Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 2 comments

That’s not a typographical error or a spelling error. It’s one of the winners from The Washington Post’s annual Style Invitational contest. Each year, the newspaper asks readers to “take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supplying a new definition.”

“Decafalon” was one of the 10 winners. Here’s the proposed definition of the noun: “The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.”

That’s somewhat how I feel at the moment, two weeks into the Calgary Herald Health Club challenge. I’ve eaten so much celery I’m growing leaves on my hair. I can’t even get the fun of eating the celery out of a Caesar, because I’m allergic to clams, so Mott’s Clamato juice is out of the question and a Bloody Mary doesn’t feature a celery stick. (Also, if one is allergic to something like that challenging any bartender not to mix up the clamato juice and the tomato juice is asking for trouble.) But I digress — only to deflect the snarky comments that the real reason I was eating celery was because there was liquor involved in the process.

During the week not a drop passes my lips — usually — and while Himself has a giant gin martini (with olives, straight up) and about a half-pound of sharp cheddar or, this week because it was left over from the Thanksgiving weekend family get-together — a pound of hot capicolla — I’ve been drinking diet grapefruit pop. Not quite the same as a J & B and water, but the point here is to lose some weight and get fit, so eschewing liquor for most of the week seems logical.

Okay, for those of you who don’t know why it makes sense not to drink when you’re on a diet, it’s simple: liquor has the unfortunate habit of shutting down inhibitions and caution. A couple of drinks of red wine and the need for chocolate becomes imperative, the two being natural companions.

Liquor itself isn’t a killer if all you’re doing is counting calories — any graduate of Weight Watchers knows that a bottle of beer is worth about 100 calories (the equivalent of a glass of milk) and an ounce and a half of hard liquor is worth 80 calories (a good sized-apple.) But obviously, the nutrition from a glass of milk or an apple will do some good, while liquor calories are all empty, nutritionally speaking.

But that’s not the real danger. It’s the stimulant effect of liquor. (A curious thing for a depressant). It battens down your restraint and heightens your hunger. Not for nothing is an entire class of liquors named appetite enhancers or aperitifs — champagne, preferably Dom Perignon, being my personal favourite. After all, if one is going to drink champagne, why drink the cheap stuff? Notwithstanding, mimosas need only inexpensive bubbly.

My personal “decafalon” is subject to adjustments, in that consuming only stuff that’s good for you is a bore, and almost impossible if one eats out. Notice the word “almost.” There is nothing impossible if you want it bad enough and if it’s within your abilities to get it.

There is also no point in not living as close to normal as possible, regardless of your challenge for change. I know for a fact that I’m not giving up liquor for the rest of my life, so when the occasion warrants it, I have a drink, martyrdom not being my strong suit. Parties, receptions and, especially, eating out and banquets pose the greatest challenge.

In order to stay motivated for this year (and I hope for the rest of my life) I’ve again turned to The Washington Post’s annual contest. Each year the newspaper publishes the winning submissions to its neologism competition — held at the same time as its style contest (see decafalon) in which readers are asked to “supply alternative meanings for common words.”

(Not for me to argue with the editors of the Post, but neologism actually means “a newly coined word or expression.”)

There were 16 winning submissions. Two are worth repeating, if only for their appropriateness for all of us on a journey to self-improvement. Flabbergasted — “appalled over how much weight you have gained.” And, abdicate — “to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.” How many sit-ups does one have to do, anyway?

The challenge for busy people and those whose work days means business lunches and a social life that includes dinners and banquets is to make small adjustments in order to stay on a program and not sabotage your efforts.

I’m about to go out to a dinner and reception this evening put on by The Famous Five Foundation. It’s in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Persons’ Case and the five women who persevered in their quest for women to be recognized as persons, right through to the Privy Council in Britain. Tonight’s dinner will also launch the Enbridge Famous 5 Youth Leadership Award, for young Albertans aged 15 to 245 who have demonstrated a commitment to community activism and the social fabric of the province. I’ll do what I normally do on such occasions. I’ll eat half the meal and certainly have a drink. Or two. The evening is labelled as the Howling Boa Bash, so I’ll be wearing my black feather boa. (How many chances does one have to drag something like that out from the trunk?)

Eating out is a snap if you stay away from places where the so-called good food still packs a caloric wallop. A good rule of thumb? Anything that can be delivered to you in less than 10 minutes is likely not a sensible choice. To the argument that the kids want food from McDonald’s or Burger King (the number 1 and number 2 fast food restaurants on the continent) I ask one question: Who’s in charge here? But if you give in, thereby setting your children on a path of fast, easy and cheap food for life – if not a lifelong battle of the bulge — at least order a salad with the dressing on the side. And throw away the dressing unless it is specifically low-calorie.

One of the distinct advantages of better restaurants (that doesn’t always mean too expensive) is that you can ask for something to be made for you. Never order a Caesar salad unless you also ask for the dressing on the side. Ditto for any other salad. Indeed, having spent a lifetime eating out on a regular basis, I know you can order any dish to your specifications. If your needs can’t be met, order something else or go elsewhere.

Buffets are a particular problem. They encourage food frenzy because, so the argument goes, you’re paying for it and you might as well get your money’s worth. I’ve only seen a true group food frenzy once, and I’ve still not recovered from the stampede to the “free” food. That should have been enough to put me off buffets for the rest of my life.

Every time I am faced with a buffet, I remember my friend Lee Heinemann who weighed maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. She ate like a horse and the year we both lived in London, Ont., she decided to take up bread-making while her then-husband got his MBA. I was one of her testers. She didn’t gain an ounce. I won’t even try to remember how many pounds I packed on scarfing down hot bread and butter — just to test it, of course.

Lee had the buffet situation down cold: Go straight for the expensive dishes — shrimp and the roast beef. By the time she had eaten her weight in shrimp, there was little room left for anything fried, breaded or sauced.

It’s really all about choice, isn’t it?

NEXT: The unfairness of guys on a diet.


Written by Catherine Ford

October 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Keep up the good work;it will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.


    October 18, 2009 at 6:49 am

  2. Ms. Ford, you are still inspiring me. I love the line “if you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, you are not hungry” it resonates with me as I am staring at 14 apples that must be eaten or 14 pieces of Toberlerone.
    I will make the right choice today because of you.



    October 19, 2009 at 10:46 am

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