I keep tweaking my eating patterns as I approach my goal, now only 11 pounds away. I realize that changing things a bit could slow the weight loss down, but that's okay; ideally, I suppose, the rate of change would asymptotically approach zero as I get nearer and nearer the magic number I've picked as my target, right? What I'm trying to figure out is how I'm going to maintain. I have no illusions or even desire to go back to the old patterns because, frankly, they kind of disgust me by now. It is so obvious that what I was doing was eating too much -- was gluttonous, a word that sounds as gross as it ought to.
I wrote in an e-mail some time ago:
It strikes me that with [this new way of eating], the most important thing is that your behavior is changing to something that's less grotesquely overconsumptive and more moderate. Less quantity, more quality. The real benefit... is that your behavior is more pleasant, frugal, attractive, generous; you become more fully human by exercising your will and your control over the appetites of the self. Almost like going on a retreat! If you lose weight in the bargain, bonus! But that doesn't seem to me like that's what it's all about (though I bet it helps motivate more than less visible improvements.)
It really does feel better not to be grabbing more food all the time. It's a change that has been worth making almost for its own sake.
But I still need to tweak a little. Yes, the secret has been "eat less of everything." But I'm achieving that by carefully measuring everything, for the most part. I'm trying to find patterns of life that help me do so without all the measuring.
So about ten days ago I decided that I will give up on "bedtime snacks" for good.
Mark and the kids are believers in bedtime snack. Mark needs it to keep from blowing away. When he was in high school, it was a giant bowl of premium ice cream every night. Nowadays, it's much more likely to involve peanut butter and apples or whole wheat toast, but it's still a lot of calories and good wholesome fat, probably at least as much as he eats for breakfast most days. Mark feeds the kids bedtime snack every night too, with an eye toward what they ate or didn't eat for dinner; sometimes it's a small treat, other times it's a real meal.
I had been distributing my daily calories over three meals and three snacks, including bedtime. I reasoned, though, that the fewer eating times I have each day, the fewer opportunities I have to overeat, so I should see if I can cope with cutting some of them out for long-term maintenance.
I've had mixed to poor results with cutting out my midmorning and tea-time snacks (remember, this is coupled with overall calorie reduction). But it didn't take too many days of skipping bedtime snack -- moving the extra calories ahead to the next morning's breakfast -- before I was sure it was the right thing to do. Going to bed hungry isn't that big of a deal. I'm asleep for most of it. It's not like I need extra calories to keep going! And then I wake up and I am good and hungry for breakfast, which by rights ought to be a fairly substantial meal.
But the head games!
Thursday evening at 8:30 I was driving home from my swim, and I could not stop thinking about getting home and having a fried egg on top of a scoop of leftover mixed-grain pilaf. I'd made a crock-pot full of this lovely pilaf of wild rice, barley, and wheat berries, with onion, mint, and parsley, a couple of days before, and nobody in the family liked it but me, so there were pounds of it in my refrigerator (got to use up those leftovers). And it's really healthful (so that would be a really good-for-me snack). And I kept seeing the mental image of the fork piercing the top of the gently-fried egg, bedecked with sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, and the perfectly cooked yolk trickling down amongst the chewy grains of pilaf (wow, that would really taste great, and did I mention that I was driving back from my swim workout?)
I gritted my teeth and told myself, Come hell or high water, I WILL EAT THAT FOR BREAKFAST.
And I came home, chewed gum frantically for the rest of the evening, went to bed (yes, I spit out the gum first and also brushed my teeth), woke up in the morning, and made myself a fried egg on top of a scoop of mixed-grain pilaf for breakfast. Oh, and also a nectarine and a glass of tomato juice. And it was just as good as I thought it would be, maybe better because it was seasoned with a little bit of triumph.
I think this will be one of my permanent patterns, I don't eat snacks after dinner. Maybe it will even lead me to eat more filling breakfasts, and that will in turn enable me to cut the midmorning snack out as well. I'm not sure about that. For now I'm still toting a little baggie of almonds, cheese cubes, and fruit chunks everywhere I go.
Including to the mall today, to buy some new and smaller pants.