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It appears my motivational William Shatner dream has worked! This week, I lost more than four pounds! I feel like my body has finally stabilized from being taken off the blood pressure meds, and I am back to a regular weekly loss. This success is even sweeter after you hear what happened at our annual Halloween get-together at the end of October.
It started with a regular work week – lots of stress, lots of chores, and of course my new routine of exercising. It was all building up to our annual party on Halloween when all my immediate and extended family members come over to our house for trick-or-treating.
My sister brought her kids. When combined with my kids, they make a formidable pack of goblins and ghouls. Grandparents love to see the kids and make the rounds; meanwhile, the rest of the grown-ups pass out candy and socialize. It is usually a pretty good time, and my wife and I enjoy hosting everyone for the evening.
The only down side to this event (at least right now) is the epic amount of food that I cook. I tried really hard to stick to my OPTIFAST plan, and I knew heading into Halloween that I had better arm myself.
Losing Weight While Cooking for Everyone Else
The evening before I had to do a bit of prep work on a brisket I was going to cook the next day. I also did some prep work by making sure I had my OPTIFAST bars stocked and ready in my cooking area. I took the time to put an ample supply of my favorite carbonated water flavors into the refrigerator, and then planned out the following day, figuring the optimum schedule for eating my OPTIFAST to control any hunger.
Halloween came and I was ready! An OPTIFAST chocolate peanut butter bar with a bottle of water for breakfast and then off to a counseling appointment. I arrived back at home feeling energized and ready to tackle the day.
First things first. I got a new electric smoker and I needed to get it rolling. After filling the water pan with my favorite liquid ingredients, I got the smoker up to temp and added a blend of woods to start the smoke going. I don’t know if it’s because I am on a diet or am a foodie or was listening to some male caveman part of my brain, but I carried two briskets outside to the smoker with such care and reverence that my wife started questioning my sanity.
Even though I couldn’t eat any, there is something magical about a huge BBQ-rubbed beef brisket sitting on a rack next to a huge pickled corned beef brisket. As I took one last look at all the meat I so lovingly prepared, I thought what I was feeling must be what other people feel when they see a great work of art or a sunset.
No time for love, Dr. Jones. I had more work to do! My mother-in-law cannot have gluten. Some other family members are apparently from the South and don’t know it because they don’t like chili with beans. (I have a close friend from Texas that would likely take away your cooking utensils if you tried to make chili with beans.) Rather than begin a heated and protracted debate about the necessity, I try to make everyone happy by just making chili with and without beans. I like chili, so before I could start this phase, I steeled myself with an OPTIFAST bar and lime-flavored water.
After the brief hunger protection session, I was off to the races. I made four pounds of chili – no beans – and got it simmering in the slow cooker. Then it was four pounds of chili – with beans – in another slow cooker. Brisket, corned beef, chili…all sounds good to adults, but not always to kids. So, the next item was five pounds of homemade mac-and-cheese. Once that was all prepared, it went into a Nesco roaster to slow cook for the afternoon.
Oh, I almost forgot. If you know anything about a good Texas-style BBQ brisket, you know it needs a wet mop sauce. The idea is when you go to add wood to the smoker, you mop down the brisket with the sauce to add flavor and retain moisture. My mop sauce has about 20 ingredients in it, and it has to simmer on the stove. So, somewhere between mac-and-cheese and chili with beans, I took care of getting the mop sauce put together.
I will take a moment at this point to say if you are in the OPTIFAST program and are reading this, I’m sorry for the food pics. As bizarre as it sounds, I love to cook, and cooking good food for the day is an activity I enjoy. Hang in there! Good food will be again in your future (in moderation) just as it will be in mine. If you aren’t in the OPTIFAST program and are reading this, check it out… Fat man on a diet can cook and not eat!
My Hat Tip to Breaking Bad
So, back to my diet obstacle course. After periodically tending to my smoker and brisket, I managed to clean up most of the mess from the flurry of cooking activity. I made sauerkraut to go with the corned beef. I had rye bread and Thousand Island dressing so that folks could have corned beef (well, actually it is pastrami after smoking) Reuben sandwiches. Everything was under control, but I needed to begin on a dance with every dieter’s nightmare – sugar.
My sister and her husband were going to dress as characters from the television show Breaking Bad. I loved the show, and in case you don’t know it, it is an excellent drama about a terminally ill high-school chemistry teacher who decides to manufacture methamphetamine to provide for his family after he dies. What does this have to do with my diet? I agreed to make a batch of “blue meth” rock candy as a prop for their costumes. Not for kids mind you, but grown ups that recognized their costumes and characters could get a neat, Breaking Bad, grown-up candy treat.
So, now it was time to put gobs of sugar, corn syrup and water in a pan, brush the sides with water, and begin watching a candy thermometer like a hawk. In the end, it was a little too blue but did the job. I added cherry flavoring and poured it into a pan to cool. Then, I let out my pent-up food aggression with a meat hammer. All the candy got portioned into baggies, and my delicious, cherry-flavored tribute to Breaking Bad was complete.
Since it was almost time for our guests to arrive, I had to set the table, get condiments out, remove all the meat from the smoker and slice it. I made spaghetti for those that like their chili “Cincinatti-style.” (I shudder just imagining this abomination, but I like to keep my guests happy.) Lastly, I put a pot of red wine on the stove with mulling spices to make warm, spiced wine for those grown-ups passing out candy.
I had time for another OPTIFAST break with water, and then it was time to start passing out candy. The kids were in their costumes (both of mine dressed as video game characters from Xbox Arcade games), guests were having a good time and eating good food, and I was sticking to my diet.
All in all, it was a pretty good night! I managed to pass out huge quantities of candy without eating any.
Manning the Concession Stand without Temptation
How did I recover the next day? A full day of work, a workout with my trainer, and then home to volunteer for marching band. My wife and I were working the concession stand on senior night. Just when I thought I was out of cooking, they keep pulling me back in!
We had some tough times that evening. My wife made several hundred boxes of popcorn, and right next to her I made enough hot pretzels to pretty much permanently take that food item off my personal menu.
I had an OPTIFAST bar before we arrived, but I really didn’t need to. If you ever want to avail yourself of food, spend three hours rapidly cooking the same item over and over.
Unlike my experience the day before, where I lovingly crafted food with care for the people I love, this day was about cooking junk food as fast as humanly possible for a crowd of screaming strangers. It was a nice workout, though!
Winning Awesome Weight-loss Battles
My wife didn’t have any time to eat, so when we got home, I made her a plate of eggs and toast. As I lay in a chair at home that evening – stinking of popcorn and pretzels, covered in sweat, too tired to even get up to take a shower – I reflected on that week.
Maybe for the first time, I believed in my heart I can do this. It’s just possible that I am capable of nailing this diet thing if I just believe in myself, prepare the battlefield for success, and give it my best effort. Time will tell, I guess, which will win the war: my head and heart or my stomach. I have to tell you, though, I am feeling pretty awesome about the battles I won at Halloween.
Canal Fulton resident Eric Buwala has been blogging about his weight-loss journey for more than 18 weeks now. If you’ve missed out on his previous posts, you can visit his archive.
If you are serious about losing weight but would like a helping hand, contact Mercy Weight Management. Located in Canton, Ohio, Mercy can help you customize a weight-loss plan.
About The Author
Canal Fulton, Ohio resident Eric Buwala is the director of sales and marketing for Cuyahoga Falls-based Rapid Mailing Services. As a Mercy Weight Management client and guest blogger, Eric is sharing his weight-loss journey with our readers with the hope that his story will inspire others to lose weight and regain their health.