|Communing with nature. Photo by Stricknine|
I am guilty of bringing up my weight gain myself this last visit, because my last blood sugar test was higher than usual (though still within normal range) and I definitely don't want to become pre-diabetic. My doctor suggested losing 10% of my weight to be "healthier." I pointed out that I lost 10% of my weight 2 years ago and then gained it all back about a year later, and asked her if she had any suggestions that would lead to lasting weight loss so I dont fuck up my metabolism through yoyo dieting.
She suggested I download a smart phone calorie counter.
Really, doc? Fuck you. (And my blood sugar test came back perfect, to boot.)
Anyway. After having a major meltdown, like I always do, I decided to go into the app store and see if they had something to help me with a food strategy that I find is actually more productive and helpful than calorie counting, though still challenging: mindful eating. And I did! It's called "SlowEater" (I use the Android version, they may have it for Iphone too?) and it costs about $1.60 to download. The premise is very simple- a green screen counts down about 20 seconds to allow you time to take a bite of food, then makes a noise or vibrates. Then an orange screen counts down another 20 seconds or so to tell you to wait for a bit (at my current "easy" setting, I think my eat and wait screens are about the same duration), during which time you can chew, ponder, whatever, but you don't put any more food in your mouth until it buzzes. Then you can take another bite, buzz, wait a minute, buzz, etc. until you feel full. You can set the length of the orange screen to "easy," "advance," or "expert," depending on how slowly you want to pace yourself.
I recently read Geneen Roth's "Women, Food and God" (and I really like her approach to eating), but I still struggle to slow down and pay more attention when I eat alone. Trying to eat slowly with no distractions when I'm alone feels like fucking torture. So in a weird way, although using an app kind of goes against the idea of eating without distraction, but at the same time, it's a productive distraction that really helped me focus.
This app really works- even while watching tv while eating (so sue me) with the app to cue me, I still paid way more attention to my food than usual, and it probably took me about three times longer to finish my meal than typical. I experienced an interesting emotional response- having just enough time to take one bite, when I wanted to take three, then having to wait to take the next, made me feel initially rushed, deprived and upset. I had to keep reminding myself that if I waited the 20 seconds, I could have another bite, and keep eating as much as I wanted to, as long as I paced myself. Sometimes my brain would drift, and I'd accidentally start eating during the orange screen, but then the buzzer would put me back on track. It reminds me a lot of how the mind has a way of drifting during mindfulness meditation, and you just reign it in over and over. So its bizarre to do a food meditation with an electronic device, but fuck it, it works. And I am not only learning to work with food differently, I am learning to work with time differently. Why do I rush when I don't need to?
The way I felt after my meal was different too- instead of feeling full, numbed out and sleepy, I felt really light and alert, just not hungry. It was kind of weird, but the whole point is to train your body/brain to not chronically overeat and re-wire the rhythm of eating and feelings of satiation. I am not crazy about the way it is marketed as a weight loss aid, but at the same time, that's kind of how they have to market it for it to sell. :/
I think this app is something I'll use primarily when eating alone (like I said, it's easier to pace myself with other people), and not with every meal (for example, I didn't use it while enjoying my post-dinner glass of wine and almond milk ice cream- I'm more likely to savor a treat anyway). And I don't know if it's something I'll use forever, but I am curious to see if this actually does cause lasting shifts in the way I eat, even if I don't use the app with every meal.