Project Louise: Eat Like A Teenager? Not Anymore

A mere snack for Louise’s son, but more than she can handle anymore. (O’Dea via Wikimedia Commons)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Ah, school vacation week. Or, as I like to call it, National Eat Like a Teenager Week.

This started last year, when my son and I took a road trip to Dayton, Ohio.  (Not that one needs a reason to choose such a dream destination, but I grew up there. Thanks for asking.) It quickly became clear that as long as I was taking him to Dayton, I really couldn’t fail to introduce him to one of my childhood haunts, Vic Cassano’s Pizza King. And, of course, if I was actually at Vic Cassano’s Pizza King, there was simply no way I was not going to eat the pizza.

All this was before Project Louise, but I was still trying to eat more or less sensibly. But I really, really wanted that pizza. And thus National Eat Like a Teenager Week was born.

So now here we are again, and once again I’m on a road trip with my son – only to the Cape this time, so I’m safe from Signore Cassano … for now. But I’ve still been tempted, most recently this morning, to abandon all restraint and eat as if I were a 16-year-old boy, with the metabolism to match.

Only here’s the thing: I can’t.

At breakfast today, for example, I ordered the Potato Cake and Salmon Benny (yup, eggs Benedict), with a side of black and white pudding.  Completely delicious. And I couldn’t even finish half of it.

Which is actually fabulous news. As is the fact that his French fries the other day didn’t strike me as completely irresistible. I had a few, then stopped – not out of guilt, but because I didn’t want any more. This is essentially unprecedented.

So what has happened? I think, to my shock, I have actually developed the healthy eating habits I was aiming for. And what that means is that I seem not to want the foods I craved before – or at least not to want them in quantity. Just by steering clear of them for a few months, I seem truly to have weakened their hold on me.  This feels like a huge win.

Now, if I can just work the same switch with my activity level. That feels much harder to me – I know people who say they crave exercise, but I have sadly not yet joined their ranks. I guess that’s what the next three months are for.

And one other task, which I’m working on during this vacation because it doesn’t feel like work. My coach, Allison Rimm, pointed out recently that this project has drifted a bit toward focusing only on the physical side of the equation: diet and exercise. But, as she gently reminded me, Project Louise is supposed to be bigger than that: By the end of this year, I am hoping to “be at home with myself,” to be living a whole, happy and meaningful life that aligns with my vision and my sense of purpose.

A tall order, to be sure, but Allison has given me some tools to work on that. I’m spending a fair amount of time on it this week, and I’ll return on Monday – rested, relaxed and not overstuffed! – to share what I’ve learned.

Meanwhile, it’s time to go play with my kid.

Readers, do you find yourself changing habits lately – for good or ill? And do you have any tips for developing the exercise habit?

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  • Grafton Sherwood Kennedy, III

    I like how you’re getting back to your goal to “be at home with myself” and you defined it further. Adding detail to what a “whole, happy, and meaningful life” means to you may involve both public and private goals. I said to you recently, “I want to do something useful.” That’s a statement I’m willing to make publicly, while I may or may not have figured out any private goals to achieve that public goal. Part of setting goals is estimating what you can achieve. Another part is adjusting goals based on what you realize you actually can achieve as you progress. You’re doing well at both.

  • Ray

    My experience jibes with the author and Melanie. Forming a
    habit, for good or ill, is the key. Someone mentioned to me that you can form a
    good habit to replace a bad one, or a wholly new one by mindfully practicing steadily
    for 3 weeks. I’ve done it, and among other things, learned to have indelible
    distaste for just about everything I once found so appealing. I truly have no
    problem doing everything in moderation and avoiding the excesses of salt, fats
    and sugars profusely present and promoted in stores, restaurants and media from
    all sides at all times. I often find more than enough on the appetizers side of
    a menu, and a take-home container typically provides two additional dinners. On
    the infrequent occasions when I “treat myself” to a guilty pleasure, I usually
    enjoy the novelty and the taste, but get reinforcement of the healthy habit. I
    knew I had entered a different realm when I walked down the snack or candy
    aisles of a market, and could only think of the amounts of salt, fat and sugar
    that were produced, processed, and formulated into the packages on the shelves.
    The excess weight I carried into my later years was seeded in the years of
    “getting away with” overdoing, when I was burning most of the overload in
    keeping the ends meeting and overlapping a little. I perceive that the
    insatiable appetite of young people is natural for that age, but continuing to
    enjoy it concomitant with the declining activity of later years is where we
    fall off the wagon, except if we are athletes in a continuing lifestyle.
    Indeed, an athlete with my height and weight would have to eat much more and bulk
    up to compete, but would look slimmer than me. We must all form the proper
    habits for our lifestyle and neglect to do so at our peril. Obesity kills.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Forming habits is key indeed — and probably my main intention with this project. Still wrestling with the question of why I’m finding it easier to adjust my eating habits than my exercise ones, but with any luck I’ll figure that out before 2015.

      • Ray

        Good luck with that (-8 I successfully and meticulously formed the habit of daily exercise, but continue to find that the easiest habit to break. For example, I recently caught a nasty ten-day cold, and like Sisyphus I’m back at the bottom of the hill.

        • Louise Kennedy

          Oh yes indeed, I know that hill…maybe a bit of chocolate would help! And I’d recommend a nice pinot noir with that…more antioxidants!

  • melaniecb

    I stopped eating sugar ten years ago. I replaced sugar with stevia and gradually phased that out… and now, when I walk by a table with cookies and cakes, none of it – I mean none of it — calls to me. It’s crazy-freedom — imagine not feeling deprived! When I taste desserts now they seem way too sweet, and because sugar is often paired with fat, most of the cookies, cakes, breads, etc., aren’t part of my diet anymore. A treat once in a while is nice – it’s really a treat!

    • Louise Kennedy

      I agree — I seemed to lose my taste for sweets a few years ago, partly from avoiding them but partly, I think, because I so associated them with diabetes and my fear of that made them less alluring to me. Now, if I do have a dessert, it’s as you say: way too sweet, and not appealing. Dark chocolate and I, however, are still really good friends. I tell myself it’s for the antioxidants.

      • Ray

        Me too, yay for dark chocolate! It was a revelation to find that 70% cocoa was becoming too sweet, but I buffer it with Merlot.