In Consultation: Beyond the Diet Mentality
x-posted to no_more_diets
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1. Because of our diet and weight loss culture, I think many people drastically UNDERestimate how many calories they need to maintain. There's this idea that the "right" amount of calories for a moderately active adult (not a teenager, and not a senior) woman is around 1,800 and that's not considered a diet. A weight-loss diet, most people think, is restricting to somewhere between 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day (only less if you're really on a drastic diet, and you probably can't get all your vitamins and minerals without supplements on that few calories). From the calculations I've been researching, I could, on my most sendentary days, probably eat 2,100 calories and maintain or even lose weight. On days when I hit the gym for my 55-60 minute workouts, I could probably eat between 2,500-2,800 calories and maintain my current weight. I generally eat less than 1,000 calories by noon, and that includes breakfast, lunch, and a mid-morning snack. No wonder I'm so hungry in the middle of the afternoon and often half-way through my post-job workout. I am thinking of trying to eat more hearty breakfasts and lunches and see how that goes.
2. I read that the working class reaction to food acquisition is to get the most calories you can for your money, while middle/upper class people have a different relationship to food acquisition. There may be a relation between this mentality and super-sizing of fast food, and the tendency of restaurants that cater to the working class to serve big portions, while ritzy restaurants serve smaller portions with better quality ingredients. I definitely think that my brain is wired for "get the most calories you can, and cheaply!" I find myself wanting to take advantage of any offer of free food in the office. Even if I don't eat it right then, I will often squirrel something away in my munchie drawer for later, just in case. That means I don't have to put money in the vending machine later if I'm hungry. Free food! Whee! I've gotten better at doing this only with foods that actually appeal to me. I'm less likely to eat food I don't actually care for just because it's there, unless I'm really famished.
3. In Dale Carnegie's "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living," one technique he mentions is living in "day-tight compartments." Just focus on the day, and let tomorrow take care of itself. This, I think, is good advice. Of course, Buddhists, New Agers, and others who are interested in meditation and "mindfulness" will tell you the ideal is to focus on each second, not just each day, to "Be Here Now." That's good advice, but I think the best thing that works for me is somewhere in between. I need to focus on the next one to five minutes, usually, unless I have a really big block of time set up for something. In the morning, for instance, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to do to get ready for work, and I even think further ahead to all the things I have to do at work and then after work. If I can focus on, "OK, what's the immediate next step, or maybe two steps?" then I feel a lot less overwhelmed and anxious. First I need to finish dressing. Then I make my coffee. Then, I feed the cat. Then, I pack my lunch. Then, I eat breakfast. If I live in five-minute-tight compartments, that usually works best for me. I find that once I get into the 'flow' of a task, I can focus on it and not think ahead to worrying about all the things I need to do later that day.