A glossary of terms that proved helpful during my 2010 weight loss and in keeping it off since:
(Click on the link to see a post that elaborates on how I dealt with each problem. This, as with everything on this site, is a work in progress.)
Accelerant: Any sugary or high-carb food that makes me want to pick up my eating pace. Now if I eat something I consider an accelerant, I try to have a small amount followed by something that will slow me down, like a salad or a few baby carrots. It’s kind of like never working with an open flame unless you’ve got a fire extinguisher around.
The conquest: A mental state in which one cannot come in contact with a new dish or menu item without feeling compelled to personally sample it.
The cut-and-paste tool. A visualization trick that’s helped me spot creative ways to lighten up favorite foods by swapping out key ingredients that might not have occurred to me otherwise. Probably the best example is the time I pictured a big greasy plate of diner-style French fries dripping with ketchup. I “cut” the fries out of that picture and “pasted” in a similarly arranged heap of fried green pepper strips. Ordinarily it would never occur to me to dump ketchup on pepper strips — and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t find it very appealing. But the visualization process infused this offbeat snack with just enough of the original image’s sentimental appeal to make it palatable. Heck, I’d even go so far as to call it tasty.
Engine run-on: Eating that occurs after you thought you turned your mouth off.
Guilt goggles: When your sense of guilt about overeating causes you to magnify your perception of your transgression.
The lifeboat strategy: Treating each meal as if it were your last, tasting everything on the menu and continually adding one more bite as if you’re hoping to indefinitely postpone getting buckled into the electric chair. A terrible idea, unless you really are doing time on death row. (Click here for a look at what some of my “Normal People” interview subjects selected as their fantasy “Death Row Meals”).
Long-view lens: Stepping back from temptation by planning some point in the future when you can have a treat. (A good way to combat conquest tendencies.)
The Nash Gadget: A two-pronged defense mechanism I got from my interview with “the legendary Nash,” a guy who was rumored to be immune to culinary temptations but in fact just had an excellent set of willpower tools.
Particle power: Small foods that are meant to be eaten as a group or by the handful, such as M&Ms, French fries or chips. Be extremely cautious of their ability to gang up on you and blur your ability to perceive how much you’re actually eating.
Premature inhalation: Consuming the equivalent of a meal before you sit down to eat.
Scoreboard: A lot of people despise tracking their food intake because it feels too much like homework. If you view something as tedious, you’re not going to keep it up for long. If you think of your tracking system — whether it’s a phone app or a spiral notebook — as a scoreboard, then you’re changing the whole process into a game. It becomes easier to notice trends. Develop strategies. And you get better at it the more you play.
“Scream weight”: The number on the scale that you never want to see, that makes you finally take action. This comes from Dr. Barbara Berkeley’s book “Refuse to Regain.” (Note: It’s extremely important that you emit the right sort of scream when this number appears.)
Shop Vac Syndrome: A tendency to feel the need, whether consciously or unconsciously, to “clean up” whatever food happens to be lying around.