Eating between meals? Try to get the very thought out of your head. What I’ve learned is that if I eat between meals, I won’t lose weight, period. I just don’t do it anymore. It was difficult at first. I didn’t miss the out-and-out crap so much, the midafternoon doughnuts or Fritos, but I did crave the good stuff—sfogliatelles (my absolute favorite Italian pastry), thick slices of buffalo mozzarella drizzled with great olive oil, a hunk of baguette stuffed with sopressata (the most satisfying 4 p.m. pick-me-up). I cut all that out of my life. It’s weird how disciplined I’ve become. Am I now a regimented killjoy with no spontaneity? Well, maybe a little. But as I see it there’s no joy in blubber or in diabetes. So I decided to try to stop spontaneously throwing stuff into my mouth, at least if I could. To my astonishment I discovered I could (most of the time).
I used various head-trip techniques to accomplish the feat. First I tried talking myself into enjoying feeling hungry. I know that sounds perverse, but it worked, on occasion. At the same time I noticed that when I wanted to eat between meals, sometimes it was from actual hunger, but mostly it was just plain boredom or anxiety, or a delightful mix of both. My supposed between-meal craving began to reveal itself for what it really usually was, just a gnawing emptiness that had nothing to do with my stomach. I tried replacing it with activities like sending comical but vaguely irritating e-mails to friends.
I came to realize that what I really needed was to understand that the only food worth eating is wonderful food enjoyed with friends and family while sitting at a real table. So the more creative my cooking becomes, and the more friends I can gather round, the more exciting my dinners are, and I can wait for them with anticipation, without picking. If all I had to look forward to after a long day of work was an impersonal frozen diet dinner thrown in the microwave, I’d never make it through the day without two pounds of greasy salami and a gallon of pistachio gelato.
Some diet books suggest eating five or six small meals a day, to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. That is the world’s worst advice. I don’t know anyone who has ever succeeded at that. Either you wind up eating five not-so-small meals a day and ingesting tons of calories, or you pick up any old crap and throw it in your mouth when you have a minute free. Not only do I know no one over the age of two who has the luxury of adopting such an eating schedule, and grabbing food and shoving it into their mouth like an astronaut, but it’s utterly un-Italian in spirit anyway. It’s a way to eat for people who really don’t enjoy food—the kind of people who eat “power bars.”
So for real dieting success and tranquility of spirit, the point ultimately is to do what Italians usually do; Sit down with family and friends and eat a great meal.