As I left the doctor’s office, I realized that I have never really tried to change how I eat. Sure, I’ve flirted with giving up sugar or eating more vegetables… but in general, I stick to my labels of “generally fine” and “have a sweet tooth”.
Now I’ve definitely been trying to change how I eat. Since I wrote the post “Afraid” in December, about needing to change my diet in order to lose a little weight, I’ve been eating fewer sweets a day.
First, I kept a little notebook that I called “Sweets Illustrated”: along with recording my sweets for the day on a single page, I drew them. I love drawing and doodling and had a blast capturing pastries, candies, chocolates. Aaron wondered if drawing each sweet with such relish was somewhat fetishizing the experience, adding to my obsession; when I tried just logging the sweets, though, without drawing them, it meant far more sweets could fit on a page—and psychologically, in my day. I returned to illustrating the records.
Then I attempted limiting myself to one sweet a day. This meant drawing, for example, a really big black-and-white cookie on the page—leaving (hopefully) no room for anything else. As important as the log was, it was also important that my partner, friends, and roommates knew about my resolution. One particular challenge was that, during this time, my roommate Rebecca launched a pie business and would say things in the evenings like “Want to try the new banana creme pie?”
Nothing happened to my weight one way or the other. Maybe because of this, I gradually became less strict about having just one serving of sweets per day. But I was being more mindful, I had some great drawings of rugelekh, and I was happy with Sweets Illustrated and my quirky status quo. Besides, I was planning my wedding, and was trying not to lose weight specifically for “the big day”. I was in it for long-term health, not a photo-op.
In April, a colleague told me about the website Stickk, a goal-setting site that helps you stick to your commitments. The creators had learned that people are often more motivated by avoiding a loss than by a potential gain; they included, accordingly, a suite of incentives for users that includes the potent “anti-charity” option. When you report a week that was unsuccessful in sticking to your commitment, your credit card is deducted a certain amount of money, which is sent to a charity of your choice—that you hate.
I picked an organization that lobbies for civil marriage to be only between a man and a woman. I put forty dollars a week on the line, and signed up for eight weeks.
Results were instant. I felt I could not break my goal. When my second Sweets Illustrated mini-journal was full, I didn’t need to start a new one. The anti-charity incentive was simultaneously funny, awful, and powerfully motivating.
I’ve fudged what one serving of sweets a day means, though I maintain it’s not cheating. These days if I’m about to eat something sweet, I think about what else I might be eating that day. If I have a cookie at lunch, I decide then if I’m having anything sweet later, and when. A serving of sweets can be spread throughout the day… but once I’m done with my allotment, I’m done. Interestingly, this decision-making process removes the angst later when something delicious is offered to me and I can’t have it; now I’m not bothered at all.
It’s my last week of my eight-week commitment with Stickk, and I’ve been successful every week thus far. Maybe my next goal on the site will be a return to exercise. Meanwhile, eating fewer sweets has finally stuck.