One of the reasons my blogging here (and elsewhere) has been so light for some time is that I spent almost all of May and June out in California, living out of a hotel, working on a case where I spent most of the day (and often a good part of the evening) in a closed room in a secure facility, reviewing source code and files. I came back at the start of this month dismayed at the weight I had gained, especially since I was far (oh, so far!) from svelte when I went out there.
Part of my long-standing problem in keeping my weight down is that I really like to cook and I really like to eat. Since I’ve been self-employed for the past eight years, work at home, and frequently have nothing pressing to do, this means that the most pleasurable times in a given day are often the times I fix and eat food. Also, I tend to be up from about 6 or 7 am in the morning until 11 pm or midnight. As a result, I have some bad eating habits:
- snacking at all hours, since I’m usually home all day;
- substantial late-night snacks (fried egg sandwich, toasted cheese sandwich, peanut-butter-and-butter on [several pieces of] toast);
- eating too fast (comes from growing up in a family of six kids, most of whom were older than me);
- a propensity of fixing larger meals for myself than I really should, telling myself that it will lead me to eat less at the subsequent meal (which it rarely does, because the meals themselves tend to be spread out from early morning to late at night).
Finally, there are some real emotional components to my eating. It’s a source of comfort, particularly if I’ve feeling stressed — and anyone who has been self-employed can tell you that stress is a way of life.
Anyway, I came back to Colorado at the start of July, determined to start exercising again and to get rid of not only the weight I had gained, but the weight I was carrying around before I ever went out to California. I started doing an early-morning routine of stretching and walking, but knew that would not be enough.
And then Fast Sunday (July 5th) came along. (See, there is an LDS connection in here.)
Our ward is currently on a late schedule (2-5 pm), so fasting largely means skipping breakfast and lunch on Sunday. And while fasting is never easy for me, it is something I can do. So it was during this past Fast Sunday that I came up with an approach to break up my eating habits. I’ve been trying it for a week, and it’s been very interesting and actually quite easy to follow.
Here it is in a nutshell: I only eat between 11 am and 6 pm, with the exception of allowing myself one piece of fresh fruit in the morning, if I want it. I place no restrictions on drinking and in fact have a 72-oz drinking bottle that I fill with water (with some fruit juice for flavoring) and try to get through each day. But I stop eating around 6 pm and (with the piece-of-fruit exception) I don’t start eating again until 11 am the next morning.
In short, it’s like a really bad attempt at fasting. I’ve trained myself for 40+ years to tell myself, “OK, no more food or drink until such-and-such a time tomorrow.” And since I can do an honest LDS fast, fasting poorly is a cinch, in part since I can drink all I want and even cheat in the morning with a piece of fruit, but largely because I have lots of experience and success at fasting poorly.
I’ve only been trying this for a week now, but I find the results to be very interesting. My consumption of bread, butter, cheese and eggs — my early-morning and late-night foods of choice — has dropped dramatically. For that matter, my overall consumption of food has dropped. Since I can’t eat after 6 pm (or whenever I finish my dinner, which has to be started before 6 pm), my evening snacking has gone away. The morning-piece-of-fruit exception makes the wait until 11 am very tolerable. And the fact that the rest of my eating is compressed into a 7-hour period — instead of being spread out over 16 to 18 hours — means that the large lunch I usually fix at 11 am really does have an impact on how much I eat up through 6 pm.
So far, I haven’t made a great effort to put any limits or directions on what I do eat during those 7 hours, either quality or quantity. My new pattern seems to be: a large lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, a regular dinner. Note that I haven’t been gorging myself, and I do try to eat healthily regardless. But it’s clear to me that I’m eating less on a daily basis than I was before. More importantly, I seem to be breaking up some of my self-defeating eating habits, particularly cutting out all snacking during 17 hours of the day. And I’m doing it by leveraging training I’ve put myself through for 40 years.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I have lost weight since getting back and particularly since changing my eating pattern. However, I’ve also been faithful about the stretch-then-walk routine in the mornings (I walked 18 miles this week), and the weight lost so far represents weight I gained out in California. The real trick will be my weight back down to where it was two years ago, four years ago, and finally back down to my goal weight (where I was about 11 years ago). That will require upping my personal exercise as well as continuing to improve my eating patterns and habits. Hey, eat less and exercise more — what an insight!