Ever since I was a child, I've loved the season of fall most of all. Perhaps because while living in New England (during my grade-school years), the changing leaves offered a range of beautiful colors. Or maybe it was the crisp Northeast sweater weather (that demanded clothing that hid some of my figure flaws -- which I was admittedly even concerned about as a heavy kid). Or it could have been that autumn acted as an annual sign that Christmas was on its way. Whichever. Suffice it to say, I consider autumn a golden time of year.
Living in Los Angeles, there's not a lot of autumn to be had. Sure, there are a few maple trees (with changing leaves) in Beverly Hills. And every now and then we get a cooler day that requires a sweatshirt in the morning (before giving out to warm LA sunshine by noontime). Thus, one must be creative when it comes to feeling like it's autumn. Some of you may be familiar with warm-weather-autumn drill: plastic fall-leaf wreath hanging on the door, a mini-pumpkin or two lying around the house, an autumn-scented candle burning in the evening (even as the air conditioner blows), etc.
Those who know me won't be surprised that one of my go-to items for a "hit" of autumn is an edible (well, drinkable) one. For years now, I've been addicted (potential 12-step-group-addicted) to Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Lattes (or, as I refer to them, "fall in a cup"). And as someone who once weighed over 450 pounds, I would find myself ordering the "venti" (the extra large, to those in the know) and drinking down every last autumn-y (read: sugary) drop.
I was committed to downing this drink not only throughout the fall season, but throughout every week of the fall season. Needless to say that even before Turkey Day, the results of this seasonal endeavor would start to show themselves in the form of tighter jeans and more pronounced love handles. In other words, my love of fall was adding up (calorie-wise) fast.
Thus, one sad day, I decided I had to abandon my love of "fall in a cup" and simply make do with the plastic wreath. But as usual, the denial of something led to the over-consumption of it. It did not matter that I'd lost over 250 pounds of excess weight in the past and had kept it off for over a decade. When it came to "fall in a cup," I was going down. Or my weight was going up. As usual, denial led to obsession and obsession led to... Well, let's just say I feel like I have personally funded many of the newer Starbucks locations that have opened in my local area.
Then, this year, I hit upon an amazing, original, highly innovative idea... To treat these magical and seductive Pumpkin Spice Lattes as a treat (yeah, that's right -- categorize them in an appropriate way). I decided I was going to indulge -- but was going to do so in a fashion that wouldn't harm my psyche or extend my waistline.
So I blew out my autumn-scented candle, trotted past my plastic wreath, hopped over the mini-pumpkins and marched into my nearest Starbucks, where I ordered up a tall (read: small!) Pumpkin Spice Latte. As I pressed the smaller cup to my lips, I wondered if I'd get the same satisfaction that I did from lifting the larger size up to my mouth. And, to my surprise, I did. The smallest Pumpkin Spice Latte was just as delicious, just as tasty, just as soothing and offered just as much "fall in a cup" as its giant predecessor had before it. In fact, I didn't even suck out the last sip like I usually did with the larger size (as if I were an astronaut trying to get a last gasp of oxygen in space). Instead, I enjoyed most of the drink, decided I was finished and tossed it.
Of course, the next day, I wanted another one. And here's where I tried out another innovative tactic. "Sure, Gregg... You can have another one... next week." Yeah, that's right. I acknowledged I wanted it, let myself know when I could have it, and then gave myself several days to anticipate it. And when that "lucky day" rolled around, I got another small one and enjoyed every ounce.
It turns out what I'd always heard was true: Less is more. And I marvel at this fact as much today (at around 175 pounds) as I did when I weighed over 450 pounds. Turns out there are always lessons we can learn and always new adaptations we can make (to the way we consume treats) no matter what end of the scale we find ourselves at. And this is good news. Because it means we can treat ourselves, when appropriate -- as long as it's with portions that are appropriate. (Win-win for "appropriate," y'all.)
Now, one should keep in mind that even the tall (small!) Pumpkin Spice Latte has a bunch of calories in it (even when made with 2 percent low-fat milk, as I have mine made with). But when these approximately 210 calories are consumed just once a week (or even less), they're not going to hurt your weight loss or weight maintenance plan one bit. Again, it's all about moderation. This means not denying one's self.
At long last, my love of autumn (and devotion to "fall in a cup") can be celebrated without worry -- even here in sunny n' hot Los Angeles. And this means whatever food or treat obsessions you have can be handled in the same way. Less is more. But not less. Get it? (Feel free to insert your own seasonal "horn of plenty" reference here.)
If you'd like a rundown of what the calorie counts are on other Starbucks-related coffee beverage flavors and sizes, click here.
For more by Gregg McBride, click here.
For more on weight loss, click here.