Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 30: De-Accentuating 'Meal Events'


I closed my seventh month on Weight Watchers with another unusual week, scheduling wise. It allowed me muy best opportunity to far to test new theory of eating — and the result is a solid loss of 1.6 pounds. My Google Spreadsheet says I've lost 100 percent to goal, but the truth is that I am 0.02 pounds from my goal of 155 pounds (I mean I was, before enjoying myself thoroughly last night, which is my custom on weigh-in day...)

My new mantra is, don't call them "meals," and don't even call them "servings." The nomenclature can be pejorative and can allow one to manufacture a behavioral paradox in which over-eating is unavoidable, or at least easier to justify.

It's not a new problem, this business of having meals versus grazing. Huge numbers of fit and healthy people are in both camps. My judgement is, however, that a substantial number of people who need to learn how to eat properly, again, for the first time, would be better off grazing than aspiring to fixed meals at fixed time.

Like any rule, the point is to illustrate rather than apply a rigid standard. But the outline is pretty simple.

For example, I do have "breakfast," but it is almost never shortly after I get up, and almost entirely always comprised of fruit, which is "free," i.e., is not counted towards one 29 PointsPlus allotment each day. My habit had been to make myself a big bowl, cut up a protein bar, sit down, and have a meal. When I couldn't have "a meal" at the meal's normal time, the semantic conflict bled into the nutritional issue, which is ridiculous.

Master: Is the first meal of the day breakfast, even if consumed at 2 p.m., eight hours after awakening?

The other truism that I have found helpful is to deconstruct the three-meal-a-day paradigm. The purpose of eating at intervals is to ensure one has the right amount of fuel, and to schedule pit stops so one can't forget or skimp, which leads to poor performance and over-eating.

For people like me, skipping a meal isn't exactly a problem. But like many people scheduling drop-dead meals times can be problematic because that means I could very well eat at least three times a day, not just three times.

My habit, before Weight Watchers, has been to consume an entire meal while preparing a meal. I'd have maybe more spaghetti while cooking spaghetti than I served myself for "dinner." Sound familiar?

Now, since I am counting points and nutrients, the emphasis is on these metrics, and not on what time it is. I'll begin eating hours after I get up if that makes sense for me on any given day, or shortly after I get up. I'll have small amounts of a pre-portioned amount of something over time — grazing — rather than have a meal event. Sure, the family dinner is still an important event. But more often than not these days even this meal has been comprised of this and that rather than a "dish" and "sides." And in this family the dinner hour has always been a moveable feast anyway.

The pitfall of grazing is also well known: the potential for over-eating is huge because you are eating all the time, essentially. The solution is simple and, of course, all about the discipline and self-control which is the necessary if insufficient starting point for every improvement in one's eating habits.

Fruit and vegetables are "free," so they can be grazed with abandon. Other things need to be portioned out, bags closed, cabinet doors closed. So, put that 3 PP serving of chips in a little bowl, and snack on that for hours instead of just sitting down and having them all "at  once."

Yes, you can just have one Lay's potato chip. 12 or so times a day.

Cut up that protein bar and have bits and pieces over a few hours -- a bit is great with morning and afternoon fruit, and as a treat with your coffee or tea (which I drink straight), or as a bit of dessert. You are still getting 20g of protein, and using 5 PowerPlus points (though, actually, having half servings spaced apart general saves you one PP, for some reason.

But by grazing one is consuming food a way which, I fervently believe, will prompt the body to store less of it for later and use more of it for now. This, I am convinced, has a direct connection to fat buildup, maybe even the number of fat cells your body thinks it needs.

Anything can work, of course. The point of a meal event is to monastically avoid eating until the appointed time. For those of us who have learned to eat poorly, this makes it easy to create other meal events -- snacks — and then to over-eat in this way, as well at the main meal events themselves.

Grazing has about it the air of complete anarchy, removing structure which is meant to both provide opportunities to properly fuel in proper amounts at appropriate times and, by default, exclude over-eating.

But rules are easily broken. For some, denying oneself food except for certain windows is the only way to be disciplined. For me, by and large, the perfect situation is to eat when I am starting to feel hungry, and then only in relatively small amounts to sate that feeling. I am finding that topping off, rather than running as far as I can until empty, is the better way to live.

In this vein, someone at my Saturday meeting suggested an idea which I just loved as another device to eat at a good pace, and thus, especially as a grazer, in the right amounts.

So I am now using chopsticks, all the time. Well, as "all the time" as I can without being a total jerk (at least outside my the embrace of my immediate family.)

Think of the scene in Kill Bill where Kiddo is trying to eat rice with broken hands at the table of mentor  Pail Mei. If she tries to use her hands — to "eat like a dog" — he knocks the bowl from her hand.

Using chopsticks is another one of those little life skills that may have no real practical value, especially in the West, apart from projection pretentiousness (hence the jerk issue). But since I have valid lifestyle peg, I'm sticking to my story.

OK, I'm veering into jerk territory. But I am trying to set standard from which I can retreat from jerkiness. So far I am proficient even in slippery melon, and small items like English peas, blueberries and Wasabi.

So, I'm thinking that sticky rice won't be a problem. Not that I eat much of it. Too many PointsPlus.


No comments: