Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book a couple years back on mindful eating. It’s his take on how to handle the problem we seem to have — in American culture, anyway — controlling our weight.
Not surprisingly, for him it comes back to mindfulness. Being aware of what you’re doing, as you’re doing it. Vipassana meditation can help with that. So can turning off the TV at mealtimes.
My fiancée and I are in the midst of wedding plans, and are crash-dieting (sort of) to fit into our respective outfits a little better. (I just don’t have the hips to carry off a dress the way I used to.)
Something that has been rather forcibly demonstrated to me is that I’ve had a very poor idea of sufficiency in food for years. What I mean by that is I’ve been in the habit, for a long time, of consuming more than I need — but believing that I’ve been doing all right. I didn’t think I was overdoing anything; I felt I was keeping things fairly well balanced.
I was, too. Fish, fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, cheeses. Olive oil, pasta. The stuff that’s supposed to be healthier. Very few fast foods (I don’t even know what a McMenu includes any more; it’s changed that much since the last time I was in there), not many packaged or over-processed foods.
That wasn’t (and isn’t) the problem. The problem was the quantity, not the quality. The choices I was making were fine, but I was snorking down something on the order of 2000 to 2500 calories per day of it.
That doesn’t work. Even a diet composed of the most healthful foods imaginable will cause net weight gain in sufficient quantities.
At my age and activity level, I seem to be in an interesting zone where the number of calories I consume, divided by ten, is a decent predictor of my weight. So 2000 calories means 200 pounds, which is well above my ideal. 1800 would be 180, 1600 160, and so on.
Well, for the last five or six weeks, we’ve been limiting ourselves to 1200 calories daily, and we haven’t reduced our exercise levels. (She’s still running; I’m still biking.) And yes, the weight is coming off. That isn’t surprising.
What is surprising, to me, is that at 1200 calories per day, I don’t feel like I’m starving. I have to be very conscious of the kinds of foods I eat — more proteins, more ‘healthy’ fats, considerably fewer carbohydrates — but it’s not a starvation diet, and it’s not a subsistence diet.
That was not what I expected at all. I figured I’d have terrible energy levels, that I’d be sugar crashing all the time, that I’d want to sleep for 17 hours a day (well, that part wouldn’t be new or peculiar).