Tell the vending machine the relationship is over

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2004

Move your wide rear end over, Dr. Phil. Richard Simmons, please and I am begging you put on a real shirt and a pair of long pants, and listen up. I have a diet plan that not only works, but also saves you money.

This week many people traditionally start anew and swear this is the year they are going to lose weight. Today is International Start the Diet That Is Really Going to Work This Time. (Technically, all my resolutions start on Jan. 2 since today is a holiday.) Bold plans are made. Refrigerators are purged of fattening foods. Diet books, charts and programs are bought.

For some, it is the first day of the rest of their lives. For others, it is the starting point for a couple of weeks of tortured controlled eating that will end in a midnight run to the gas station for some Ben & Jerry's.

Avoiding pain is the key to my weight-loss suggestion. It's a simple lifestyle modification that doesn't promise that you'll shed 30 pounds in the first month. Rather, I'm betting that you may lose 5 and feel good about the whole process.

My plan is the No Vending Machine Diet.

The rules are simple. Do not buy anything candy, chips, doughnuts, Pop-Tarts, cookies or soda from a vending machine. When at the store, don't buy anything that traditionally is in a vending machine. Avoid these high-calorie, fatty foods, and you'll lose weight.

There is only one exception to this rule. (There has to be an exception or two. How do you think these guys write a 200-page book about a "simple" diet?) Bottled water, the best item for you that is sold in a vending machine, is allowable.

I can give personal testimony that this diet works. Whenever the pants are feeling a little tight around the waist, I look at recent eating habits and find two culprits vending machines and beer. I cut out both and in no time life is good again in size 34-waist land.

At work, I love the vending machine. There are machines all over the Times-Union building.

There are two in the newsroom, another set by the cafeteria and down in the basement there is a break room that has five of them. I've rationalized to myself that if I use the stairs instead of the elevator to go to the basement, the Snickers bar is actually good for me.

Breaking the vending machine habit takes willpower and some tricks.

First, you can't use a vending machine if you have no money. So, try not to have any money on you. In my desk drawer, I have a bunch of loose change. No more. It is coming home and going into the change jar. Every night I empty my pockets into this jar. When I rolled the coins this year, I ended up with more than $180. That comes in handy during the holidays.

When at work, only carry $5, $10 and $20 bills, denominations that won't work in vending machines. Find a place, maybe the car, where you can lock away the $1 bills. George Washington is a patriot, but he is the enemy on this diet.

Convenience stores make it super easy to avoid vending machine foods. When you get gas, pay at the pump. Don't even walk in the store. (I'd love to see a study that shows how much is lost to store owners in impulse buys because of the invention of pay-at-the-pump technology. It has to be huge.)

So, you ask: OK, no vending machine food. But I'm starving. How do I make it until lunch?

The answer is simple eat. Eat breakfast. If people ate a real, sit-down, read-the-newspaper breakfast they'd never need to snack before lunch. At lunch, eat something good for you rather than fast food, and you'll be good until supper. Need a snack? Grab an apple, banana or some other fruit.

Try this plan, and you'll see a change in your weight and some extra money in your pockets.

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