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as a chowhound how do you keep from getting fat???

Back in the day, I could eat whatever I wanted - no as I close in on 4o and have had 2 kids, my metebolism has changed and I can no longer eat with abandon (although I love to). Even with watching what I eat and exercising, I still feel like it is a battle - there is so much I want to eat and cook. I live in Brooklyn, so there is always a new restaurant to try, interesting ingredients to cook with, a new food stand with a delicious something or other... any suggestions on how to enjoy food and continue to fit through the door at the restaurants?

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  1. Without regular exercise, I'd be huge. I coach/teach three sports (two seasonal, one year-round), and I'm also a referee in one of them (soccer). Since my son has recently taken an interest in cycling, he's been dragging me along on 25-40 mile rides, too.

    At meal times, I *must* get up soon after I'm finished eating (that is, when I start to feel full irrespective of how much may be left on my plate). If I sit there with food in front of me, I'll continue to pick at my food until it's finished. At home, that means I get up and clear my own dishes, and if the rest of the family is still eating, I'll return to the table and drink my water while they eat. Not exactly the most polite behavior, but it keeps me from overeating.

    1. I revoked my membership in the Clean Plate club...rule is also to taste and savor every bite (even if it's only soup), not inhale. Eat about a third of your serving, and take home the rest...even if it means eating only 2 of your five scallops...also talk alot during the meal, it slows down your eating...if you're against carrying out a doggie bag, share with your dining partner or leave it behind. Also always share desserts. I don't eat red meat or poultry, so that may help me out, but I sometimes will adhere religiously to the "no white food (bread, rice, potatoes)" program if I feel the pants getting a little snug. A vigorous morning walk...and oh, take a DANCE class, any dance class, it's easy and fun exercise! When I did Lindy Hop and line dancing a few times a week, and practiced at home, it was the best fitness program ever. I also have a horse, so riding plus mucking out a stall probably doesn't hurt.

      1. Well I resigned myself to adding a few pounds! I'm 54 now and have put on about 30 pounds from what I weighed in my 20's. When I hit 140, I started walking 3 miles, 5 times a week and waited for the pounds to melt away but I still gained a few more (menopause!) Sure I wish I weighed what I did in my 20's but oh well, I'm not going to live on rice cakes and undressed salads. In many cultures it is still the wealthier and healthier individuals that weigh more (up to a point, I know). Gaining a few pounds comes with aging too. And I am a believer that your body has a natural set point for weight - hopefully I have hit that now and I can still get thru the doors of my favorite restaurants. Good luck with keeping the weight off but I hope you don't have to pass up too much good chow!

        1. Lots of good suggestions in the vein of "eat less/exercise more" but the other thing I do is be mindful of what I'm eating (I can mentally calculate how many calories I've taken in) and practice "deficit eating" in advance of a big meal (I cut back a couple of days before the big meal if possible). I've always kind of taken the point of view that I have to cut back 2 days for each day of overeating. I've been within a 3-lb range for 20 years and I don't have great metabolism.

          1. Try all the new restaurants and ingredients you want, but watch the portions. A great way to do that in restaurants is sharing everything. I usually share an appetizer and dessert, but get my own entree. But it would still be enough food if we shared everything. I like the sharing/small portion approach because you still get to eat everything you want. Besides, the 10th bite of something is never as exciting as the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, so you really don't lose out. I also avoid drinking too much alcohol...you can drink an amazing number or calories without realizing it, and personally I would rather spend my calories and money on food not drink. Another thing I sometimes do is balance splurge meals with low-calorie meals...I might eat healthy on weekdays, then eat whatever I want on the weekends, so it all balances out. Or eat really healthy for 2 out of 3 meals in a day.

            1. I try to hit the gym for a 45min spin class 2x a week. It helps. But what I've found that REALLY helps maintain a healthy weight & energy level is to cut carbs out of one meal per day. I love rice & breads so if I know in advance I will be out for dinner, I will try not to eat heavy carbs for lunch and/or breakfast. Trust me your pants will let you know the difference! =)

              1. How do I keep from getting fat? Stop reading Chowhound for a couple of weeks and stay away from all of the recs I've found on the site!

                You've hit upon one of the things that really sucks about getting close to the Big Four-Oh. Back in the early 90s, I remember someone telling me how lucky I was because I was still plenty young and didn't have to worry about my weight as long as I stayed active. He was about 44 at the time and said that with each passing year, he had to work out harder and longer and eat less than the previous year just to maintain his weight.

                Like just about everyone else has mentioned, activity is a good thing and portions are to be scrutinized. Another thing to watch is try not to eat when you are "watching." Munching while watching the tube, movies, etc., can be pretty mindless and repetitive. And most of us don't eat the best of foods while doing this. I'm just now breaking this habit as I'm not getting any younger myself and need to focus on cutting back on recreational eating.

                1. -Dump your car, if you have one. The pounds will melt away like butter on a skillet. You'll also have more money to spend.
                  -Save the carbs for when they're worth it. Unless you really want mashed potatoes and bread or they're a feature of the menu, have veggies instead.
                  -Buy more expensive food. This worked for me but realize it's not for everyone. I've found when I'm dining out the fancier food not only tastes better, but healthier. You mentioned food stands, which indicates you might go on impulse rather than planning, which is dangerous.
                  -Switch from low alcohol beer to a higher alcohol one (or wine or liquor). Same amount of bad stuff per pint but with more bang for the calorie buck.

                  1. I am struggling with the same issue.

                    I have prepared home-made soups with lots of seasoning. Garam Masala is an excellent flavor replacement for salt and fat, especially when combined with spinich, onion, garlic, lentil and cauliflour.

                    I am also fortunate to live near a restaurant specializing in Mongolian hotpot. The broth and added food of your choice are excellent.

                    That said, I live with others with higher metabolisms who also love to cook and eat. (Throw me in the briar patch!)

                    I am trying to incorporate a bit of body-acceptance into my food enjoyment, so I don't undermine the pleasure it provides.

                    At the same time I am trying to be more selective at home.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chowfamily

                      I have a phenomenal appetite. And I was getting way fatter than I was happy with. I count Weight Watchers points, didn't go to WW though. I lost 20 pounds very quickly. I still go out to eat, but during the week, I watch it! Sushi is a really low-cal dinner out. I eat salads at restaurants and skip the wine, usually. For dinner, I cook vegetables and maybe protein (I don't eat meat anyway) but I don't eat a starch unless it's the main meal. On the points, you just have to leave yourself leeway if you know you're eating out.

                    2. I struggle with the same thing. I play golf 2 or 3 times a week, walking the course as much as possible. I also go to Curves at least 3 times a week. But, I agree with all the others....portion control is key. So, just remember what Art Linkletter used to say: "Eat everything you want.....on a salad plate."

                      1. Be really mindful of what you eat--like someone else said, snacking in front of the TV is very dangerous because you don't really notice what and how much you're eating.

                        Stay away from foods that aren't delicious. Sounds silly, but looking at it that way made me cut out most bread, all mass-produced cakes (ok, luckily we don't have Entenmann's in England), and soda.

                        Walk more or do more formal exercise. Either way, just move around more.

                        When you cook, load up on the healthy part of the meal. Allow yourself moderate portions of the less healthy stuff and unlimited portions of things like vegetables and salad (without heavy sauces and dressings, of course!).

                        1. It's difficult to reduce my intake of good food, so that makes me want to work out more. Jog around the neighborhood, spin class, yoga. You do what you can, when you can. Heck, doing chores around the house works in my book.

                          I also try to drink a lot of water and not overdo it with every meal - meaning if my breakfast was big, either I cut down on my lunch or make a conscious effort to make it healthy. I guess balance is key.

                          1. In addition to all the good advice, I would suggest making sure that you include weight training in your workouts. Cardio will burn the calories, but keeping your muscle mass up = keeping your metabolism up. I think the figure is that each gained pound of muscle burns about 50 extra calories a day. It adds up.

                            1. Excellent ideas here especially Kagey and Sailormouth, although I don't worry about rice, potatos, bread etc if they are displacing meat and fat.

                              I was finally able to bust out of the clean plate club when a friend said "It's going to waste whether you eat it or not."

                              1. i didnt...i'm a porker......

                                1. I exercise 4 times per week. I own a treadmill. I know myself and I won't make an effort to find time work out at a gym (full time employed mother), but I figure if I don't use the treadmill right in my own home I am the laziest person in the universe. Plus, I make sure that I only have a heavy chowhound quality meal only once per day, no gourmet lunch then dinner. I also follow diabetic type rules most of the time. Like no more than 4 servings of carbs per day and only one portion per meal, plus all carbs must have a protein. I also eat lots of veggies. My husband can eat two big meals a day and is thin and muscular, but if I give in and do that, the kilos add up quickly. So I make sure not to eat like him just because I am eating with him and cooking for him (I think that's a mistake a lot of wives make) Oh, one last thing, I prefer meals to desserts. I only have desserts occasionally. I like meal food better than desserts anyway.

                                  1. Get a dog. You need to walk them every day and the weight starts coming off. I have lost 10 pounds in 2 months since I got a puppy.

                                    Another thing that works for me is that I am married to a non-chowhound, so I read a lot of recipes, look at lots of menus, imagine how it all would taste and end up alone at a salad bar! LOL!

                                    1. I know it's been said before but Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. I am at the gym 5-7 days per week for at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours after work. I mix my work-outs between elypticall trainer and weight machines. I make sure that I work our hard and break a good sweat unlike some who are at the gym for hours but do not even break a sweat. I still eat pretty much anything I want in moderation but it's the exercise that keeps the weight off.

                                      1. Exercise, exercise, exercise! I do about an hour each day, a half an hour of cardio on an elliptical, and then the rest of the time doing weight training. I also (try) to watch my portion sizes, and save the extra special goodies for the weekend, but most ofthe time I allow myself the treat (lately it's been more often than not). Also, I drink strictly tea (unsweetened, no cream, nadda) or water as not to use up any valuable calories that could be spent on tasty foods, on empty calories like soda. Sometimes I have juice, but I'd rather have fruit.

                                        1. a biggie for me is not drinking calories (not including wine, because that would just be wrong). at least not regularly. if you're a regular soda/sweeted tea/sweetened coffee/juice drinker, you will be amazed at how many calories you can knock out by just drinking water instead...

                                          also, i know that grazing is technically better for you, but it does not work for me personally. if i eat that way, i gain weight. plus, i prefer one big awesome meal that will keep me satisfied for a while, as opposed to lots of little snacky things. so i generally eat very little for breakfast + lunch and eat a really good dinner... or if i am going somewhere excellent for lunch, i'll eat very lightly for breakfast + dinner.

                                          it also helps immensely to eat slowly and savor every bite. not only will you enjoy your food more, but you'll also give your body time to let your brain know that you feel full.

                                          1. try to limit eating out as much as possible (which in NY I mean 3-4x a week). when you do eat out, you don't need to try everything the first time you go to a restaurant. that old idea of two apps and one entree is usually enough. drinking wine with the food usually leads to more food ingestion. skip dessert except on special occasions, and have fruit when you get home.
                                            fill your house with nice fruits and vegetables, good bread and cheese. save the meat for when you eat out. eat fruit all day long, and make sure to have a good breakfast with high quality loaf bread and some almond butter or cheese. drink good coffee and lots of water.
                                            obviously: no soda, junk food, cake in the house unless you want to gain. you can eat these things sometimes out if you really want them.
                                            I found that it was harder to maintain my weight when I was going to the gym - your body wants to compensate by eating more, but everyone is different. take the stairs as much as possible. walk fast like a good NYer.

                                            1. every morning the blasted alarm goes off at 545 so i can sleepily get on the elliptical. mrs jfood wanders down at 615 and does her 45 minutes on the arc-trainer. then we do 15-30 of weights. then a light breakfast of lite and fit yougurt and coffee for me and a lite bfast for mrs jfood. lunch is turket l&t on a roll with vinegar. dinner is where we relax and enjoy, but eat in moderation. after dinner as many fruits as we like. I gave up my daily 5-scoop ice cream fix a year ago. Weekends we can eat out and whatever we want because we try to walk five miles on sunday mornings until the weather turns. 1-2 times per week i sneak out for a spin class.

                                              after balloning to 178 i am back to my college weight from 1978 of 153 and feel great. and i do all that with a reconstructed knee. As one of my best friends told me "it's just a matter of willpower" and he was right.

                                              granted my kids are all grown and each have their own transportation so the taxi has retired and travel teams on the weekends are a distant memory. but even when that was a part of my life, i would get up at 520 to exercise.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                I follow a similar plan (though more like 6:15 than 5:45! jfood is a champ!) - if I set my alarm and have my gym bag ready, I just go to the gym. I don't engage in mental gymnastics to talk myself out of it because I can't think. I just go. Usually 30 minutes of cardio, then weights, four or five days a week. Yoga twice a week.

                                                Breakfast is usually a Special K bar (90 cals) or Luna bar (180 cals) and coffee. Lunch of leftovers, and then we'll make dinner. We usually cook at home, and I always measure portions. One cup of pasta looks VERY different than an overflowing bowl of pasta! We eat a lot of whole grains and vegetables and severely limit meat - it helps the waistline and the budget.

                                              2. Granted, I'm a youngin, but I am really careful about what I eat for lunch I mean really careful (apple, yogurt, granola bar, or soup, or oatmeal or sushi), then I normally can eat what I want for dinner, but a lot of times it is rather healthy and yes portion control, portion control, portion control. Pair down recipes you cook to the exact serving sizes you need, don't buy things you shouldn't eat, read those food labels, check out websites that tell you the calories. I follow 80/20 eat healthy 80% and splurge (within proportion) 20%. And don't clear your plate, if there is a lot left take it home.

                                                1. I love food, but real, good food, not processed and heavy things. Sure, I occassionally have things that may be a bit higher in fat but generally the foods I eat are lean meats, seafoods and produce that are flavorful and good because they are quality and seasoned with quality herbs.
                                                  And while I love food, I love being healthy and in good shape better.

                                                  1. The gym is certainly someplace that you have to be familiar with. But, for me the biggest thing is eating 5-6 smaller meals a day, and, if I am just at my desk eating lunch or even at home by myself eating a meal, I am literally obsessive compulsive about eating healthy. I think one of the most important things is to educate yourself about what is actually healthy (for example, many people think eating a vanilla yogurt is healthy, but in reality, if you read the nutrition on most flavored yogurts, there is more sugar than in a normal bowl of ice cream). Also, starving yourself for a day because you know you are going to have a 9 course tasting menu that night is the WORST thing to do. I basically live on two extremes. I would say, at least 75% of the time, I eat only to put fuel in my body and everything I eat I eat for a reason. The other times, I am a foodie and go out without limitations and then make it up with a little extra work the next day in the gym. Great food tastes even better when you don't eat it 100% of the time.

                                                    Also, I have taught my palette to appreciate plain food, which only makes you appreciate well seasoned food and great sauces. And, most importantly, although I'm sure most people on this board already have, learn to cook and be imaginative. I hate eating out when I'm going for a healthy meal because I like to know EXACTLY what is being put in my food. That one extra tablespoon of olive oil that is being thrown on a plain chicken breast or salad on a daily basis can make all the difference in the world.

                                                    This is what works for me, but to each his/her own.

                                                    1. I eat out about 10 meals a week. Being single independent & no kids (SINK) certainly helps feed my Houndish personality, so I consider going out to restaurants a serious hobby. As a result, I find myself at the gym every day. Not every other day. Every damn day. I have to.

                                                      And you know what? It's part of my lifestyle now. Just like seeing a menu and lighting up when I see sweetbreads, it feels weird for me not to be on an elliptical or a treadmill or lifting weights during the day. It's now part of my daily routine.

                                                      Part of the great thing about working out so often is that you end up being a picky eater. Now that might not sound like a great thing to all of you, but what happens is that you go to a restaurant, you've already run 3 miles today, and you think to yourself, I'm not going to eat it unless it's really EFFING awesome. So I've found a way to strike a balance. My weight is under control (though like many of us, I could certainly lose more) but I'm eating oh so well.

                                                      1. JerryJ,
                                                        I have a few personal recommendations - eat less, exercise more, get one entree between two people, etc. but I actually have a service to recommend to you - nutrition dot bitwine dot com.
                                                        It's a website using Skype and PayPal that matches consumers with registered, licensed dietitians for advice, counseling. The intro session is free, and then each counselor has cost per minute fee. Good luck!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: amybeth

                                                          Ugg! I hate when other people recommend someone to share an entree. First off it presumes you are eating with someone. Second is that person not entitled to get their own meal? And pick what they want? Maybe they want to splurge and not watch their calories. Why not just be an adult choose your own meal, but take part of it home or leave it on the plate. I think even with intimate people unless you absolutely know (and didn't bully them into thinking) you want to share a dish, you shouldn't.

                                                          1. re: ktmoomau

                                                            Clearly, not every piece of advice works for everyone, but it is still helpful to share all of it...then people can pick and choose what works for them. Personally, sharing works great for my husband and me, as there are times when neither of us wants such a big portion, and we often want to order the same thing anyway. I sometimes share with friends as well, and there was certainly no bullying involved. And taking home half or throwing away half aren't great solutions for me...a lot of food doesn't taste as good the next day or reheated, and it just seems too wasteful to throw away half of the food, particularly since money is an issue for us. So let's all keep on providing suggestions that work for us, and let's be respectful of all suggestions.

                                                        2. "Clean your plate, someone is starving in..." How many times did jfood hear this growing up? To this day he does not know how shoving more meatloaf in his mouth saved children oversees? He wanted to say "Hey Mom, don't give me enough to feed Fat Albert."

                                                          As jfood writes this he is staring at a double cheeseburger on this site. there has to be close to 3/4 of a pound of meat plus cheese on that burger. That's what people believe is a good meal (yes it does look very good). And jfood gotta believe that this is more than the daily amount of calories one should eat in a FULL day.

                                                          Nowadays, the jfoods control portions at dinner. it's amazing how much people slop onto their plates and gourge themselves with on a daily basis at home. Then when they go out for a meal, they expect something special and that sometimes translates into larger. It's the mentality many grew up with. Jfood is grateful that his family is healthy and understands nutrition.

                                                          But in addition to exercise, portion control is the key. Guys, it is OK not to eat the whole meal in a resto, it's OK not to Super size, it's OK not to order dessert or have fresh fruit and yes eating fish is OK. Likewise buy a scale and see what 4-6 oz really looks like.


                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            MMmm Cheeseburger ;)

                                                            A good way to control your portions is to buy smaller plates. Not only have our portion sizes gone up so have our plate sizes! They also say black plates give you less appearance of empty space to fill on a plate. I would think patterned plates might too.

                                                          2. No breakfast, no snacks before lunch, and a couple of cans of coke/pepsi. A light lunch (sandwich, chips, etc), and then eat & drink whatever I want for dinner.

                                                            Mowing an acre lot with a push mower is my exercise, besides chasing around my 1 year old daughter.

                                                            So far so good.

                                                            1. Gym four days a week w/ serious cardio (run at least 2.5 miles), cook simple healthy foods (lots of whole grains, vegies, lean proteins), and splurge when I go out or for dinner parties.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: adrienne156

                                                                I'm in my mid-fifties and a size 6 and have been a serious hound for the thirty years I've been in the States (and I was a restaurant critic for a while in New Orleans). I was at my slimmest in San Francisco when I ate crab or salmon for lunch every day and then just steak or prime rib in the evening (I drank lots of champagne which I think is slimming). My thing is - one hour of walking a day, no snacks, very little carbs - never two carbs with one meal (i.e. I eat bread or potatoes). I eat quite a lot of meat and fish. I don't like desserts much which may help and I do think that drinking wine is a must!

                                                              2. Exercise is a must. I started walking a couple of miles a day on my treadmill and have lost 12 pounds without trying. For health reasons I also cut back on a lot of sugar and white flour. I really miss cookies and other baked goods, when I do bake I use less sugar than the recipe calls for and use at least half wheat flour in nearly everything. I get rid of most of the yolks when I scramble eggs. This sounds really weird, but my grandmother in France taught me how to cook oatmeal into a savory porridge with chopped chard, chicken broth and chicken breast and I've been having that for breakfast a lot.