I’m on Day 11 of a portion-controlled meal plan, a modified version of a Beachbody plan, which I’m following for the month of October—and I noticed something interesting about obsession and letting go.
If you’re like most women, and increasing numbers of men, you spend a lot of time, as I do, thinking about getting healthy. For most of us, that equates to a lot of time obsessing about what we eat, what we don’t eat, whether we’ve had too much to eat today, whether our mental “food budget” allows us to eat a piece of cake or a second slice of pizza, rationalizing that cake or pizza—and on and on and on.
When I came into this portion-controlled thing 11 days ago, I did it because I was resisting the idea so fiercly. Surprisingly, what I’ve found is freedom from obsession.
Here’s what I mean:
On the weekend, I do meal prep for the week. I cook up a big batch of something yummy and pack it up to carry with me to work each day. I include snacks. That has been my normal routine for some time now.
What I’m doing this month is the same, but with an extra layer of planning. I took the Beachbody plan that fits my calorie target, and using their portion containers, plan my meals.
For example, that daily plan includes four cups of vegetables, three cups of fruit, four portions of protein, two portions of carbohydrates (excluding processed stuff like white flour and white sugar). The plan also allows a small amount of oil and of fats like cheese.
So on the weekend, I made a map planning out my daily diet for the week. A typical day is something like this: Two eggs and a cup of vegetables scrambled for breakfast; a protein shake for a snack, with another cup of raw fruit and vegetables; lunch is a protein-veg dish my sister invented called Mel’s Grub; snack is an apple and cheese; supper is again Mel’s Grub, and another snack might be another piece of fruit. The diet as presented is basically “Paleo,” heavy on vegetables, fruit and protein, and very light on carbs.
One drawback is eating the same meal in a row many times. If that bothers you, you’ll want to do more cooking. But it doesn’t bother me at all to eat the same meal for days, especially if it means I don’t have to cook every day.
Back to obsession.
Paradoxically, I’ve noticed that all of that planning means that on the days I’ve got my meals all planned and packed up ahead of time, I don’t obsess about food all day. In fact, food hasn’t crossed my mind much. I didn’t see that coming.
My theory is that I’ve already done all of the thinking about what I’m eating. With it all planned, when I’m hungry all I have to do is reach into the bag and everything I’ve brought supports my food plan. No angst. No should I or shouldn’t I. Just hunger and some food to alleviate that hunger.
Another thing I’ve noticed has more to do with physiological changes arising from cutting sugar: My food cravings are greatly reduced. Not only my sugar cravings—which are minor most of the time and like an untamed tiger after about 9 p.m.—but also my desire to eat generally. For more than a year I’ve been researching this stuff for a cookbook of recipes for diabetics I’m working on. That one should not have surprised me, but it did.
Putting all of these pieces of the puzzle together is where it gets interesting.
I’m still working on “mindful eating,” which is simply eating without distractions. It’s simple but I’ve found it hard to accomplish.
A related issue is inhabiting my body, which exercise helps every single day. If you are running down bleachers or jumping on a box, it’s better to be fully in your body if you don’t want to get hurt. And I don’t want to get hurt so I pay attention. It’s one of the great things about exercise—when you’re moving your body full tilt doing whatever, it’s hard to mope around and worry about whatever I might be worrying about when I’m idle.
Another piece of the puzzle is consistency. It was a game changer for me when I realized I could get in a mile or more on the treadmill at work by doing it only five minutes at a time. My fitness tracker gives me an alert, and I jump on the treadmill. Even on my busiest work day I can find five minutes and it helps me keep physical activity at the front of my mind. And it gets me out of my chair, good news in an era when sitting is called the new smoking.
One last note: While feeling less obsessed about the food going into my mouth each day, the big lesson for me in all this is baby steps. A year ago I would have been dumbfounded to imagine that today I would be doing what I’m doing. And it all comes down to baby steps and trying new things.
Do you use portion-control containers or count calories? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’m obsessed with hearing your stories.