One day we step on the scale and the number we see there shocks us. It has crossed some threshold we may not even have known we had, and we're galvanized. "That's it! I'm going on a diet!"
In the early stages, we cut out everything: sugar, carbs, processed food, whatever we have to in order to lose weight fast. We might even cut too much in order to achieve our goal as quickly as possible. I've done the starvation liquid diet thing. I've done the no-more-than-20-carbs-a-day thing.
However, at some point we start to feel deprived (and perhaps we really are). We start eating all of those things again, and we end up right back where we started in the first place (or maybe we're even heavier). I've done that too.
Maybe the problem is that when we try to cut out everything we think will make us fat, we start spending all of our time thinking about food! What we can have, what we can't have, how soon we can have something, how we'll deal with the food at our cousin's wedding, our husband's birthday, or the holiday that's right around the corner.
My mother was a serial dieter, and she talked about food all the time! I've done it too. It doesn't help that it's been primarily my responsibility to plan meals, do the grocery shopping, and do the cooking. That's already a big chunk of time and effort to spend thinking about food, without adding any deprivation-fueled thoughts to the mix.
Is this how naturally thin people think about food? I have a feeling it's not. Naturally thin people surely have foods that they really enjoy, but they probably don't fixate on them. When they're hungry, they eat, and when they're sated, they don't wonder how long it is until they can put some more calories into their mouths.
And we may choose to be vegetarian, or vegan, or Paleo, or whatever, but aren't we all fortunate to have those choices? We aren't required to think about food during every waking minute just so we can be sure to have enough. We aren't hunter-gatherers, and anyone who's reading this isn't on the edge of poverty. We have plenty of opportunity to think and talk about something other than food.
One thing I've noticed about those of us who eat too much and too often is that we may not discriminate against foods. I've been guilty of eating a pile of Oreo cookies, which I don't even much like, simply because I wanted a sugar fix. What I really craved might have been one exceptional chocolate chip coconut cookie like my mom used to make. But I ate the Oreos, and was still unsatisfied.
It would be good to banish all of the foods that I personally don't care for – Oreos, potato chips, most candy bars. Just give up all of those things that don't really matter to me, and don't ever let them stand in for something I might really crave, like pumpkin pudding or pizza.
As for the things I miss, like a chai tea latte with a shot of espresso, perhaps I should joyfully and without guilt bring them back into my life. Rather than feeling bad because a diet says I should never again have something I like, I should feel free to have it whenever I want, and feel a little bit of pride whenever I make the choice to skip that splurge. That way I haven't made something I enjoy into a "never ever" thing. I have no reason to rebel against my diet, and instead of feeling shame over sharing a piece of fresh blackberry cobbler with my husband, I can be proud that I chose to share it instead of getting a piece all for myself.
Unfortunately, "overweight" and "proud" don't seem to be words that go together in the minds of most people. So be sure to remember all of the things you offer to the world, no matter what you weigh:
- your humor
- your compassion
- your intelligence
- your skills
- your kindness
- your honesty
- your generosity
- your talents
- your creativity
- your energy
- your optimism
- your courage
- your open mind
Your diet may be important for your continued health and well-being, but it's far from the most notable thing about you. I need to remember this too, and strive always to be a multi-dimensional person with much more to think and talk about than food!
P.S. I'm offering the Kindle edition of my book Resilient: How Minimalism Helps You Cope With the Challenges of Life for only $1.99 until midnight this Sunday, October 18. We're all dealing with the stresses of COVID-19, schooling at home, the acrid U.S. election season, busier schedules, and/or regular everyday difficulties. Resilient can help you (or a loved one) find more freedom, ease, and clarity.