A few nights ago, I went to dinner with some girlfriends. We were celebrating one of my girls’ 40th birthday at a restaurant renowned for its fabulous desserts. We killed a couple bottles of wine and were having a great time laughing about how wise and grown we were supposed to be in our 40s, but I could feel the mood shift when the waiter dropped the dessert menu on to the table. The birthday woman, a tall, willowy sister with a penchant for pencil skirts and fitted tops, was the first to push it away. “Oh, I better not,” she sighed. “I’ve already eaten so much bad food tonight.”
When the rest of the table declined dessert, too, I had to protest. “Ladies, there’s no such thing as bad food, just bad eating habits. Live a little!” They all rolled their eyes at me, then one of them piped up: “That’s easy for you to say. You’re naturally thin.”
Er, not so much! Yes, after having gained and lost 25 pounds in my early 20s, I worked out for many years in an effort to keep it off. But when I was pregnant with my son, Max, I gained a whopping 54 pounds. I definitely did not look like our stunning, radiant cover subject, Nia Long. After I gave birth, I still had more than 40 pounds to lose. Did I do some crazy crash diet that consisted of beets and grapefruit for a month? Nope. Did I work out two hours per day? Who has time for that?! No, I lost the weight the good old-fashioned way: I ate a little less; I cut back on the alcohol; and I went to the gym asmuch as I could. Slowly but surely, the pounds came off. But my philosophy about food never changed. Sure, there’s good food (berries, grains, green vegetables, raw nuts), but I believe that there’s no such thing as bad food. And if you think you’re being “bad” every time you have a piece of cake, you give dessert the sexy sheen of the forbidden. Everything is fine in moderation. If you take a teacup and fill it with ice cream after a healthy dinner, you’re having a reasonable dessert and a fitting end to your meal. That’s so much better than thinking the ice cream is “bad,” going to bed unsatisfied, then polishing off an entire pint at 2 a.m.
More than 50 percent of African-Americans are obese, and it’s just not healthy. In fact, there is a direct association between body weight and deaths (from all causes) for men and women between the ages of 30 and 55. We come from a culture of heavy, greasy food; most of us grew up with fried chicken, ribs, butter-covered grits and sweet drinks. But as you develop your own healthy lifestyle, know that you have to satisfy yourself, otherwise you will always feel deprived. The issue is that there is a world of difference between eating half of a sweet potato pie and having a few good bites. That night with my girls, I was the only one who ordered dessert. The slice of chocolate cake the waiter brought out was huge. I couldn’t finish it, so I had a few scrumptious spoonfuls then passed it around. Sometimes I finish all my dessert, sometimes I split it—but if I want it, I order it. Sure, I make an effort to hit the
gym the next morning, but I refuse to live my life without chocolate!
You know that Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season will bring the urge to eat until you pass out. And I would never tell you not to indulge. I want you to treat yourself. You
want it, you deserve it, so eat it—then move on. Just remember to indulge in moderation. Translation: Savor your food and stop eating when you’re full (not stuffed). Try to get to the gym or take some long walks. And most important, don’t beat yourself up for enjoying your holidays. Hit me up on Twitter or send me an e-mail to let me know your Thanksgiving menu and your holiday workout plan.
Please e-mail at email@example.com and hit me up on Twitter @amybarnett.