Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On the Virtue of Temperance: “No S Diet” and Beyond


My husband has been on the “No S Diet” for several years now. It is quite simple:

  1. No snacks (no eating between meals),
  2. No seconds, and
  3. No sweets,

except for days that begin with “S”: Saturdays, Sundays, and “Special” days (e.g., Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.)

It’s the first diet my husband has ever tried, and probably the last one he will try because he will probably continue it as a practice for life. He gradually and steadily lost over 25 pounds and kept them off.

Having brought up to be mindful of the food I eat, eating sensibly came easily to me, but not to my husband. I couldn’t convince him that him fretting over the fact that I didn’t buy the fat-free turkey slices to go with his croissant for a sandwich didn’t make sense, because he didn’t realize how much fat went into making that flakey dough (and what’s wrong with having a croissant once in a while with real poultry?). I couldn’t convince him that it’s ok to just have a spoonful of ice cream for the taste, and to have a variety of food.

When he started baking more, he began to appreciate the process of making food and the quality of the ingredients. He was reading Michael Pollan, and other food articles. When he stumbled upon the No S Diet, it resonated with him, because it was simple: there were only 3 rules. The metrics are intuitive: we all know what “no seconds” and “no snacking” means. The rules are stated in such a way that you define what you consider “sweets” (e.g., my husband will drink fruit juices only on S days, but others may not consider them to be sweets): you decide and you stick with it. For an emotional “out”, there are S days, so you haven’t really given anything up: the opportunities for indulging is simply postponed. There are no particular ingredients to avoid or include, no special packaged foods you have to subscribe to, no measuring of portions (plate capacity becomes the upper limit), and no record keeping. There are also no explicitly stated timelines or goals for weight loss or other measures of health (to be resentful of).

All of the above resulted in establishing a “practice” of mindful eating. The result, as I observed it, was more than the sum of the rules, more than his weight loss. In not eating seconds and not snacking, he gained an intuitive understanding of portion control: everything you see on a plate goes into your stomach, and nothing else. He was easy for him to make a decision whether or not to eat something that was offered to him: if it’s not an S day, it was an automatic “no”. The strange thing, or perhaps not so strange but unexpected, is that even on S days, he started to get picky about the sweets he ate. In the past, if there were cheap mints on top of a restaurant bill, he would have automatically grabbed them and popped one in his mouth, but not now. If he didn’t feel like eating it, the mints remained on the table. Eating was a conscious decision he made.

It’s almost like getting kids to do drills in mathematics. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they really understand all the logic before they begin. Sometimes in doing them, loads of them, they start to see a pattern which helps them to understand the fundamental mathematical concepts. I couldn’t get my husband to understand mindful eating, but practicing these 3 simple rules got him to act as if he did understand it. And now, having practiced it for several years, I know he understands and appreciate mindful eating.

Why stop there? What about our practice in using other resources we should be concerned about, like energy? How about personal finance? What would a No S Sustainability look like? No S Budgeting?

Photo: Farmers’ Market, San Francisco, California

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This entry was posted on April 24, 2015 by in Culture, Food, Management, Psychology and tagged , .
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