One thing I'm discovering is that I screw up -- eat too much -- far more easily when I'm deviating from my usual schedule.
I realize it very quickly these days. Now that I'm out of "practice," I feel uncomfortably full just a few minutes after overdoing it.
This happened to me today. Usually, I have breakfast when I wake, lunch at 12:30, and dinner at 6 or 6:30; I usually don't eat solid food after dinner's over, except maybe a piece of chocolate. On Thursdays, the kids have swimming lessons from 6 to 6:40, so that's our Family Gym Night. On Thursdays we have dinner around 7:15. I have a midafternoon snack, and I get dinner ready in advance so I don't nibble while preparing it, and usually there's no problem.
For a couple of reasons, tonight Mark and I decided I should feed the kids and myself an early dinner BEFORE meeting him at the gym for swimming. I made scrambled eggs and ham and toast for them. And I ate... OK, you're going to think this is weird, but I ate an entire package of Brussels sprouts. So far so good, but then I went on and had some of the ham and eggs and toast too, and also some leftover rice noodles, and ... what was I thinking? Right NOW I am thinking "ooooff I feel so full." But what was going on with that?
A mess of stuff. I skipped the 3:30 snack because I was going to eat dinner at five or so, an hour early. And then by the time 4:15 rolled around, I wasn't HUNGRY exactly, but I started to want to eat. I was cold, for one thing. I am cold all the time now, I guess for want of insulation. And the thought of eating something hot started to consume me. So I started cooking the Brussels sprouts. And then the eggs. And then the eggs were done before the sprouts. And then the kids didn't finish the eggs. And then they left a bunch of toast on their plates. And I started thinking, "Gosh, if I don't eat extra now, I'll be pretty hungry later, seeing as how I never eat a bedtime snack anymore!" (Mental note: Beware, beware of the "I'd better eat more now so I'm not hungry later" line of thought. It is evil.) I don't know. Somewhere in there came the thought that I should eat some chocolate to send a signal to myself that my dinner was done. Somehow I decided I needed to send that signal a couple of times.
I'm OK now. I have a cup of coffee in front of me. And I have to leave for swimming soon. And I feel alarmingly full. And I know, I just know, that I would not have done this -- basically a binge, which is only sort of redeemed by the fact that it's mostly Brussels sprouts by weight -- if I had planned on eating dinner after swimming as usual.
This all underscores to me that even though I am not overweight anymore, I still have a problem. Euphemisms, sheesh. I have an unhealthy attachment to food and to being unhungry. I have developed a lot of coping strategies, and I can't let go of them, at least not yet. One of those strategies is, more or less, a strict schedule for my meals and snacks. I have seen that I change it at my peril.
It comes on top of a recent conversation I had with Mark. He thinks I should start being more flexible. Especially with regard to exercise. I still refuse to miss a swimming workout. I still swim every Monday and every Thursday. When our pool was closed for repairs over the summer, I drove across town to another one, even if it seriously messed up our family's schedule. I am already making plans to drive 20 minutes into town from my in-laws' so that I can swim at the Y near their house when we stay with them later. He wants me to quit swimming so much and take up something more portable, like running, that I can do even if swimming becomes unworkable on a particular day.
He has a point. I am not ready, though, to change my routines. I lost the weight by doing what I have been doing. I don't want to do something else. Mark thinks it's time for me to move on. He has been fantastically supportive, and has never complained about the stresses I put on our family with my workouts and the scheduling of meals -- at least not until now. I know from experience that I can change my routines, but I also know from experience that I have to change them slowly, experiment with them, see what works -- not just jump from one to the other. Safe "flexibility" is a carefully curated toolbox of strategies, each proven to work in different situations. I have had time to develop only a few. This is going to take me years.
I think he looks at me and sees someone who has solved her weight problem. But I am me, and I know what I am, and I am not someone who has solved her weight problem. I am a person who still lives with it, because my "problem" is the cause, not the symptom; the weight is gone, but I have the same biochemistry, the same psychology, I always have. I am not stable here. I am not robust. I am a recovering obese person, and maybe always will be.