Right now I have the hiccups.  Nothing makes me want to shoot myself like hiccups.  One reason:  I like my coffee hot enough to scald, and when I have the hiccups, I don’t drink it, I wear it.  (My friends don’t call me Hot Pants for nothing.)  Not an auspicious beginning to the week.  Good think I’m not superstitious, other than when I feel like it.  (Touch wood, heh.)

The weekend started well:  last Friday I did all the laundry and ironing for the following week, and more than the usual maintenance housekeeping.  Running errands on Saturday was kept to a minimum.  Three movies were watched, and while two of them were terrible (and the other one sad,) the sitting together on the couch part was much appreciated.  The Emmys had some nice moments, too, but I bailed very early and did odd things while Honey decompressed.  (We both often succumb to Sunday Night Anxiety in anticipation of the week to come.)

Best of all, I managed to have a Cheat Day on my diet that did include junk food, but did NOT exceed my maximum calorie limit.  The dieting has been working well lately.  I had a satori that changed my outlook.

The backstory on all this:  portion control became a problem for me some time ago.  It’s true that I am an emotional eater, and have historically self-medicated with food.  (This came from my grandmother, who came up during the Depression:  unhappy girls get cookies to cheer them up, happy girls get cookies to celebrate, and we do not waste anything, food most of all.)  Food is a pleasure to prepare and consume.  It’s a reliable distraction from boredom and a soother of nerves. But quantity hasn’t always been am issue.

I went many long years without excess food, distracting myself with new men rather than old recipes, but I became happily monogamous a decade ago.  (No regrets on that score, but the hunt, with its emphasis on visual appraisal, kept me on an adrenaline high that was inimical to heavy eating, and the constant positive feedback of appreciative glances made dietary discipline easy.)  We also moved to a state where I was miserable, and I learned how to enjoy beer. Perfect storm!

Staying home with my honey, cooking big meals for him, and drinking a sort of alcoholic bread gravy was a big change from walking miles each day as part of my commute, dancing like a fiend three nights each week, and partaking only of choice and dainty viands (how I miss the roasted shiitake and kale with tamari from the City Market!)  Good hot coffee and TEA DAMMIT TEA used to be my meds, releasing my tension and hitting my reset button.  Living in Phoenix meant quality Mexican food and not walking ANYWHERE.  Market vegetables were wilted, filthy, and bug-ridden.  Months of triple-digit temperatures made hot beverages a joke.  Ice-cold beer and G&Ts were always in the medicine chest.

In a year, I nearly doubled my weight.  Some people use retail therapy after a hard day, overspending on unneeded things to work out their ya-yas, maxing out high-rate credit cards and spending as much to service the debt as to repay it.  I did that with food:  overeating food that was not necessary, maxing out my weight, and consistently eating in a way that maintained that excess without whittling it down.

So:  my satori.  When it comes to cash, I am Frugal Frannie.  I don’t have an emotional need to spend what’s in my pocket.  Why should I do that with food?  The idea of racking up high-interest debt to purchase unneeded junk is appalling to me.  Overconsumption of food creates the same burden, the same debt.  So I need to approach weight loss as I would paying off a maxed-out high-interest credit card, spending the minimum on basics and nothing on extras.  Rent, utilities, and other real needs correspond to pared-down calorie and basic nutrition requirements, but the entertainment budget, whether dollars or calories, has been 86’d until I’m out of the hole.

Here is what is working for me right now:

Reduced calories.  Some folks say that calorie counting is a bad way to lose weight, but to me, it’s counting my change.  Saving pennies turns them into dollars, and cutting calories adds up to lost pounds.  The reverse is true:  hidden fees can nickle and dime you to death, and even a few extra calories will cause weight gain.

Screw conventional wisdom, which says anything less than 1200 calories per day is dangerous to your health.  Among other flaws in their calculations, they assume all women are of average height, 64.5″, and base their math on that.  I am 61.75 inches tall, and even when I was at my fighting weight and doing aerobics thrice weekly,  I gained weight if I ate more than 1100 calories per day.  The results speak for themselves.  Are you going to believe math based on flawed assumptions, or your scale?

Purveyors of conventional wisdom also tend to be slender/healthy, which means their lives are bent on health maintenance rather than weight loss.  The perpetually overweight people who buy the CW are heartbroken because they do as they’re told and, FOR SOME REASON, can’t seem to lose weight.  I do not crave membership in either group.

Reduced carbs.  My activity level is good for my mechanical self, but the paltry calories I burn are insufficient to require extra food consumption; my machine’s battery certainly does not need to be charged with carbs.  If I ever become a racehorse, I’ll consider eating grain again, but for the foreseeable future, my sandwiches will have no bread.  Most of my ancestors lived on little oily fishes and big greasy ruminants (and the yogurt therefrom.)  Berries are fine, but to my body chemistry, tree fruit is just candy with vitamins:  a treat, not a regular feature.

Meal control.  Mandatory breakfast, large lunch, small dinner. Most meals are a lot of water, vegetables, some protein, and little of anything else.  Good thing I love salad and stir fry and clear soups.

Rule breaking must be within the rules. If I absolutely need some salty crunch, I will eat a pickle, or crack some sunflower seeds.  If I am feeling truly hungry and deprived, a boiled egg with curry powder or lots of paprika will fix it.  If I would dearly love a cocktail, a spritzer with bitters (or even an ounce of an amari) takes care of it.  And any rule breaking must not exceed the daily allowance, period.

Food journaling.  Every damn thing that goes in the pie hole, including vitamins, water, and breath mints, must be documented and parsed for its cost and contribution.

Thinking before I eat (patient self-assessment before reaching for food.)  In addition to the money=food satori, I’ve also realized that I eat when I’m thirsty; a glass of water solves the problem.  I eat when I’m too warm (spicy food makes me pop a sweat) and again, water fixes it.  I eat when my energy drops; a single minute of energetic activity primes the pump again (even lying down and getting up again three times will do the trick.)  I eat when I feel blue; listening to a cheerful song boosts my mood (singing it myself doesn’t work; I need the snares, strings, horns, and hi-hats.)  I eat when I’m bored, or to enrich other activities (reading, watching TV, etc.) — coffee, tea, and seltzer with bitters must replace snackage.  And caffeine must be a treat, not the norm.  It makes my face red.

So far, this is working.  I’ve lost ten pounds.  I will not stop.