There is a urban legend that we should fuel our bodies throughout the day by eating sensible snacks at regular intervals.

The Overeaters Anonymous party line runs contrary.

Part of my food protocol is three pre-planned meals with nothing in between.

No deviation.

OA people call this 3-0-1. Three meals, nothing in between, one god. Let’s talk about god later.

“Don’t eat, even if your ass falls off.”

That is the instruction.

I recall a conversation with my first sponsor, a million years ago. I was a cash-strapped, law student without a car buried in two feet of accumulated snow in Ithaca, New York.

Law school was terrifying, at best.

I gained twelve pounds the first semester.

Do the math.

Three years at this rate would equal 72 pounds. On top of some preexisting chub.

Forget about the health effects and self loathing. After a $150,000 investment in my education, being fat would make me unemployable I believed.

So I devoted myself to the protocol: three committed, weighed and measured meals with nothing in between.

And of course the day came, very quickly, when the meal I had planned wasn’t happening. I was short on time, late for a class, stressed and hungry.

So I ate a rather sensible looking, healthy granola bar, which I reported to my sponsor.

Who explained to me that I had broken my abstinence.

“But I felt real hunger and this was the healthiest choice available.”

Two problems.

First, it contained sugar, which I believe is addictive and sets in motion a cascade of distracting physiological and emotional cravings that I must then do battle with.

Second, I had made a commitment and broken it.

Weight loss, or abstinence, in OA speak, requires me to commit “as if my life depended on it.”

There is almost always a difference between the amount of food our bodies need to sustain life and the amount we think we need or, god forbid, “deserve.”. How many times did I graze mindlessly on red peppers or rolled up turkey breast because those foods were “harmless’ and I figured I needed it. Because I’m taller and larger than most women, I reasoned.

Frankly, I believe if I were totally honest and scrupulously observant of my behavior, I picked up the granola bar not even because I felt physical hunger but because I held the erroneous belief that the clock said it was time to eat and therefore choosing something quasi “healthy” (but, in reality, just a candy bar) would prevent excess hunger or, even seemingly worse, the dreaded feeling of deprivation.

Being hungry won’t kill me.

And doing without food for one meal need not be labeled deprivation.

Abandon the notion that food is something you deserve or that doing without will create an unendurable feeling of deprivation.

Change, not only with food, often requires us to do without, over and over again.

We are changing our bodies and minds to interrupt the automatic reach for food, the search for something outside of ourselves to change the way we feel.

We are learning to live with a little discomfort. That is the choice we commit ourselves to when we set off to lose weight.

Don’t eat even if your ass falls off.