Procrastination Nation

Things that Robert is thinking about that keep him from accomplishing anything.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004
The Procrastination Nation Diet
Some of you are monitoring my weight and wonder, "Yeah, the exercise is nice, but what are you doing for food?"

To start, let me tell you about my eating habits before I decided to get skinny again. I would eventually wake up in the morning, maybe have a bowl of cereal, but not usually. I've always been a skim milk person, and while I'm not immune to Cap'n Crunch and Frosted Flakes, I'm basically a Cheerios and Raisin Bran person (all of them store brand, because, as you know, I'm a cheap bastard). However, in my peak weight gain phases, I'd hit Jack in the Box to get cheap ham/egg/cheese sandwiches or Sonic, where you can get the H/E/C Toaster sandwich all day (damned tasty).

I'd normally linger at work for about 2-3 hours before going to lunch. Often this was one of two places: Pizza Perfect and San Antonio Taco Co. I'd go for stretches of eating there twice a day for several days, not just twice a week or twice a month. I'd also work in some food time at Burger King, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, and a few Mexican places around town. And the Chinese Buffet that has set up shop around here. This formed the bulk of my meals. I didn't always (or even often) get fries/onion rings, seldom had queso dip, never get mayo on burgers, and hate sour cream. I did, however, tend to double-up: two Jr. Whoppers, or 3 slices of pizza (roughly half an 16") with pepperoni and onion. Back when I was drinking sodas all the time, I would also chug about one-half to a whole gallon of soda a day, primarily Diet Coke/Pepsi, but mixing in the occasional Dr. Pepper or regular soda.

I often ate at these places for dinner, as well as at Jersey Mike's sub shop (chief vice: Turkey Club Sub Mike's Way plus mayo and mustard, sometimes a half, not infrequently a giant). I might occasionally work in some DQ time (Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzard or ice cream or cereal). As much as I like to cook, I hate to clean, so it worked a fair balance: I get fed, I don't have to clean as much. I also ate out at restaurants and wasn't bashful about eating appetizers, entrees, desserts and the leftovers from your entrees.

However, often my typical meal in the recent months before the diet was some form of (homemade) nachos. As simple as chips with melted cheddar, but occasionally making my own queso dip, or just eating chips and salsa. The height of nutrition.

Of course, I'd go through some cycles of controlling amounts and mix of foods and even occasionally exercising for a month or two. However, these were usually short lived spurts. More importantly, I would sometimes go over to these places between lunch and dinner or late after dinner, partly on the recent theory that you need a lot of small meals in the day, partly as a way of avoiding working on difficult tasks or as a place to escape the office (email/blog/Internet) to think on difficult tasks. Basically, I was a multi-year version of the Super Size Me guy.

So, what has the diet been. First, I gave up sodas in December 2002. That helped a lot and led to some steady weight loss, but I soon compensated with high sugar lemoandes and resumed my steady diet of fast food.

Second, I read the Zone diet book and re-read the Dr. Abravanel's Body Type Diet book, which had some good specific suggestions on foods that I liked/craved that were good for me. Also, the Zone diet referenced Dr. Sears' work with the Stanford swim team in '92, which made a special emotional appeal to my swimming background and knowledge of how the team performed and had success at Barcelona '92.

The gist of these was that I needed to control my sugar consumption. Though I never thought of myself as a sugar junkie, I realized that my soda consumption and lots of my sandwich/pizza foods were sugar-y in the form of bread. While I'm not an Atkins fanatic, I did cut back on pizza (only 2x since I started in March) and SATCo (a handful of times but restricted to chicken soft tacos mostly) and general unnecessary carbs. I basically said, could I eat something else that might be a carb that would be better? Often that would be chickpeas, black beans, or baked beans (sans brown sugar).

But the big insights were the following: from Abravanel's book, I found that I'm a "thyroid" body type, which means I am a sugar addict, which means that I had to cut out for some time (though I've since reintroduced) fruits and white breads and such. In its place I got to eat eggs, which I love. I can eat scrambled eggs and omelettes all day. Second, I figured out that I could be full eating a large salad if I added grated hard boiled eggs and chickpeas and used vinaigrette instead of French dressing. I'd eat sometimes a pound of salad, lunch and/or dinner. I was full and saw results quickly. Now, I mix in the spinach chicken salad at Wendy's and/or the small chili, and they have the diet Minute Maid lemonade, which I hold to a medium.

The other big Abravenel insight was the importance of meal spacing. For my body type I needed to space my meals out consistently. In the initial phases it was breakfast, wait 4 hrs, lunch, wait 6 hrs, dinner. After a month, it was 5 hrs between breakfast and lunch. What I noticed is that I was truly hungry when I went to eat, but that it wasn't awful. I could usually distract myself from the hunger by either switching tasks or finding something on the Internet or writing notes to myself about stuff I needed to do.

I found the egg routine a bit cumbersome because I still hate cleaning. Now, my basic routine is to drink 16 oz of a protein-y shake (a lower sugar version of SlimFast). Some would argue the regular milk consumption is playing a role. Then, I get the chili or salad for lunch. Every couple weeks I sneak in a trip to the Chinese buffet, but I make sure to load up on veggies and sushi before attacking a General's chicken, and usually that I restrict to 4 pieces/chunks, and one egg roll. For dinner, I'm basically doing a combination of salads, soups, and fruit. I found that I dislike eating fruit by hand, but if I cut it up into fruit salads, I'll eat pretty well. Ditto for vegetables, but I do better with it in soup form. On top of that, I'm taking a multivitamin at night, plus all the exercise I've described before. I will go to DQ or get (or make) ice cream every 3-4 weeks, too.

On the whole, I'm finding (a) I sleep better at night and wake up less groggy, (b) while not necessarily happier or more energetic I'm at least a little more prideful in myself, and (c) that I'm not truly starving or feeling deprived. I think the big thing I realized is that, although I'm a grown up and have the money to eat out all the time and can treat myself to foods I really like, I don't need to do that every single damned day at every single damned meal.

So, that's my story.

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