So, a major premise here is that I am always hungry – I live my life in a constant state of hunger.
The goal is just to keep it under control – a low level hum in the background. Well, lately, the hunger, it has been assertive. I think about food. I dream about food. I obsess about food.
This, of course, makes it hard to focus – at work or at home. I get irritable. I get cranky. Even I don’t like me.
And then I start making bad choices. Like eating dangerous food …
Or just simply disregarding portion sizes.
I’ll walk into a restaurant or a grocery store – any place with food, really, and struggle to hold back.
And lord help us all if you set something edible down in front of me.
I try to eat the things that are supposed to make this better – I have protein, I have fruits and vegetables to get fiber, I eat all of my WW points for the day, and yet I still can’t get it under control.
Maybe I just need to get busier – maybe it is boredom.
Regardless, I’ve got to figure it out, because, yikes, this is getting crazy.
Three miles this morning – maybe I just need to work harder to earn the few extra calories.
Any big ideas, let me know. I’m open to all suggestions for appetite suppression at this point.
In case you missed it, you should take the next 17 minutes or so and watch John Oliver talk about food waste.
Two quick takes on this:
I’ve spent a good portion of my life in the food industry – in a grocery store through high school, in restaurants through college, and manufacturing as part of my career. And I personally have thrown away a shocking amount of food. I worked produce in the grocery store, and we really did cull anything that wasn’t pristine in appearance. Edible, but not pretty. In the restaurant we did a better job of managing the raw food, but the amount of food people don’t eat is … material. And in the manufacturing world we work hard to eliminate waste, but it just isn’t possible. We give spoilage allowances to our customers (the retailers), and lets just say that millions and millions of dollars worth of food is lost in the supply chain every single year.
A shocking amount of food.
The other thing to talk about is how this relates to my personal food consumption … and particularly how I handle meat and seafood. I am not a vegetarian, and likely won’t ever be, for a variety of reasons. I do, however, have an awful lot of respect for what meat represents – something died in order for me to have that food. A quick side story:
My grandfather was an avid outdoorsman – he hunted and he fished, and he, more than anybody else, introduced me to the world we live in. We fished out of the same boat for hours and hours and hours, and the relationship I had with him is very special to me. After we’d spend a day fishing, the next step was to take the fish back to the cleaning station and filet them. Catfish, when you take them out of the water, do more than just flop around – they make a grunting sound that is very much like a rooting pig. Like they want this to not be happening. And my grandfather, the farmer and hunter and tough man that I knew, would talk to them. He’d tell them he was sorry, and that he would do his best to get it over with quickly – he didn’t know any other way, and so if they’d just help he would do his best.
That really struck a nerve with me, and has helped inform my approach to animals … and food … ever since.
How does this relate to the topic? I’ve become more and more squeamish over time about the idea of throwing anything away that had caused an animal to die. This relates to meat, of course – there is very little that bothers me more than letting a piece of meat go rancid, and I’ll do most anything to keep from throwing away leftover meat – but it goes beyond just the meat. I’ve begun to believe that I need to minimize all of the other waste, as well. Chicken carcasses need to be boiled to make stock. The giblets should be saved for the same reason (or to make pate out of the liver). If I get a pork shoulder with the skin on it, I make pork rinds out of the skin. I save almost any bone from anything, mostly for stock. Shells from shrimp, crab, and lobster also needs to be saved and made into stock.
Something died so I could eat it. The least I can do is actually eat it.
We all have to get our own consumption and waste under control, that’s true. But this is an awfully large issue for, frankly, the whole world. We need to figure it out.
The following is discussion of Day 6 of my 10-day 6 day detox. To begin with Day 1, click here.
The detox ended at 1pm on Saturday, which was day 6. The detox is dead.
Long live the detox.
One underlying principle of my approach to food is that things must be reasonable. This goes two ways. You can’t eat as much as you want of anything that you want at any time that you want – that’s not reasonable. And you can’t starve yourself or just drink juice or maple syrup or lettuce or whatever all the time – that’s not reasonable. Part of the problem, though, is that that those two are the obvious ends of a spectrum and there is no clear line in the middle where reasonable changes over to unreasonable. Reasonability is something like pornography in that you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.
And about halfway through my day 6, I saw it.
The day started well enough – Saturday, with a home project on tap, so an early start. After a run to acquire some materials, I came back to the house. I sat down for breakfast with one of my shakes and a bowl of applesauce. My wife and 2-year old had scrambled eggs, toast, and a little fruit.
And it was here that things began to crumble. Egg, toast, and fruit. With a cup of coffee for my wife and a little milk for the boy. This is a reasonable breakfast. Or, if you enjoy double negatives like I do, this is not unreasonable. Nothing – NOTHING – wrong with that breakfast. And I badly wanted an egg. Just an egg. But I powered through, and I ate my applesauce.
Then on with the day. Did you ever have one of those days that went almost precisely NOT like how you wanted it to go? This was one of those days. Just nothing went right, and it became clear very quickly that I was going to get a third or less of my list done. Just bad. And then a plan changed – my wife and son were supposed to go over for a visit with her parents in the afternoon, and instead they wound up coming over to our house for dinner. With a challenge to impress them with our choice of restaurant.
So you can see the problem here, right? I’m limited to eating basically lettuce and having a gross shake and there is no polite way to bow out of dinner (not even counting that I didn’t want to – I enjoy visiting with my in-laws). So the question became – what was I going to do? Three options – bow out of dinner, polite or no; go to dinner and either not eat anything or be one of those restaurant patrons that orders way off menu; or just go to dinner and eat. I was not going to not be at dinner, so we’re down to two options.
My wife’s suggestion was to come to dinner, order a salad with basically nothing on it, and make it work. And that would have been the course recommended by anybody that really believed in the detox part of this regimen – in other words, those that viewed this as something other than a jump start for me. The problem was that everything inside of me screamed that I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to go and sit in one of my favorite restaurants and watch people eat my favorite food and not eat some of my favorite food and pretend that was OK because I was on some silly diet thing and needed to do it for the sake of the thing.
That is unreasonable.
What I couldn’t do was articulate WHY it was unreasonable, not initially. I knew that it was, but when my wife asked me to defend the choice to just go eat I struggled to do it. This made me cranky – on top of hungry – in the middle of a shitty day. It really turned a bad day into a worse day. But I’d made the choice. Lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and dinner was our favorite Mexican restaurant. I had a burrito and a beer.
They were delicious.
I was emotional that night, for whatever reason. My son didn’t take a nap, which is fine during nap time but generally winds up being not-fine the closer you get to bedtime. And near the end he fell on the driveway and did a total face-plant into the asphalt. Which made the whole bedtime thing go not-smoothly which always sucks. I felt bad for him – he’s 2, and he’s exhausted, and none of the way he feels is his fault – and yet as the grown-up you’ve got to get him washed and get his teeth brushed and get his story read and get him to sleep. When I put him to bed I told him that I hoped we both had better days tomorrow, and I gave him a hug. And when I told my wife that story later, I cried, and I didn’t know why. I’m not ashamed to cry, but I sure do like to understand WHY I am crying.
And I am not one to take things I don’t understand about how I feel and choices I made and let them go, so I’ve stewed on it for a while and decided that I was right – this was unreasonable. The primary emotion that I felt when I thought about going to that dinner and basically not eating was, it turned out, embarrassment. I was embarrassed by the thought of placing that order. I was embarrassed by the thought of having that discussion with my in-laws, even though this particular set of parentals would have been the absolute most understanding of all. I think I was embarrassed by having spent the money that I did on a stupid set of shakes and supplements and vitamins that I don’t believe are necessary. I was just overall embarrassed by my overall actions. And I was worried less about how I would feel about stopping this than about how other people would see me, what they would think of me.
To hell with that.
This time last year I was in the middle of a period of weight loss where I lost 50 pounds. I shed a fat four-year-old. And I didn’t have to watch my family eat reasonable meals and pine for the meal I wanted. And I didn’t have to be starving. Or, for that matter, headache-y. Or super gassy. Or worry about gastrointestinal integrity.
And I sure as hell did not have to be embarrassed by what I was doing. There were no mixed feelings about the path I was on – it was unequivocally a good thing. Unequivocally.
You know – no equivocation.
I believe in food. Real, honest to god, chew it up and swallow it, food. I believe that eating good food in reasonable portions is the best way to live a healthy life with a good balance between physical condition and everything else that is a part of living life. I believe that meals of bland-ish chicken breast, a green vegetable, and rice are healthy and should be a heavy part of my meal rotation. I also believe that a burrito and a beer every now and then is also a very good thing. And I believe I know how to do this and, for whatever reason, my will has been weak. I am resolved to un-weaken it, and now.
I am not sorry that I did this, other than the money and the kind-of-embarrassment thing. I learned some things – the biggest of which is that meals don’t need meat in them to be delicious. That is a key takeaway that I want to start incorporating into reality. I also learned some things about my priorities – also a key piece of knowledge. I can now begin to build a pattern of behavior that will help me reach my goals and achieve balance in my life, balance between my priorities.
Writing about this was not a no-brainer for me, because I feared this exact post. But I’m glad I did. This post has been cathartic to write. I have signed back up for Weight Watchers, effective today. Tomorrow morning I’ve got religion. And I’m planning to go for a run tomorrow morning, my first in 3 weeks. I know how to do this, and I plan to do it.
The following is discussion of Day 5 of my 10-day detox. To begin with Day 1, click here.
I’ve been characterizing each day of the detox so far with short little summaries – Day 1 was about caffeine headaches, Day 2 was about worrying about caffeine headaches, etc. Day 5 was hard to characterize, though if I had to then I think “worrying about being hungry” is the optimal choice. That is distinct from actually being hungry, though there was some of that. Mostly I spent the day anxiously awaiting the next bite of food because I was so anxious to stave off the starvation that I am anticipating will come.
As we’ve discussed before, Day 5 began the three-day stretch that is the heart of this detox. At this point, articulating what foods are ON the approved list is actually significantly easier than listing the excluded foods. Basically I’m allowed to have leafy greens, the group of plants that includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and fruit limited to apple, pear, and unsweetened apple sauce. Plus some condiments.
Look at that list again.
Yeah. You can now understand my concern about the hunger.
All of that, of course, is supplemented by four (count ’em!) full shakes – the 2-scoop variety. So breakfast was a shake, a bowl of applesauce, and the multivitamins. Snack was a pear. Lunch was whatever I could get on the company salad bar (wound up running out of time to go over to Whole Foods) – a pathetic little salad – and a shake. Snack was an apple and a shake. Dinner was a shake, the multivitamins, and a plate full of roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in a pretty good basic salad dressing. That’s it – no hidden cheeseburgers or anything. There was a stretch in the late afternoon / early evening where I could best be described as “very hungry”, but overall this wasn’t as bad as I would have expected. Dinner, especially, was more filling than I feared it would be.
We’re now at the portion of this show where I have legitimate philosophical doubts about what is happening. Because I’m unconvinced that “detoxing” on a regimen like this really means anything, I don’t value the exclusion of all of the other perfectly good foods from this list. Seriously – carrots? Walnuts? Rice? Blueberries and bananas? These are healthy foods. Even optimal foods. I don’t understand the point of excluding them, and since that point is almost certainly that there is a detoxification function associated with not eating them then I’m pretty certain I think it is BS.
I am, however, nothing if not stubborn when it comes to sticking with something that I’ve committed to like this. So I’m going to do my best to stick with the protocol as written and stick this out. If I get to the point on Sunday afternoon where I just can’t handle it then I’ll eat a bowl of the minestrone I made last week – and if having a little rice, green bean, and tomato means that this thing failed … then we’re going to have to say it was meant to be.
Incidentally, I weighed myself at the beginning of Day 2 – I was all the way up to 285 pounds. I’ve been weighing myself daily, out of sheer curiosity, and that number has been steadily declining. This morning I’m calling it an official weigh-in – 280.6 pounds, a loss of 4.4 pounds in less than a week. While it is debatable whether that is real weight loss, that is progress. My plan is working, and I’m headed back under 280 pounds.
The following is discussion of Day 4 of my 10-day detox. To begin with Day 1, click here.
Finally we get to a day that doesn’t really suck. If Days 1 and 2 were all about caffeine withdrawal, and Day 3 was all about gastrointestinal integrity, then Day 4 was all about settling in.
Probably the most pressing thing about Day 4 was that the food list constricted, and to the point where it starts to be a bit challenging to rustle up lunch or dinner. Removed this time were any grains, nuts, and seeds. So here is the list of things that are off-limits for Day 4: meat, dairy, alcohol, refined sugar, wheat, gluten, all grains (rice, barley, quinoa, oats, etc.), and all nuts and seeds. If you think about it, that doesn’t leave a whole lot. Most whole vegetables are fine, and fruits in general, as well as legumes / beans. After that … well, good luck.
So breakfast was an apple. Snack #1 was one of shakes (full 2 scoops this time) and another apple. For lunch I went over to Whole Foods and basically filled a salad bar container with whatever was OK to eat. Snack #2 was another shake and some carrot sticks with an incredible aji amarillo sauce that a friend at work made and brought to me. Dinner was leftover vegetable chili over potatoes. And that was that. I did have one little cheat and ate a handful of sunflower seeds. Why? Because they were there.
This is a problem with me.
Not going to get worked up over those, though. Based on what I’m doing, a handful of sunflower seeds is not going to hurt anything. I will say, though, that the hardest part of this was the no grains part. Oatmeal is such a no-brainer for breakfast when you’re trying to be good, and think about how much you use rice when you’re eating like I’ve been eating this week. Eating without those is legitimately tough.
No headaches on Day 4. And my belly is still rumbling, and there is still plenty of gas, the gastrointestinal system has basically settled. This is a good thing. I also finished the day not starving, so that’s good, too. Overall, this has not been so bad and I feel pretty good.
Day 5, though, begins the hardest part of this process – the part my guy warned me about. Days 5, 6, and 7 remove the vast majority of the list of available foods and replace “food” with “medical food” in general. I expect to be prepared to eat my arm by the time it is over. Or yours.
If you see me Friday – Sunday, protect your arms and run.
The following is discussion of Day 3 of my 10-day detox. To begin with Day 1, click here.
Day 3 sucked, but not as badly as day two.
I will now offer a warning – there is going to be discussion of pooping below. It won’t be too graphic or anything, but we’re going to talk about what happens in the bathroom. If I’m going to talk about the detox and its impacts on the body, that has to be fair game.
OK – end of warning.
The sucking, again, didn’t have much to do with not being able to eat. I’m hungry, of course, but then again I’m always hungry. This is not one of those starving hungers that crowds out thought of anything other than a cheeseburger, though – merely the standard low-level grumbling normal when you live your life in a constant state of hunger.
Breakfast was oatmeal with raisins and a banana, and an apple. Snacks were again almonds and apples. Lunch was leftover vegetarian chili over potatoes, which is awesome. Dinner was the last of the ratatouille and a bowl of minestrone that I made the night before. The food was good, and filling, and generally satisfying. There was the issue of the two 1 scoop shakes again, but I choked those down well enough. Overall, the food isn’t an issue.
The headaches also subsided. There was a little rumble just before lunch, but it didn’t last long. I’m going to have to make a decision after this is all over how and whether I even want to re-introduce caffeine. I’m not convinced it is bad, and as a runner I also know the, um, restorative, effects of a cup of coffee before a run. However, anything that can make you feel like that after only one day of not having it deserves a level of thoughtfulness that I’m unaccustomed to providing to my morning beverage. We’ll see.
(This paragraph is the pooping part. Skip at will.) Foul things happened in the bathroom, though. I’m going to try to be descriptive but not graphic here … after a lot of gas and rumbling, there was a mid-morning go that was impressive and left me feeling measurably better. It did not, however, stop the gas – which was pretty constant for the rest of the day. I wound up spending much more time than I’d like on the toilet in the afternoon, though it is difficult to describe. This wasn’t diarrhea exactly, but lets just say that it was impossible to trust a fart. Things settled down through the evening but never felt truly calm.
If we’re scoring, by the way, that’s one day hammered by crushing headaches and nausea, one day worried about being hammered by crushing headaches and nausea, and one day on and off the toilet and worried about shitting my pants. This is not a good score, and if this is valuable at all I’m going to wind up feeling GREAT next week.
A few odds and ends:
This is almost certainly the longest I’ve ever gone without meat since I was a baby. I’ve probably had several caffeine droughts, but not meat. Interesting. I miss it a bit, though not as much as I’d have thought. As I’ve said – I’ll never be a vegetarian, but this does cause me know that I can rethink things on a meal-by-meal basis.
I’ve intended to get up for the last two days to run and haven’t been able to drag myself out. I think I’m scared of it, if I’m honest. I know that it won’t feel great for awhile, and I’m worried that my foot / ankle issue will flare back up and bring the discouragement with it. This is something I’m going to have to power through, but it is there.
Day 4 begins the hard part of this process. Nuts, seeds, grains are all out – just vegetables, fruits, and legumes … and now two full shakes, with 2 scoops of the powder. Days 5, 6, and 7 are down to basically leafy greens, an apple or two, and 4 shakes a day. I’m nervous about this, because I’m going to be starving and I also know that starving myself like that isn’t really necessary. But if I’m going to do this I’m going to do this … and it is only 3 days. We’ll call it an experiment – not quite “Super Size Me” but in that category.
If you had the under on three days, you lost. See you tomorrow.
The following is discussion of Day 2 of my 10-day detox. To begin with Day 1, click here.
The theory of a detox, as given to me by my guy, goes like this:
There are toxins everywhere. They are in the air we breathe and in the food we eat. They are in the casings of the pills we take (for supplements, I guess) and in the paint on the walls we lick. Everywhere. The toxins consist of many things – heavy metals are an example – but the broad definition is anything that might make you sick. The liver acts as a big filter for these toxins, keeping them from getting into our bloodstreams. Toxins, however, are fat soluble … and extra toxins that the liver doesn’t handle get stored in our fat cells, as well as in the liver. Everybody should detox periodically (he recommends spring and fall), but in particular people getting ready to lose weight must do this. As we lose weight, the fat cells shrink and wind up releasing some of the toxins that they are carrying and unleashing them on our livers. The liver, meanwhile, is busy with the day-to-day business of filtering toxins and is not going to be able to keep up with the onslaught. The result is that we get sick. The best way to keep from getting sick is to detoxify the liver ahead of time and prepare it for the toxic hordes.
Some of this makes sense to me. The liver IS basically a filter, and it is a regenerative organ … so if it is damaged or dirty and you clean it up it will heal itself. And there are toxins everywhere, I agree with that statement. Where I start to get fuzzy is this idea that losing weight will make you sick. Frankly, that usually goes the other way. I recently lost 50 pounds, and I felt like a million dollars. A million damn dollars. So I’m not sure I buy the underlying theory. I also know from a few minutes with the Google that there is no scientific evidence that this detoxification theory, which is quite old, really holds water. Effects are either not measurable or unrepeatable.
All of this to say – I’m not really in this for the detoxification element of the regimen. Though I’m open to reconsideration of some of this upon completion of the ten days. In the meantime, I’m using this as a caloric kickstart to get some religion about eating right and tracking my food again.
Day 2 sucked, but not as badly as Day 1.
Again, this wasn’t about the food so much. My list of available foods constricted, but only marginally – I lost eggs and dairy. That brings the list of things that are now gone from my diet up to six – caffeine, alcohol, meat, refined sugars, eggs, and dairy. Coming up I’m going to be losing things like wheat and gluten and even nuts, but for today this is where we are.
And I cheated like hell this morning. The plan was to eat oatmeal at the cafeteria at work. Wouldn’t you know, this morning they had farina, not oatmeal. Not my thing. So I said screw it and got another veggie omelet, no cheese. I had two eggs today, which were not approved. Day two and I’m out of control
Or not so much. My wife’s response? “Its not like it was fried chicken.” Amen. I married her for a reason.
So I don’t feel guilty about that at all. Snacks were apples, almonds, and prunes again … though today I got to start having my shakes. A normal sized shake is two scoops of powder with 8 oz of water, plus a scoop of the optional veggie stuff. They start us slow, though – today was only two shakes with 1 scoop of powder each (always adding the veggie stuff). By day five I’ll be drinking 5 2-scoop shakes, but we’ll get there slowly. And here’s the thing about the shakes – they are awful. The worst part is that the powder doesn’t really dissolve, so it is a grainy gross blah. I had asked for original (= neutral) flavored shake and espresso flavored veggie stuff, but wound up with strawberry kiwi veggie stuff. So this is basically gross.
Can’t WAIT until I go two days having basically that and lettuce for food.
Lunch was leftover ratatouille (did I mention that was awesome?), and dinner was a vegetarian three-bean chili that turned out really good. So, from a food perspective, today wasn’t so bad again.
The headache started around lunchtime again. This time it wasn’t so debilitating, though, and there were stretches through the afternoon where it really wasn’t there at all. I also made it a point to take my big vitamin pills right after food, and so I avoided the nausea that I experienced yesterday. I’m thinking tomorrow or the next day I’ll be over the caffeine withdrawal and be able to move on.
So day two was not a bust, and I’m still full-speed ahead for day three. I made a minestrone soup tonight using a suggested recipe, and that will be dinner tomorrow … it looks like it will be good. Tomorrow we lose wheat and gluten, then Thursday we’re down to vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Starting Friday the bottom falls out.
As I said yesterday – buckle up, because we’re riding.
So, as mentioned several times, I went to see a chiropractor / sports injury guy for the issue in my foot. He’s been helpful, and I expect to be running again by the end of the week. A pretty good outcome, though I think this was as much shoe related as anything.
My guy is also a nutritionist. Now, I’m a big proponent of eating food. Real food. I don’t always make good choices about what food I eat (though I know how), and I often make poor choices about how much food I eat – that’s the hard part. The key to this, though, is food. Real, chew it up and get your calories and you don’t have to do much to it because we evolved to eat it just like that, food. In particular, I don’t like having to buy special things like shakes or supplements or juices – I think those are silly, and I don’t think they’re necessary outside of specific and relatively rare medical needs.
So, my nutritionist guy did not surprise me and immediately wanted to do a nutritional consult – including daily menu planning if only I’ll pay for it – and a detox. We did a BIA (35% body fat – yuck) and starting talking it through.
In particular, I’m unconvinced about detox. And it isn’t horribly cheap – though in the end it won’t be that much. So my initial thought was no – just, no. But I talked to him about what it was he was recommending and I sort of changed my mind. Sort of.
Yesterday was day one of a ten day detox program. I have “medical food” shakes and a vitamin supplement. I have lists of foods that are approved to eat on each day. That list excludes all caffeine, alcohol, meat, and refined sugar and gets smaller and smaller through day seven, which is restricted to basically leafy green vegetables and the shakes / supplements. Beginning on day eight the list begins to grow until day ten matches day one. Then, in terms of my guy’s practice, I’d transition over to his menu planning and additional supplements. The base detox, including the plan and supplements for 10 days, was $110, with an optional $40 veggie/vitamin thing to be mixed in with the shakes.
I decided to do the detox because I need a jump start. My food choices have been poor, and the weight has been creeping up – enough that I’ve started skipping weigh-ins. I’m starting to get discouraged about not running, even though that is the right thing to do. And I need to get myself invested in something in the short-term so I can build momentum for the medium- and long-term. I actually don’t believe that the “detox” function of this diet has all that much value, and of course this is an unsustainable way to eat long-term. However, for ten days, it may be exactly what I need. My intention is to do this for ten days and then get religion about Weight Watchers beginning day eleven.
And so for the next ten days I will be doing updates on the detox. Daily updates on what I ate, how I felt, what is happening, etc. Buckle up, because here we go.
Day 1 sucked.
Not because I couldn’t eat. This was the least restrictive day in terms of food – I had a veggie omelet for breakfast (no cheese), a quinoa salad with sliced avocado for lunch, and a homemade ratatouille over brown rice for dinner that, frankly, is amazing and will make it into my normal cooking rotation. I had apples, almonds, and prunes for snacks (prunes are legitimately good, by the way). And so I wasn’t starving.
The headache began building around noon. I don’t drink a ton of coffee, but I generally have my one travel mug in the morning and then often a diet soda during the day – so I have a caffeine regimen. And I expected to have some headaches or other “withdrawal” symptoms. But I didn’t expect what I got. By the time I got home last night the headache was crushing. By the time I went to bed it was clouding my vision – it was awful. And it would have been bad all by itself, but…
Turns out, taking a big multi-vitamin commonly causes nausea. My morning dose didn’t cause any problems. My evening dose, coupled with the headache, made me want to vomit from the time I took it until I went to sleep.
I felt like ass. Total ass.
And I told my wife that if I vomited, or if I didn’t feel remarkably better in the morning, I was going to stop. After day one. And to hell with the sunk costs. And then I went to sleep.
So what were my takeaways from day one? They weren’t all negative:
Food doesn’t need meat or dairy to be delicious. The ratatouille is seriously one of the better things I’ve had in awhile. I will need to start exploring some of these vegetarian and vegan recipes – the food is legitimately good and I can start feeling better about the environmental impact, etc. I won’t ever be full-blown vegetarian, but I can get better about this.
Caffeine is no joke. My normal daily intake is unremarkable and I’ve taken it for granted for some time. After only one day (one day!) of not having caffeine I was out for the count. Don’t underestimate this as a drug – it is potent. I’m beginning to think about whether I want to add it back in as a daily thing at all after all of this.
So far, not starving. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Something dawned on me recently. I have spent so much time on this blog talking about running that I have neglected to talk about an equally important – and much more difficult – topic.
Let’s talk about food.
So, I want to get a couple of things out of the way. First – I love food. Everything about it. Second – I am not a big fan of discussion about food addiction. As a chronic over-eater, this is a concept that I simply don’t understand. And not because it isn’t real, just that everybody is addicted to food. In the most literal way, we are all addicted to food. We must eat to live – “addiction” doesn’t mean anything in this context.
Even an addiction to certain types of food, to me, is spurious. If I am addicted to pizza, and have pizza at least once a day … well, that’s called nourishing my body. Poorly, maybe, but I have to eat and I could survive on pizza for a relatively long life. Chocolate, sweets, etc., fall into this same physical camp. Some of us are capable of overcoming special cravings better than others, though I’d argue that those cravings are as much mental as they are physical.
Now this is not to say that there aren’t “addictions” to deal with, just that I don’t think of those as addictions to food. Perhaps I can illustrate.
The way I have always articulated it is that everybody has their thing, that feeling they chase, often to their detriment. For some people, that thing is drugs and for some it is alcohol. Others turn to sex or gambling … or even positive things, like people laughing while you are on stage or singing along to your song. But I believe everybody has a thing. So you know that feeling you get when you over-eat? How your belly feels like it is stretching and hurting, and how you can sit down in a chair and go into a food coma and pass out?
Yeah – that’s my thing.
That has been my thing for years. Eventually I reached a point where I sought that feeling out after every meal. If I didn’t have that feeling, it meant that I hadn’t eaten enough. People would ask me if I was hungry, and my response every time was that it had absolutely nothing to do with hungry … let’s eat. The goal was to eat enough to put me in a food coma and pass out.
When I look back at my childhood, I can see how that attitude toward food grew. I don’t blame anybody or anything, but life in the culture I grew up in pretty much revolved around food. We gathered over meals. The meal wasn’t ancillary to the gathering; we were not eating because we had to eat. The meal was (is) the point. We ate together and cooked together. We grew gardens together, and we hunted and fished together. Even our hobbies were about procuring food. And being able to eat a lot was in some ways a badge of honor.
I have a relationship with food that runs deep, much deeper than mere fuel. And I like all kinds of food – from the very healthy all the way down to McDonald’s. I eat good food and I eat shit. I get plenty of the right vitamins and minerals, but my caloric intake at its highest probably would have made a dietician blush. I love the ceremony of a good meal – the tasting of the wine, the multiple courses, the conversation. I know people who view food as a fuel. They can eat without regard to taste or setting or anything else. Food, for them, is somewhat like gasoline for a car, and very little else. And I feel both pity and deep envy for those people. Pity because food brings so much joy to my life; envy because food brings so much tension to my life.
I’m not sure when I began to realize that there was a problem. My family will tell a story that when I was a teenager we were limited to one bowl of cereal in the morning so we wouldn’t eat the whole box in one sitting. I got around that by using a mixing bowl as my cereal bowl. Even then I probably knew something wasn’t just right … but I was chasing a feeling, you know?
Once I quit being athletic-ish in high school my body began its predictable expansion. I was never comfortable with my body (likely at this point won’t ever really be), but I never got so uncomfortable that I stopped eating. Probably the first time I really acknowledged an issue was when I was in business school and hit about 290 (I’m right at 6’ tall). I got there that time by, for example, eating bags of Oreos for dinner regularly. A whole bag at a time. When I realized that I was out of control, I got a classmate that worked out to help me, and I lost about 40 pounds. But that was through a diet, which is not a solution … diets are only tools. At that point I committed to losing weight, not changing how I did things.
Interestingly, that effort was coupled with a physical goal. I decided when I started the process that time that I was going to do a 160 mile backpacking trip on the Ozark Highlands Trail. And that goal worked – I made the investment in the equipment and had a goal to march toward. I would up doing over 80 miles of that trip before heavy rains and high rivers forced me off the trail. But I was proud, and I’d done it. And then I let it go, and my weight started a long slow creep.
That backpacking trip was in December of 2006, and I weighed about 260 pounds. In April of 2012, when I finally realized I was completely out of control again, I hit 327. 67 pounds in 6 years – 11 pounds a year, that’s it.
Now, this time I was (and am) determined to make some permanent changes – but I have a problem. You see, I love food so much that I’m unwilling to simply give up most of the things I like to eat. If being thin(ner) means not eating pizza, or hamburgers, or cookies, or a whole list of things … if I can’t occasionally have those things … then to hell with that, I’ll just be fat.
And I mean that. I’m not going to live my whole life feeling guilty because every now and then I want to eat some fried chicken. So that means I have to learn how to eat portions that won’t choke a horse, and replace most of my food with “fuel” and plan ahead for those times when I’m going to eat whatever I want. Learning how to get, and keep, my calories down at a reasonable level is the absolute key, I’m convinced, to meeting my physical goals.
That’s why I chose WeightWatchers for my program. WW puts nothing off-limits, but teaches you how all of those things impact your daily intake and hunger. WW worked for me immediately, and when I actually keep track of what I’m eating, it works for me still. Every time.
People still occasionally ask me if I’m hungry. And the answer to that question, of course, is that it has nothing to do with hungry. I live my life in a constant state of hunger. But I’ve learned what an appropriate amount of food is, and I’ll continue the struggle to keep my intake there. I’ve coupled this effort with physical goals as well, and maybe one day I will be able to replace that food coma feeling with a runner’s high as my “thing”.
Maybe, maybe not. In the meantime – eat well, and keep running.