The Drevitches, Week 4: Halloween Approaches, and Workouts Get Scary

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

A good friend of ours, part of a couple far more fit than we are, once told me his secret to maintaining his weight: Don't eat what the kids leave on their plates.

It turns out to be good advice.

Flipping through back issues of National Geographic last week to help Benjamin, 9, find photos for a school project, I came across a 2008 cover story called "Why Are We So Fat?" Along with talking about how our genes predispose some of us to weight gain, it focused on the concept of "mindless eating" -- the extra calories we consume almost nonstop without even thinking about them. Various "mindless eating" experiments have shown that people eat less when researchers give them smaller dishes, move their candy jars six feet further away or serve them a single plate of food for dinner instead of letting them serve themselves.

I've been trying to be extra mindful of mindless eating since I began the Healthy Families Challenge. Since Labor Day, I've lost 11 pounds, and just this morning, I fastened my belt one hole farther in than I was able to just a week ago. And while I've made other changes in my eating habits, like cutting back on carbs, snacking smarter and putting more veggies on my plate, I think eliminating mindless eating has been the key.

The other day, I was struck by the number of uneaten bagels and cookies in our kitchen, as well as the amount of leftover pasta and rice on the table after dinner -- in other words, the garbage I'd previously been disposing of. If the kids don't clean their plates, we now either save it for another day or toss it. No more assuming Daddy'll finish it up.

It's not easy, of course, because opportunities for mindless eating are everywhere -- not only at home, but in the office candy jar; on the supermarket sample table; or along the salad bar where I fill my lunch plate. My late mother, who (speaking of genetics) struggled with her weight for much of her adult life, often talked about needing to have stronger "willpower" to avoid overeating. I think it's less about willpower and more about just being conscious of what you're doing. If you stop thinking that plates and bowls are there to be filled, or that free snacks should never be turned down, you'll see a difference.

I've got a way to go, but so far, mindfulness is working.

Gary Drevitch picture

Gary and his new best frenemy, the BOSU ball. Credit: Courtesy of Gary Drevitch

So is working out. Now, I would never compare my terrific trainer, Victoria Gallagher of New York Sports Clubs, to Jigsaw, the demented villain of the "Saw" series. She's far friendlier. But those movies (in highly-edited form) were playing nonstop on basic cable as Halloween approached last week, and I can see that, somewhat like Jigsaw, Victoria likes to introduce new devices into my fitness routine each week, the better to ... test me.

This week it was the BOSU Pro Balance Trainer, a semicircle of blue rubber atop a stable platform. Victoria had me do crunches while sitting on the edge of the ball, with my lower back pressed against the rubber while it rested on a stool. What was remarkable was how, when I did them properly (three sets of 15), I immediately felt each crunch in my abs. And doing three sets of 10 pushups while gripping the handholds on the BOSU base with the ball turned upside-down was brutal -- I struggled to maintain balance and do the exercise. On the other hand, there was no way to cheat by speeding up or using bad form. In other words, the ball is evil, but it works.

There's going to be so much more to report in the coming weeks, as the kids try to balance their Halloween haul with their promise to add more vegetables to their diets; my wife, Lynn, begins her own personal training sessions; and fifth-grader Benjamin gets himself on his school's healthier-lunch student council, where the budding food critic tries the star chef's new hummus recipe and declares, "A little too much olive oil."

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.