Sunday, April 14, 2019

Book: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

One of the first books I remember reading about food and eating was Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. It was very impactful to me because it is a simple read, and presents a very simple formula for eating healthy:

1. Eat Food
• Real, whole, unprocessed foods in their whole/raw state or ingredients that were whole foods
• 5 or fewer ingredients
• No additives, sugar, or sweeteners

2. Mostly Plants
• Especially leaves
• Meat is a special occasion. When eating meat, eat meat that has itself eaten well (grass-fed)
• Fermented foods: Yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, etc.
• Whole grains only (whole grain bread, brown rice). No white foods.
• Limit saturated fats (whole dairy, fatty meats)

3. Not Too Much
• Intermittent fasting
• Calorie restriction
• Stop eating before full
• Eat only when hungry, not bored
• Eat slowly
• Eat lots of first bites, but not many second bites. Most of the flavor/enjoyment comes in the first bite.
• Eat meals - Don't eat in between meals
• Limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods: fruits, vegetables, and nuts
• Treat treats as treats (special occasions)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What If Your Trigger is Time, Not Food?

What if your binge eating trigger is not a specific food, but an event, like time, or a feeling, like stress?

I have read that people who aren't food-specific make their limits time-specific, to eat three meals per day, where each meal has a start and a stop point, and you do not eat other than during those three eating periods. Coming up with some rule to follow (whatever the rule was), was important because I can operate well with rules ... as long as I know what they are and they're targeting my problem.

Focus on the time you are usually triggered. When you get triggered, what can you do to not eat?  Go to bed early and read a book (so you stay out of the kitchen); promise yourself to just get through ONE evening without bingeing... just ONE. Focusing on how proud you'll feel tomorrow morning to have gotten through ONE evening. Forget points, weight, etc... your mission is to go to sleep tonight proud of yourself, and tomorrow when you get up you can eat all the healthy stuff you want.

Take a compulsive urge hour by hour and just get through one day. Forget about the bigger issues. You have to take it one tiny step at a time. I even set a timer on my watch or phone to look at and say "hey, I've made it 8 hours since my last binge... good job me... let's keep that streak going."

Your accomplishment at first is not that you've lost weight, but is "I haven't binged for ___ hours."

Pre-plan what you're going to do today, and visualize what gets you to success. If what you did yesterday worked well, do that again. But you have xx hours of success behind you ... you're just going to keep that going through today. Be aggressive against anything that might break your rules ... if you feel a temptation, be aggressive against it and tell it "nope, not today. maybe some other day, but not today..... I'm doing this for me!"

Get through 1 hour of not eating your trigger/binge foods. Then 2 hours. Count them. 12 hours. 24 hours!! 2 days.... you'll have cravings and urges. Eat everything else! Not the binge foods. A week will feel like an eternity. Just take it one day at a time and celebrate each day. I literally count the hours and days and pat myself on the back.

Monday, April 8, 2019


My experience with physical fitness came later than for many, since I was successful in completely avoiding gym class in high school. When I was in graduate school, I needed something to help me deal with stress, so I would jog around the block a few times. That was about it. 

Running (2000-2001)

When I started working full time, I kept up the jogging, sometimes on a treadmill at work. That led to me running several 10k races from 2002 to 2005.

Strength Training (2001-2002)

One day when I was on my way to the gym at work, I ran into Lance. Literally - he knocked me down. He apologized profusely. I asked him to teach me about weight lifting in the gym, and he did. He explained the importance of doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps, to failure. And taught me about major muscle groups: Chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs. He showed me how to use the bench press for chest exercises, etc. Now I was able to mix some basic strength training into my workout program. I used the dumbbells and exercise machines at work regularly.

Gym (2002-2009)

In 2002 I changed jobs to a company without an adequate gym in the building, so I joined 24 Hour Fitness. I paid around $950 for a "lifetime" membership (annual renewal is $50 per year). That turned out to be a good deal - over the past many years I've paid very little per year for my gym membership. The gym gave me access to a greater diversity of equipment. I developed a routine, and changed it every 6 months or so to keep things interesting. But it was built around the same framework of repeating sets of reps of fundamentally the same exercises.

P90X (2009-2012)

In 2009, I had abdominal surgery and had to discontinue my gym-based workout regime for several months. That winter, I was laying in a bed in a hotel room in North Lake Tahoe watching infomercials at midnight, and I saw an infomercial for P90X. I have never bought anything before based on an infomercial. But a friend had told me about P90X, so when I got home, I bought it on for $140.

The box came a few days later: A nutritional booklet, an exercise guide, and about 12 DVD's, each with its own exercise program. The exercise guide contains a detailed, day-by-day, 90 day plan. The nutrition plan is equally detailed, but can be summarized as "low carb, low calorie, high protein". The only equipment needed are a pull-up bar (i.e., one you can put in your doorway easily), and a simple set of weights.

I started P90X in March of 2010 with a pull-up bar installed in my closet, and a set of BowFlex adjustable weights.

I thought my gym routine had been pretty good, but P90X was transformational. I completed the 90 day P90X program, losing 10 pounds, decreasing body fat by 5%, and increasing lean muscle mass.

Many people choose to stop P90X at the end of the 90 day period. I understand that - it's hard! But this had become a much more efficient use of my exercise time than going to the gym. So I chose to continue with a modified form of P90X. I tracked my progress using a spreadsheet, and viewed it as a long-term commitment.

When I was doing P90X I kept a blog about it, which I've consolidated into one (somewhat hard-to-read) post.

5x5 (2012-2018)

In Spring of 2012, I was still doing P90X, but I had heavily modified the routines so that I would not get bored. Despite the modifications, I was quite bored. It had been two years, and change was needed.

One day I was surfing around on the internet and read How I Got Ripped at 500 Startups (and the follow-up Entrepreneur's Guide to Fat Loss). The simplicity and minimalism, combined with effectiveness, attracted me. I set about creating a new workout routine, and started tracking points on My routine was built around alternating days of "A" exercises and "B" exercises, three times a week:

Routine A: Squats, Bench, Pendlay, Chinups
Routine B: Squats, Shoulder Press, Deadlift, Chinups

No cardio. I just ate less.

Back to Cardio

In spring 2018 I participated in Bike To Work Day, and really enjoyed biking to work. Throughout 2018 I biked to work once a week, which is 30-40 miles round trip. It was great exercise, and I plan to do that again in 2019.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Give Yourself A Gift

This mindset helped motivate me:

You've been carrying this problem around with you for a long time, perhaps years. In my case it was literally decades. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, angst .... so many emotional issues. 

Think about how much "freer" you will feel if you have this problem off your back. Just not having to think about it every day, beating yourself up, freeing up your brain to focus on other more fun things, just not having to deal with it every waking moment.

Give that gift to yourself.  You are giving yourself that gift today. It's the best gift you can give yourself, better than any "thing".  Yes, the first day is tough. And the first week you might remember how "good" a binge feels. But remember how bad it feels after -- physically and emotionally. And remind yourself that you're giving this gift to yourself so that you don't have to carry this around in your brain any longer... and use that to get through one evening at a time. Use that time to read a book, or watch a movie ... something to distract yourself.  And once you get through a few days, it will get easier. Because you will recognize that you're freeing yourself of the baggage, and that's something only you can give yourself. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Dieting While On A Cruise

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered plenty of WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts. Below are some comments on how to approach a cruise while staying on WW.


When many people plan a cruise vacation, they think about the food: Buffets, piles of chocolates and cookies, unlimited ice cream, delicious steaks. And yes, many cruises offer all of that and more. Mindset is important: Are you really paying thousands of dollars to go on a trip for food? If so, cancel the trip and just go to your nearest buffet restaurant. Change your mindset so that your vacation is about experiences that do not involve food. The food is there to sustain you to give you energy to do the things you want to do, but this is not a "food destination" trip. You can absolutely continue to make healthy eating choices on a cruise ship, just as you would at home, and not lose any experience at all. If you see something delicious, don't deprive yourself, but do ask yourself: Is this special, or is this something I can get at home? Because if you can get it at home, it isn't worth the indulgence.

I am going to say something controversial here: I do not think the food on most cruise ships is exceptional. This is definitely true of the lower-end cruise lines (Carnival) and even the mid-range cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, NCL, etc.). Even on the Queen Mary II, I was completely unimpressed by the food offerings, compared to good restaurants I frequently eat at. Most of the food sits frozen on the ship for weeks. It is prepared in bulk. It is usually not made from fresh, expensive ingredients, the way a 5-star restaurant food would be.

When you get on the ship, board with the mindset that you are not there to eat. You are there for the experiences. Any food you pass over you can get at home (and probably better quality) if you really want it later.

  • Breakfast is served in both the cafeteria (buffet) and the sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria includes a lot of fruit and egg options. 
  • The sit-down restaurant usually includes fruit plates and omelettes.
  • Lunch is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
  • Dinner is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
  • Most people want to have dinner at the sit-down restaurant because it is a multi-course meal, usually fancier, and often seatted with other cruise guests. 
  • My tips for dinner is:
    (1) Pre-eat zero-point vegetables at the cafeteria if you need to, or eat low-point food at the cafeteria for a late night snack if you exercised portion control at dinner and are still hungry.
    (2) there is usually a lean protein dish offered (like chicken breast with steamed vegetables) at the restaurant menu, with a appetizer salad or broth soup, and a fruit plate for dessert.
  • You can ask your waiter to customize your dishes for things you don't want. 
  • Do not even think about eating the dinner rolls - they aren't that good and not worth the points.  
Specialty Restaurants
  • Cruise ships have specialty restaurants where you pay an additional fee for a formal; sit-down multi-course meal. These are often ethnic foods (Asian, Latin, etc.).  You can decide if they are worth the price and points, I think it is good to splurge once on a cruise to experience the specialty restaurants, but going for every dinner will not be point-friendly. 
  • Before you spend money (and calories/points) at a specialty restaurant, look at the menu and decide if this is really worth it. You may find that you have similar restaurants at home, and the restaurant on the ship is not really that special.
  • Most cruise ships have less formal specialty restaurants, like a hamburger and hot dog stand, or ice cream parlor.  You have access to these at home, there is no reason to indulge in this (unhealthy) food on vacation.
Snacks & Desserts
  • Fresh fruit is always available as a dessert option. Go for that, unless you pick one dessert to indulge in once. And then as yourself if it was worth it (the answer may be yes!).
  • Water, tea, and coffee is free on ships. Soda and alcohol costs money. You can buy an unlimited soda plan for a fixed price. Consider using the cruise as an opportunity to break soda habits and abstain. 

Monday, April 1, 2019


When I was a kid, my mom made trail mix for me as a snack. I had a container of it in my bedroom. She added peanut butter chips, and M&M's. I loved those parts. I also loved cookies, especially the Little Debbie cookies, Oatmeal Cream Pies, and Chocolate Cream Pies, and peanut butter chocolate bars. When she would buy Little Debbie snacks, I would binge eating them. When I slept over at friends' houses, I raided their cookie jar at 3am.

I remember on one occasion when I was about 11 years old, my mom and I were golfing at a country club we belonged to, and she commented that I would "have to be careful to not get a gut like my grandfather."

As an adult, on many occasions I have gone to a grocery store and bought a box of cookies. I would sit in the parking lot eating them. I could not wait to get home. I was ashamed to eat them. I could not stop myself from eating. At work functions where there was dessert, I have gone back to the dessert table for seconds and thirds. I've had a normal dinners with friends, and then stopped by Wendy's or McDonalds on the way home to get two cheeseburgers and a milkshake. I've stopped by Burger King and gotten a Whopper with cheese, a cheeseburger "side dish", chicken nuggets, and a milkshake, and then gone out to dinner. I've reclined the seat in my car to drive because I was uncomfortably bloated.

I've tried just about every diet. I've lost a lot of weight, and regained it, repeatedly.

The food I would eat in shame would satiate me. It would scratch some emotional itch that I had.

I don't know the origin of my binge eating disorder and sugar addiction. They definitely originated when I was a kid, because I have many memories of binge eating high-sugar foods as a kid. I have fewer memories of binge eating high-sugar foods when I was in high school, college, and graduate school. But the problem definitely resumed when I was an adult. The problem is most likely linked to other anxiety / depression / stress issues that I have. I'm not sure I can remedy one problem without causing another, but I must try.

Diets don't work for me because I lack the ability to control what I eat. If I count calories or points, I will simply lose control and binge eat. This results in feeling like a failure, and starts a downward cycle of binge eating, fasting, dieting, more binge eating, and feelings of guilt and despair.

Abstinence has attracted me because I am an abstainer, not a moderator. I can abstain from something, but I cannot moderate my eating. I can have no cookies, or all the cookies; I cannot just have one cookie.

I've tried abstinence in the past but I had trouble defining what I was abstaining from. I have to eat food, so I cannot abstain from food. Alcoholics have to drink liquids, but abstain from liquids with alcohol. I need to eat foods, but need to abstain from foods with sugar added.

My trigger food is definitely sugar. But it is probably any food that results in an insulin spike.