It's time to stop breaking the promises you make to yourself to eat right, exercise and develop healthier habits. For the next three months, from 05 September 2011 to 05 December 2011, MISSION: INCREDIBLE focuses on getting healthier one day at a time. There is only one rule: do a little more today than you did yesterday to keep your promise of taking better physical care of yourself. Follow that one rule - EVERYDAY - and the changes you see in three months will be incredible.

We're all at very different exercise levels and we all have different weight targets, but it's always nice to know you've got company on the journey. We'll focus on three goals as part of our daily check-in: G1 - diet (the good, the bad and the ugly); G2 - exercise (your physical exercise for that day); and, G3 - healthy habits (things we adopt or learn along the way that help). Join us and leave your comments below!

Days 36-37

There are few places in the world where food is more revered than in New Orleans. I learned to cook some of the best food in the world as a child, watching my father and his mother turn everyday meals into culinary delights.

And that’s what we discover here from the time we can hold our own fork and spoon: in New Orleans we don’t eat to live, we live to eat. And the eating is so, so good.

A cup of chicken, sausage and seafood gumbo, a staple in New Orleans. (Patrick Semansky for The Washington Post) (Patrick Semansky/FTWP/PATRICK SEMANSKY/FTWP)

One of my earliest vivid memories is of sitting at my paternal grandmother’s big, round table, anxiously awaiting a hot, steaming bowl of gumbo at Thanksgiving. The house is filled with people. I remember how the chair I sat in felt; how my uncles laughed and joked and drank; what music we listened to; the exact pattern of the lace tablecloth and the little grains of pepper trapped between its threads.

And I remember having the bowl of deep, dark gumbo placed in front of me, and how the steam from the rice rose up into my six-year-old eyes. I felt nourished, loved. I belonged to something happy and bigger than myself. And I never forgot that.

I’m now forty-one, but I can access that memory as if it were yesterday.

That bowl of gumbo made me feel complete. And thus was born a powerful connection between food and emotions that I struggle to manage to this day. Food became the comforter, the friend who always delivered. No matter what the problem or challenge, food would be there to distract me, remind me of the good times, to release that elixir of human “feel good” chemicals.

And it always did just that. Until it didn’t.

A few nights ago, I had to deal with a minor disappointment during my drive from a business meeting. The details of the disappointment are less important than my response to the disappointment itself. I not only blew the situation out of proportion in my mind, I began to think about how I could “make it better” by having a “good” meal of every fried and over-sauced food I could think of. This feeling of wanting to “fix” my mood with food was so overwhelming, I pulled over at an exit.

I sat quietly in my car for several moments. How was overeating going to fix anything? The food would taste good going down, but it wasn’t going to “solve” anything. Did I honestly want a response to my emotions to cause me to engage in behavior that was diametrically opposed to my goal of being healthier? I did not.

And that’s when it hit me.  Food is not a response. Food is not consolation for frustration. Food is not a reward for a job well done. Food is not revenge. Food is not victory. No matter how good it is, no matter who made it, no matter what the occasion, food is just food.

Don't let food become an emotional crutch. Handle your emotions at their source. Food is not their source.

Here is my check-in for the last two days:

Day 36

G1: Breakfast (6:00 a.m.) – Three slices of Jennie-O extra lean turkey bacon (1.5g fat/60 cals), one serving of butter-flavored grits (1.5g fat/100 cals) and 8 oz. of calcium-fortified Minute Maid orange juice (0g fat/110 cals).

Snack (8:45 am) – Coffee with CocoaVia dark chocolate flavored beverage mix (.5g fat/40 cals).

Lunch (12:15 p.m.) – A ham sandwich from Jason’s Deli with no mayo or cheese (best guestimate is 10g fat/300 cals) and one quarter of a large pickle (0g fat/20 cals); water.

Snack (1:30 p.m.) – Six Hershey’s Whoppers brand malted milk balls (3g fat/100 cals); water.

Snack (7:00 p.m.) – One medium banana (1g fat/200 cals); water.

Dinner (9:00 p.m.) – Two servings of homemade shrimp alfredo (15g fat/652 cals); water.

The total for the day was 32.5 grams of fat and 1582 calories.

G2: Gone from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so no exercise.

G3: I resisted the urge to order three super-sized fried seafood platters from Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro and ate leftovers instead. I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny then. Yikes.

Day 37

G1: Breakfast (8:30 a.m.) – Four slices of thin Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh 97% fat free ham (1g fat/40 cals); one serving of butter-flavored grits (1.5g fat/100 cals); two satsumas (0g fat/80 cals); water.

Lunch (12:30 p.m.) – One cup of mixed salad greens with tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and cucumber and fat-free Kraft Caesar Italian dressing (0g fat/300 cals); 10 oz. of grilled chicken breast, bone in, no skin (13 g fat/275 calories); two tbsp. of barbeque sauce on the side (0g fat/50 cals); water.

Snack (2:00 p.m.) – Five Now and Later brand candies (0g fat/50 calories); water.

Dinner (7:30 p.m.) – One tilapia filet (2g fat/200 cals); 3 oz. of small shrimp (1g fat/100 cals); one half cup of chopped onion and red and green bell pepper (0g fat/60 cals); one tbsp. of Blue Bonnet margarine (7g fat/60 calories); one cup of brown rice (2g fat/200 cals); one pear (0g fat/40 cals); 8 oz. Minute Maid calcium-fortified orange juice (0g fat/110 cals).

The total for the day was 27.5 grams of fat and 1665 calories.

G2: I walked three miles.

G3: I love my local park, but I believe it’s time to switch my walking venue. I’ve suffered from a bit of writer’s block lately, so a change might be a good thing.

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