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ADVENTURES IN FOOD AND FITNESS

Learning how to stop eating at the end of the day

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 12:01 am

How do you disengage your mouth when you're done eating for the day?

Some people just tell themselves they've had enough, and they stop. But that doesn't work for me. I'm prone to “engine run-on.”

This happens most frequently when I go over my allotted total of Weight Watchers points for the day, but it could also apply to carbs, calories or anything else you care to count. If I'm still within range of a good score, then each bite is measured and precise.

But if I go over my allotment, by even a single point, then the “automatic transmission” linking my hand to my mouth somehow perceives that the game has changed. My mouth doesn't exactly disregard the “off” signal it receives, but it takes its own sweet time sputtering to a stop.

I never go just one point over, or even two or three. If I miss my stopping point, then I can never seem to shut down until I'm at least five points over my limit. (One Weight Watchers point translates to around 50 calories; I usually allow myself about 29 points a day.)

Recognizing this tendency was the first step in solving the problem. And I never would've even been aware of it if I didn't track my eating.

For me, creating a specific image or term, no matter how silly, helps identify a problematic pattern that previously was just part of the background noise of modern existence.

Social scientist Brene Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfection,” calls this “owning your story.” Defining your life according to what you think is important, rather than always surrendering to outside influences. The more you do it, the more you see — not just problems, but solutions as well.

How could I learn to “stick my landing,” or “stop on a dime?” For starters, I dumped the first analogy and went with the second, which makes a slightly less awkward mixed metaphor since it also involves a vehicle. (Nobody's “grading” my story, but it's easier to remember if it's less complicated.)

Then, having detected a numerical pattern in how I blow past my points limit, I thought I'd back up and study what happens as I begin to apply the brakes.

Here's another pattern that's emerged in my food log over the last three years: I feel deprived if I don't get to use up all my daily allotment of points or calories or whatever it is I'm counting. I don't like to “waste points” any more than I like to leave food on my plate.

Knowing this, if I'm getting close to my points total, I now try to make the last thing I eat every day use up exactly how many points I have left.

More “research” is clearly needed. But here's an example from my food log:

After filling up on an orange and an egg white omelet with spinach and salsa con queso — it's important that I'm not feeling hungry as I get close to wrapping up my eating for the day — I indulge in a single serving of Spicy Buffalo Wheat Thins.

These are really tasty. But I've only got three points left, and if I keep eating them I'm going to have a bad case of engine run-on.

I need to come up with some kind of dessert that's satisfying and uses up the exact number of points I've got left.

So I fill a small bowl with frozen blueberries, pop them in the microwave briefly to thaw, then dump a 5-ounce container of Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt over the top. At 80 calories and zero fat, that's just two points for the yogurt — and unsweetened fruit doesn't use up any points at all.

That's a pretty satisfying dessert right there. But I don't want to leave that last point unaccounted for, not with those Wheat Thins still hanging around. So I add two tablespoons of uncooked oats as a garnish.

The oats add a little crunch. I like the texture. But really, they're just a way to use up that last point — a stopping point that my hands, mouth and brain can all agree on.

Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.