What problem are we trying to solve?

Always a good question to start with. Image:  Marie Fargues, the Painter’s Wife,  Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1756 - 1758, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Always a good question to start with. Image: Marie Fargues, the Painter’s Wife, Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1756 - 1758, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

I was taught to ask this question, what problem are we trying to solve, as a young project manager (in my 30s! So! Young!). I know I've written about this before, and it is still one of the best questions ever. I try to ask it every time I notice that confused feeling coming over me.

A few months ago I did a reader survey, and asked what troubles were most on everyone's mind. If I could wave a wand, and make one problem disappear, what would it be? Essentially, problems boiled down to:

1. Change unwanted eating habits / bingeing / crazy eating / cure eating disorders. These answers varied! All over the road! There were all different kinds of eating that readers wanted to stop.

2. Lose weight. Not complex! Super simple: LOSE WEIGHT.

These might seem like the same problem, but they're not. To be sure, they are related. If your eating is disordered, if you're bingeing, grazing all day, living on bread Vitamin C and ice cream, and you change all that, and start eating regular meals built on whole foods found in nature, you will lose weight, no question.

But if you're trying to lose weight, the most popular ways don't do much to solve your eating disorder problem. Quite the opposite. Dieting won't get you there (and science knows it doesn't really work for permanent weight loss, either). Intuitive Eating, also no. For most people, that's just more chaotic eating with a nice name that sounds vaguely like something everyone could approve of.

(Intuition? What could be wrong with that? We will answer that question another week, oh yes.)

For anyone with an overeating disorder, I think you'll be happier - and leave yourself in a better position to lose weight - if you adopt a way of eating that's actually orderly. Then you'll have a sturdy foundation from which to approach the very specific problem of losing weight and keeping it off.

I always ask people to start with eating meals, and eating nothing but meals. "Meal" means a discrete quantity of food, at some predictable-ish time, that has an end point not too long after the beginning. A meal comes to an end. And the next meal comes after a gap.

Do this, and I predict that will amount to 90% of saying goodbye to disordered eating. Get enough food. Get quality food. Get it regularly. And when you've gotten it, step away.

So if, just maybe, you have spent the end of the summer

  • grazing

  • noshing

  • bingeing

  • "going unconscious" (not a real thing)

  • and just-this-once-ing x 86 with all the special special things

please consider going back to eating adequate nutritious meals.

Next week let's talk about the very different project of losing weight, and how it probably won't be enough simply to eat meals, unless your weight loss goals are very modest. I just read Penn Jillette's book (h/t Gretchen Rubin) Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales, and it's given me a lot to think about.

Btw, 1:1 coaching sessions are gone. I’ll try to offer more between Halloween and Thanksgiving, so make sure you’re on my mailing list if you want to hear about that.