Sunday, September 27, 2009

Routine and Habits

This weekend has been abysmal as far as food and eating are concerned. I have overeaten for sure but, other than the lunch out I ate yesterday, I have only eaten things around the house. If there is any sort of a silver lining, it is that I really don't keep that much unhealthy food here. It's just not something that will lead to success for me. Goodness knows I am having a tough enough time without that extra layer of temptation! I will confess to eating almost a block and a half of cheese so far today. Sure it is low fat and high in calcium, but there is no way that is a healthy portion size!

I guess I am realizing that part of the key to success for me is routine and habit. For example I wouldn't really think of skipping water aerobics or missing a session with my trainer or of the spin class I attend unless I were really sick, out of town for work, or there was a very special occasion (e.g., guest in town or show at WAC). It just feels weird to go without these things now. They are habits and a part of my routine.

Food, however, is an area in which I still struggle with -- a lot. I feel like sometimes my desire for food just overwhelms me and I struggle to remember at times that I can control the food I eat, not vice versa. It gets me to wondering if I need to find some healthy habits and routines around food, but I am not sure what that would look like. For example, would I only eat out one day a week? Would I always eat at the same time? Would I consistently allot a certain number of points for each meal?

My initial gut reaction is "that is so ridiculous -- habits around food are not reasonable!", for a number of reasons. For example, eating is often a social/political thing. I feel there is lots of social capital that gets exchanged when I go to lunch with my colleagues. I learn a lot of the department scuttlebut at lunches -- some of it is gossipy and could legitimately be avoided, but much of it is just "situational awareness" stuff that I would not hear about other places. For that reason alone, structuring my lunch too much seems to be a losing idea. Also, I am really busy. I usually don't get home until 7 PM at the earliest because of water aerobics. Some days it is later because of errands I need to run after I go to the gym. This means that constraining the what, when, and how of dinner would need to be done carefully and would be very difficult. I can easily see adding food-related habits or routines to breakfast but for the most part I am already doing that and rarely have a problem with my eating at breakfast.

So, while habits seem like a great idea to me (takes the emotion, guesswork, and uncertainty out of eating), I also see several potential big downsides. In particular, the habits would need to be carefully constructed and flexible enough to allow for me to not feel smothered by the restrictions, to not make me feel like I am setting myself for failure, to not limit food-related social interactions, and so on. Ideally, it would still allow me to enjoy food as well.

Though I struggle with putting this into words (and I still don't think I am adequately expressing what it is that I mean), part of me wonders if enjoyment of food a right or a privilege? That is to say -- I know that the main purpose of food is to fuel my body, but shouldn't I be allowed to enjoy what I eat? That doesn't mean eating 5 c of fetucinni alfredo with white pasta and no vegetables -- but it does mean eating foods that are both flavorful and healthy, and that are a part of a balanced diet. I don't feel I need to eat cardboard tasting fiber crackers and so on to lose weight. I also am at this point unwilling to give up occasional indulgences of foods that I enjoy. For me, the habits I would set up would need to allow such treats but not allow me to overdo it.

Part of me wonders if my resistance to setting up healthy eating habits is just an excuse. I know I would have made excuses at first about the exercise, but now I enjoy it. I wonder if the same isn't true about food. I enjoy WW when I do it, but I really enjoy overdoing it on the food in the moment. The difference is that I am proud of doing WW all the time, and the nice feeling that comes when you overeat is temporary. Even worse, a cloud of guilt hangs over you afterward. It is not a winning long-term solution.

Do any of you have healthy eating habits? I have healthy eating tendencies and healthy eating instincts now, but calling them habits is really too generous at this point. I am really curious what you all think (if there are any of you out there...)

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