I have been losing weight as of late – and am wondering why.
In particular, I’m wondering this because of my thinking about writing a book on the topic of weight loss. One thing I’d like to avoid is creating another me-too book that is more of the same. Diet books have been done to death. Low carb books have been done to death. And a lot of these books are good.
So why do so many people fail on them?
I REFUSE to accept that it is a matter of willpower alone. I am as flawed as they come (just ask my wife). There needs to be some effort put to anything new that we might do, but it’s not just a combination of willpower and a diet plan.
There’s something more.
One notion that I am entertaining is that there is a third item – beyond a diet plan that works, and beyond the necessary level of effort, that needs to be respected and not ignored in this. Let’s call this ‘the fed’.
We’ve all lived the scene where in the morning we commit to a diet, and by the afternoon we’ve broken it. What gives? Are we so weak we can’t make it through the day?
I think it’s more complicated than that.
Without getting into psychobabble here, let’s entertain for the sake of argument, that there are two of us going on the diet: the feeder and the fed. You – the person reading this – is the feeder. You choose the diet, the day, and the food.
This other part of you is the Fed – that person sitting with a bib on at the table in front of an empty plate, knife and fork in hand, eagerly waiting for the meal.
You, the feeder, give them some tiny portion, or some over-processed, fake food from the microwave and chirp: “Eat it slowly. Chew your food. Next meal in 4 hours.”
You’ve become your own little restaurant in your head, the waiter and the patron. And you, the waiter, serves up crap.
Problem is, this patron is also you – and they can’t go to another restaurant.
So what does the patron do?
They sneak to the fridge and eat cold leftovers standing up in front of it. And they eat more than they need to just out of spite.
Now – what if you changed the dynamic a bit, and instead determined what your patron likes to eat that still fits within your diet plan – perhaps not perfectly, but OK. And also suppose that some of these meals, and impromptu snacks contained food that is most definitely NOT allowed on the diet plan. You would slow down your weight loss for sure – maybe even gain a bit – but you’d have a less frustrated patron at the restaurant in your head.
And what if you did this without guilt or shame, and didn’t waste your time with awful ‘diet versions’ of the things that you love?
I lost 8.2 lbs in the month of August. Not spectacular, but not shabby, either. I’ve lost more in September, though at the beginning of the month I gained a bit. That came off, and a little more. The trend is steadily downward though.
What were some of the things I ate in August? Looking at my chart, during that month I had:
French fries twice, Chicken nuggets twice, 2 peaches, a McDonald’s hamburger, some cake 10 times, fried chicken 3 times, cheese puffs twice, dumplings 3 times, and ice cream once.
Did these things cause my weight to go up? Of course they did! But I would balance this out with my diet foods, which I ate the majority of the time.
What I’ve found is that if you practice this balancing act, you can find a point where you ‘have your cake and eat it too’, do it guilt-free, and when you do binge, it isn’t something to be guilty about – it just means you weren’t properly feeding your patron.
You take it as a lesson of the extent you can push yourself, respect it, and learn to feed this other part of you that makes the both of you more happy.
And what I have personally found is that when eating the things not in my diet plan I can stop myself earlier.
So how about removing the notion of ‘cheating’ entirely from your diet? There is no longer any shame, any guilt to deal with. You apply some effort – yes – and you listen to your body and sometimes give in to its needs. You feed it well with high quality whole foods – not processed crap – that are filling and satisfying and fit your plan. You respect the fact that it gets bored so you have a variety of these.
And you listen to your inner patron when it grabs you by the throat and tells you: “I’ve been good for a while and the scale has been kind. Now, if I don’t get a reasonably-sized slice of cake, somebody is going to get hurt!”
Something of this sort has been working out for me.
What do you think of this?
8 thoughts on “The Feeder and the Fed: Losing Weight and Cheating Without Cheating”
First of all, congratulations to your continual weight loss ! I have heard many times one should listen to the body’s call but in reality it is so difficult to achieve. I am so used to low carb that I rarely have the desire for sweet things or other carbs. When there are those cakes or bread fresh from the bakery, I kind of emotionally repel them. What I do when the body is asking for more food is I eat more low carb stuff (that I like of course). But I think the fact that it is becoming more difficult than in the past to satisfy this voice with the “usual” food is perhaps saying that it needs other stuff, as you said. I have made effort in the past few weeks to incorporate a bit more carbs by eating fermented soy (called natto here in Japan). I can feel that the body is healthier (I feel more strength), though without any weight loss. When i ate a lot and still do not feel satisfied, I now realise it might be I am going too low in carbs. I think when one robs the body of a whole macro nutrient class, the body just react by grabbing fiercely what it can get hold of or stimulate appetite. I wish I can get a few pounds off soon.
Irving, I think we’re thinking along the same lines here. My hypothesis is that there should be no foods we ’emotionally repel’ – only quantities. I think eating healthy, for someone used to scarfing down junk all their lives, sometimes means sacrificing some short-term weight loss to indulge these desires that we spent a lifetime feeding. Is this playing with fire? Maybe. Is it perhaps an advanced technique? Maybe. I’ve been doing this for 8 years. Maybe this isn’t for the low carb newbie, but for the low carb long-distance runner – perhaps it works – it seems to be working for me right now.
Tim Ferris has developed some interesting techniques to achieve weight loss.
I’ve read a blog post of his where he briefly describes the plan. I thought it intriguing, but didn’t investigate it further.
Have any opinions on this book you’d like to share?
I only read parts of the book. My impression is, he’s thorough. Didn’t find anything to disagree with.
Wonderful! I have been doing somewhat that same things with the same results.
I have more energy to exercise and do not feel so crappy and I think you may have just put into words what is happening.
I like your idea. I subscribe to the notion that there is no good or bad food, rather its what you do with the food and the qauntity you consume that is less than good. There are some bad foods I suppose as in sugar laden pop drinks. I have been low carb for over a year now. I still indulge in the ‘wrong’ carbs from time to time and find it difficult to resist the smell of fresh baked bread, bagels, muffins, etc. I do not have the ‘willpower’ to stop when I start. If I could eat one square of chocolate I wouldn’t be fat; if I could eat one donut hole I wouldn’t be fat. For me, personally, its all or nothing. I can in public control myself and have a bite of cake, bread, etc but if on my own in private I can eat the whole ‘whatever’ and lick the platter clean. If you have the strength of will to eat a piece of cake now and again or any tempting food now and again and walk away when done, I take my hat off to you.
I do enjoy your blog posts; you say what I’m thinking. I am new to your site and have lots more to read and catch up on. Good luck on your continued journey to the ideal weight and health.
The fact is: I am the exact same way. I eat certain things – certain trigger foods – it’s it’s ‘off to the races’. It’s been like this for my entire life, including my 8+ years on low carb.
Except for the past few months.
I’m still trying to figure out ‘why’ it’s changed in the past few months. Believe me – it’s not like I’ve found some sudden reserve of willpower.
This post is my hypothesis. I need to test it more and see if it stands the test of time. Right now I’m at a lower weight than I’ve been in over a year – let’s see if that keeps up.