So it turns out I really hate dietary clutter. For someone who used to eat all day long, who once couldn’t imagine being able to possibly keep track of every little thing that went in my mouth on any given day, this is an astonishing discovery.
But after 6 ½ years of tracking my eating and trying all kinds of dietary experiments, I can definitely say that I feel much more calm after a day when I can easily visualize what I’ve had to eat rather than consult a written document.
Specifically, what this means is that I prefer to eat fewer types of food OR fewer times during any given day. And what seems to work best is if I mix up that pattern. Sometimes I like eating two or three satisfying meals that form an appealing picture in my memory banks, unsullied by a bunch of random bites of even healthy food.
Other days, if I’m feeling like I want to EAT but am less concerned about quality, I’ll let myself eat when and as much as I like, but only from a very limited menu. Potato day, leftover from my experiments with the Martian Potato Diet, is really useful in this regard. I may eat frequently, or eat more quantity, but at the end of the day when I think about what I’ve had to eat, it’s simple: a pile of potatoes.
Tracking is still useful and important, because as I learned during my recent no-snacking vacation experiment, just because I’m eating only at mealtime doesn’t mean I’m not consuming too many calories. But those days when I’d proudly see how much I could eat for the fewest amount of Weight Watchers points, when a daily entry in my food notebook would be almost illegible because of all the scribbles? That no longer feels like a good thing. It makes me feel crowded.
And here’s the really weird thing: I kind of suspect that in the old days, even on a day during which I’d eaten a lot – which was probably like every single day – if at the end of the day I couldn’t easily visualize what I’d consumed, if it was just a hazy, blurry picture of random consumption, then maybe my mind didn’t register it as being a satisfactory experience, and therefore I was left feeling needy and dissatisfied. And in those days, especially, those were feelings I equated with hunger.
This isn’t to say I’ve suddenly gotten better at eating, or that I’ve finally taken off a few pounds I’ve been trying to lose for what feels like months now. It’s more of a psychological discovery, a pattern that should prove useful now that I can perceive it.