‘A system is a group of interacting or interrelated entities that form a unified whole.’ – Wikipedia
As I’ve shared before, I’ve been trying to rebuild my relationship with food. It’s not only about losing weight but also having a healthy eating patterns that gives me a long term benefit. Thus, what I really try to build here is a habit that sticks and hopefully becomes an auto-mode at one point so I don’t have to think about it anymore.
When I was a young teenager, I used to eat at certain time. It is a very strict timing that made me looked as if I am a robot: 06.00 – breakfast, 9.30 – brunch, 14.00 – lunch, 18.30 – dinner. I did not count any calories intake nor I managed my macro nutrition. Yet, I had a stable body weight over time, had no issue with my digestion, and didn’t have much craving over a certain type of food.
That pattern somehow changed in the last few years and since then I don’t always have a good relationship with food. Sometimes, I binge eating then feel bad afterwards. Other time, I eat a big bag of crisp then have no energy to do my training. I don’t feel good about this anymore. I made a decision to revisit my relationship with food.
Therefore, in the last four weeks, I’ve been trying to rebuild my eating system. It’s not always a successful one but it’s gets better over time. It is also easier on the weekdays when I have a work routine and gets trickier on the weekends when I have more freedom and unstructured days.
I used advise I read on atomic habit. James Clear, the writer mentioned that one way to create a habit is to build an action-reaction chain then embedded it on your daily life. In other word, to have a life system we can follow and this is what I’m trying to build.
My first step was to understand my existing eating pattern. I tried to understand when I feel like I want to binge or eat more, when I actually really feel hungry, and so on. I did a food journal and tried to be honest to myself about this. This method is quite popular on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT method). I basically wrote down what I eat, when, where, context (why), and how I feel then observed if there are any patterns.
Although I did not do it for a long time, it helped me understand some triggers I did not realise before. I start to notice when I feel tired, I want to eat more. I also notice when I want to delay my work, I will eat so I can postpone doing my task. I also see there are certain foods that intrigue me to eat more. This understanding helps me build my new system.
Second step is to make sure that I focused on building the system instead of calorie monitoring. I mean, who really want to monitor their calorie intake forever, right? I can do it when I need to cut weight for competition for few weeks but I don’t really want to do it endlessly, if you know what I mean. I tried to arrange my meal in a way that I eat like a ‘normal’ person, ie. instead of eating once for xx calories, I make sure I eat 3-5x with the same total calories. This way, I build a habit pattern and not doing a crash diet.
I’ve tried to match my meal timing with my physical activity and feeling. For example, since I have noticed my binge starts when I feel exhausted, I make sure I eat enough in the morning. This is because I train in the morning. I even tried to split my breakfast into two phases at the moment: before and after the training session. I recently figured out that having something in my belly before I lift boost my energy a lot. However, I also want to have another meal that boost my happiness such as toast and peanut butter. I squeeze this for after training and before I start working.
Around 12 or 12.30, I will eat my lunch. As I shared before, I make my lunch in advance so I don’t need to think about what I want to eat on daily basis. Less hassle. I do a small snacking around 16.00 and close my day with dinner around 17.30 – then brush my teeth. Brushing my teeth is part of my system. It sends a signal to my brain that it’s time to stop thinking about food.
As you can see, I have been trying my best to build my system as follow:
wake up – morning routine – cycle – mini breakfast – train – breakfast – shower – work – close my laptop – lunch – work – close my laptop – snack – work – close my laptop – dinner – brush my teeth – finish work – relax.
I made a trigger and action relationship on daily basis. I believe this will lead to an automatic habit. Eventually. I just need to do it long enough. I need to make sure I do it consistently and not giving up in the middle of the road.
Until then, I still need to keep doing things consciously, force myself to be discipline, and enjoy the ride.