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Experiment Log No. 4 – Defensive Eating

Defensive eating

This experiment is a 30-day exercise in responsible eating.

It commenced on schedule September 3, 2009 and will conclude October 2, 2009.

These are the rules I’ll be following:

1) Eat whatever you like. There are no foods to be avoided outright, except foods that make you feel sick. Listen to your body.

2) Never eat until you are full. Always stop at a moment when you still want to eat a bit more. This is the most important part of the diet. Again, listen to what the body says, not the mind.

3) Eat only when you are hungry. Never out of comfort or boredom. Do not eat within sixty minutes of the last time you stopped eating.

4) Water is the only drink. You may still consume any liquids you want, but they are to be treated like food.

Basically what I’m doing is this: never allow eating to leave me feeling less than good. For me that means throwing the “three square meals” tradition out the window. I’ve found I get hungry in the five hour stretches between breakfast and lunch and supper, unless I eat too much at those meals. These new rules will have me spread out the food intake, so that I never take in enough food to make me sluggish.

The goals are:

  • To develop the habit of stopping eating while I still want to eat more
  • To lose the excess fat I’ve put on

The Progress Log

Day 1 – 9/3/09

Went very well, all in all. I enjoyed my meals more than usual, mainly because I paid more attention to them. I ate less and never ate too much. Dinner was perfect, I took modest portions of each and ate them slowly. I felt very grateful to be there, and I can see this new eating style fitting me quite well.

Day 5 – 9/7/09

I’ve found it quite natural and easy to eat in this way, and I’ve been doing well. I did use one of my three freebies yesterday though, but I’m proud to say I didn’t totally overdo it. One of my friends had a barbecue, and though I didn’t eat to the point of sluggishness, I was constantly snacking without waiting an hour in between.

I enjoy my meals as much as I ever did, and I always feel good when I’m finished. It won’t be difficult to continue after the experiment is over.

I have finally addressed my dilemma with my exercise. The problem was that I was constantly trying to outdo myself with each workout, which meant that each workout promised to be more grueling than the last. Eventually I missed a couple, and dread getting back into the swing, because I know I’m only making it more difficult.

That kind of pace is something I know I can sustain for a limited timeframe, but I’m not prepared to approach it that way for my last month in Canada. For the last month I’ve worked out very intermittently and that makes me feel crappy. So I’ve devised a system that will make sure I do some work every day without triggering that “marching to the gallows” feeling I’ve had recently when I think about working out.

I set a bare minimum of 100 solid-form swings every day, except that I can replace any number of them with reps of other exercises.

Pushups (with feet on a chair) count as 1.5 swings.

Pullups count as 5.

Turkish get ups count as 6.

This way I can begin my workout with whatever I feel like doing, and continue with something else if I’m not feeling a particular exercise that day. I can even continue to rack up “points” throughout the day if I want to push myself more. But 100 minimum. It’s not the most efficient way to work out, but it’s a temporary arrangement and it gives me the best possible chance for being active every day.

100 is never difficult to do, and many days I’m sure I’ll shoot for more, but giving myself that low bar will ensure that I have no excuse for skipping it. In the mean time I’m practicing bodyweight movements for when I’m on the road. So far so good.

Day 6 – 9/8/09

Eating was excellent today, I felt light all day and did not consume too many calories. Instead of bringing a lunch to work I bring a few pieces of fruit, two pieces of bread, and small amounts of leftovers to eat throughout the day. I usually eat at 6:30, 9:30, 12:00, 3:00 and 5:30 and often 8:00.

My new exercise arrangement worked well. It was actually tougher than I thought, as I’m still readjusting to daily exercise. I did a combo of Swings, decline pushups and pullups, for a bare-bones total of 105.

Day 10 – 9/13/09

I’ve noticed one sticking point with eating. If I end up with too big a portion size, I end up having to throw out food. I always figured it was more of a waste to eat the extra food than to throw it out, but I still have guilt about throwing food away. When I can I save it for later, but most often it is a very small amount and wouldn’t be too appetizing to eat at another time. This is something I’ll have to get over.

Exercise has gone well. For the past two days I did my quota, but yesterday it was especially grueling. I jumped from TGUs to swings to decline pushups, and man I fought to get to 100. It’s hard to do pushups when your heart is pounding from swings.

Day 18 – 9/20/09

I’ve become quite accustomed to eating less, and more often, but I think so far those two adjustments may be canceling each other out in terms of total calories consumed. Caloric restriction was part of the reason for doing this. When you eat five or six times a day, there are a lot more chances to consume extra calories.

I’m currently trying to reconcile this. At first I pictured some of the meals as being very small (like an apple and a few nuts) but I find my stomach is rumbling not more than an hour later. So I’ve upped the portions and now I find I’m no longer losing bodyfat.

Over the 18 days since I’ve started, my intentions have become a little dulled due to habituation. I will remind myself that caloric restriction is part of the deal, and I won’t worry too much about eating the moment my stomach feels empty.

Day 27 – 9/29/09

I’m nearing the end, and have lost some bodyfat. I’ve noticed a bit of a slackening in my intentions when I sit down to eat. I do think of mealtimes differently now — with gratitude and care — and I don’t think that will go away any time soon.

But I have not been as aggressive as I could be. There are some “in-between” situations where I wasn’t sure what to do, such as unhealthy snacks offered when I may not get a chance for a timely meal. I don’t have a hard-and-fast set of rules to deal with all contingencies, so I have to remember my caloric-restriction mandate in order to know what to do.

Overall I feel my relationship to food transforming. I enjoy meals more and I eat less, and I rarely feel that “I ate too much” feeling.


The experiment is over! Check out my findings: View Final Report.


Photo by Worldislandinfo.com

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jesper September 4, 2009 at 6:20 pm


Great post. Looking forward to watch you progress.


{ Reply }

David September 5, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Thanks jesper.

{ Reply }

Maria September 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm

You picked a good season for your food experiment. Plenty of variety being harvested. Would you say that you prepare/cook most of your food or do you buy it prepared? I don’t necessarily mean prepackaged, just prepared by someone else. I’m curious because cooking/food shopping is a source of pleasure for me as much as eating is.
I will enjoy what you share here.

{ Reply }

David September 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Hi Maria. I prepare almost all my food myself. I keep it fairly simple. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, tofu, bread, seeds and nuts. I try to avoid processed foods but I do use some prepared sauces and condiments.

{ Reply }

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