April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Learning To Say, "No, Thank You"

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about social eating, and in the last twenty-four hours have had some very meaningful exchanges with two of the CR brothers whom I most respect on the topic. The first, it will come as no surprise, was MR. We had a conversation we've had many times before, that goes something like this:

AS: I know that I'll feel a lot better if I consistently eat 1100 calories a day than if I continue to try to "average" by going under for a few days and then going out with my friends and eating a lot of food of indeterminate calorie content.

MR: That's true.

AS: And I feel so much better, incredibly better, when I'm at your house eating very carefully measured 1000 calories a day all perfectly Zoned and omega 3/6 balanced and all that.

MR: That's true too.

AS: But I have such a hard time navigating social situations in which the entertainment is going out to eat. I'm not willing to give up going out with my friends -- hey, it's fun! But I just don't feel very good when I eat that way, and I really want to be at my top performance potential.

MR: That's true too.

AS: So I really have to decide what's most important to me. Eating high calorie, high carb food when I'm out, or feeling great all the time?

MR: You can do it! Go April! Yay!

Actually, I'm totally paraphrasing MR's part in the conversation, in order to make the point that he never tells me what to do, he is just extremely supportive of any decision I make to take better care of myself, while simultaneously understanding that his choices about how to eat in social situations are often different from mine. A lot of people have asked me if he puts pressure on me to be more strict about my CR, and I can honestly say that he doesn't at all. But he knows how much unpleasantness it has caused me to deviate from my healthy, happy, low carb low calorie eating plans, and how very happy I am when I stay low calorie, low carb, and mildly Zoned. He's also very good at helping me figure out new "tweaks" to my diet to even further improve my mood and mental performance.

The other CR brother with whom I spoke about this issue yesterday expressed a slightly different, but also admirable attitude, which I believe could be summed up in the instruction: "Just tell 'em to go to hell!" He related stories of going to restaurants with people who were eating and drinking only a glass of water. It appears that the world does not end when he does this, and that people have gotten used to it.

I was discussing the angst I feel when I am in a situation where I am confronted with a situation where in the past, I would have had at least a small portion of whatever treat was on offer.

I think there are two kinds of social eating situations that present a challenge for me. I'll take them separately.

1) Social eating situations where I actually don't want to the food on offer at all, I am just trying not to cause a scene. This extends to situations where I just order off a menu instead of engaging in negotiations about how a dish is prepared because I fear the disapproving looks of my companions. Or when I eat a portion of something so as not to seem to be a perfect little princess who never eats anything "bad" and whom everyone therefore hates.

2) Social eating situations in which I actually really like the food on offer, and I eat some of it, even though I know I will feel sub-par the next day or a few hours later. This happens in situations where I would not even be in the company of the food if it weren't for going out with friends.

The two kinds of situations are quite different, and I'm working on strategies for managing both.

Situation 1. My ideal scenario is one in which when I am confronted with this scene, I feel a long skinny hand on my shoulder and a voice that is soft yet firm behind me says, "She's not going to eat gak and you can't make her. And if you try, I'm going to get the Princess out on the Millenium Falcon."

Now keep in mind that I am not and have never been the kind of woman who sits around waiting to be rescued. Note: financial independence, good job, nice apartment, Geo Prizm, well-adjusted cats, and the habit of buying my own rings. If anything, I have historically identified with that part in Jedi when Leia rescues Han from the deep freeze in Jabba's palace.

"Who are you?" "Someone who loves you."

Beautiful kissing scene interrupted by deep evil laugh of Jabba the Hut.

Anyway, I recognize that most of the time MR will be too busy writing for Aubrey to show up behind my chair at dinner parties and rescue me. And really, I can take care of myself. But you'd have to admit, it's a nice daydream. In an amusing mulit-tasking variation, MR interrupts his most recent round of scientific debate with Aubrey to appear at my side and protect me from high carb gak, and shortly thereafter, Aubrey appears too and hands me a beer. That would sorta defeat the purpose of avoiding the high carb gak, but it would be really funny, and if I'm going to consume high carb gak, I'd rather it be drinking beer with Aubrey.

Failing dramatic scenes involving teleportation, here's how I need to handle the situations where I eat something I really don't want to eat, that I know will send me into high carb angst hell.

"No thank you."

Wow, that was easy.

And if some of my companions get really, really mad? Really, really, irrationally mad at me for turning down something that perhaps in my previous life I might have been willing to sample?

Well, for one thing, it's unlikely that any of them will physically harm me. So what am I really afraid of? I, like most women, am afraid of causing a scene of any kind. I don't want to make others feel self-conscious about their choices, which is what inevitably happens when you make very different choices. And I don't want to be perceived as a goody two-shoes princess. Which is how people who visibly make healthy food choices are perceived in our sick society.

So here's what I will do. I will conjure up in my mind the last time a person got really, really irrationally mad at me. And then I will figure out if in response to that situation I either:

a) lived
b) died

If a, then I will stand by my choice to say "No, thank you," politely but without explanation.

If b, then I won't have a lot of choices at all, and my entire CR life-extension project will have failed miserably.

Situation 2. When confronted with a situation in which I would like the food, the food looks good, the food is something I would have very much enjoyed in the past but at this point in time eating it is not consistent with my larger goals of peak mental performance, optimal nutrition, and keeping my calories as low as possible.

This one is really much harder because all attempts as easy, one size fits all solutions seem to fail. That's one nice thing about being at the All-Inclusive CR Spa and Resort -- there in just no choice between optimal CR and optimal socializing. MR and I can sit around talking about food while we eat our perfectly Zoned weighed out weird vegetables and everything is good with the world. But my other friends don't eat like that, and going out for good meals with them is something I very much enjoy and don't want to give up.

So here's a proposal for a working solution. Let's see how it goes:

a) I will not eat anything I don't love. I came up with this rule the other day when one of the friends whom I am coaching on her CR diet said she didn't like cottage cheese but that she was forcing it down because it has protein and calcuim. I immediately blurted out, "Never eat food you don't love!" I firmly believe that if you're going to reduce your calories, you should make every calorie something you thorougly enjoy. So when I'm out, I will eat only foods I absolutely adore, like scallops.

b) I will stop looking at dinners/lunches out as occasions where I go over calories, but will rather look at them as occasions to get nutrients that are not always present in my basic at home diet. For example, I tend to come up low on zinc. That is, on days when I don't mistake my zinc supplement for Advil and take five. Anyway, oysters are high in zinc, but I have no idea how to cook them so I don't make them at home. If out, I could eat a small seafood stew with oysters and get some zinc.

c) I will raise my daily total to 1100 on at home normal eating days, but I will try very very hard to *not* go over 1100 on days when I eat out. That may mean eating more lightly at other meals and eating very lightly when I am at a restaurant, or eating only foods of relatively well-known calorie content (like a salad with grilled chicken).

d) I will avoid all high carb darkness foods like bread as though they were poison, which to me they are.

e) I will continue to enjoy going out with my friends, and I will enjoy delicious food that I don't know how to make at home, but I will do so in smaller amounts and in combinations that support optimum functioning, both mental and physical.

In short, I will learn to say "No, thank you," to things that aren't good for me, and things I don't really want.

Because the mental clarity, the feeling of being perfectly healthy, that I get from eating right is so much better than a bite of something I don't really love. Because the possibility of living long enough to take advantage of the work I'm fundraising for is much more exciting than a piece of bread.

Sometimes there's just no contest.


  • At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In social situations it often seems easier to say "No, thanks. I'm allergic to delicious sourdough french bread with a perfect crunch crust", well OK it might be easier to say "No, thanks. I'm allergic to bread.". It doesn't usually require explanation and it's actually true. If you eat the bread, or stuffed mushrooms, or... you end up feeling bad, or at least not as good and nourished as if you hadn't eaten the ice cream with marachino cherry.
    Can you tell it's getting close to my dinner time.
    Keep writing April. I read you every day.

  • At 5:53 PM, Blogger Mary Robinson said…

    Hate to be an "I told you so" person, but you are coming very close to the little MR method of eating here. Zone-ish. Eats shellfish a lot when she eats out. Tries to eat 1100 calories a day, even on days she eats out. The challenge becomes trying to eat as cleverly as possible off menus and still do "Zone-ish, 1100 calories, ON, etc.". I look at every new menu as a creative challenge. There is always something you can eat - except at some fast food places and Rainforest Cafe. It's actually interesting to try to pick the most ON foods possible off the menu. I find that people often admire the cleverness of my choices "Oh, I should have ordered that!".


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