January 6 – Caution: being healthy can be habit forming

“Man is what he eats.” – Ludwig Feuerbach

The other day we were having a casual family discussion about food habits. My wife is one of the best cooks whose food I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. She can re-create almost any dish she eats, and adapts things she learns from cooking shows, cook books, and websites to make things that are just delicious. My son is developing talents in the kitchen as well, and has been sharing his learning with her. It is interesting to listen to the two of them discuss the finer points of emulsification.

The particular discussion was about variety in the diet. We were talking about how most people like to have a little something different on a regular basis in their diet, so they don’t get bored. At some point in the conversation I chimed in and said that I could eat the same 3 meals on just about every day and be very happy. This was met with a bit of skepticism until I pointed out that during the week, I essentially eat the same breakfast and lunch every day:

Breakfast

  • A 100 calorie sandwich round
  • 2 oz of peanut butter
  • 1 Banana

Lunch

  • A 100 calorie sandwich round
  • 2 oz of ham
  • Mustard
  • 2 slices of dill pickle
  • 3 or 4 pieces of fresh, in-season fruit
  • Occasionally cut up carrots and/or celery
  • (The last two are also my in-day snacks at work)

I can eat that same breakfast / lunch combination every day of the week. I don’t suffer from boredom over it in the least. And the beauty of it is, I can just about assemble it in my sleep as the coffee is brewing in the morning, and still have time to empty the dishwasher on most days.

As the conversation went on I said I could probably come up with a dinner plan that could be repeated nearly every week day and I wouldn’t get bored with it either. There was some surprise by others, but I am confident it would be true.

When I was growing up, I was raised by a single mother (my father died when I was 6 years old). She worked in a retail job that had her on her feet all day. When she got home, she thrived on having a routine in the kitchen (and the rest of the house for that matter). We had a limited menu that was very repeatable. The specifics aren’t important, but the idea was that if it was Monday, there were only about 3 or 4 possible things we were eating. Tuesday was often leftovers from Sunday, and so on.

Similar to today, my breakfast / lunch routine was extremely repeatable. I could go the majority of an entire school year with the same brown-bag lunch every day, assembled by my mom while I ate raisin bran.

As I consider this quote today, I wonder…if I am what I eat, then am I the ultimate creature of habit? When I have been successful at weight loss, it has been because I have gotten into strong habits. This week started out in the right direction, but a series of unexpected events has had me eating restaurant food the last 3 nights, and over-sleeping my morning work outs. I think I have made good choices in terms of the menu selections, but the sodium levels are probably keeping me from meaningful progress. As a result, the scale is going to wait until Monday. Next week I will return to my Friday weigh in routine.

While driving with my son last night, I passed a couple of fast food joints that I used to frequent. I was telling him that I would go to them at lunch time from work, order a ridiculous amount of food, and eat it in my car. He asked if that was because I was ashamed of my food choices, both in terms of content and quantity. I said that was likely a factor, along with other things. The interesting point is that I had a routine from which I seldom varied. As I was gaining weight before 2014, I was the same creature of habit that I am today.

As I sit here this morning, the most important point I am taking away is that my success is governed by how well I stay in healthy routines. That applies to my eating choices, my daily walking, frequency of gym trips, and so on.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day…If I am what I eat, then I am a mass of habits. The more virtuous the mass, the healthier I am.

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