I lost a lot of weight. I lost over 50 pounds, alright? And I’m f@#$ing starving. […] They have all these diets. “You can eat all day on this diet! Plus you can snack!” NO YOU F@#$ING CAN’T! You can’t eat all day and snack also! You are going to continue to gain weight!! YOU CAN’T EAT ALL DAY LONG! — Kevin Meaney (start at 4:13 in the video)
Hearing Kevin Meaney scream on stage about weight loss had me in tears with laughter and left me with a sobering truth: You can’t eat all day and lose weight. I remember watching his YouTube video in January 2019. I weighed 204 pounds and had put on weight throughout 2018, especially during the holiday season.
Since January 2019, I’ve lost 30 pounds using three simple ideas I learned from Twitter. (When I first wrote this article, I was down 25 pounds but now I’m down another five pounds.) Here are the ideas:
- Eating isn’t an all-day activity.
- Hunger is the feeling of losing weight.
- Pretending to eat food can be just as good as actually eating it.
“Intermittent fasting” was all the rage on Twitter in early 2019. Some interesting ideas were surfacing. Having a wife as a nutritionist gave me a trustworthy filter for what was probably BS and what wasn’t.
I ran across several tweets saying Americans are now eating 12–15 hours a day. (This might be fake news. You can do the research yourself.) It made me think about how many hours a day I spent eating. I was probably eating or foraging 10 or 11 hours a day. I thought, “What if I took that down to 8 hours a day?” So, I stopped eating before 12PM and after 8PM. Seemed reasonable.
I felt hungrier in the mornings and in the evenings, but not so hungry that I was suffering. If anything, my body could pull from all the fat reserves. A few weeks of this and I was used to it. Not bad! It was cheaper to eat less and I found my appetite shrinking over time.
This led me to the second idea: hunger is the feeling of losing weight. Though very few people have phrased it in this exact way, I kept coming across tweets pointing in this direction. Whenever I felt hungry, I would tell myself, “This is what it feels like to lose weight. You’re just not used to it. Your tendency is to eat all day and there are tons of people around the world who are feeling this right now. So suck it up, buddy.”
It’s easy to develop the habit of responding to hunger with eating. As an Italian-American, I grew up in a family that left plates of meats, cheeses, cookies, and bread out for munching all day. My grandmother would say, “You’re hungry? I’ll make you a sandwich!” I was conditioned as a child to eat whenever I felt hungry. Now I’m married to a woman who tells our children, “Check in with your stomach before you eat more.” Very different worldviews.
Living with the regular experience of hunger was a challenge. It still is and always will be. If I want to be under 190 pounds, I need to be okay with the feeling of hunger. If Kevin Meaney could do it, I could too.
All of this led to the final piece of the puzzle. Another habitual response to hunger is going to the fridge or pantry to get food. My limited background in mindfulness has exposed me to concepts like “eating meditation.” In eating meditation, you put a raisin in your mouth and let every part of your mouth feel its texture. You roll it around with your tongue and taste the subtle flavors. You bite slowly into the raisin and feel your mouth salivate. You savor a single raisin.
I don’t know about you, but when I open the fridge to eat, I’m not going to have a raisin. Instead, I’ll eat, like, five slices of pepperoni or three handfuls of calorically-dense cashews. I don’t snack lightly. So, I took what I’ve learned from eating meditation a little further. I started imagining what it would taste like to eat five slices of pepperoni. I started imagining how it would feel to chew it, to swallow it, to feel it go into my stomach, and to satisfy that feeling of hunger.
Now I’m down 30 pounds. I still get hungry at 10:30AM and PM. I still want to snack in the morning. I still want to snack after dinner and eat desserts or chips. I choose not to. I remember all the times I’ve done it before and how I felt being 204 pounds. I remember the feeling of disappointment when I saw the scale spin around to 204. Now I use my imagination to envision myself eating and feeling full. Then I step on the scale to validate that decision.
It’s not the one-time snack that’ll be my undoing. It’s the acceptance that eating, for me, is a slippery slope. I won’t want to eat just one chip, I’ll want 20. I won’t want a one-time snack, I’ll want a snack today and tomorrow and the next day. I’m increasingly enjoying the food I eat between 12PM and 8PM because I have less of it in my life. I look forward to it. I savor it.
Do I start eating at 11:30AM sometimes? Yes.
Do I stop at 8:30 sometimes? Yes.
Do I give myself any more wiggle room? No.
I watched a video of myself from early this year and noticed the difference in my chin, my belly, and my chest. It feels good.
Twitter has given me a different outlook on food. Even though there’s a lot of garbage to wade through, there are still gems to discover and hang onto.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy my new book, Clueless at The Work: Advice from a Corporate Tyrant, which is now available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and Amazon (print and Kindle, audiobook coming soon).