Let me take a guess, you’re not currently at your ideal weight.
And you’re not a cat.
You’re definitely not my cat because he is at the ideal weight for his age and activity levels.
First up, check that what you think is an ideal weight for you is actually a healthy one, both physically and mentally. If you’re a cat, get your owner to take you to the vet and ask. For us humans, do some responsible research.
Next, remember, you are not defined by what you weigh.
If, like me, you choose to try to manage your weight responsibly, then Tiddles, Smokey and Kolo (that’s my cat) have a lot to teach you.
Take the weight off your paws and settle in.
Cat Lesson 1 — Eat The Same Stuff Every Day
Kolo has 2 scoops of the same food in the morning and 2 scoops in the evening. He’s healthy, active, happy and has been the same weight for 5 years.
Eating the same thing again and again sounds like a recipe for disaster for us.
“But it’s BECAUSE I eat the same bad stuff every day that I am where I am.”
I know, I’ve been there. I still go there, but not as much as I used to.
The secret is to design a daily intake of food which satisfies you, gives the fuel and nutrients you need, has fun stuff in it (not too much) and then…
EAT IT EVERY DAY. FOR A LONG TIME.
OK, I don’t mean exactly the same things every single day. And I don’t mean eat cat food. You could settle on the same Breakfast every day, same snacks, similar lunch and a rotation of 6/7 dinners. You could choose to drink alcohol on weekends only. This roughly describes my approach.
Design it to be balanced, satisfying and healthy. Exercise a bit. Time and repetition does the work. You’ll slowly gravitate towards a healthy weight.
Don’t try to re-invent the culinary wheel every day. My cat doesn’t.
Here’s the good news. You won’t get as bored as you think.
The benefits of order outweigh any monotony. You don’t need to live up to the impossible food variety dream served up on Instagram.
Routine can be your friend on the way to a healthier relationship with food. In time, choose a less rigid approach if you want.
Practice eating the right things at the right time in the right balance. Come up with a realistic and repeatable daily food intake, enjoy it and loop it.
Remember. All you’re doing is eating food you like, which is good for you.
Once you find your formula, your “2 scoops,” stick to it as long as you need to. Not necessarily forever.
Cat Lesson 2 — Go Sniff Around The Garden
Kolo finishes his Breakfast, heads out the cat-flap, and gets on with his day of sniffing around the garden. He returns in the evening, waits expectantly by his bowl, eats his dinner, then goes for a nap.
A cat’s approach to food is that it’s functional, it’s fuel, it’s no biggie. Sure, if it’s not there at all then there’s miaowing, but other than that, there are other things which are more important. Like sniffing around the garden.
Don’t you wish you spent less time worrying about food?
Don’t you want to feel less guilty about things you have or haven’t eaten?
Take the focus off the food.
Give yourself a break from the constant tricky decisions.
It’s easy to over-complicate eating. But you don’t have to. In his book ‘Food Rules’, Michael Pollan summed up healthy eating in just 7 words:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Simplifying helps. Routine helps too.
Knowing that you’re going to be eating roughly the same thing each day is reassuring. It frees you up to focus on more important things in life like your family, your friends, your hobbies, your job. You.
You’ll find time is on your side not against you. Meal-planning takes effort but saves hours. Online shopping with favourites gets slicker every week.
It’s stressful to get to the end of the work day and think “What’s for dinner tonight?” You feel tired, uninspired and hungry.
But trust me.
The 10% boredom of “Thursday means Veggie Chilli. Again.” is outweighed by the 90% calm satisfaction of looking forward to a tasty and nutritious meal that you don’t have to shop from scratch for.
Plan your meals. Prepare your meals. Enjoy your meals. Then give yourself a break from worrying about food.
The bit between food decisions is your actual life. Get on with living it.
Cat Lesson 3 — Eat At The Same Time Every Day
Kolo has Breakfast at 730am and Dinner at 730pm. He gets hungry in the lead up to a meal, eats it happily, then he’s good to go until the next meal.
Do the same.
“Yeah, right,” you’re thinking.
I know what it’s like.
You wake up with great intentions, because you need to make up for overdoing it the night before. Breakfast is virtuous but rushed or skipped. By 1030am you’re starving and the powerful magic of those ‘go well with coffee’ treats overwhelm you. Then you think “Screw it, this day is bad anyway, I may as well really mess it up,” and the rest of your food day unravels. Then you feel guilty in the evening and drink and snack to escape that feeling.
But you’ll drag it back tomorrow. You wake up with great intentions.
You’re stuck on loop. Sound familiar?
Here’s how to break that negative loop and replace it with a better one.
Eat at the same times every day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. Make a realistic, repeatable schedule and stick to the timings.
You’ll only ever be a short time away from your next time to eat. You know it’s coming. You’ll feel hungry, but that’s OK, in fact that’s good.
When was the last time you were actually hungry before a meal? “Eat when you’re hungry” always tripped me up because hungry was when I made my worst decisions.
Know in advance what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it, and there’s no bad decision to make. You can look forward to the next time you eat and not worry about it.
Cats are efficient animals. They don’t do anything unless it needs to be done. Kolo knows I’ve got his food covered. So he gets on with his life.
This is all easier than you think. You’re smart. At least as smart as a cat.
You can map out a reasonable daily or weekly food plan which you can stick to. Don’t make it a diet. Don’t make it indulgent. Make it just right for a cat (sorry, I mean human) of your age, health and activity levels.
Meal planning will help. Online shopping using favourites will help.
Then hit repeat. Again and again.
Stop worrying about food all the time. Enjoy being hungry when you eat. Feel satisfied after a meal. Luxuriate in the amount of stress that just left your life.
Same food, same times, less decision-making. Let the twin powers of routine and time move you to a healthier weight and a better relationship with food.
And remember to sniff the garden along the way.