Hi Liz! It’s great to hear how you are engaging with the approach and being curious about your habits.
I can relate to this, because for a long time I would not eat meals on schedule, but snack and graze all afternoon and into the evening. I wasn’t happy with this pattern and it was one of the things I decided to change, using Gillian’s approach.
My understanding of Times and Plans is that you set a Time for when you are going to eat immediately after you have finished eating. So for example, I have my lunch, and then set a Time for when I will next eat. To start with, this would only be a gap of one or two hours, eg lunch at 1pm, Time set for 3pm. When the Time comes, I make a decision whether to eat again or not, taking into consideration not only whether I am hungry but also whether this is likely to be an addictive desire – a desire for biscuits with a cup of tea for instance. I can satisfy that desire by eating the biscuits, or work through it – my choice, and I take the consequences of each.
Gradually, my use of Times has evolved into a pattern of two or three healthy meals a day, and that’s where I am now. Snacking, grazing, biscuits etc are very much the exception now and rarely happen. I don’t have to think too rigidly about Times any more, as I always have a rough idea of when my next meal will be, e.g. ‘I’ll eat now, before I go out’, or ‘I’ll eat after I’ve finished this piece of work.’ these regular meals, which are now much better quality and healthier than my snacking and grazing behaviour, have helped to motivate me to keep going, because I feel so much better.
My understanding of Plans is that you decide what you are going to eat, and how much, immediately before eating, so a kind of visual image of what will be on the plate: two potatoes or three, for example, or one ladleful or two, and so on, and what you’re going to have for pudding, if anything. I was happy with my Times, so I started to use Plans to reduce the amount I was eating. You plan even if it’s something addictive, so I might plan to have two biscuits after my main meal, although when the time comes, I might decide to work through the desire instead of eating the biscuits. I can do either – it’s my life, my choice!
You ask whether you can plan ahead of when you eat, and I would say no, that doesn’t work. You can’t make decisions about the future, only about what you are going to eat now, at this moment. You say that if you decided a Plan immediately before eating the cookie that it would result in you eating addictively, but I think you are conflating plans with the AD. When you eat more than your Plan, you are satisfying and reinforcing your addictive desire. Your choice! If you planned to eat one cookie, and you then feel the addictive desire for more, you can choose to work through the AD instead of satisfying it. It is a true choice: the Plan is not a rule, it’s a boundary you set for yourself so that you can identify where your addictive desire starts. Remember the mountain image from week 2? We can’t really know when AD starts or ends, but if you have a Plan and you eat more than you planned to, that’s addictive desire – which as I say, you can decide to satisfy and reinforce, or you can decide to feel and experience, in order to create new pathways of expectation in your brain, and get control of your overeating.
I don’t think anyone can tell you what ‘normal’ eating is, but maybe you could experiment with your current pattern of eating close to bedtime? What would happen if you tried eating a late brunch, then had your tea at 7pm as usual? Why not try it for size for a few days? For me personally, because I have a long walk every morning with my dogs before eating, I have a healthy savoury brunch at about 11.30am, then my tea at 5pm and often don’t need anything else that day. I really don’t feel well if I go to bed on a full stomach and I don’t sleep well, so that’s why I changed that pattern. Another pattern might suit you and of course the family meals you share.
What I will say finally is that sometimes I have to eat when I’m not hungry, because it’s a convenient time to eat. So on Tuesdays, my friends and I all have a long dog walk together, and we meet at 11am. Therefore, on Tuesdays, I eat my breakfast at 8am, because by the time I get home from the walk it will be around 3pm and I’d be starving, which is silly. So although I prefer my late brunches, I can be flexible and eat breakfast earlier if it makes sense for the way my day is organised.
Phew! I do apologize for the lengthy reply! It’s as helpful to me to explain my journey as I hope my reply is to you. You can really do this if you are willing to think outside the box and to experiment with doing things differently. We can always find ways to justify not making a change (‘this is what I do’; ‘my body is used to this’ etc) but it’s only when we have the courage to change things that things can change for us.
Good luck! Love the way you are hanging on in there! And looking forward to seeing everyone-s ideas about this topic.