast

Turns out that the crazy nanny was correct. We frequently sit down to a menu and have a chance to select something from every food group (starter, appetizer, entrée and dessert) which we share. (Here is an interesting piece on how to “read” a menu). We wind up having about a meal and a half between us, painless portion control. This is a great opportunity to try a large number of tastes with a small calorie commitment. Family style meals are a return to more communal way of dining, a way people create and sustain a bond with others. Sharing a meal for a couple is family style writ small. Sharing a meal with my wife nourishes my dietary needs and our relationship.  I love it and maybe it provides balance for going to the gym and watching my diet.