I’ve always feel obligated to finish something once I start it. Not surprisingly, it also applied to food. When I was in graduate school, there was this Italian restaurant, Angelino’s, and I adored their Vegetarian Delight pasta bowl, especially for the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. (Someday I will post my recipe adaptation.) They put an endless basket of homemade Italian bread on the table, along with olive oil and roasted garlic. The entrées also came with a salad. So by the time the pasta arrived, I was already full-ish, but had to eat at least some of it, because it was so good.
The servings were huge, so I’d always go home with leftovers. They’d be all I’d think about until I ate them. Sometimes, I’d eat them straight out of the fridge that night before bed, other times it’d be for a very early lunch. Before my lifestyle change, where I planned what I would eat, I would just indulge whenever I wanted to, regardless of how hungry I was. And when it was something I loved, it was literally all I’d think about until I ate it. Needless to say, the Vegetarian Delight rarely lasted long enough to have it for another meal.
Angelino’s pasta bowl wasn’t the only food that distracted me until it was gone. If I bought something new at the store, I had to try it as soon as I got home. I could never have a bag of potato chips in the house because it was literally all I would think about, and dip into, until it was gone. The sad thing is, the only time I ever truly appreciated a lot of the food I ate was when I was really very hungry, but that wasn’t too often. And even then, I’d scarf it down so fast, I barely knew I ate it rather than savoring each bite.
One of the biggest realizations I had after I changed my eating habits was that had always felt like I was digesting food, 24/7. My lifestyle change really helped me to deal with this food issue of obsessing over food in the house. I recognized that this behavior tied in very much to my hoarding habit. Once I reconditioned myself to plan everything I ate, keep a food log, and accept being hungry, I was able to address these issues.
My Foray into the Real World
I still ate at Angelino’s after I started my lifestyle change. In fact, it was the first place I ever ate and it was a BIG test because I didn’t have the opportunity to weigh and portion out all of the ingredients. It actually scared me, the fear of undoing all the work I did. I knew, though, that being able to eat outside of my own kitchen was really important if this was going to be a change for life. Plus, I didn’t ever want to feel like something was completely off-limits.
I was determined that this attempt at weight loss would work, no matter what. I waited almost three months before I put myself to the test. Even when I went to a conference during week 6 of my lifestyle change, I took a hotpot and food with me, got produce and yogurt from a nearby market, and ordered salads at restaurants, while eating my entrées in my room.
To survive my first restaurant outing, I had a plan, and it proved successful. I limited myself to one piece of bread. I ate all of the salad with the fat-free dressing option. When the entrée came, I asked for a small a side plate, portioned out of what looked like a reasonable meal, and took the rest home. I literally counted out pasta pieces and was careful not to add too many vegetables because the whole dish was drenched in olive oil and Romano cheese.
In the past, that pasta dish constituted dinner at the restaurant and grazing or maybe a large lunch the next day. With my new plan, I ended up getting 3 ½ dinner portions out of it. (This is a sad reflection on the direction the restaurant industry has gone in the U.S., due to competition for customers, but more on that in another post.) Instead of just caving to my obsession and having a bite here and there, I enjoyed the leftovers much more as meals and saved some money in the process.