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Not easy keeping a diet this time of year

March 25, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

Wednesday was my birthday.

It's not really something I like to make a big deal of, but I do appreciate the little bit of recognition it brings.

It's nice to hear someone tell you "Happy birthday!" or hand you a nice card in honor of your special day.

Of course, a birthday celebration seems incomplete without cake. I love cake. I can't tell you how much I love cake. If it's around, I'll eat it. I don't think there's ever been a type of cake I've tried I haven't enjoyed.

But, as many of you might know I've been trying to focus on a more healthy diet over the last year, and limiting the amount of "sweets" has been a part of that work.

But, cake is cake and it must be eaten, right?

Around lunch time on Wednesday, Summer, our community editor, walked in carrying a big box. I couldn't see any markings, but it wasn't hard to tell what it was.

She and our reporter, Angelina, had gotten a marble cake (one of my favorites) from Gus's Goodies (also one of my favorites).

It was decorated very "spring-like," with flowers and little bees buzzing around.

Summer took a picture of me holding the cake and immediately posted it online as I was serving pieces to others in the newsroom. I probably cut the pieces a little bigger than normal, but I really didn't want to take a lot of cake home with me.

You see, there wasn't really a need to take any of it with me because I had another cake waiting for me there.

That's right, my mom also had gone to Gus's and purchased one of their angel food cakes, with the icing and the two cherries on top and the ring of slivered and sugared almonds around the bottom.

It's almost become a tradition for me to receive multiple cakes for my birthday. One year, I even got three, as some other friends threw me a small, lunch-time party.

I've been trying to watch how much I eat, but as I've said cake must be eaten.

To top it off, this is, as we fondly call it in the newsroom, "banquet season."

I'm not sure how many other people notice this, but in our area at least, March through early May tends to include banquets, dinners and other events from many of our local organizations.

The chambers of commerce, United Ways, Salvation Army, Rotary clubs and other non-profit organizations tend to schedule some of their biggest events for this time of year, and all of them include food.

So, that means several meals with meats, potatoes, pasta and desserts (usually cake).

It's almost like the holidays, except you usually don't find yourself exchanging gifts at these events.

There are big meals, cookies, cakes, lots of people around talking and encouraging you to eat.

As a young journalist, I had to get used to working unusual schedules, not really knowing when I would be able to stop and get something to eat, and often not being finished until late at night.

So, I often would learn to eat if food was offered at some of the events I would cover, whether it be a grand opening or a zoning meeting.

In fact, I made it a rule: Always take advantage of a free meal.

But, all these meals do add up, especially when they are coming in at sometimes once or twice a week.

In fact there are probably four or five in the next month. It's not a bad problem to have, I know, but when you're used to smaller meals, it can get a little overwhelming sometimes.

The fact I spend a good bit of my day sitting at my desk instead of running around town covering the news like I used to only adds to the impact of these meals.

That makes it even more important to watch what and how I eat.

Years ago, I stopped drinking any kind of caffeinated beverages, including soda. I usually find myself drinking water or juice, with the occasional cup of caffeine-free herbal tea during the winter months or when I'm sick.

Instead of running out to grab a sandwich or a large meal for lunch, I tend to just bring a package of yogurt or a piece of fruit and a granola bar.

At events, I've tended to go more toward vegetables with smaller pieces of meat and a little bit of pasta at some of these events. But, with so much good food, that's not always easy.

It's all right there, after all.

And, of course, getting some exercise is just as important. It's not an easy thing to do, but it's important.

It's all about balance, and I have to make sure I remember to keep that balance in my habits, whether that means eating more salads or putting in an extra 10 or 20 minutes of exercise.

So that's my goal over the next couple of months. I have to be a little more vigilant about what I'm eating and how often, find different ways of putting in some physical activity and not just sitting around watching television.

It really is about a change in my lifestyle. Diets tend to be so short-term. But getting into good habits for the long haul will keep me where I want to be.

In the meantime, there are still a few pieces of cake left.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at

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