He was getting ready for his first round of the season and was excited to meet up with his foursome after the long winter break.
"When was the last time you took a good look at your gut" shouted out one of his buddies as Jason, my friend, approached the first hole. The rest joined in on the banter, patting his belly and making jokes to the tune of "we didn't know you got hitched – where've you been hiding her?"
Jason suddenly realized he was sporting what Canadians refer to as the "Molson Muscle," and quickly contacted me for some dieting pointers. After three days of monitoring Jason's eating habits, I realized that like most men I know he was clueless about portion control, food groups and meal planning.
Jason's lack of knowledge didn't come as a surprise – 90% of diet programs and foods are targeted entirely towards women. And since Atkins left the scene, no others have been able to tackle the male market with as much impact. Weight Watchers, quite possibly the most sensible diet plan, is giving it a go but their Points System is too intricate and time-consuming for most men I know.
I decided it was time to dummy down some of the basic dieting principles I learned while working in the industry and through my observations of men – from the boyfriends I've dated to the men I've bonked ;)
1. When it comes to Food, Size Matters: I hate to be the harbinger of bad news but an average bagel is equal to six pieces of bread; a 16-ounce steak contains four servings of protein and a Happy Meal is hardly a late afternoon snack. Portion control is the number one problem for men, so if you want to make any progress you must get a handle on the amount of food you eat.
2. Ketchup is Not a Vegetable: The calories, sugar and fat in condiments count and can creep up on you. And yes, Caesar Salad and Blue Cheese dressing drizzled over greens can make the difference in your weight loss efforts. Stick to good-for-you oils and natural fats from vegetables such as avocado, and limit mayo, ketchup, barbeque and other dipping sauces and dressings to 2-3 tablespoons a day. If you want a condiment, try mustard or red wine vinegar.
3. Neither are French fries: Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and beans, even in their purest forms, count as carbohydrates. Half-a-cup is a portion minus the add-ins/ons. Just the same, those good-for-you vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli and string beans are essentially guilt-free, but not if they are battered or loaded up with creams, cheese and other rich sauces.
4. It's a Fork, not a Backhoe: American dining etiquette dictates that the fork be put down on the plate in between bites while chewing. From a dieting perspective this also makes sense. Placing a reasonable amount of food on your fork and putting it down between bites will force you to eat more slowly, and in turn give your body enough time to feel satiated before you go into food coma.