Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Ten Percent Challenge

Sometime last year I was talking with my friend Chazz Vader and he said that some people in his family had decided on a ten percent weight loss challenge. They were going to try to lose ten percent of their weight to get healthier. I was somewhere between 210 and 215 at the time and I thought that was pretty much out of the question for me.

Fast forward to now. This morning I was actually at 188, down more than ten percent from 210. How did I do it? During the summer I exercised; running, biking, swimming, and competing in a triathlon. That was pretty easy, as I enjoy getting out to exercise once in a while.

More recently I did something far more difficult. I stopped overeating and stopped eating junk food. Mostly. This was partly possible for me because I am reading the book The End Of Overeating. The book is very scientific, but I can sum it up, or at least what I've taken away from it so far, fairly briefly.

In the last thirty years food has become "hyperpalatable". In other words, it tastes better, combining sugar, fat, and salt in ever more creative ways. This heavily processed food has become easier to eat, requiring less chewing than any naturally occurring foods. This interacts with our body's reward systems in such a way that we can eat a lot of food without hardly even noticing it.

The takeaway for me is sort of a Buddhist thing. I can experience desire for food and then pinpoint the sources and reasons for that desire without actually having to fulfill the desire by eating. When I sit down at a restaurant, especially if someone else is paying, and I haven't eaten for a while, I am tempted to order, for example, Chicken Wings, Diet Coke, Burger, Fries. In the past, I have done this and by the end of the meal I've eaten a lot of hyperpalatable food - far more than it would have taken to end my hunger. I've often felt bloated and slow.

How Does That Play Out In Real Life?

Recently I went to a chain restaurant that serves exactly the brand of hyperpalatable, huge portion food that the book The End Of Overeating speaks of. Everything is cheesy, saucy, fried twice, and the portion served is way, way more than a person needs to eat. Plus, free chips and salsa! What did I do?

I didn't have ANY chips or salsa. I ordered a relatively modest burrito (It was the smallest meal at the table) and ate it. I drank water instead of pop or beer. I ate slowly enough that the parts of my body that register satisfaction would have time to do so before I had eaten more food than I needed. I didn't finish everyone else's leftover food. I let them throw it away or take it home. It seems so simple when I spell it out like this, but it was pretty much a completely new approach to food for me.

It was as though I could see more clearly than I'd ever seen before. All the cues for me to overeat were there and I could see them and appreciate them instead of thoughtlessly responding to them. In that sense it was very Buddhist as I understand that devotion.

A Superflous Headline To Further Break Up This Long Post

On an average day I drink no soda, no caffeiene, and no alcohol. I probably eat about ten percent less than I used to. We'll see what the holidays do to all this, but I feel great so far. I feel more agile and less sluggish. It's hard to believe I actually lost ten percent, but there it is.

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