Saturday, June 24, 2017

Six Weeks In: Variety

So the diet rolls along, a bit more difficult now, as I knew it would be: the weariness of restriction is cumulative. But still entirely doable. Dropping a pound a week. 

Variety. "Eat a variety of foods," say the USDA guidelines earnestly, and everyone says the same; and yet there's no science to back that up. And research shows plainly that variety leads to overeating, for rats as well as for human beings.

What the advice is trying to prevent, of course, is deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. Now that I am eating so much the same thing every day, for the first time I have to take account of that: though a diet as full of eggs and meat and fresh fruit and vegetables as this is very unlikely to be missing anything. Still I'm going to do some reading.

I tend to eat the same thing every day anyway. A waitress at Tom's used to make fun of me for it, in a rather aggressive way, as though the fact that I ate the same thing every morning affronted her. I never quite understood why that might be, but I just went on with it. Why would I eat anything but what I liked most?

So rather than correct these defects in myself -- habitually eating breakfast out and always eating the same thing -- I thought I'd harness them. So far, so good.

The really nice thing about this regimen is that I actually know. There's no guesswork to it. I don't depend on calorie measurements or food processors' labeling. I simply eat the same stuff every day, and if it doesn't amount to a deficit of a pound a week, I chop another piece out. I chopped out half the hash browns a couple weeks ago, and half the toast last week. The rest of the hash browns are about to go, I think.

In previous diets the uncertainty, the guesswork, interacted very badly with the hunger hormones. I don't much trust myself to measure and estimate properly when a large part of my brain is intent on subverting me. I'm less apt to fool myself than many people -- than most people, I flatter myself -- but I don't trust myself to be able to outwatch my lizard-brain when it thinks I should be eating. And once uncertainty was introduced -- did I really measure that properly? Did I really note that down? Was that frozen dinner label really accurate? -- it gnawed away at my resolve. Was there really a point in depriving myself if I had already screwed up? 

No. Other people do the measuring. I just do the eating. 

If you follow the study of obesity, you'll know that most of it has relied on self-reported consumption, and that we've discovered recently that people are spectacularly bad at self-reporting consumption -- to the point that some researchers have suggested simply throwing out all the research that depends on it. That's how bad we are. I have no reason to think I'm uniquely gifted at self-reporting, or immune to self-deception. So I'm outsourcing as much of it as I can. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


So -- I am on a diet, have been for the past month. I've lost five pounds, which is exactly the rate I'm aiming for.

It's an absurd diet, but it's working for me. I have not yet found it irksome. I am rarely hungry. It is not healthy -- though it's considerably healthier than my free-range diet -- and it's expensive. But I could eat this way the rest of my life.

It goes like this:

Breakfast: a Spanish omelet at Tom's, with sour cream and hash browns and toast, and coffee with cream, and everything.

A bowl of soup, broccoli, romaine salad, and a couple pieces of fruit for whenever. Usually lunch, but sometimes in the evening. These things are all optional. I eat most of them most days.

A cheeseburger and half a small vanilla milkshake from Burgerville for dinner.

That's it. That's the diet. I write everything down, and weigh and measure myself every morning. Wednesday morning I take the average of my weight the last seven days. If it's not a pound under the previous week's weight, I chop something out of breakfast or dinner. So far I've chopped once: I leave half the hash browns, now. I expect to have to chop out all the hash browns, the sour cream, and the toast, before I hit the end of the road, but I'm hoping I get to keep the cream. And hoping I get to keep the half milkshake.

It's weird to be this in control, and this unobsessive, and yet to be steadily losing weight. It's weird to be eating the stuff I most like, and yet to be "on program." 

The end of the road? That's a little hazy. Beginning this, my waist was fifty inches: I want to get it down to forty at most. That's probably some fifty pounds I want to lose. In theory I'm sixty pounds overweight -- I'm about 220 -- but I can't see myself at 160. Seems too small. We'll see, of course. That's a long way to look ahead: a full year. Bound to be bumps and turns in that amount of time.

What makes this doable is that twice a day, breakfast and dinner, I get to wolf down food that gives me an ecstatic rush. It seems that I can't, or anyway won't, live without that. But with an ecstatic rush in prospect tonight -- or tomorrow morning -- forbearance of other stuff takes no will power at all. I don't feel it as deprivation. In fact, I feel that I'm indulging myself outrageously (which, of course, I am, by any reasonable standard: but reasonable standards and I parted company long, long ago, in re food.) 

And the other thing that makes it doable is that I don't have to do a lot of food prep, which may -- let's face it -- never be something I'm motivated to do. Other people do the cooking: other people do the portion control. I don't have to think about it. I just show up.