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Gaining Weight At The Movies

Posted May 20 2009 9:28am

Before I lost my weight, I would go to movies to eat.  The concession stand gave me the concession to forgo my diet.  I could be entertained and eat as much as I could stand in the darkness of the theater.  It was one, and still is, one of my favorite places to kick back, relax and enjoy is at the movies. But in order to get that extrasensory excitement, my mouth wants to be entertained as well as my eyes, and eating at the movies is one pleasure I refuse to deny myself. There’s nothing like a nice box of Raisinets and a big tub of popcorn. Right? After all, don’t those Raisinets have “30 percent less fat?” Raisins are a fruit so why not?  Hey, didn’t they change the popcorn oil to make it healthier?

About ten years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) came out with the surprising news that going to the movies can pack on the pounds. We learned that movie popcorn, one of the prime suspects, was, in fact, very high in calories and fat — much higher than we thought. Many theater chains decided to change that and tested healthier oils. But even if a “good” oil is used, the popcorn is still loaded with calories and fat.

These days, a large popcorn with butter, soda (diet of course, I’m watching my weight), and a bag of candy could add up to as much as 2,500 calories and more than three days’ worth of saturated fat. Even if you go to the movies ONLY once a month, you could gain as much as 8.5 pounds per year.  If it’s so bad, why do we eat so much when we go to the movies? How about because as you walk through the theater door, the smell of the popcorn and candy permeates the air? Your diet inhibitions and reality are left in the parking lot the minute you walk in the door to movie-land.  When the lights go off, it takes people way and allows them an escape.  Diets and healthy eating don’t seem important.

What if theaters were to offer healthier snack choices? Many claim they’ve tried. In fact, some theater chains have attempted to sell fruits, cold sandwiches, salads, and even energy bars to keep their captive audiences away from the evils of high-calorie treats — yet each time their efforts have failed. Apparently, fruits are not appetizing when placed next to big containers of popcorn.

Here are some tips for the brave audience member who is willing to break the concession stand “addiction” cycle:

SNEAK ATTACK:
It isn’t exactly within the rules with threaters to bring in foods (they make a huge chunk of their profits, about 40 percent, from concession sales), but until they start offering the good stuff, it may be your only option. Many theaters have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to bringing in healthy snacks. I have healthy snacks that fill my need to munch a planned snack.

If you’re new to snack-sneaking, start out by bringing foods that don’t smell and won’t get crushed when they’re shoved in your bag. Focus on foods that are filling and low in calories so that you can mindlessly munch on them throughout the movie, just like popcorn. Since we’re probably not really paying attention to the taste anyway, I wonder how many of us would know the difference if our movie popcorn was replaced by Kashi cereal or even a bag of cut up vegetables?  A couple of my favorites is Kay’s Naturals Cinnamon Toast Pretzel sticks or White Cheddar Cheese Kruncheez.

The following are a few snacks that might be worth sneaking into your theater:

* Beef jerky.
* High protein snacks.
* String cheese.
* Homemade air-popped pocorn in a Ziploc bag, 1 serving.
* Fruit - Apples are not as easily crushed when they are in your purse.  Cut into slices at home.  Grapes are also another convenient fruit and easy to bring and eat.
* Rice cakes — be careful because calorie and fat content varies widely.
* Protein bars.  Nutrition with the ease of a candy bar!

Forget and don’t Bring:
* Trail Mix — it’s very high in calories and fat.
* Potato chips — they’re also high fat, and there’s the crush-factor, too.
* Nuts — nibbling on these will bring your calories through the roof and are too easy to promote grazing and the hand-to-mouth feeling that snacks give you.
* Crackers — see Nuts above.
* Sandwiches — too messy and should be left for a meal.

EAT BEFORE:
Eat before, arrive full at the theater.  Fill up with healthy, low-calorie foods before you actually go to the movies so you just can’t eat another bite. You can also drink water during the movies to keep you full and satisfied.

SHARING:
We rationalize our snack food purchases by saying that we’ll share them. How much harm can a pack of M&Ms do divided amongst three or four people? But when the lights go out, mindless eating is in full color, and we tend to be less altruistic when it comes to our popcorn and candy. We end up eating whatever we buy, and just because there are two or three people in a group doesn’t mean the food is equally divided and eaten.  Buy smaller portions or measure out what your portion (smaller) will be.  Let your movie partner hold onto the package — you’ll end up eating less if it’s not right there in your lap.

THE BEST OF THE WORST:
It’s misleading to just look at the calories per serving on the food label — how many of us actually count out one serving and put the rest away? Ha!  In all probability, you’ll eat the whole package, no matter how many people it’s supposed to serve. And most theaters keep the candy in those glass cases, so you can’t even compare the nutritional content of different types. And imagine the looks and groans you’ll get behind you if you start inspecting each one of the candy labels.

Compare this to the movie-version of Reese’s Pieces (8 oz), which has a whopping 1200 calories, 60g fat, 138g carbs. Those Twizzlers look tempting with their claim “As Always A Low Fat Candy,” but the six-ounce package holds 600 calories, 4g fat, 136g carbs.  Oh, check out that bag of Skittles. It might look like a healthier option with only two grams of fat per serving, but the 6.75 oz bag has four and a half servings and 765 calories, 9g fat, 166.5g carbs. Choosing a box of Junior Mints (320 calories, 5g fat, 68g carbs), Milk Duds (340 calories, 12g fat, 56g carbs), or Sno-Caps (360 calories, 16g fat, 60g carbs) is a better bet. Surprisingly, Raisinets (380 calories, 16g fat, 64g carbs) are lower in calories than Gummi Bears (390 calories, 0g fat, 90g carbs) — although the Bears are fat-free.  More reason to eat at home and/or bring your own healthy snacks.

If none of these suggestions works, consider this….a movie is between 90 to 120 minutes.  Why can’t we go without eating, focus and enjoy the movie instead of stuffing our faces with unhealthy choices we would indulge under normal circumstances.  At least in restaurants, we have our own personal space rather than the elbow to elbow room of people smacking and eating around us.

It is important to remember that your weight loss goals are with you regardless of where you are.  A movie theater isn’t a reason to undo the weight loss you’ve achieved.  If movie theaters are too difficult and challenging, enjoy your favorite movies at home by renting a dvd with your own healthy snacks and food choices.  By staying at home, you won’t have a 7 foot person sit in front of you right before the movie begins or a row of kids behind you that discuss the entire movie as it goes.

Believe In Yourself,
Cathy, CLC
Certified Life Coach, Weight Loss Surgery Coach
Certified Back On Track Facilitator

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