Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to Quit Snacking: BMI = 30.3

A lot of people tell me that I must have incredible willpower to maintain my healthy diet. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine a snack-free life. It seems that being crushed by my own weight (crushed vertebra from a little slip on the ice) jarred something loose in my head.

I don’t know how my eating habits got so bad without setting off some internal alarm bells. I knew I was obese but rather than changing my diet I just stopped stepping on scales. What I didn’t realize was that my constant snacking overstimulated my sense of taste and food just became more and more bland – driving me to layer up ever more flavours and textures in a futile attempt to find pleasure in food again.

The healthy foods I needed to start eating just didn’t appeal to me anymore. Oh, sure, I loved corn on the cob, but only if it was dunked in buttermilk, covered in salt and pepper, and then maybe slathered with some goat cheese. I was out of control.

I needed to carve away at my diet and get back to basics. I started by feeding myself old fashioned hospital food. Super bland meals that I could barely stand. At the same time, I put myself in a personal ‘snack rehab’

I limited my snack menu to only three options. Originally I had 10 nibs on the menu rather than the reduced-sodium V8. After a meal or snack, I set a timer for an hour and tried to go without so much as a sip of water until that hour had passed. I kept score of how many times I made it and how many times I failed. Each day I tried to beat my score from the day before. The first week was grueling, but by the end of the week I could do the hour without fail.

The next week I set the timer for 1.5 hours. I think it took me two weeks before I could consistently go 1.5 hours without even touching my mouth. When I started succeeding with 2 hours of no oral-stimulation at a time, I began just having a sip of water at the two-hour mark and setting the timer for another hour. I then swapped out the nibs for reduced-sodium V8.

It was a struggle for about 7 weeks. It is still sometimes a bit of a struggle at work where I am handling food all day, but when I find that I’m starting to nibble again I just set a timer for two hours and taste nothing beyond what my job requires me to taste. Sometimes I feel like a recovering alcoholic working as a bartender.

The point here is that I had absolutely zero discipline when I started this journey. I also don’t have monumental discipline now. I built up some discipline using that snack timer but mostly I just broke the habit of perpetually grazing. My discipline is only a little stronger now than before, but it is now persistent. I watched myself slide a little last week, nibbling the odd crouton or stray chip at work, and now I just need to start setting the timer again and keep working at it. The big struggle is over, now I just need to be mindful to keep up the good habits and watch out for old bad habits resurfacing.

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