Hello. My Name is Gregg. And I'm a Fall Coffee Drink Addict.

What is it about calorie-laden, autumn-themed drinks that does in our willpower?

Posted Sep 20, 2014

What is it that makes pumpkin-in-a-cup so enticing?

Today, 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 hours (before the temperature gives out to LA’s warm 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 Styrofoam 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 Pumpkin Spice Lattes (or, as I refer to them, "fall in a cup"). And as someone who once weighed over 450 pounds, I was risking the encouragement of my past food addiction by ordering an extra large size and drinking down every last autumn-y (read: sugary) drop.

I was not only committed to downing this drink throughout the fall season, but virtually every day of the fall season. Needless to say that even before Thanksgiving, the results of this annual 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 over a decade before and had kept it off ever since. When it came to "fall in a cup," I was going down. Or my weight was going up as it were. 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 more recent coffee places that have opened up in my area.

Then 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, hopped over the Styrofoam pumpkins, trotted past my plastic wreath, and marched into my nearest coffee joint, where I ordered up a small Pumpkin Spice Latte.

As I pressed the smaller sippy cup-like lid to my lips, I wondered if I'd get the same autumnal rush that I did from lifting the larger size 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 Sandra Bullock’s astronaut character in Gravity, 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 reasonable 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. I guess there will always be lessons we can learn and 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 equally appropriate.

Now, one should keep in mind that even the 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 200-300 calories are consumed just once a week (or even less often), 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 as much as it does not overdoing it. (Win-win for "moderation," y'all.)

At long last, my love of autumn (and devotion to "fall in a cup") can be celebrated without worry -- even here in hot n' sunny Los Angeles. And this means whatever food or treat obsessions you have can be handled in the same way. Less is more. But not too much less. Get it?

(Feel free to insert your own seasonal "horn of plenty" reference here.)