It is amazing I was able to say it with a straight face. I didn’t really have any sort of plan – just the desire to lose the weight. I had already failed at just about every approach I tried in my last chronicle – though I was able to successfully maintain my weight around 205 while eating pretty much what I wanted – sometimes.
That’s a success of sorts. And so was developing a bit of an exercise obsession, courtesy of my Fitbit.
What was learned was something at the core of my last big weight loss of 30 pounds last year – and the onset of some major despair the year before: I need some carbs to stay sane.
Not many. Enough to keep me connected to the world as it now exists. One where my wife bakes cookies and I can have 1 or 2 to make both of us feel good, to participate in living, and to appease the angry Gods of Carbs, of my own making, that demand at least the occasional feeding to grant me peace of mind. It is the complete banishment of gooey, cream-filled sugary goodness that causes the blowouts, and there is a core part of me that cannot say goodbye to this forever. At least yet.
To give the Gods their sacrifices, I need to sacrifice as well. What worked in the past was having the carbs in small portions, at night, and with plenty of fat. If the day was particularly lean in terms of overall eating, it didn’t impact me, and in fact, sometimes had effects I still don’t understand: weight loss the next day, and a lowered blood sugar.
The problem with this is it stopped working last year. I stopped losing weight doing this.
I have a few other tools in my arsenal now I didn’t then. I have the exercise I’ve begun and I am tracking things more closely. I wasn’t counting calories. Tracking brings awareness, makes the invisible visible – you can’t combat what you can’t see.
I also paid attention enough to see there are some natural rhythms to my life that I can take advantage of – ones that help me keep the amount of food to a minimum, and allow for flexibility in the evenings.
First off, I am not particularly hungry in the morning. Go with it – stop fighting this. Yes, I know – it’s the most important meal of the day.
Maybe that’s true for everyone else on the planet. Maybe for me as well, but the effort spent trying to force this one is draining – and I need the strength for other battles. For me, I don’t really feel any ill effect. I am at my sharpest in the morning, and am usually capable of deep thought until late afternoon – after I’ve eaten – where my brain shifts into energy saver mode.
Maybe someday I will join the breakfast club, maybe I’ll get to the point where breakfast is da bomb and eating in the evening is just so played.
But I’m not there yet. I gotta work with what I got.
A second rhythm I can play on is that I don’t have real ingrained habits for a hedonistic lunch. I can eat quite austere during the day – at least when at work – and have few cravings to hit the cafeteria or drive to the high-end grocery store 5 minutes down the road. I don’t even remember if asked that there’s a Burger King right across the street, only 2 minutes off the path of my daily walk. (That’s because Burger King is the crappiest excuse for fast food of them all and it defies my ability to understand why anyone would eat that bilge. believe me: I loves me my fast food, but a bite of Burger King just makes me think: why?!?)
Slight digression there (sorry), but the point being: lunches can be routine and plain. Greek yogurt, some tinned tuna or oysters or sardines, maybe grab a cucumber and eat with a little salt or a zucchini and just eat plain – this isn’t that hard for me.
This can leave me subsisting on a small amount of very high quality, nutrient dense food. I can resist the gussied up flavor, the gourmand aspect of food, because I know I can get that later, at home with my family.
At home I can arrive with a calorie defecit of 1,000 calories or more if I use the calculation that I am allowed 1,600 calories a day if I want to lose 2 pound per week. If I consent to play the calorie game without falling into the calorie trap of thinking a 100-calorie ‘snack pack’ somehow stops being chemical-laden crap just because it’s only 100 calories, then that 1,000 calories can be my hedonistic meal of quality food – even if it is not strictly low carb.
If I choose at this point, along with a meal containing lots of high quality fat and protein, to have some of my wife’s home-made vanilla-peach organic ice cream, I can. From an Atikinistic viewpoint, the fat slows the absorption of the sugar, blunting its effect.
All this might not sound like ‘an express train to 185 lbs’ – and it might not be, but it’s what I’m going to try.
I am also going to completely ignore any numbers from my Fitbit or my LoseIt! app that claim to tell me that, as I’ve burned 300 calories, I can eat an additional 300. Maybe it works like that for other people, but I don’t think exercise has the direct association to the amount I can consume for weight loss that my Fitbit thinks it does. At least at my level of exercise. If I start running marathons – I’ll reconsider.
I am also going to apply some of the guidance given to people who start meditation practice. I learned this from a series of lectures on meditation by Jack Kornfield. Jack is the kind of ex-hippie, mellow, sing-song guy you’d like to slug, but once you get past that part, he does have some great insights.
Note: I don’t meditate. I have nothing against it, I’d like to do it – but I don’t.
What I do want to take from these lectures is how to approach the day-to-day of dieting – and borrow from the day-to-day of meditation.
Meditation is the act of continually failing at first. No one can just ‘begin meditating’. It is nearly impossible to stop the internal chatter of the mind without hard work, but this work can’t be done using violence against yourself. It has to be gentle, developing a greater awareness over time, and pulling yourself back to center. He describes the mind as a puppy you try to train to pee on a newspaper. You put the puppy on the paper, and he doesn’t know why you’re doing this and walks away. You gently pull him back. You do this over and over and over.
He describes the practice of meditation in the beginning as ‘punching the clock’. You sit, you do your time, and sometimes it’s better than others. Sometimes it’s horrible. It’s not your job to judge, to compare. You just punch the clock. Getting frustrated or impatient only puts you further from your goal. Getting proud of yourself because you’ve had some good practices also puts you further from your goal because when the bad days come you compare – and the comparisons sabotage you.
It’s why it is called a ‘practice’. It is ongoing, never-ending, and you’re not trying to ‘get anywhere’ – meditation is an end in itself. You’re not meditating to be smarter, happier, or a better you – you’re meditating to meditate. If good things come of it, that’s all the better – but it’s not why you do it. You meditate to meditate.
I want to think of my dieting like that meditation practice. I have a very short list of rules and tools as part of my practice. My tools are:
My rules are:
This is my bull’s-eye. This is perfection. This is what I will work toward every day. I am not going to worry about if I lose weight or not. I am not going to judge my performance or compare one day to another. I am going to focus on just this practice. I am going to ‘punch the clock’. I will see what happens.
If all goes well, I will be 185 by September. Regardless of if that happens, I will have learned something.