By Chris Ying
If I cave to this glob of Époisses, any hopes of pasta for dinner are out the window. It’ll be steamed fish and vegetables roasted without oil—again. But what if I dip into my weekly allotment of cheats? No, I haveunbreakable dinner plans on Friday night, to which I’ve already assigned my week’s worth of ingestible fun.
This is the neurotic, humiliating dialogue that runs through my head these days. I’m getting married this summer, and because I’m afraid of commemorating my current shape in wedding photos, I signed up for a weight-loss program three months ago. The program—Weight Watchers, if you’re wondering—assigns a point value to each morsel of food I admit to eating. My fiancée joined with me, mostly out of solidarity. Within weeks, she had shed a few pounds and started gym-ratting, and I am now 100 percent certain we look comically incongruous as a couple.
The thing is, I edit a food magazine called Lucky Peach. Eating is an occupational hazard. So it’s been hard to adjust my habits. I started with what I eat at restaurants, where the only viable dishes are those that fill me up without installing a second—okay, third—chin. Vietnamese noodle soups are a staple. Salads are healthy, too, right? And it’s a wonder that something as tasty as sushi is healthy. (I guess it’s cosmic justice that it’s so bad for the environment.)
At first, it worked. I lost something like 20 pounds in two months. I ordered my wedding suit—my first custom-tailored job—from a boutique men’s store in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Then, like swallows to Capistrano, the pounds came swarming back.
It’s not the home cooking that’s done it. It’s traveling for work that kills me.
I’m new to the idea of flying around to report on what’s good to eat. My last job was publishing experimental fiction, so I’m baffled by the opportunities to feed on someone else’s dime, and I embrace every chance accordingly. The problem isn’t the once-in-a-lifetime meals that food writing sometimes presents. It’s the meaningless ones that I still can’t resist. Am I going to die with remorse in my heart if I don’t eat the in-flight meal? Will I bring shame on my family by leaving the local fast-food specialty unexplored?
Now I’m going to let you in on a secret: The editors of the magazine you’re reading are a cabal of svelte sex kittens. At first, I viewed their attractiveness suspiciously, but really they’ve just been doing this longer than I have. They’ve distinguished between sampling something and gobbling down the entire thing. Even on the road.
SEE MORE: 20 Recipes Full of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The truth is that I have to view work travel as an extension of normal life. Honor the commitments I’ve made at home: go to the gym, practice moderation, don’t drink two bottles of wine on a Tuesday. Now that I’ve committed to a list of priorities that sets health above gorging, I take a moment to check my eating decisions against it. It also helps to get fitted for a stupidly expensive suit while at your skinniest—it’s like a race against your tailor to get back to that weight. Failing all that, I remind myself that I’ve somehow convinced a total fox to marry me, and man, I don’t want to bust a suit button when I’m vowing to spend my life with her. That usually gets me to put down the cheeseburger.
Three Things I Do that You Can Do, Too
1. Eat the hotel breakfast, just not the whole buffet. Not every meal has to be life-changing. On the road, a banana and toast at the hotel hold me over till lunch (where I’ve reserved a rib eye for two…for one).
2. Cook more broccoli. The world’s best restaurants have recently embraced vegetables. By following their cue and focusing my cooking on the plant kingdom—I’m mortified to admit I eat a lot of “broccos,” charred broccoli and poached chicken wrapped in corn tortillas—I can indulge my proclivity for hungry-fat-guy portions, but not feel bad about the hilarious mountains of food I’m eating.
3. Carry a picture of my fiancée. Her hotness shames me into eating well. Too creepy? Find your own someone to get healthy with. The buddy system keeps you on track
Editor’s Note: Since this article was written for our August 2014, Chris has gotten married! Here’s how he’s doing post-wedding:
I’m married now. I lost enough weight before the wedding to fit into my suit, but it was all mooted by the wedding itself. I more or less put every pound back on in one night. My friends—my god, do I have good friends—from Mission Chinese Food, Ivan Ramen, Momofuku Milk Bar, Tartine, Porcellino, and 4505 Meats absolutely crushed dinner. Salumi + Tartine bread + cold ramen + smoked brisket + charred miso eggplant + pastries + cake = fat boy city. And then, just as I managed to dissolve some of my uncomfortable fullness with a few Underbergs, Karen Taylor from El Molino Central unleashed a late-night snack of rich, crimson pozole and tamales. Oof, diet starts tomorrow.
On the bright side, just the other day, I met a woman whose first words to me were: “Oh! I read your Bon Appétit article. I was expecting you to be much fatter,” which was nice, because it was the first time I’d ever been complimented for being thinner than expected. So maybe the real key to weight loss is just tempering expectations.