01 February 2013

Five Foods Safe to Eat While Writing

by Carrie Bailey

If you are a writer, you probably face two major issues that will undoubtedly impact your health, if they haven't already. Check the number you see on the bathroom scales. Yeah, me, too. Since I started writing in 2009, these two little problems have added FIFTY unwanted pounds to my otherwise incredible life.

1. Writing is a sedentary activity
2. Over-eating is easy to do while writing

So far, I've lost THIRTY pounds by following a strict diet, but just as soon as I started getting enthusiastic about what I'm writing again, the weight started creeping back on.

And no, I'm not going jogging. If you're thinking that all I have to do is show up at the gym, hold on to your dumbbells, because I do enough physical labor during the forty to sixty hours per week at my day job. Ouch, I know. It's not fair, but it is true. Parents of young children can confirm. They chase the children, but they don't lose weight. Why?

It's the writing. I know it is. Writing makes an otherwise healthy person fat. I don't feel like I eat more. I don't feel like I eat differently. I get more physical activity than before when I weighed less and I'm still in my 30s...only I am writing in the room next to my kitchen and my sense of time is distorted while I'm busy working on my novel or a blog post or whatever if may be today. That's what's different.

My distorted sense of time allows me to eat and drink whenever I want. I know grazing is supposed to be healthy for a person, according to the experts, but whoever that person is, I don't think they like food as much as I do. Or, perhaps they just can't cook anything that tastes as good as my sweet potato, corn and black bean Shepherd's Pie. Probably, not. Anyway, the difference between when I'm losing weight and gaining weight while writing is remarkably simple. When I'm losing weight, I make a meal plan the night before including beverages. I set the food aside, in exact portions, so I can physically see how much there will be for me to eat each time I take a break from writing and when it's gone, I stop eating. When I'm gaining weight, I eat small meals that I know are healthy, but I really couldn't say how much my snacking adds up, because I'm not actually paying attention.  

I'm not going to stop munching while writing. I need safe foods. And I realize that foods that make healthy snacks when I'm not writing, can become bitterly dangerous when I'm not paying attention. That handful of nuts becomes the whole bowl. Those fourteen crackers transforms quickly into, yep, the whole box. Forget chips, don't even mention them.

I have, however, identified a few writer-safe snack foods. If you fail to stop when you should, the consequences for leaving these on your desk while you work will be minimal.

1. Popcorn. Boring, plain, popcorn. No salt. No real butter or margarine. Just corn, popped. If you've got to have a carbohydrate and you need to eat and eat and eat, eat this.

2. Apples. Good luck getting fat eating apples. Sure they're sweet, but you've got to be a special sort of person to take a fresh apple and keep going with it the point of danger. They're excellent for binging because they both satisfy the desire for something sweet and they're fibrous.

3. Cucumbers and onions soaked in half vinegar and half water. Slice them in a dish and let them set for a while. They're a lot like eating pickles, but fresher.

4. Sugar-free hard candies. If you've tried them years before and realized as I did that they were awful, give them another chance. Great advances have been made in replacing sugar with other substances of questionable merit. I like the Werther's Sugar Free candies. Even if I impatiently crunch down on fifteen of them, I'm only regretting it to the tune of 120 calories. Fifteen!

5. Tea and coffee. No, they're not foods, but how many times have you eaten something when in truth, you were dehydrated? Maybe that's just me. Still, if done right, tea and coffee can be calorie free things to do with your mouth while writing. And that's what it's really all about.

These recommendations don't satisfy hunger necessarily. They do something else. They help you extend the time between meals when you're not capable of giving your full attention to what you're putting in your mouth.

Personally, I only can follow what dietitians recommend when I've got the time and attention to devote to it, but most of the time, I care about what I'm writing much much more than what I'm eating. I don't want to waste the mental energy on thinking about food and I don't want to lose focus on my writing to count calories, carbs, read labels or otherwise consult my diet.

And that's the problem. Most diets are designed with the assumption that I, like the dietitian who designed them, want to spend lots of my time and energy during my day on my diet. They are wrong. As soon as my day starts and I'm focused on my characters want to do, the opportunity to deal with my meal plan is lost. So, I start the night before and I minimize the damage done by mindless eating with safe foods.


  1. So true, especially for female writers. :)

  2. Grazing isn't healthy! By eating between meals (and there shouldn't be more than THREE per day!) you keep your insulin levels high, and will eventually develop diabetes! I'm kidding you not. Three meals a day, and that's it! Coffee, on the other hand...

    1. ...is healthy! I know it's healthy. It's got antioxidants. Right?

  3. This is good for the guys too. I find myself reaching for a snack most often when I'm stuck behind a desk (either writing or dealing with the day job) and I'm also stuck with brain freeze.

    And not the fun Slurpee kind.

    I wonder if doing some writing exercises in those locked-up moments would not only help the writer's block, but would also keep me from feeling like I need to munch to fill the time.

    Thanks for the FOOD for thought Carrie! HA! I kill me!

    1. I don't know, but I've got a set of dumbbells that I truly love and as long as I'm dressed for it, it doesn't hurt to get blood pumping when I have a case of the dread block for writers. I'm going to give that a shot.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. My thighs are crying at your lovely and healthy suggestions, but *I* am thanking you for this post. (And I'm totally laughing at Rob's "food for thought" comment, too.) I notice the same thing when I'm writing more... sitting sitting sitting, therefore tighter pants. I've never tried the cucumber/vinegar thing before, but it sounds awesome... and why have I never thought of apples? The coffee, however, I have a VERY hard time with. I can't make myself drink it without all the fixin's! =(


    1. I understand. It took ages for me to train myself to drink black coffee. I used to buy myself an iced white chocolate soy mocha with two chocolate covered coffee beans everyday.

      Being able to drink coffee black is liberating. It takes time, but if you can think about as being an entirely different experience from drinking coffee with additives, it might be more manageable. I still drink iced soy white mochas...just as treats.

    2. Jessica, thanks for laughing at my corny line. There will probably be more in the future, so please continue to do so!

      I'm also learning the Ways of the Penman when it comes to coffee. I can do simple milk and sugar if necessary, but that's as close as I get to "real" coffee at this point.

    3. Drinking black coffee is a lot like swimming you just have to throw yourself at it, because... give me a second to explain... I do have a reason... okay, I'll get back to you once I remember.

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