Diet or no diet, Kae Ewing plans to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast today, just like the rest of us.
But Ewing, the Newport Beach man who agreed several weeks ago to let Orange County Life readers follow him through a fitness and weight-loss program, admits he is making some concessions this year.
"I always used to have two good helpings of everything," he says. "This year, I'm going to try to stick to one plate. Of course, a plate to me is heaping so high that everything's falling off. So maybe I won't fill it up quite so much this time."
Fitness consultant Joe Dillon of Body Accounting in Irvine, who is coaching Ewing through the program, says there are some simple ways to make a Thanksgiving dinner lower in calories and fat without sacrificing the familiar flavors of the occasion.
"There are a lot of little changes you can make to drop the fat out," Dillon says. For example, he cites a menu published in the November issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Compared to a 4,890-calorie typical Thanksgiving Day--including breakfast, pre-dinner snacks and late-night leftovers as well as the dinner itself--the Berkeley menu adds up to only 2,195 calories. Additionally, the typical meal is 44% fat, compared with only 11% for the Berkeley version.
"For breakfast, you would have orange juice, two slices of toast, a tablespoon of jam, and coffee with low-fat milk," Dillon says. Then before dinner, the Berkeley diet permits five pretzels with low-fat yogurt dip and raw vegetable salsa and a half-cup of egg nog.
And for the main meal, the dieter is permitted four ounces of champagne, six ounces of turkey (white meat, no skin), one-quarter cup of low-fat gravy, a cup of low-fat stuffing, a cup of acorn squash, a cup of steamed green beans, two rolls (no butter), one-quarter cup of low-sugar cranberry sauce and a slice of pumpkin pie (hold the whipped cream).
Then later, there's a 475-calorie snack including a turkey sandwich, low-fat stuffing and gravy, a slice of melon and a cup of skim milk.
But Dillon says he doesn't worry too much if his clients revert to their old ways for this one special day. "They can blow it on Thanksgiving, and they're not going to gain five pounds. Most people will gain a couple of pounds, but then they'll come right back off again."
After the first two weeks of his fitness program, Ewing had dropped 10 pounds, down from his official starting weight of 257.93 pounds. He also lost two inches around the waist.
But Ewing found the early results less than overwhelming. "That sort of surprises me," he says. "With my old diets, if I just plain stopped drinking and watched what I ate, I could lose 20 to 30 pounds in that time." The problem, however, is that the weight has always come back.
But Dillon explains that with most diets, dramatic weight loss is mostly a loss of water. "That's why most diets are high in protein, because protein is a powerful diuretic," he says. "And on most diets, people are under-eating so drastically that they start burning off lean body mass. So 85% of that loss is either water or lean body mass. That's why they gain it back so quickly. They're really painting themselves into a corner."
Dillon advises Ewing not to be discouraged, because permanent weight loss happens more slowly.
At first, the new eating habits were a novelty, both for Ewing and the people around him. At the office (he's a vice president specializing in portfolio management with Shearson Lehman Hutton in Irvine), he put a bowl of fruit on his desk, and "that's been really popular. People are always coming in and grabbing apples."
Ewing was concerned because he eats many of his meals in restaurants, both for business and on social occasions. "But I learned if you ask for something different, you can usually get it. The other day I ordered a fruit plate for breakfast, and it looked so good the other guys were saying, 'I should have asked for that.' "
For other meals, Ewing says, "I'm looking at a different part of the menu now. Before, I might have ordered the veal cutlet or something. Now, it's pasta, pasta, pasta. Or I'll get a salad, or maybe a bowl of minestrone."
The most difficult times, he says, are "when things aren't going right at the office or wherever. If you're heavy, you tend to just take it out on eating something." At times like that, he says, the complex carbohydrates Dillon recommends--potatoes, bread, pasta--"just aren't very exciting."
So the other day, after a golf game that "didn't go the way I wanted," Ewing's companions invited him to stop off for a martini. "And I said, 'Nah, I can't do that.' Well, three martinis later, I said, 'Guess I blew that one.' So I decided I wouldn't eat for the evening."
When Ewing got home that night, his wife, Louise, was waiting. Maybe he could cheat on the diet end, she told him, but that didn't mean he could skip his daily exercise (no, golf doesn't count as aerobic exercise).
"You're going to go for a walk," Louise told him.
"And," said Ewing, "she went along with me, just to make sure."
Ewing says he doesn't feel guilty about that one slip. "When I started out, I was going to be really straight with this," he says. "But then I thought, 'That's not going to be any fun.' So you end up cheating here or there. You just try not to abuse it. And so far, that's the only time."
As Dillon recommended, Ewing has been walking daily, using three-pound hand weights to increase the aerobic intensity of the workout. Each evening before dinner, he spends 45 minutes walking around Lido Isle.
"That part was hard to get used to," he says. "If you're a couch potato or even an office potato, you don't get out and walk a lot. And with the weights, every step your arms are moving up and down too. It's hard, but I do feel better the next day. It helps get your mind off other stuff. You don't keep drifting back to the office."