One of my goals in losing weight was to shrink my environmental footprint — to take up less space, take in less food, be less of a drain on the ecosystem.
At the time, I was pretty passionate about “natural thrift,” the pursuit of an environmentally conscious frugality. Yet my body was out of synch with my belief system.
Now that I'm 90 pounds lighter, my clothes require less fabric. I love finding ways to literally “run” some errands. And I no longer eat much processed food, eliminating entire layers of marketing, packaging and manufacturing costs.
But there's no getting around that fact that I still often eat like a pig.
It's called “eating large” in diet lingo, and it made a huge difference when I was losing weight. The idea is that, if you make smart choices, you can heap a lot more food on your plate. And not just lettuce, either.
In her book “Eating Thin for Life,” dietitian Anne M. Fletcher illustrates the concept using a pair of 1,100-calorie chicken dinners. The first meal — fried chicken, French fries, coleslaw, biscuit, cheesecake — weighs 14 ounces.
For the same calories, you could eat a chicken breast, baked potato with fat-free sour cream, steamed peas and carrots, salad with low-cal dressing, two dinner rolls with margarine and angel food cake with strawberries and lite whipped topping. That's 40 ounces of food — nearly three times as much.
Eating large was a key pattern Fletcher uncovered in her 1990s interviews with more than 200 “weight loss masters,” people who lost at least 20 pounds and kept it off at least three years. (The group's average loss was 64 pounds; 30 people lost 100 pounds or more.)
Weight Watchers emphasizes the same concept, phrased slightly differently. Fruit and veggies are “freebies” that don't count against your daily points total.
Filling up on broccoli made it easier to indulge a periodic craving with a relatively small dose of fat or sugar. Even now, when I'm hungry, my first instinct is to grab a couple of apples.
Still, looking over an empty bag of raw veggies I'd inhaled like Doritos the other day, I had to wonder what Steve Naragon would think.
I met Naragon, a philosophy professor at Manchester University, while taking our daughter on a campus visit last spring. I'd read that his environmental philosophy course touched on the ethics of eating, and I couldn't resist interviewing him for my blog.
A big part of our conversation revolved around sustainable living. In his case, that means riding his bike to campus and eating simple, inexpensive foods like oatmeal.
Naragon's not a food cop. He admits he's “terrible” at following his own advice, and counsels students to be flexible and forgiving as they form their own personal philosophy of eating.
But I'm reminded of that conversation every time I flip through my food log and see the carnage that's occurred under the guise of healthy eating.
Take my biggest “zero-point feast” of all time, which occurred after a workout left me ravenous despite having already used up all my points for the day: Two bananas, an apple, a can of green beans, a plate of fresh spinach with two boiled egg whites and orange sections, followed by a cup of blueberries topped with fat-free whipped topping and a sprinkle of raw oats.
I filled my plate three times, concocted a dessert, and still wound up weighing 2.4 pounds less the next morning.
But was I really that hungry? Or did I just think I was?
I like to think I atone for my high-volume grazing by being a bottom feeder at the supermarket, scanning the produce department for those orange stickers that indicate a package is going to be thrown out soon.
All those precut carrots and factory-sealed salads help me avoid temptation in a culture of excess.
Still, I think it's time I tried eating less rather than simply eating large.
I need to practice leaving the room when a craving comes on. To ask myself if I'm hungry, or just bored.
I never really got around to doing that while I was losing weight. At the time, I was so focused on fundamental skills like tracking that I didn't want to get distracted by what I perceived to be more advanced dietary maneuvers.
Now that I'm more than halfway toward becoming a “weight-loss master” myself, I think it's time I learned to do that.