Eating In Challenge Update

I last updated everyone on my attempt to eat in a week into the challenge. I’m now three and a half weeks in, and I thought I’d give another update.

The week spanning 18 April to 25 April was basically good, but I ate through two of my meals on the 24th & 25th. One of them was intentional, as it is my monthly meal out with a couple of friends. The other was an embarrassing mistake that wasn’t really worth it.

In essence, Bill talked me into splitting a couple of cupcakes with him, pointing out that snacks out aren’t meals out. Cupcakes are, quite frankly, my biggest weakness and I have struggled most (internally) with snacks. Overall, I have not been inclined to hold them against myself, but I do think my friend Jen would have a point if she called it ‘out of bounds’. It didn’t matter, however, because we each bought one cupcake and split them (so a total of one cupcake each), and this particular shop’s cupcakes are enormous, and I ruined my dinner.

Cupcakes for dinner. After talking myself into them. You can’t get less intentional than that. Especially when they turn out to be basically mediocre, and thus regrettable.

Anyway. That’s embarrassing to admit. But it did help me figure out, for myself, where my boundaries are for snacks, meals & intentional choices.

From 26 April to today, I have eaten out twice more. If you do the math, yes, that is one more time than I had aimed for, and yes, I have a week to go. However, I’m surprisingly comfortable with these two choices, and all the times (like last night!) when I managed not to give in to the severe temptation of eating out.

My fourth instance of eating out was unexpected, but once I found out about it, I would not have missed it barring extreme circumstances. I found out a week ago one of my friends from my old lab was defending her dissertation, and about to become Dr. Jenny this past Wednesday. In our lab, the tradition is a celebratory dinner after the defense. So, I scheduled myself to be at her defense seminar (and she utterly nailed it – one of the best defense seminars I’ve ever seen), and then to join the lab at dinner that evening. The food was mediocre, sadly, but the company was exhilarated and amazing. The conversation sparkled, I met two of the nicest nine-year-olds ever (her nephews), and it was truly a great evening.

No regrets. Celebrations are not to be missed.

The fifth instance of eating out was this morning. Ever since I introduced this challenge, Bill has wanted to go to his favorite breakfast place, Sweet Maple Cafe. It’s perceived scarcity, I suppose. When I was in Kenya in 2009, and Bill had just moved to Chicago (without me!), he used to eat there at least once a week. When I came back, we walked there almost as often. But once we moved out of the area, our frequency dropped dramatically. At this point, we may go once every three months. Maybe less.

However, the threat of not being able to go bothered him a hair, at first. As it did back in February, when I tried this before. One of the reasons I set my goal at four meals out was to allow for some chance to go eat breakfast with him, since I knew he’d want to go. When I ruined my dinner with cupcakes, he was genuinely bummed. He thought all my meals had been scheduled, and so he’d accidentally replaced Sweet Maple with cupcakes – not a trade he’d ever intentionally make.

I assured him he hadn’t, not yet knowing about Jenny’s dissertation. And, because Bill is a wonderful guy, when he found out about the dissertation dinner, he didn’t even blink. He understood that had to be meal four, and was prepared to wait again. But, in the end, I felt that we should go. I’d promised, and we both wanted to go. And, frankly, at about once a quarter, his Sweet Maple Cafe habit is not was breaking the caloric or monetary budget. So, we went this morning, and it was fun, tasty and lovely.

I almost stumbled yesterday, though. Hard. The weather in Chicago has turned amazingly gorgeous, and patios are opening everywhere. Bill invited me to meet him as his one-day training was ending, and walk home with him. Which, unfortunately, was a walk that would take us right past Bill’s favorite restaurant in Chicago, and its newly open patio. As well as a few other quite loved restaurants, also with patios.

We have a balcony, but we don’t have patio furniture for it. It’s not like we could have easily eaten on our own patio. And I was pretty hungry – lunch had been a big salad, but it had not been enough.

Luckily, Bill said, “We should go home.” And so we did. And he cooked up a stellar stir-fry with CSA greens, carrots, onions, tofu and rice. It was amazing.

And that, my friends, is why this challenge finally feels like it’s working out for me, even though it started as more of a struggle than I’d like to admit. But I feel like we’re finally getting our footing. We started getting a CSA three weeks ago – none of it has yet gone to waste, even though I get tired of lettuce and other greens faster than you can blink. We can make the choice, with minimal hardship, to forgo the tasty restaurant and its glorious patio and come home and make a killer meal.

It isn’t yet perfect, but I’m getting there. It feels great. I feel like the forces of intention, too much perishable food in the house, support from each other, and deliberate choices have really put us back on the path we want to be on. I think we’ve gotten into a new and better groove.

So now I’m left wondering what to do about this challenge, given I do have to travel. One line of thinking could be that I’ve already failed, so maybe I should chuck it all. That’s not really my style, though. Especially since I feel like the “failing” meal was, in fact, a success. Another line is that I should keep going, and see if I can keep it to only five meals out.

The third, and I’ll be honest, the one I’m leaning toward, is to close it down tomorrow. I head to New Mexico tomorrow, without Mr. Bill (sadness!), to help out some family there. I’ll be gone for about ten days. My original intent, if travel interrupted the challenge, was to suspend the challenge and then pick it back up and extend as needed. I can, and may still, do that. However, I wonder if having an explicit end date means anything anymore. Or, worse, if it’ll just encourage going back to being less intentional.

I don’t know. I’m going to consider everything. I’d love to hear your thoughts, in the comments.