Skinny Daily Post


I do some of my best thinking while I’m running. Today I ran for almost an hour and a half, so I had a lot of time to ponder different things that have been on my mind. Since my eating choices have been rather ‘nonproductive’ the past three days, I decided that it would be helpful to stop obsessing about that, and start thinking about the good things I’m doing for myself and create a positive framework for my journey.

In my experience, food choices are critical to long-term weight management success. But when I feel myself ‘struggling’ with those choices and am in turmoil about it, I seem to do worse and worse. So I know that a part of what I need to do is be encouraging of myself and focus on what’s going right. A couple of interesting ideas came to mind.

Devin and I have a large, fancy, flat-screen TV. Nevertheless, we live in a hilly part of San Francisco that has literally no broadcast TV signal. Several years ago when we were both (briefly) out of work, we disconnected cable as an unnecessary expense. As a result, the only time that big, fancy TV is ever in use is if Devin has rented a DVD. Having watched approximately 1.4 zillion hours of television in my life, I was surprised at the extent to which I was able to forego having it at home. It is nice to watch movies from time to time, but I feel that my brain and my home life are somehow richer for NOT having television around. Its always nice to know we could subscribe to cable again any old time, but that we don’t ‘have to’ do it any time soon.

Similarly, I was thinking about my car. Its a very nice and fancy import, and a pleasure to drive, but lately the only time I ever use it is to move it from one side of the street to the other on street cleaning days. Now that I’m walking to work every day, I find it makes more sense to do other errands on foot or using public transit. Devin does the same. Its nice to have our car around for when we need it, but where we live its surprisingly easy to survive without driving everywhere.

When I think of those two scenarios, it suggests to me that maybe I can develop a similar relationship to the sweet foods in my life (that is, things like cookies, pastries, candy, bread, alcohol, etc.) These are things that I have consumed a lot of in the past, but am eating a bit less of at present. It has been a much more challenging to reduce their consumption than it was to forego TV and driving. Food has a stronger and more immediate appeal. But wouldn’t it be nice if I had the same mentality about food as I did about those things? How nice to have the belief that sweets are out there and available, but just aren’t necessarily a big part of my life at the moment.

I don’t ever plan on permanently giving up television, driving, or chocolate chip cookies. But if I can learn to consume all of these things in much SMALLER amounts than the past, how much healthier I would be! Its something to think about.

8 thoughts on “When is Less, More?

  1. holly says:

    Wonderful post. The connection between having less TV, driving, and junk food in our life goes even deeper: I feel like when I watch tv I am not an active participant in my time, that I am receiving but not interacting. Similarly, when I drive from place to place I am just trying to get somewhere but when I walk or bike I am experiencing the city by really seeing the people and shops and sights and smells I am travelling past. And, finally, when I eat junk food (any low quality food) I feel like I almost always end up ignoring my body’s signals that I what I am eating doesn’t make me feel good.

    So let’s all strive for a more interactive life in all ways: vision, motion, taste. 🙂

  2. london slimmer says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Holly’s post. My husband and I don’t have a TV or a car and, frankly, I couldn’t imagine having either. I AM lucky enough to live very centrally in a city with excellent public transport and lots of entertainment opportunities if you get bored being at home. If I watched TV, I wonder when I would have the time to write, read the novels I enjoy, dance, exercise, go to the cinema and spend time with friends. I’m sure both things have had a positive impact on my weight management. Now, I walk most places, meaning that without even trying or noticing I chalk up a good hour’s walking a day. I don’t always feel like ‘going for a walk’, but I do like getting quickly and cheaply from A to B on foot. I also manage to spend a couple of hours dancing three or four times a week and to get to the gym several times. This makes me feel so much better than TV and is, for me, incompatible with eating heavily. TV, by contrast, makes me very nibbly – I think because it bores me! These kinds of things, coupled with shopping at the farmer’s market, are the habits which make staying slim the easier option.

  3. Quinn says:

    If you have access to the New York Times, either online or in print, there’s a very good article in yesterday’s Style Magazine supplement regarding some of the newer books on eating too much and diet and all that craziness. By Holly Brubach, “The Right To Chew.”

    I liked this part:

    “Of the people in my immediate circle: Lisa has cut out carbohydrates, to keep her weight under control. Dan has eliminated wheat, because, he says, it makes him bloated. Michael has stopped drinking, to achieve “clarity.” Christine swore off dairy products after reading a book that blamed them for causing breast cancer. Lynn is seeing a nutritionist, who asked her whether there were any foods she craved. “Chocolate,” she said. He then banned chocolate from her diet, because, he explained, the food you love the most is the food that you’re allergic to. As for me, I figured I’d be thinner if I didn’t eat cheese. “Can you explain to me,” a bewildered Italian friend asked, “this American penchant for giving things up?”

    That denying oneself pleasure can be perversely gratifying is something we understand all too well. My European friends chalk it up to our Puritan heritage. In my case, a Calvinist upbringing picked up where the Puritans left off. Whether out of guilt or self-loathing, or both, I learned early on to deny myself whatever it was I longed for. A doughnut, or peanut butter, or a slice of toast was a small price to pay for the thrill of empowerment. Self-abnegation proved to be so addictive that by 17 I was anorexic, high on my capacity to override an urge as primal as hunger. Underlying this exercise is a suspicious, if not downright antagonistic, relationship with one’s self: the notion that, given free rein, permitted to follow our instincts, we would inevitably self-destruct. Which is where the bingeing comes in.

    Living in France and Italy, I came to the conclusion, however reluctantly, that though these all-or-nothing extremes aren’t peculiar to America (Leith is English, after all), America has in many ways proven the perfect incubator for them. The Land of Opportunity is, by extension, the Land of Unlimited Possibility, where the tradition of reinventing ourselves is practically written into the Constitution. We need to believe that life is a level playing field, despite blatant evidence to the contrary. The most average guy can be elected president. Celebrity and wealth are everybody’s birthright. Here, anything can happen, and our lives can change overnight. You can leave the past behind, move to another city, change your hair color, change your name and start all over. You could win the lottery. You could get discovered. Hope springs not only eternal but irrational. All mitigating traces of the past, reminding us of failure and decay, are wiped away. No wonder we think that we can get away with excess. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of our lives. It’s a clean slate every morning.

    Except, of course, that it’s not.”

    Yeah, I know that’s a large chunk of the article. But Holly really makes sense here, I think.

  4. carol says:

    Jonathan, so much of what goes wrong in weight reduction stems from the feeling that somehow, some way, we’re depriving ourselves when we don’t eat high-taste foods that are calorie-dense but nutrionally poor.

    Yours is an excellent way to re-frame that choice. Let the grocery store keep that food for me; it’s readily available if I want it. For now, I’m choosing not to store those foods in my home, and I’m able to eat those foods in limited quantity when I eat out.

    I’ve recently passed the hundred pound mark in my weight loss, thanks in part to the support I recieve here. I’m grateful to you, and Jane, and JuJu, and to all the subscribers here who comment so insightfully.

  5. Denise says:

    Jonathon, I lived in SF for many years. I didn’t own a car was always a healthy weight. I thought I was “naturally thin”. I found out other wise when I moved to the ‘burbs and got a car and started driving to the store, etc. Also started gaining weight and thought I was just getting older (ha!).

    When I lived in the city, I found it worked well to rent a car when I needed/wanted one for trips. MUCH less expensive. 😉

  6. Deirdre says:

    I lived for years without a car or a TV. Then I moved to the suburbs and acquired a car, a TV, and little kids with short legs who couldn’t walk far or fast. That’s when my weight went up. How obvious, but somehow I never made the connection!

  7. Josie says:

    Jonathan- As always…you’ve touched upon an issue I’ve been struggling with recently. I’ve been trying to understand why it is I feel so deprived all day (not so much of junk food, but of food in general). I eat ample, balanced meals, so I know I’m not physically hungry, but I still think about food ALOT. It would be so easy for me to give up a car and beautiful things (I have in the past), but the thought of not having food pains me tenfold. I’ve love it if anyone had any tips to share on this subject.

  8. Lisia says:

    So true. On my best days, I can look at the freshly baked and heavily frosted homemade cake on the counter (home made baked goods are my biggest weakness) – and say “That looks good. I’ll have a piece after dinner”.

    Only I get so caught up in what I’m doing, that I go to bed at a decent hour and go to sleep without it. Sometimes I remember and say “nah – not tonight”; other times I remember after I get to work the next day and say “I’ll have it tonight instead”.

    Often I’ve been lucky enough to do that repeatedly for days on end – and which point, when I finally do go for that piece the whole cake has already been eaten.

    I feel off the boat this past week – hosting my first large conference (3 days, 60+ people) – plus having had 2 deaths and memorials / funerals in the past two weeks = total lack of will power.

    I had 2 desserts last night. Funny thing – they DIDN’T EVEN TASTE GOOD. I didn’t even want them – and I wasn’t really hungry.

    I realize how stupid that was. So I’m getting back on the horse. Thanks for the boost!


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