Why Give Up Delicious Things? | The Food Party! | Laura Stec | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

View all posts from Laura Stec

Why Give Up Delicious Things?

Uploaded: Jan 16, 2022

When you hear “Dry January” what comes to mind? For some, the word dry rings loudest. For others it’s more about self-efficacy. The distinction proved important recently - the week it became clear how often we don’t hear each other. Especially these days, no matter what you say, the chance is good your listener won’t be. Probability is high they don’t register your perspective at all, but filter your comments instead by their experiences, or lack thereof. No matter what you say, people tend to hear how they relate to a topic, not how you do.

When I first started The Food Party!, I was surprised when comments had nothing to do with the spirit of the piece. Eight years later, I realize that’s the norm. People go off on their own tangents all the time, some actually work out their own issues on The Food Party!

Here’s this week’s example… I’ve said numerous times I’m doing Dry January for brain-training. No matter, both friend and readers have come back last week solely about the dry part. And the comment I’ve been thinking about all week? “Why give up something you will start doing again?”

My hair stylist got her fill about brain-train this week. She’s suffering from…wait for it…a dysfunctional relationship with sugar and highly processed foods. She knows she should stop eating so much but “it’s so good and I can’t help myself.” Trust me – I get it. “I eat a bowl of cereal each night before bed.” We discussed ways to stop the bad habit, such as making sure you’re eating enough “good calories” and the importance of keeping one’s blood sugar stable. I suggested giving up the bowl every third night, substituting sparkling water instead. “Start there - succeeding will help you take more steps. It builds confidence knowing that you can give something up you enjoy, and that you can follow through on commitments you make to yourself. It’s called self-efficacy, the ability to control your behavior, motivation and social circumstances.”

Self-efficacy is a concept made famous by Stanford professor Al Bandura (1925 – 2021). RIP Professor. In 1977, Bandura was “the first to demonstrate that self-efficacy, the belief in one’s own capabilities, has an effect on what individuals choose to do, the amount of effort they put into doing it, and the way they feel as they are doing it. The more you have, the more in control you are.”

Since eating disorder days of my 20’s – 30’s, I’ve been building self-efficacy, whether I knew it or not, by fighting the good fight against sugar. I’ve made good progress. It’s taken years to separate my mind addiction from my blood sugar crashes, and neutralize both. Happy to report I may finally have kicked sugar’s sweet booty. It didn’t happen quickly. Quite honestly, I think it just took practice. (Don't hold me to it!)

Which brings me back to Dry January. Why would anyone stop drinking red wine in January if they have every intention to raise a glass in February? Why should my hairdresser not eat cereal tonight when she knows darn well she’ll have a bowl tomorrow? Reasons vary from person to person.

We give up something delicious every now and again, maybe because sometimes we have too, but other times, just to know we can. To challenge ourselves. To discover subconscious habits. To increase self-efficacy. To brain-train. To remind myself that I am in control of me.

Someone cue Janet Jackson, please!

Control, now I've got a lot
Control, to get what I want
Control, never gonna stop
Control, now I'm all grown up

photo by Janet Jackson

I’ve been doing less drink development this DJan, and more tasting of new products. The options have really improved the last 2 years. For the remainder of the month, we’ll be posting non-alcoholic drinks you can buy online and in stores - Total Wine and More has a growing selection. Our taste -testers had different reactions; we’ll try to offer something for everyone. Determine what you want to “replace” (beer, wine, spirits) and then what level of sweet you want. Pay close attention to the carbohydrates and added sugars.


Hop WTR is a mix of sparkling water and hop essence. No calories and refreshing. An interesting take on sparkling water. Beer lovers like it! 12 oz can, 0 cal / 0 carbs $3 a can

Bravus is some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted! Fellow tasters (more beer aficionados than I) described it as “light,” “a long after taste,” and “tastes like an IPA.” I loved Dark Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Ale, and could actually finish the IPA. Serious beer lovers may need more, but for me, it filled the evening drink space nicely. 12 oz can, 100 cal / 23 g carbs. 6-pack $12.99


Last year we learned drink complexity was important to satisfaction; this year stemmed glassware takes stage as I Am Important too. There’s something fun about drinking from, and holding a wine glass – no matter what’s in it. Buff your glasses with microfiber clothes for the extra sparkle that feels so good.

Our tasters agreed that the non-alcoholic wine was least among rivals. Yet later that night when no one was watching, I took it out again and poured some with dinner. Food improved the taste dramatically, and it was fun just swirling the glass around and sipping again like a bon vivant. Be Well lasted fine in the fridge, and though I really hope there is something better out there, I finished the bottle a few days later. 5 oz pour, 20 calories, 0 carbos. $11.99

Stella Rosa
Stella has nice bubbles, but feels more like a new sparkling juice. Watch out Martinell’s. Tasters mentioned “tasty and sweet,” “on the sweet side,” and “fruity character.” Made from grape with no added sugar, it's tasty! I say take it out of the “alcohol replacement world” and market the drink for all ages. 5 oz pour, 80 cal/18 g carbs Bottle: $8.99

A mixologist from New York created this botanical beauty, ready to drink from the bottle. Complex and discerning. Not sweet, but touches like strawberry, blackberry, chrysanthemum, hibiscus, and rhubarb balance out the bitters. An acquired taste actually, but bitters and shrubs are good tastes to acquire - breaks the sweet dependence. A good stand in for that glass of wine. 5 oz pour, 20 cal/5 g carbs $24.70 for 750 ml bottle

- Photos by LSIC unless mentioned
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Vernon Tate, a resident of another community,
on Jan 17, 2022 at 10:30 am

Vernon Tate is a registered user.

There is no need to make any sacrifices in this area.

My family is comprised of various religious faiths and each member goes about it his/her own way.

My ex-wife's family is Church of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) and they diligently abstain from alcohol.

My current wife is Episcopalian (aka 'Catholic Light') and post service gatherings at her church always offer alcohol as refreshments.

I was raised Lutheran and cannot ever recall a summer church picnic where there were not at least three kegs of beer on the premises.

And my son is a Ratafarian convert which I suppose justifies his heavy use of
cannabis which he says is a key element of his religious experience.

The simplest approach for me is to incorporate the social practices of my earlier church experiences along with those of my current wife and son.

Problems (if any) solved.

Posted by Alexian Daugherty, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 17, 2022 at 3:52 pm

Alexian Daugherty is a registered user.

$12.99 is a tad expensive for alt-beer.

And as far as alt-champagne goes, a 32oz. plastic bottle of Canada Dry Ginger Ale can easily suffice.

These Dry January beverage substitutes are far more costly than their alcohol-infused counterparts.

My daughter used to eat Cocoa Puffs as an evening snack but we have put an end to this non-nutritional and sugar-laden pastime.

She now gets a $1.79 block of tofu to pacify her evening munchies and has given up on late night snacking altogether.

Posted by Roger Davis, a resident of Professorville,
on Jan 17, 2022 at 7:05 pm

Roger Davis is a registered user.

As far as evening kid snacks go, our children get popcorn (un-buttered and unsalted).

Not the nasty microwavable bag stuff, just some basic yellow Jolly Time popcorn and an air popper.

Junk food is a no-no in our household as we do not want to raise obese kids fueled by chemical preservatives, excess sugar, and added sodium.

Any parent who cannot abide by these common sense guidelines is an irresponsible parent and probably overweight/obese themselves.

Posted by Darby Hillman, a resident of another community,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 9:29 am

Darby Hillman is a registered user.

Obesity is the root cause if other serious diseases (i.e. diabetes, cardio-vascular & pulmonary failure, kidney disease etc.).

If one cannot try to eat healthy it is because they simply do not care about their health or personal appearance.

Posted by Jennifer Tate, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 11:39 am

Jennifer Tate is a registered user.

Scientists have also discovered that the coronavirus settles in the fat cells of obese people leaving them more susceptible to the disease whether they are unvaccinated or not.

This should serve as an added impetus for healthy eating and weight control.

Posted by sequoiadean, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 1:10 pm

sequoiadean is a registered user.

@Laura: We give up something delicious every now and again, maybe because sometimes we have too, but other times, just to know we can. To challenge ourselves. To discover subconscious habits. To increase self-efficacy. To brain-train. To remind myself that I am in control of me.

I agree with these reasons for doing dry January, Laura!

We went to a small music club in San Jose Saturday night (Art Boutiki), and I got some hot tea as a drink. My wife was very happy when I handed her a nice mug of peppermint tea at the show.

Posted by Elaine, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 1:31 pm

Elaine is a registered user.

I always seem to want to be drinking something: Water, wine, tea. It is almost a subconscious compulsion. So this month I am trying to just BE. This allows me to pay more attention to whatever is in front of me, instead of having to always get the next beverage or go to the bathroom.

Posted by Bill Meyers, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 1:53 pm

Bill Meyers is a registered user.

Does a partial Dry January count as well?

I have gone from Heineken to Miller Lite to do my part and because Miller Lite happened to be on sale at Costco.

Making these kinds of personal sacrifices is not that big of a deal.

Posted by Betsy Wilkins, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 4:48 pm

Betsy Wilkins is a registered user.

I am trying to prepare healthier meals at home including more vegan entrees and less alcohol.

Result: the kids are sneaking out to In and Out and Krispy Creme while my husband has confined most of his drinking to happy hour after work.

I know this because I have caught them in the act and they vehemently detest most vegetables alobg with tofu.

Fortunately they are not obese.

Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 5:56 pm

AMRW is a registered user.

Gotta love the explicit anti-fat bias that shows up on posts like these. Yuck. Maybe we don't need to shame and stigmatize people whose bodies are different than ours.

Posted by Laura Stec, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 6:11 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

I stopped at that one too @AMRW. But I was thinking "tofu bias" lol. I've noticed we have an "anti-tofu" reader. Hmmm, Maybe the beef industry? Beef Conspiracy!

Posted by Anthony Jeffers, a resident of Stanford,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 7:10 pm

Anthony Jeffers is a registered user.

In primitive cultures obesity is viewed as a sign of wealth and prosperity. They do not assign an extrinsic value to money or Bitcoin.

In modern western countries, obesity is viewed differently.

If more people were vegan, obesity would no longer be an issue or concern as excessive transfats, animal fat, processed sugar, and excessive sodium contributes to this unhealthy and unattractive physical condition.

As I write, I am currently preparing a simple and cost-effective dinner consisting of stir-fried assorted vegetables and tofu with some steamed brown rice.

And no alcohol, just some green tea.

After I graduate and have more money, I might occasionally partake in the more unhealthy stuff (in moderation) and gain a few more pounds along the way.

I'm 20 and have noticed that many middle-aged people get a bit paunchy beca

Posted by Anthony Jeffers, a resident of Stanford,
on Jan 18, 2022 at 7:10 pm

Anthony Jeffers is a registered user.

because they can afford to eat better.

Until then...

Posted by Adrienne LaPorte, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 20, 2022 at 11:40 am

Adrienne LaPorte is a registered user.

America can easily be characterized as overfed but undernurished.

Speaking as a clinical nutritionist, I find obesity appalling, unhealthy, and physically unattractive.

I have counseled countless individuals who on any given day will consume an entire gallon of ice cream or an entire extra-large combo pizza in one sitting and I always advise them to get psychological help to resolve their food addiction.

Most have low self-esteem issues and consume massive amounts of junk food to ease their imagined pains which is counterproductive and unhealthy at best.

In America over-commercialized programs like Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, NOOM, and Weightwatchers promise weight loss success but many subscribers return to their past habits, like chronic drug addicts.

Most 3rd world inhabitants do not suffer from these afflictions because the majority of them are leading hand to mouth existences.

Judging by the countless obese drivers in CA waiting in line at In and Out Burger better health and eating healthy is obviously not a concern or a priority.

Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community,
on Jan 20, 2022 at 3:04 pm

AMRW is a registered user.

Adrienne, I'd hope a clinical nutritionist wouldn't judge and label their patient's bodies as "physically unattractive". This is one of the reasons that fat people avoid doctors and nutritionists. The fat phobia and judgment within the medical field is so widespread, so unfortunate, and incredibly harmful to fat people.

Also, how unattractive they are to you aside, not all fat people are unhealthy.

Posted by James Whitaker, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 20, 2022 at 7:26 pm

James Whitaker is a registered user.

° "not all fat people are unhealthy.
^ Appearances can be deceiving BUT there is a distinct difference between 40+ pounds of useless fat vs 40 pounds of athletic muscle.

A football player can be 5'9" and weigh 225 pounds but your average couch potato with the same dimensions would be considered obese by most medical guidelines.

For the average person, a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30 is considered overweight and bordering on obesity.

As others have mentioned, in some cultures obesity is considered a symbol of wealth and prosperity. In modern industrial countries, it is oftentimes perceived as a symbol of slovenly excess.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jan 20, 2022 at 8:35 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I eat healthy and exercise regularly. That's all I've ever known. If a certain poster really is a nutritionist, he/she is in the wrong profession. How sad for the clients who deserve a more empathetic and professional nutritionist. Harsh judgment will have the opposite effect.

Posted by Carolyn Ober, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Jan 21, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Carolyn Ober is a registered user.

Obese people should not be ostracized but rather encouraged to lose weight as this key initiative will improve their overall health and reduce healthcare insurance premiums for those of us who actually care about our health and overall appearance.

A Dry January should also promote an ongoing commitment to better eating habits and moderate exercise.

Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community,
on Jan 21, 2022 at 5:35 pm

AMRW is a registered user.

Carolyn, It appears you think fat people don't care about their health or appearance. Once again, explicit fat phobia is rampant on this post. It's pretty disheartening.
How about this-you worry about your own body and let others worry about theirs.
Yes, insurance premiums are influenced by all of us. Would you suggest a person with cancer try to not have so much cancer?

Posted by Bobby Kanaka, a resident of another community,
on Jan 22, 2022 at 10:37 am

Bobby Kanaka is a registered user.

My Hawaiian relatives are all overweight or obese and to date, two of them have suffered amputations due to complications from diabetes, four are diagnosed with cardio-pulmonary disease, and one cousin has undergone lap-band surgery to curtail his gluttonous eating habits.

Cultural diet has a lot to do with these conditions as many Hawaiians eat a lot of SPAM, steamed white rice, and macaroni salad.

At one time (250+ years ago), most native Hawaiians were slender and athletic hunter-gatherers, but the influx and influence of outside food sources has wreaked havoc with their natural physiques.

Pork was introduced to them by the Portuguese, SPAM by Hormel during WW2, white rice from the Asians, and macaroni salad by the Americans.

Today a large percentage of Hawaiians are plagued by self-inflicted obesity and this is very disheartening as the wearing of oversized Aloha shirts and tent-like muumuus is not a healthy solution or alternative.

Unless one is an athlete, there is absolutely no reason for a woman of short stature to weigh more than 200 pounds or for a sedentary and average height man to weigh in excess of 250 pounds.

Then again it is their choice.

Dry January is always on at our house because we are Mormons.

Posted by marianne davis, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Jan 22, 2022 at 12:16 pm

marianne davis is a registered user.

> Obese people should not be ostracized but rather encouraged to lose weight as this key initiative will improve their overall health

> How about this-you worry about your own body and let others worry about theirs.

> Then again it is their choice.

Absolutely. Who cares about people who cannot control their appetites whether it pertains to food or alcohol?

To each his or her own as there are countless programs to address this issue.

It should also be noted that many obese individuals and alcoholics are dealing with personal or psychological issues that contribute to their condition and this is not anyone's problem unless it is a family member.

Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community,
on Jan 23, 2022 at 8:34 am

AMRW is a registered user.

"Unless one is an athlete, there is absolutely no reason for a woman of short stature to weigh more than 200 pounds or for a sedentary and average height man to weigh in excess of 250 pounds."

Bobby. Do better. Other people's weight is not your business and putting your own made up weight limits on men and women reeks of fatphobia and sexism.

PS, I'm a short statured woman who weighs less than 200 lbs. Whew!!! I'm good!

Posted by Judy LaRussa, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Jan 23, 2022 at 10:17 am

Judy LaRussa is a registered user.

Poor eating habits, unhealthy food choices, and overindulgence are the key culprits.

It is rare to encounter obesity among vegetarians or inhabitants of impoverished third world countries.

Many Americans are overfed but undernourished.

And according to the CDC:

From 1999 -2000 through 2017 -2018, US obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 42.4%. During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

42.4% is an astronomical figure given a U.S. population of roughly 360 million people.

Is obesity gradually working its way towards becoming the norm?

If so, future investing in the oversized fashion industry and food courts will be a very profitable venture.

Posted by Bill Gibbons, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jan 24, 2022 at 8:50 am

Bill Gibbons is a registered user.

> Why Give Up Delicious Things?

^ Judging by the flow of comments it is apparent that some people cannot do this and their overindulgences leads to other related health and appearance issues or problems.

The key of course is moderation and anyone who consumes a gallon (or half gallon) of ice cream in one sitting probably needs counseling.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 2 comments | 2,127 views

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,003 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,574 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.