I just couldn’t do the Weight Watchers route again. Or the Jenny Craig. Or any other program I had tried in the past. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Don’t get me wrong: I think Weight Watchers makes so much sense. It has worked for me in the past ( I lost over 100 lbs) and I think it is very sensible. But I just couldn’t bring myself to count up points one more time. The time spent obsessing over food, measuring food, counting food, reading food labels… I just can’t.
I have a real problem with food. I love food, but I also hate it. I frequently eat when I’m not hungry, and frequently eat things I don’t even like. I don’t really enjoy food. It isn’t something that makes me happy. I don’t know how to explain it, but the more I eat, the more I crave. I actually have no problem going without food. Some days (and believe me I know how bad this is) I will not eat all day — no breakfast, no lunch — and I’m fine. I’m fine until I finally do eat. And then I can’t stop. A serving size, for me, is however much food there is. If there is a 2 oz container of cream cheese, I’ll eat it. If the container is 6 oz, I’ll eat it. If it is 12 oz, I’ll eat it. I don’t have that “off” button. You know that old Lays® Potato Chip commercial that says, “You can’t eat just one!” Yeah, they were pretty much talking about me.
It is an addiction. The more I try to exert my will over food, the harder it gets. I can do any diet or food program out there. My will power is strong, but the addiction is stronger. I will focus on the rules of my diet du jour as rigidly as I can. Until I can’t anymore. I slip. It is inevitable. I slip, and like a car hitting the ice, I start to spin out of control. Which makes things worse.
The pattern may be recognizable to others: I slip. I try to refocus. Food starts to become the only thing I think about. I gain and lose and gain and lose. Until I give up, give in, and regain everything I lost. Plus a little extra for good measure.
If my addiction were alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, the clear advice would be to quit altogether; go cold-turkey. I am not making light of substance abuse addictions. They are very serious, and in a different category than food addiction. I’m pointing out that a food addiction can’t be treated the same way. I quit smoking over 20 years ago. I still think about it now and then. I occasionally have the urge to smoke, but it isn’t too difficult to put it out of my mind and focus on something else. I know that as long as I don’t have even one, I can keep smoke free.
But that won’t work with food. I can’t just give up food, although I think I would really like to. If I could take a pill every day that would give me all the nourishment I needed, and do away completely with food, I think I do it. I know a lot of people who wouldn’t because food tastes so good and can be enjoyable and part of how we socialize. But I would rather do without completely.
This has led me to start the most boring diet program I’ve ever been on.
This isn’t a new thought for me. I’ve bounced this theory around for years. Lately I’ve been thinking that there is something to it. At first I thought about using food substitutes, such as protein bars and shakes. Get as much nutrition in your body with as little “eating” as possible. I started to research various products, but then finally gave up on that idea. I couldn’t find any that would really give me the nutrition I needed. Many had all kinds of preservatives and things I didn’t want in my diet, and even the so-called organic and natural ones had very skewed nutritional values. You could eat them in a pinch, but you couldn’t live on them.
My next idea was to just limit my diet to a few key essentials, and just eat them every day. It was a vague idea at first, but over time I started coming up with guidelines. The idea was to eat just the things I needed to survive, and not eat anything extra. I loosely based it on the old Weight Watchers core plan, which focused on whole foods over processed foods and emphasized eating foods that truly nourished your body: lean meats, whole fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, high fiber grains, etc. I made some modifications, limiting the variety of foods. I focused on simplicity and making sure I was getting food all day.
I’m only six weeks into it, and some days are easier than others, but what I have found is that I’m not so obsessed with food. Occasionally I’m tempted to eat something outside the program, but like cigarettes, I find that as long as I don’t give in to even the small temptations, I find it pretty easy to stay on program. I’m not going to lose weight quickly. I’m not even sure how much I will lose. I just want to be more in control. I control the food, not the other way around.
It’s an experiment. I’m not advocating anyone else try it. I’m not even sure how long I will try it. But for now it is making me feel better. I’ll keep you posted as things move forward.