One of the cool things about a day in which you have an established meal template – that is, a set of meals that you always plan to eat on that day of the week – is that it’s much easier at the end of the day to know whether you had anything “extra.”
On Mondays, for instance, I usually have three eggs with spinach and spicy refried beans for breakfast, an 8-ounce bag of cashews for lunch and 2-4 ounces of cheese – sometimes with 4 ounces of red wine – for dinner.
One recent Monday I splurged a bit and added a big bowl of mixed berries and an apple to my lunch, then had a tablespoon of peanut butter for an afternoon snack. I wasn’t overly concerned about it or feeling guilty or anything — it was fruit and peanut butter, not cookies and candy — but I was very much aware that this was “extra food.”
That’s a huge difference from the days when I just mindlessly ate all day long. Or even after I lost weight, when I’d still have to watch (and make sure I documented) those sporadic bursts of mindless eating.
I still do that sometimes. But it almost never happens on a Monday. I look forward to that big bag of cashews the way I once looked forward to a quarter-pound with cheese “value meal.” If I ate a bunch of other crap on Mondays, then I’d feel compelled to abandon my cashews treat. Besides, I like how much “in control” I feel on Mondays.
After studying my dad’s eating habits pretty closely the last few years, trying to glean how he avoids weight gain, I’d say having a basic meal routine is one of his key secrets. He tends to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch most days, and when my parents eat dinner out at a restaurant, he tends to order the same thing most of the time – usually chicken.
He even eats the same “big meal” every week at his Rotary Club’s buffet lunch. Green beans, fish and mashed potatoes, if memory serves, sometimes with a piece of pie.
It may sound boring – and it does to me, frankly, because while I look forward to my Monday routine, I wouldn’t want every day to be Monday – but he’s very much aware if he deviates from his routine. (The only time that happens, as far as I can tell, is during Sunday dinners or on holidays or other special celebrations.)
If you”re interested, the 2011 interview I did with my dad on his eating habits can be found here: “How ‘Normal’ People Eat: The Captain Chicken Interview.”