“Feed Me” is now “Fed Me” — conclusions from the great experiment

It’s nearing (what should be) dinner time on August 31 — time to recap the month of the great “Feed Me” experiment.

My goal is here is to explain what I’ve learned, where this has made me better, how I have faith in longer-term healthiness… and how the wheels came off at the very end.

I’ve gone back and graded myself on how I ate each day — sticking to the plan, if I ate well when I went off-plan or was left to my own devices, etc. Instead of A’s, B’s, or F’s, I went with percentages on a typical school grading scale. You can see the scores (and explanations) on the far right column of the meal plan spreadsheet.

The month started strong, and even with events (an impromptu ballgame, a short camping trip) interrupting flow in the first two weeks, I stayed true to the plan. Through August 14th, I gave myself just one B and one C. The rest were A’s.

During that second week of August, the kids started school. Same for my wife Tracey, since she occasionally works there, and she was called in a bunch in the first couple of weeks. A work event that kept me late on what would have been grocery shopping night meant postponing Friday’s plan. I recommitted that weekend, and spent Sunday shopping and preparing upcoming meals… when jury duty called. I was seated for three days — an experience I’m proud to have been part of, though it stalled out the experiment. The perishable groceries I’d purchased had perished. Then *I* started to perish, as the back-to-school bug the kids brought home (and had knocked Tracey out for the better part of the week) finally got me over the weekend.

With one week to go, I was determined to do well — until the kids’ first sports practices and games got underway, stretching longer into nights than expected. The month’s final weekend wound up being Labor Day weekend, and a chance to finish strong lost out to an impromptu road trip with Tracey. Family first, not food.

I end the month with two failing grades — two of only three I had for the month. I’m going to take an overall B for August as a win. Earlier, I was thinking if I ever did this again, I’d start with a grading system, because scores tend to keep me motivated. The more I thought about that, though, I realize a scoreboard couldn’t have given me the thing I most needed to have made this an A+ success:

Time. You foodies, I don’t know how you do it. My typical weekday involves 1 hour getting ready, 3 hours of commuting, 9 hours at work, 2 hours for family (typically: dinner, homework, sports practices), and 7 hours of sleep. That leaves two hours for me, from 8-10 PM. Whatever I need to do for me takes place then. I don’t bring this up as an excuse or a complaint — early in the month, I was able to stick to using those hours learning my way around the grocery store or prepping the next day’s meals.

That time was in high demand as the month progressed, and was needed for more than just planning meals. In the context of this experiment, it led to some failure. As for my life, I needed to use that time in other places, and I’m OK with that.

It also helped crystallize the biggest learning: The main reason I’m attracted to fast food isn’t taste, but convenience. We live in a world where you can pull off the road for one minute, get inexpensive sustenance in a bag, handed to you with a smile through a window, and you’re back on your way. And you can snarf down that consistently-prepared food by the time you reach your destination, so you can focus on whatever’s next.

I realize now that what I put into my body is also priority, as much as the kids are, as much as work is, as much as any of it. The road I was on was going to end much sooner than I’d like if I didn’t make a change. This month was a wake-up call for that, and I’ve learned.

I’ve also learned that the support from people who care about me is intense. For as many good recipes that were shared, the encouragement was leaps and bounds beyond that. Thank you, everyone, who helped make this month happen. You helped me improve my life, and you continue to do so. My good friend Mike wrote me near the end of the month, advising me to think about what September might hold and set some reasonable goals to keep up the good that’s happened here.

After some careful thought, I don’t think I’ll set September goals. I don’t know that I need them. August’s numbers are nice: 0 fast-food burgers, 1 Coke, 5 lost pounds. But the bigger takeaway is, I deserve better than what I’ve been doing to myself, and I won’t need a scoreboard to stay true to that. Just some patience, some extra virgin olive oil, and some reflection on why this is important in the first place.

I swear, when this whole thing started, I thought September 1 was going to include a Wendy’s Triple and a Culver’s Concrete Mixer. It won’t. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday, but it won’t happen as often. The longing for them just isn’t there.

And that is a win.

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