I had anticipated trying to eat very cleanly on this trip, especially considering that all four of us were in the process of losing weight. I thought that if I wanted something "bad," like a real New York City bagel, I'd need to sneak out and get it when I was alone. I didn't want to tempt anyone else and I was also worried that I'd have 3 sets of eyes appraising everything I ate and calculating calorie contents.
It didn't quite turn out that way. First of all, the four of us fell in together like old friends right away, and I didn't feel a sense of judgement or competition between us. We were all in this together. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted on this trip. I wrote everything down but didn't count my points. But we traveled a lot on foot, and there was also just too much to do for me to be searching out cookies and ice cream. I ate when I was hungry, didn't snack, stopped eating when I was satisfied, but chose whatever food sounded most appealing to me, including potato pancakes. I ate, in short, like a normal person who isn't obsessed with food. I didn't ever order dessert, not because I was afraid of looking bad, but because I really didn't want it.
Oddly enough, this is all completely in line with The Four Day Win by Martha Beck, a book I read about in Oprah's magazine and wanted to bring with me on the plane. I finally found a copy when I got home. The premise of the book is that attempts to strictly control our overeating by willpower and denial set up weight loss as a battle between our inner Dictator (rational mind) and our inner Wild Child (animal instincts) and only prompt more overeating when the Wild Child inevitably wins. Instead, to effectively lose weight for good, we have to befriend our bodies and reconnect with the world beyond our dinner plate.
Forcing your rational self's imperatives on your physiology in this way sends a clear message to your body that you don't understand it, don't like it, and fully intend to hurt and deprive it. How could any animal respond to this without panicky resistance? Your instincts fight back by "forgetting" you're on a diet, sneaking Skittles out of the candy bowl on your secretary's desk, ordering secret pizzas...When we're locked in the war between our Dictator and Wild Child selves, the prevailing mental state is anxiety...In biological terms, the opposite of getting fat is getting connected, and the antidote to being out of control isn't being in control, but being in love -- or, if you want to emphasize the mystical aspect of it, Being in Love, abiding in pure compassion.A lot of this will sound very familiar to those in Twelve Step programs, especially the idea that willpower doesn't work.
Beck also suggests that a four-day variation from our routine can be enough to jumpstart weight loss. I came home from my trip feeling thinner, and my bathroom scale confirmed it this morning with an unofficial weight of 159.0. I will have to see if the Weight Watchers scale backs that up, but I know I lost a little bit on this trip, which with my weather delay lasted, oddly enough, exactly four days.
There is a story on the Oprah website about using the philosophies in The Four Day Win for weight loss if you'd like a little more of a preview. I know we've all been innundated with diet books, but this one feels a little different to me. It doesn't propose a plan, just strategies for how to stay on any healthy plan (Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, South Beach, The Potato Pancake Diet, etc.) that you choose. After all, we all know that the secret to losing weight is, say it with me, "Eat Less and Move More." But this book actually tells us how we might get to a place where we can actually follow that deceptively simple advice.