Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Screw It!

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that causes itself to come true due to the simple fact that the prediction was made. Some say it must, by definition, be a false premise that is caused to come true by such a belief. So whether I was a victim of “self-fulfilling prophecies” or not may be up for debate. Either way some ideas I recently heard may have indeed influenced my behavior. 

The first one came from our weight management program facilitator, to the effect that sometimes, when people go off track a little, they may temporarily throw in the towel. I wish had a clearer recollection of her exact words, but for me it sounded like, “Well, now that I’ve blown it today by eating this [fill in the blank] I might as well say 'Screw it!' for the rest of the day.” It not only sounded like that to me, it happened like that—not quite as abruptly, or consciously—more insidiously—but the net effect was the same. The real danger is that this can lead to a succession of  tossed towels…

The other statement came from the reading material the program hands out about this transition phase we have entered, where we gradually are moving from 960 calories a day of food replacements to increasing amounts of real food and a normal sustainable level of calories. This I can quote directly from the text. It said, “Many people, but not all, experience an increase in appetite as they start to eat real food.” Ya think?! When one subsists entirely on imitation food pellets it isn’t as challenging as one might think to turn a blind eye to the real food that abounds, but like one sip of wine to an alcoholic, just tiptoeing into the world of real food sends the eyes and the taste buds into a state of high alert. Therefore, in stark contrast to earlier in the year, when I took in some real food as necessary nourishment during my long bike rides, or partook in a single wedding meal, when confronted with (sort of) similar occurrences this past weekend I found myself completely without discipline. With only slight exaggeration, the word “insatiable” comes to mind. 

What happened? And more importantly, what did I learn? 

Saturday morning I met a friend for cycling. I had anticipated two or three hours on the road, including the likelihood of some rigorous climbing. In the current weight management phase, two small meals are prescribed, and even though carbohydrates have not yet been reintroduced, I figured some oatmeal before riding would be appropriate. I had calculated the calories in a third of a cup of rolled oats with two loosely packed tablespoons of raisins, a tablespoon of chopped walnuts and a tablespoon of real maple syrup to total 211. Not a bad start to the day at all…but then, to play it safe before going out on the road, I downed an Optifast shake—160 calories. I was still pretty much in a mindful state—I think. From then on I nourished myself much as I did when I took a gargantuan ride to the ocean and back the week before last—half of a protein bar every half hour. I may have even skipped one after the relatively easy descent from Skyline Boulevard back down Old La Honda Road. The real problem was not during the ride, but after. Unlike on the Hazon Ride where I calmly, methodically just slipped back into my routine of bars and shakes, Saturday’s reentry was more tentative—okay, it was downright unruly.

New size small cycling regalia
Timing was one issue. I got home and felt that aforementioned “increase in appetite,” but it wasn’t mealtime—or was it? Having had more bars in the morning than according to plan it was hard to determine where to pick up for the rest of the day. Moreover, even before we began this official transition to food I had been snacking on very low calorie items (i.e., pickles, kimchi, rice cakes, viz., http://yesh-indeed.blogspot.com/2012/08/of-crackers-and-cabbage.html) to get me through some of the rough patches. These have their benefits, but I can’t say that I have approached them with the discipline and rigor that I might. The result is that even if they provide little physical harm, psychologically they recreate the old excitement of binge eating that I need to tame.

Well, one thing led to another on Saturday. We went downtown to the Palo Alto Art & Wine Festival—can you say Oaxacan Taco Truck? Later we decided to go to a movie that was timed to conflict with my scheduled "real food" dinner. What to do? What to do? Do I eat before? After? Or during the movie? I opted for all three, munching a bit of the previous night’s leftover chicken breast before heading to the theater, more than a handful of Debbie’s very small bag of very lightly buttered popcorn before the feature started, as well as the protein bar I brought for the second reel, and Lord knows what else I ate the rest of the night. Earlier we had  purchased some groceries for a brunch we were to host Sunday morning. Wanting to give my visiting nephew, Daniel, something he had not tasted before, I opted to prepare one of my favorite (read “trigger”) foods—chilaquiles—kind of a Mexican matzah brei with tortilla chips and chile salsa. (You can already spot this disaster coming!)

I certainly didn’t journal the rest of the day—or any of it really—especially when the day ended with my wiping taco chip crumbs off my face, standing over the counter with a spoon in one hand and a dangerously delicious container of Haagen Dazs (that I “bought for Debbie’s Shabbat dessert”) in the other hand, thinking, “Screw it! I blew today, better shove in all I can before tomorrow comes and I start over with a clean slate.” It was the kind of thinking that spawned the month-long Farewell to Food tour that preceded participation in the program.

That might not have been a bad strategy had Sunday truly been a return to plan, but remember the brunch? I got up early Sunday to prep the meal, and since I had not made chilaquiles in a few years I needed to make a practice batch—just one egg. I even calculated the calories of a handful of chips and salsa and some sautéed peppers and onions and a little cotija cheese. It wasn’t terrible—not if I had stopped there at least. Fast forward—I ate more chilaquiles during the brunch (which I told myself I would not do), and ate some more when I cleared the table…ended the evening taking Daniel to a dinner of Indian chaat including the mango lassi I told myself I would not drink, and once again closed out the day leaning over the counter spoon in hand thinking, “Screw it! I blew today….”

Is there a moral to all this?

Life truly is a succession of exceptions—bike ride one day, guests the next, funerals, bar mitzvahs, weddings, celebrations, food festivals (was there art and wine?)—it’s always something. Gotta plan. Gotta stick to the plan. Gotta have a Plan B to deal with the inevitable, perpetual curveballs. Gotta get back on Plan A as soon after straying from it as possible.

I did not have Plan B in mind this weekend. The good news is that two days does not a complete relapse make (but it’s a slippery slope!). I learned from W. Edwards Deming, the guru of Quality and a professional statistician, that when a system goes out of whack (technical term) twice in a row it still does not constitute a trend, but three times in a row means it’s time to take a closer look. So despite the fact that the bathroom scale crept up two consecutive days in the wake of my indiscretions, they did not constitute a trend. I’m glad to say that’s where it stopped. Monday I was solidly back on plan and it had the desired effect—weigh-in went much better this morning. (Yeah, yeah, dieting doesn’t always work out that way.)

Maybe the best message is knowing that I can and did say, “Screw it!” and it truly wasn’t the end of the world, and therefore did not lead to a lasting “screw it” mentality. The key was to note that two-day lapse and make sure it didn’t become a three-day trend by making a return to mindful, disciplined, structured eating. I did it, and I commit to doing so if/when the need arises again. Let’s put it this way—if I ever need any incentive to do so, all I need is one look at my "before" picture!
Never again!

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