Break out the balloons and party hats, it's my 19th anniversary.
In 1992, when my first column appeared, I didn't project this far into the future; but here it is more than 800 columns later.
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Times have changed. In 1992 I believed that I could lose weight and keep it off just by keeping fats in my food plan to a minimum. Since it was fat free, sugar seemed to be a nonissue, even though a small cadre of astute readers wrote me that I should limit sugars, too. Turned out they knew better.
I've learned many lessons along the way, especially since my 155 weight loss that started in 2005. Here are my seven sweet lessons.
No mindless eating. It's easy to make dinner and then plunk down in front of the TV and eat. Folks who study this behavior found doing so could mean consuming 300 more calories than dining with the widescreen off.
Slow down. It takes 20 minutes before my tummy tells my brain "stop -- I'm satisfied." How do I know. I tested it once by putting a healthy-sized meal on my plate, savoring it and promising myself I could get more if 20 minutes after I'd cleaned my plate I was still hungry. I didn't need seconds that night and seldom do.
Never eat out of the bag or box. Doing to leads to overeating. I used to open a bag of reduced fat baked chips and tell myself I'd eat just a few, but it's just to easy to reach back in for one more. I wouldn't clear the bag, but I always ate more than I intended and didn't have a clue about the final calorie count. That's why my digital kitchen scales became my close friend. I weigh out an ounce (or the stated serving size) into a small bowl, put the bag back in the pantry and know exactly how many calories I"m in for.
If it's in my kitchen, it will get eaten. No matter how much I promise that a pint of low-fat ice cream, consumed a half-cup at a time, will last for weeks it's just too tempting to know it's in my freezer. A goody that's not in my kitchen won't end up on my "Weigh Day" scale.
Ignore restaurant freebies. Those free (deep-fried) tortilla chips with the fat-free salsa at a favorite Mexican restaurant and warm rolls (even the whole wheat ones) should come with a written warning: "Nibble at your own risk." High carbohydrate, sometimes fried, restaurant freebies could fill me up before the good stuff (grilled chicken and steamed veggies) arrive.
Never say never to your favorite foods. The moment I promise that a piece of chocolate will never cross my lips again, I can't stop thinking about chocolate. I've found it's better to savor a small bite or piece of a favorite food than to ban it forever.
Never skip a meal. Skipping breakfast makes it four times more likely (give or take) that you'll be overweight. I can't lie; I used to skip dinner the night before a weigh day. I stopped doing that six months ago and find my weight's more stable, and I don't try to make up for lost time when I step back off the scale.
Most of these lessons didn't come to me over night and I hope by sharing them it'll reduce your learning curve. It's the least I can do for you as you've supported me over the past 19 years. I love sharing my thoughts and food with you over virtual communal table. Thank you for continuing to make that possible.
Try this recipe: My grandmother made the best gingerbread ever; dark, moist and gingery. My version's nearly as good and delivers less fat. Keep the electric mixer in the pantry; this dough stirs together with just a whisk.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at email@example.com.