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Breaking Habitual Patterns
'Loop de-Loop'
February 20 through April 1 2006
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A 40 Day Dietary Record

A diet blog for diehard dieters

Day 1
February 20
Start at the heart

Emotions are the tough part about all this dieting. Dieting is mostly a mind game, a mind full of addictive patterns verses a need to fight back... To save our ass by reducing it. How we feel triggers our behavior and during a diet I often feel very bad.

I began the day at Kyoto University Hospital where I received a clean bill of health from Dr. Shiroi, a bilingual heart specialist. His gentle manner helped alleviate any fears I may have had, about getting a stroke from my experimenting with diets. Now I have no excuses but to preceed.

5:30 am I began the day as usual, preparing breakfast for the kids. I fried mushrooms, served with cherry tomatoes. I made tea for everyone. On returning from the hospital I was ravenous, my state as of late.

Most likely my stomach has been stretched considerably these last few months, while enjoying the blessings of a housekeeper, who both made meals better with her generous humor and tastier with her cooking skill. Now that I am back to being a single Dad on diet, the meals will become less seductive.

My lunch was a vegetable chicken cream sauce on spaghetti (left overs from the cook's cuisine) and a smoked raw fish (Katsuo/Bonito). Dinner was two smoked sausage (hot dog size) on french bread with cherry tomatoes and garnish (catsup and mustard). For desert there were fresh purple grapes. Drink was my beloved Diet Coke.

Wednesday I will see a weight specialist at Kyoto University. Much of this diet will be impacted by his input. There is much more to learn. Today was a cold and rainy wintry day. There was no contact with exercise except some housekeeping and a stroll to the pharmacist for gout and blood pressure medication. My blood pressure remains high but my blood shows no sign yet of diabetes.

I am in a position to have a healthier future. My diet needs endless observation, primarily because of a habitual lust and greedy disposition, which places more emphasis on feeling full than being sensible. I love being trim, but so far my internal clamor, my hungry ghost, my screaming inner child, has drowned out any semblance of normalcy. I am both villain and victim, a convenient rut of oral obsessive behavior.

I weigh 133 kg my highest ever.

Day 2
Feb. 21

Brain cells come
and brain cells go...
...but fat cells live forever.

Early morning breakfast of waffles with butter and syrup. Lunch was troublesome, the sausage and beans consumed as if swallowed in one gulp. Besides having time and a need to be more mindful, I sucked in the meal as if starving.

Why am I always so desperate to eat everything so completely and immediately? I did not have a deprived childhood. Just somewhere along the line, I began to eat mindlessly, lead on by an inner hunger oblivious of the food in front of me.

In my head I have already planned the dinner for tonight. I take an inventory of what is in the refrigerator and design before hand. In this case, chicken soup or chicken with rice and vegetables.

I believe there is not specifically anything I can point to which would explain my predisposition toward self-destructive eating. If I were a woman, a single mother working, or stay at home housekeeper, the condition would be similar.

I noticed, too, that while traveling I will seek out similar foods. Though, on the road I may exercise more, simply because I am away from my usual patterns of comfort. I can see myself being overweight just about anywhere in the world. That is, of course, assuming I can keep my middle-class standing. If I were to be thrown into poverty or illness then there would be tragic and ironical dietary success.

In fantasy, and certainly a more viable solution, I imagine orchestrating a New Age Fat Camp. Utilizing the latest in diet education, mindful eating and exercising. This might be a viable business and a positive way to stay thin. I have little business experience so this is only conjecture.

But first I need to just learn the art. To find a life-style with moderate eating (not one driven by psychological hunger) and daily exercise (overcoming a deep adversion to most every kind of physical activity as either too strenuous or too tedious).

I seem to have set myself up for failure. But there is much at stake here. In my case, personal survival and joy in living, and on a world scale, as we as a an international phenomena plummet into an epidemic of obesity.

Day 3
February 22
I am a nutritional overachiever.

Fog sits on my mountain, but my head has cleared. This morning I prepared two hard boiled eggs, three strips of bacon, two cherry tomato and a hot drink each, for my son and I. The eggs weren't to my son's liking (not fully hard boiled) and, as is his and my custom, he gave me his portion of eggs.

Though I wasn't particularly hungry, I enthusiastically ate his two additional eggs. This ritual, between a very picky trim teen and his more than willing 'garbage disposal' obese father, surely needs to be changed.

Easier said, than done. I have this obsessive need to finish everything at every sitting. I have a deep hatred of wasting food. Yes, I understand that eating food, I do not need, is equally wasteful. But this is a rut I have burrowed for myself that needs to be changed by substituting a new more meaningful ritual.

I was considering making an offering, out of every plate of food, of some portion set aside as sacrifice to my lusty hungry ghost, to appease my desire with a respectful salutation, a spiritual joke of sublimation for the 'Devil' that makes me eat so much.

Practically speaking, I could learn to keep a reserve of left overs. Routinely plastic bagging part of everything I put on my plate, and anything my kids don't want, for later meals. It sounds so unlike me, but if I make it a forced habit, a regular discipline, it may help to reduce my caloric intake by a considerable percentage.

Mostly this is an issue of Mindfulness. Any rituals that force me to look at how much I eat, and why I am eating it, can only help but stop my compulsive behavior at meal time. Learning to be miserly, about the food I eat, may go against one set of values (my desire to surrender to generous abandonment) but in the end could upturn a negative entrenched need, to be Captain of the Clean Plate Club.

Diagnosis: Fatty Liver

The meeting with Dr. Hiroaki Masuzaki at Kyoto University Hospital produced a curious overreaction.

After being told again the seriousness of my fatty liver, brought on by my obesity, my reaction was to go home ravenous.

Once home I took the leftovers from dinner and put it over rice, then still hungry, a can of pork and beans over rice, and then still hungry ate two hot dog-length sausage, with diet Coke and a banana.

Despite my morning observations and readings from "The Rules of Normal Eating" by Karen Koenig, I still had nothing but uncontrollable hunger at lunch. Having satiated myself I was able to moderate dinner, but considering I have been told I must go into the hospital for a week of testing to find ways to circumvent a personal disaster, one would think I would have some psychological leverage against this robust manic appetite.

Day 4
Thursday, Feb. 23
Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels good.

I have redone this day's diary now four times because the software keeps crashing. I am hoping it is not a premonition of my coming stay in the hospital. Though I am only going in for tests, my general distrust of institutional medicine, and my nervousness about language issues with the staff, has me nervous. The sooner I go in and get it over with the better I will feel.

I have been filled with thoughts about process, how to make this diet work, but like all thoughts they move by as clouds on the spring horizon.

A parallel nemesis has been my struggle with Nihon-go. The study and eventual mastership of the Japanese language is essential for my survival into the future, but, like weight maintance, true success eludes me.

This is why I continue to find new innovative ways to bring language learning into my dieting process. I have had found some fun alternatives, discovering podcasting learning. As an enthusiastic believer in the new wave audio community of iPods, I am and trying to implement a schedule which will draw together both study and exercise.

This sounds obvious to habitual joggers and walkers, but for me it is more icing to draw me in. Today, Thursday the 23rd of February I managed a pleasant walk with a colleague through a beautiful hidden Kyoto valley, and Friday, 24th, I will spend the day with another good friend somewhere on the streets of beautiful Kyoto city.

Companionship is a great way for me to get out and about, but the true mastership of obesity for me will be a lifestyle of private exercise. If I can establish a monk like consistency, in which I can daily exercise as second nature, only then can I hope to be master of my internal ecology.

There is no point asking anymore, why I have this psychological affliction, this adverseness to bending and stretching. I imagine, once I have gotten back into shape, I will again relish jumping, dancing, running... so talking about it is obviously no solution.

Yet here I am, at a computer, doing just that. Time to call my friend and get out onto the road.

Jog Your Memory

Study while Exercising,
with an iPod.

...a message to my subconscious.

Day 5
Friday, Feb. 24

I am in shape.
Round is a shape.

I have such a weird relationship with food.

God, I know there is a message here always for me, but I seem to be missing it.

Being slim is its own reward.

But that is not what is at issue here.

The reward needs to be in the moment. in the process of getting and staying thin.

Is it a matter of a personal ethic? Where does character come from? Why is it, some of us, do the right thing, while others beat around the bush, procrastinating?

All I want, is to be at peace with myself.

To have a gentle, compassionate understanding.

I walked today
throughout Gion. There is much here for me, so many old friends, memories, subtle innuendos, particularly when with my knowledgeable friends. I do not know yet what my relationship is with Kyoto, why destiny brought me here, why exactly I still remain... perhaps this is just a metaphor for life itself. But there is something to battling my weaknesses, taking where I feel most vulnerable and sitting inside that angst and then engaging in a battle plan.

After a few hours of strolling among the city streets I felt considerable pain in my back. I look forward to when I no longer need to carry so much weight.

Day 6 Saturday, Feb. 25

I plan on living forever.
So far, so good.

Often I feel as if I am training a rabid dog. If I am hungry I feel so driven, so it is completely unwise to skip meals. Yet having a meal is no guarantee of a steady keel. This maddening obsessive behavior, is it being possessed chemically?

I know with anger, symptoms need to be caught early and physiological countermeasures need to be put into place. Deep breathing, changing mental focus, actually counting, all can calm the wild beast within. Text like "Am I hungry? What to do When Diets Don't Work" by Michelle May suggest something similar for unmasking actual hunger and reintroducing a more mindful approach.

"...It is time to face the fact that the key to solving your struggle with weight and food does not lie in a magical, or even a logical, combination of diet and exercise. The real solution lies in finally addressing your relationship with food and learning to recognize and effectively cope with your eating triggers. Start by asking yourself “Am I hungry?” whenever you have and urge to eat. When you relearn to trust your innate ability to know when and how much to eat, you will begin to eat in a way that fuels your body, mind, and spirit. " - Michelle Day, M.D.

In my heart of hearts I do not believe any of it. What it will take is actual affirmation. Yet I do love progress, and I do see the necessity for trying, and so, I will persist.

I feel a resolve despite my failures. I am actually interested in this challenge, perhaps because it is so completely unresolved, so thoroughly iconoclastic.

Day 7 Sunday, Feb. 26

I can not help but notice, as my day is swept away into busy--ness, how meals are soaked up mindlessly. The rigors of spiritual communities, where they have moments of prayer before eating, makes a whole lot of sense.

United Methodist Table Grace

Jewish Prayers before meals

Prayers of different traditions

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins, capsulates all motivation into simply 'pain' and 'pleasure'. This is rational and behaviorism that cab be applied. I sense, if I could bring myself to observe closely enough my own behavior, I could come up with a sensible program for dieting using this basic principal.

Techniques Robbins teaches:

- Attempting to alter the body's physiology to achieve a change of emotional state.
- Asking specific questions to direct one's attention to aspects of human experience that create a more favorable psychology.
- Getting leverage to create change by associating a person's old behavior with massive pain and the desired new behavior with massive pleasure.
- Interrupting one's limiting pattern by doing something totally unexpected.
- Conditioning behaviour by visualizing it over and over again.
- Goal-setting
- Creating a "Compelling future", vividly imagining one's end result to generate enthusiasm and power to work towards one's goals.

Day 8 Monday, Feb. 27


These verses by Thich Nhat Hanh appear in Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, an anthology edited by Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft, Shambhala, Boston & London, 2000.
Click here to play a sound clip of
"The Miracle of Mindfulness"
(requires Real Player)
blessing the meal
This food is the gift of the whole universe - the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realise the path of practice.
filling the plate
My plate, empty now, will soon be filled with precious food.
seeing the full plate
In this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.
sitting down to eat
Sitting here is like sitting under the Bodhi tree. My body is mindfulness itself, entirely free from distraction.
before the first bite
Many beings are struggling for food today. I pray that they all may have enough to eat.
contemplating the food
This plate of food, so fragrant and appetising, also contains much suffering.
the first four mouthfuls
With the first taste, I promise to offer joy. With the second, I promise to help relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others' joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of non-attachment and equanimity.
upon finishing the meal
The plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all beings.
holding a cup of tea
This cup of tea in my two hands - Mindfulness is held uprightly! My mind and body dwell in the very here and now.

Daily Meditations verses by Thich Nhat Hanh
Day 9 Tuesday, Feb. 28

I am scheduled at the hospital, a weight clinic specializing in what I have been concentrating on, from Friday March 24th to April 3rd. I look forward to this experiment, though I was intimidated by the death of 3% of the patients at this clinic. I will feel better, hopefully, once it is over.

Meanwhile I am not impressed at the way my mind struggles with dietary choices. I have begun working with a 25 day plan designed by Tony Robbins 'Personal Power' a boot-leg copy and have ordered his weight focused package "The Body You Deserve" $347 with shipping here to Japan. I remain a consumer, both initially as a decadent eater and at the other end as a dieter.

I imagine they will place me on a 1600 calorie diet. Some of their Japanese women clients are on a 500 daily calorie regime. I will be exercising several hours a day and I will be monitored while I sleep. I wonder how they will handle the logistics of monitoring. This will be an informative experience. Hopefully not one I will regret.

The experience is suppose to be completely non-intrusive, we shall see. I should have asked the doctor to be more specific about what actually killed his other patients. I would like to have a positive impression of institutionalized medicine.

Day 10
Wednesday, March 1

Another fabulous DVD arrived from America from the Spiritual Cinema Circle. I cried throughout several of the productions. I wonder where all the tears come from and how I can best act on this inspiration.

My appetite was again ravenous this morning, with two bowls of Paul Newman cereal, micro-wave popcorn, a diet coke, defrosted strawberries and coffee. I keep watching and trying to learn what it is that I am craving. There is no clear message, just a barrage of cross-singles.

Cold rainy day, ideal for staying in. Thank God my job permits this time alone with my thoughts. I feel so blessed. Email retains my connection to the outside world while I glory in the sanctity of my home.

I have enjoyed tremendously the experimenting with web pages, though there is always so much further to go to feel a true sense of competence.

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