The Olympic Sport of Dieting

By Janey Womeldorf

Men talk about sports; women talk about weight; it’s our national pastime.

In fact, if talking about food, weight-loss and dieting were an Olympic sport, I think most of the women I know could enter that race with me. The only woman I can think of with whom I never had this conversation was my best friend growing up. She was sickeningly blessed with a metabolism most women would kill their young for and never had to worry about weight. All that changed when she turned forty – everything went soft and started spreading. Now she knows how many fat grams there are in an avocado (30). In fact we devoted an entire phone conversation one afternoon to the dangers of putting avocado in your daily sandwich.

Not only can women have two-hour conversations about avocadoes and weight, but we find them riveting; men just don’t know what they’re missing. And thank goodness because think of the alternative: We’d all sit around talking sports, blissfully unaware of the sixty grams of fat in that bowl of guacamole we just polished off, not to mention the chips. (In fairness to the avocado, it contains healthy fat, but that sounds like an oxymoron to me.)

I confess to enjoying marathon conversations about food and weight because conversations like that bond us. Put a group of strangers together, especially women, and they instantly connect when the subject of weight comes up. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color you are, how rich or poor you are, or where you live, we all at some point have to watch our weight. Whether we are trying to lose it, maintain it, or stop it going on, nobody is immune. In fact, if managing our weight did become an Olympic sport, they’d run out of medals; the ugly reality is we are all participants in the weight-management race of life.

The bad news is this race is more of a never-ending marathon than a short sprint to the finish and, to add insult to injury, challenging hurdles line the course. Five exist between me and my finish line:

Hurdle # 1: Cheese

Some women have chocolate as their food hurdle, I have cheese. When I first started on my sensible and ultimately-successful approach to losing weight, I couldn’t even have cheese in the house. It became a Christmas treat, and oh how I treated. Prior to Christmas Eve, I would scour the delis for the perfect cheese selection and serve up my glistening platter of fat like a trophy, appropriately adorned with grapes and wispy thin crackers. I had waited all year for this moment, and I made the most of it. The tradition came to a grinding halt, however, when I ate enough cheese for a small country one Christmas and could barely crawl up the stairs to bed.

Years later, I have found balance with cheese. We have it in the house, but, like chocolate, I consider it a treat, usually indulged in only on weekends. As for tackling pizza, desperate Fridays cause for innovative compromise. We order it with no cheese then sprinkle a little feta and parmesan on when it arrives. One hurdle down, four to go.

Hurdle # 2: Exercise

The truth is, studies show that the majority of people who successfully keep the weight off exercise regularly. I fought this for many years until I realized it sped up the weight-loss process. It was disgusting at first, painful at second, but ultimately mentally and physically rewarding. Now I can’t imagine my life without it. It clears the cobwebs of my mind and acts as my buffer for the occasional over-indulgence (read: cheese) on weekends.

Hurdle # 3: “Seconds Anyone?”

Just because there is more left in the pan, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Really? If the food’s delicious, it’s hard to resist going back for seconds. My defense strategy against this hurdle was three-pronged: One, only cook the amount of food you won’t regret eating if you ate the whole lot; two, save one dollop ahead of time for seconds; three, just say no. (The last one is a toughie – beware.)

Hurdle # 4: Wine

Years ago, I would rarely drink alcohol because I would rather eat my calories than drink them. Then I turned forty and a sense of entitlement hijacked my brain. Go on, have a glass, you deserve it, it would urge me. Now that I am closer to fifty, I attack this hurdle head on by drinking plenty of water and eating less. If I could just resist the wine, managing my weight would be so much easier but what fun would that be? Precisely. Meanwhile, I pray they never put nutrition labels on wine bottles. Then, just when you think you’re on the homeward stretch, we all get hit with the inevitable, final hurdle.

Hurdle # 5: It gets harder as you get older.

I hate that. When it comes to my weight-management race to the finish, I just hope I don’t crash and burn at this last hurdle. It has me worried though as extra padding is already developing all over my body; at least it will help if I fall. Of course, if I do make it to the finish line at a sensible weight (does within fifteen pounds count?), I wouldn’t want a medal anyway. I’d celebrate with a hurdle-free night at home over a delicious platter of cheese, grapes, crackers and maybe some avocado. I’d have seconds if I wanted to, and wash it all down with a glass of luscious, buttery Chardonnay. Then I’d call my girlfriend and spend two hours talking about food and weight issues.

Lest you think I’d blown off my exercise for the day, I’d even have that covered – I’d just turn on the TV and watch the Olympics.

Who said spectator sport isn’t exercise?

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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2 Responses to “The Olympic Sport of Dieting”

  1. Janey, I too have as serious a cheese addiction as dark chocolate. I enjoyed your story and agree, exercise helps. Now to hike myself off the couch :)

  2. Janey Womeldorf says:

    Aah…cheese and chocolate, Linda…what would our lives be like without it. Is it the true reason we exercise??

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