I eat too much. I know this. Since college, when I stopped swimming competitively, my weight has been a battle. The way I’ve trimmed weight over the years is by working out, typically very hard and/or very long. I might change my eating habits for a short time, but it rarely lasts. It’s safe to say that I have unhealthy urges when it comes to food, and a poor track record of resisting them.
Over the past few years, we’ve been eating healthier. I eat a lot less red meat than ever before. I tend to eat a lot of high-fiber foods like brown rice and black beans. I still dislike salads, but in general, I eat better. And then all too frequently, I’ll break down and eat a giant hamburger or a huge chunk of delicious cheese. And before races, I kinda live on peanut butter and jelly (good peanut butter on fantastic bread, but still — a lot of fat and sugar). PBJs are also my preferred post-ride meal, but I’ve been trying to limit those to just a sandwich. No chips or anything else.
It’s been working, too. I’ve been training more, certainly, and I’ve lost probably 25 pounds over the past few years. Last year, I was super excited that I’d made it down to 200 lbs. This year, I’ve been consistently at 190 lbs. I am hoping to drop down another 5-10 lbs. over the next few months. My friend Chris and I had this “race to 175.” I’m pretty sure neither of us got very far with it. I dropped down as low as 185, but then put a few pounds back on. Right now I’m hovering around 188.
One of the big problems I have is that I get a little panicky when I get even the least bit hungry. It reminds me of this bit in the Hunger Games where Katniss talks about kids from the richer provinces being bad at the Hunger Games because they’re not accustomed to being without food or water. That’s me. I am the fat American.
And so here is my New Thing: I am trying to change my comfort with being hungry in the same way I try to change my comfort with a high heart-rate in training: With intervals. Hunger intervals. My goal is to get more and more comfortable with being hungry. When I notice the hunger, I try to let it ride for a while. I mean, it’s not really that hard. It’s willpower, certainly. But also just getting accustomed to it. I’m not going to die from being hungry.
My biggest worries revolve around what happens when my willpower snaps, and when I overeat in reaction to being hungry. I’m trying to remind myself constantly about those problems: eat a little, see how you feel, eat a little more, drink some water, relax, you’re not going to starve.
One of the reasons I like this plan is that it’s an active way to do a non-action. What I mean is that you can’t eat your way thin. You have to not eat your way thin. A non-action is tough. But by flipping it around in my head and making it an action — can you do a two-hour hunger interval? — it’s thing. I’m actively dieting. It’s a subtle change, but it’s one that appeals to my inner busy-body.
We’ll see how it goes. I have a few weeks until racing starts for ‘cross. I know that once I start racing, it’ll be important to stay well fed so I don’t get too weak. But I also hope that knocking a few pounds off beforehand will turn into permanent weight-loss.
And if nothing else, it’ll train me eat less.