Thursday, September 14, 2017

Breaking Bad Habits: BMI = 32

It’s late in the evening and I’m having a glass or three of wine before bed. I don’t smoke during the day anymore but I do have several cigarettes with my bedtime wine. If I gave up my bedtime wine then I could likely quit smoking. I’m thinking of giving that a shot for a week or two just to see what happens.

I gave up on hard liquor several years ago and that improved my life a great deal. I opted for beer instead because it still satisfied my craving for alcohol without the inevitable urge to phone someone who had angered me just to tell them to go fly a kite (my language was stronger than that, but I’m sure you get my drift). Since my accident and devoting myself to cutting down my BMI, I switched from beer to red wine in order to reduce the calories from my drinking habit. As a homebrewer, I can keep myself well supplied with wine without significant financial burden.

At this point, my wine is more of a habit than an addiction. It’s a ritual. I’m not sure if I was addicted to the lousy food I ate or if it was just habit. Perhaps, outside the domain of narcotics, the difference between addiction and habit is irrelevant. Breaking the wine ritual is not a priority for me at the moment because I’m still adjusting to being a healthy eater. I’m not struggling with eating healthy but I’m still trying to expand my options and get used to the fact that I’m becoming a bit of a health nut.

When my BMI reaches 30 I’ll finally be overweight again, rather than obese. I’m going to start thinking about a two-week trial of wine-free living and I’ll hold you people to reminding me of that when I get there. I’ve broken my poor dietary habits and started building healthy dietary habits so I know I can break my wine drinking habit if I really put my mind to it. So just how did I break my bad dietary habits?

I started by outlining all my bad habits. I knew I binged on occasion which is sort of the definition of binge-eating – so, yeah, I would sometimes eat an entire pizza in one evening. I also overate often; I ate too much but not so much that I needed to nap, vomit, or perhaps both. I compulsively sought out forms of oral stimulation – tic tac, juice, cigarette, olive, iced tea, piece of candy – it just never stopped.

I knew I couldn’t just stop cold-turkey. I don’t expect that my first shot at quitting wine for 2 weeks will happen on my first try either. Ironically, the allegory that came to mind was, “How do you eat an elephant? Well, one bite at a time.” I had to tackle my dietary problems in bite-sized pieces. So, I accepted that I was going to snack between meals but set out a plan to wrestle control over those snacks. I would snack, but I would have a generous cup of plain popcorn OR ten nibs OR one Jolly Rancher hard candy. I bought those snacks again just for this photo, and I’m going to snack a little on this stuff but then take the rest to work to fatten up my colleagues.

When I found that I couldn’t pass a convenience store without going in to look over the snacks, I just committed to only buying those items on my snack menu. It didn’t work every time, but with each failure I renewed my commitment to eating only those things as snacks. The second tactic I employed was a ‘snack timer’. After a meal, I set my snack timer for 60 minutes and committed myself to going 60 minutes without any form of oral stimulation – not even a sip of water. I didn’t succeed every time but with each failure I set the timer to 60 minutes and kept score. It took me about 3 days to learn to go 60 minutes at a time without so much as a sip of water.

After about a month I had trained myself to only buy snacks on my list and I was setting my timer to 2 hours. Around that time, I swapped out the 10 nibs for a 3-ounce glass of low-sodium V8 with a dash of hot-sauce. Then, when the 2 hours had passed, I started just having a small glass of water and trying for another hour before I had a snack.

At the same time, I struggled to control my meals. Breakfast was the easiest because I was used to having hot cereal for breakfast but often I had to get up early for some medical appointment so I just had a plain granola bar and coffee. I began working a few days a week again and often found myself behind schedule (showering with a cast, strapping myself into back brace, etc, etc) so I just had the plain granola bar and coffee. I tried to have really bland meals of boiled potato or pasta, with boiled veggies, topped with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, and maybe a few ounces of roast chicken.

These meals weren’t really balanced, and not very enjoyable, but if I stuck to them then I found I wasn’t tempted to binge-eat or overeat. I portioned everything out and just struggled to eat such bland food in order to reset my palate. I won’t lie to you, I was not happy with the struggle. That struggle lasted almost two months when one day I noticed my Jolly Ranchers sitting on top of my printer.

I couldn’t remember putting them there and then I realized that I couldn’t remember because I hadn’t had a Jolly Rancher in days. I checked the cupboard and my popcorn was stale. I realized that if I had been snacking, all I had been having was the low-sodium V8. The struggle had died and I had survived. I was eating three bland meals a day and no longer snacked in between. I had broken my bad habits, defeated them one by one. It can be done.

Building up good habits is another story, perhaps the next story in this blog. My message here is that bad habits can be broken if you can admit you have them, identify them, formulate a plan of attack, and set your mind to executing that plan. So as my BMI continues to descend, I need to address all the wine I drink and the cigarettes that go with that habit. I’m not committing to giving up drinking altogether – even with my diet I have an ‘indulgence meal’ once a week. I do, however, need to recognize that my nightly wine is a bad habit and one that I need to break. Would anyone else care to be honest about some bad habits in the comments?

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