Sunday, December 29, 2013

The O-N-D Winelovers Diet

Hint: Eat lots of fruit
The wine and food industry can take its toll. Days of tastings followed by lunches, dinners and more tastings. No one’s complaining but after 30 years the wines (and the pounds) add up. The high selling season known as O-N-D (October-November-December) represents the lion’s share of wine and spirits sold during any year. Those of you who have followed this blog have been subjected to posts about O-N-D and the various intricacies. Hey, I don’t have scads of beautiful babies to show off. O-N-D is my baby.

And as any mother will tell you, losing weight after giving birth to one of those beauties is no small task.

On September 29, I’d had it. The scale was tipping in a direction I swore I’d never take. I tightened my resolve and took the plunge.

Anyone who has dieted knows the see-saw of losing only to regain, over and over, is discouraging. A mentor of mine, Al Moulin, told me one day the doctor advised he could no longer eat like he did as a kid at his father’s New Orleans table (his dad was a restaurateur). “Do yourself a favor,” he said. “Stop eating as much of the foods that you love now so some deranged doctor will never tell you to completely eliminate the foods you love.” Al loved butter and cognac, rich foods that he grew up with in the Crescent City. And he loved the wines (and the ladies) too. But the good doctor said he had to cut down, his liver couldn’t take it anymore. I saw how heartbroken he was. I remembered what he told me, again, on September 29.

The regimen is simple. I use Weightwatchers as my tether to reality. I don’t go to meetings (way too introverted for that). This year I augmented it with a Nike Fuel wrist band. The goal was to lose 10 pounds, although if I lost 13 that would also be ok. I decided to make my first goal before getting heady about it. A mountain sometimes doesn’t look as tall (or as hard) at the bottom as it does once you start climbing it.

Elvis carved from 1 ton of butter - Texas State Fair

The Nike Fuel gauges activity, and its purpose is to let me know how well I am burning the food (and wine) I am consuming. It also lets me know how active I am. If, at the end of the day I’ve been sitting too much at a computer terminal (or in meetings) good ol’ Nike Fuel will let me know. And then I have to make it up. It helps that I have a few colleagues around like Stefano Poggi, who is my millennial fire-builder. Criss-crossing the country for his boss at Batasiolo, Stefano fights the same battles, to make the world safe for Italian wine and to keep from blowing up like a balloon from all those white truffle and Barolo dinners. He has the metabolism of a starved grasshopper. If I fall, Stefano will remind me. As he should.

To this formula, add restraint and a little luck, and O-N-D might be a losing proposition in the weight department.

La Fiorita proprietress Natalie Oliveros  and yours truly, on the wine trail...
First up: A look at wine.
I really like wine. That’s a bit of an understatement. I was up at 4:30 the night before last and I found myself staring at a screen looking at Italian government documents, trying to figure out exactly what was the smallest DOCG (another post). Yeah, I can be a little obsessed. I’m a lifer in the wine-career-biz stuff.

But too much wine adds up. So my intake had to ease. In Weightwatchers measurements every ounce of wine equals 1 point. Bourbon is worse; each ounce equals 3 points. I have about 34-35 points a day allowed with some 7 daily bonus points if I need them. My activity points can also make up for some of the unavoidable situations. If someone opens up a bottle of 1971 Monfortino, I will not turn down a glass. Or if the inevitable bottle of Selosse is popped I’m not going to walk away from a coupe. I’m not a total idiot. But anything you take in will eventually show up on the scales.

I'm not even going to talk about Jimmy's - way too many temptations in there
Food. The holidays offer a harem of temptations. Cheese, baked goods, cured meats, marinated vegetables, new olive oil, butter, sugar. Everywhere you turn, someone has a plate of Sicilian cookies or panettone. Pork is my downfall. I don’t love it like some of my friends but if I do eat it, it just hangs around. It’s a slow-moving bomb for my system. But if I manage a reservation at Lucia, it is inevitable; there will be pork at the table, whether I order it or not. And who in their right mind would turn away David Uyger’s home made nduja? Not me.

The key is measuring the intake. A bourbon ball looks innocent enough. Run, don’t walk, away from it. That’s like a 17-year-old with the come hither look. Run. Fast.

Cheese. As a grower for Paula Lambert, our beloved cheese goddess in Dallas, I have way too much access to her marvelous cheeses. From my dear little Hoja Santa cheese, to her seductive Blanca Bianca, which I could just let come to room temperature and rub all over my body. It would probably be safer (although weird) than opening up a package and trying to “not” eat it all in one sitting. Cheese. Heroin. No difference.

Sweets. My Sicilian genes. My Calabrese genes. My inner Arab. I can’t have wine? OK, I’ll have marzipan, cuccidati or go all ascetic on y’all and burn through a bag of giggiulena. Or my 99½-year-old mom’s fruit cake. Or the licorice in the pantry. It goes so well with the Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara that I lust after. Or Randall Grahm’s AlbariƱo. Yeah, licorice and wine pairings, that’s the stuff of (300 pound) legends. Enough.

I lost weight the week I ate Andre Natera's sinfully delicious poutine. But I tempted the fates.
Bread, potaotes and pasta. Same as sweets. Moving on.

Restraint. Ain’t sexy. But it works. Bowing out of social events. Not as hard for an introvert. But the restaurant going is a killer. People bring “stuff” to the table, especially in the company I keep. And like a good like Catholic boy, I know there are children in Ecuador (or New York City) who are starving. So I cannot waste one morsel. “Every grain of rice is the Buddha body,” the Zen roshi on Mt. Shasta told me. Repeatedly. OK, enough. Box it up. To go.

The 15 minute rule. This is a hard one, but it works. If you can, stop eating before you think the meal is finished. Let 15 minutes pass. Get up, go to the bathroom. Walk around the restaurant saying hello to someone. Take the long way back from the bathroom. Step outside for some fresh air. Do not play with your smart phone. Just get through the 15 minutes. You will be full. I promise. You have already eaten enough.

Fresh sardines fried, from Cesare al Casaletto in Rome ( before Sept 29)
Posting photos of food and wine on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, blogs. Stop looking at all those pictures of 1928 Chateau Haut Brion followed by the ’29 (they’re twins, after all, how many times will that happen?) and the 10 course Feast of the 7 Fishes. Unfriend those people who never gain weight but eat like they just ordered up their last meal on death row. Unfriend them all. Or at least stop going there. They have varicose veins and cellulite; they’re just not showing those aspects on their selfies.

The big excuse. “It’s the busy season, I can has tamales.” Bullshit. You are only fooling yourself. Unless you have one of those fancy state fair mirrors that make everyone look thin. The scale knows better. So does your heart. And your knees. You have 10-hour days standing, stocking wine, bending? Oh yeah, that will all catch up quicker than spring training day in Vero Beach.

The reality is if you feel better, you will be a happier person in your body. But you have to be “in” your body to feel it. And yes, it is painful, if you have 10 pounds or 100 to lose. It’s the same mountain.

The hair is lighter (and thinner) now, but my sweater still fits.
The good news? Yesterday I was cleaning out a closet when I came across three sweaters I bought when I first went to Italy, way back in 1971. I paid 600 lire apiece (US $3.00 at the time) for those three wool sweaters. I tried one on. It fits. Again. Yeah, that is sweet revenge against the race with time. And though I know I will not win the race, ultimately, I have this little victory. And it is my new cheese. My new panettone. My new pork roast. My new old bottle of 1958 Gaja Barbaresco.

I haven’t given anything up, like my friend Al had to. I have just tapered off. I savor the food and wine more. Less food. More savor. Less Wine. More Italian clothes. Win-win.

I’m not at my 10-pound goal yet, but I’m way beyond base camp. And I did it during the toughest time of the year.

So, for those of you who want to do this, you can also do the J-F-M regimen. It doesn’t matter when you do it (if you have to), but start the freekin' hike.

I’ll see you at the summit. With a chilled bottle of Franciacorta. And a helicopter.

Happy New You!

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


michelecolline said...

Is that Frank Zappa on the left in the picture?

Alfonso Cevola said...

No, Jim Croce impersonating Frank Zappa

Pamela Heiligenthal said...

I told myself I wouldn't indulge this holiday season...yet here I am 10 pounds heavier...damn those potatoes and sweets, wine and desserts, great crusty bread and superb cheese plates!!!

Wishing you a lighter and grand 2014

~Pamela Heiligenthal

The Signorina said...

I really like your blog! Fantastic subject and it seems much appreciated by the wider community!

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