Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Travel Trap: Playing Chess with My Future Self

Michael, June 18, 2015: 285 pounds

Well, the scale is going the wrong way again, but I am not terribly concerned about it, since I have still been doing what I said I would do, which is drinking a lot of water (and no soda), eating modest meals, not snacking except on fruitsandvegetablesandothergoodthings, and, generally, not acting on my compulsions.

But I am about to face the first big test of my resolve. Next week, I am going to be travelling, first to Utah to do some archival research and then to Illinois to participate in a symposium. I will be alone, in the car, with nothing to do but listen to audiobooks (I love listening to audiobooks when I travel) and snack on bad carbohydrates (I REALLY love snacking when I drive).

So, even though I don't leave for a few more days, I have already begun to strategize for the trip. For me, travelling is the absolutely worst time to try to eat right. My anxiety always spikes when I travel, and both the opportunities for food, and the ability to do anything else, plummets to almost zero.

What I have to do is pretend that Current-Me is a general trying to outwit Future-Me. This is hard enough, since Future-Me is clever and armed with credit cards. But also, Future-Me will know all of my plans and will have strategies in place to frustrate them. So the only possible response is to split Future-Me into Good-Future-Me (who will be trying to maintain control), and Bad-Future-Me (who will be looking for any excuse to step into a quick shop and grab a dozen donuts, six candy bars, and a few slices of pizza in each town I pass).

Good-Future-Me is my ally, and I have to do everything I can to help him vanquish Bad-Future-Me. It's like a chess game with two other versions of myself. The intent is to gang up on the bad guy.

So here is the plan.


  1. Keep an ice chest of water, carrots, protein drinks, fruit, trail mix, and other things that are edible, moderately healthy, and don't start with "donut."
  2. Get plenty of sleep so that Future-Me can't pull the "you-have-to-get-some-Dr.-Pepper to stay awake" routine, which, I must admit, is one of my best bits.
  3. Eat only in sit-down restaurants on the road. No fast food. No eating in the car unless it comes from the cooler. AND NO BUFFETS.
  4. Stay out of convenience stores. Buy bottled water and healthy snacks at a grocery store and pay at the pump.
  5. Whenever possible, eat with other people who know I am trying to be good. Create social pressures in strong moments to keep myself honest in weak moments.
  6. Before eating anything, count to 1,000. Include Mississippis.