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What’s For Dinner?

February 6, 2020

I was reading Chelsea’s blog this morning and I want to share a post she wrote titled The Diet: It Sucks But It Works. Please take a couple of minutes and go over there and read it because it’s quite good. Chelsea asks, What have been your experiences with dieting? What worked? Whom did you murder during the first week? I started to leave a comment, but my comment kept getting longer and longer until I realized that hey, I’ve been inspired to write something so here I am writing something.

My experiences with dieting have been lifelong and varied and more often than not, unsuccessful. To sum it up in a sentence, I’ll just say that as a kid my clothes came from the boy’s husky’ department and nothing changed as I grew older other than I got adult clothes.

It was depressing.

So, what worked for me? Not much. Personally, I believe diets are doomed to fail. They’re either a fad (think Atkins or “I lost 24 pounds in the first month!”) or they rely on the dieter’s personal self-control (think willpower, which, if we had any to begin with, we might not be dieting). Or they don’t address the pitfalls of dieting (think living in a world surrounded by Hostess Cupcakes, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Big Macs). Or they don’t approach the issue holistically by looking at how both the mind and the body relates with food. Diets focus on denial and not on healing. A diet expects us to punish ourselves by avoiding things that we like to eat. And not only like to eat, but things we need if we want to continue living. True, we don’t need pizzas and Hershey candy bars and buttered popcorn to live, but we need to eat to live and I think many people who struggle with weight control also struggle with certain other things in life like shame, stress, impulse control, etc., that can make decision-making difficult. And what is dieting but the ultimate exercise in decision making? Three meals a day, maybe one or two snacks a day – that adds up to 1,825 decisions a year. Add in the occasional office potluck, some parties and holidays and round that number up to a whopping 2,000 food decisions in a single year that get added to other important/stressful life decisions like going to work and paying bills and cleaning the house and putting gas in the car and doing laundry and developing and/or maintaining relationships and living life. Who has time for 2,000 more decisions in an already decision-filled life?

The only thing that worked for me was not giving up foods I liked, but switching to different foods, and not focusing on what I was giving up, but on what I was gaining. Instead of mourning the loss of a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese or White Castle hamburgers or crunchy Cheetos, I celebrated a gradual gaining of health and wellness as well as a sense that I was doing something good. Something good for my health, for the health of animals and for the health of the planet.

I started small by giving up dairy. Then I gave up eggs and red meat. Then fish and chicken. Then added sugar and salt. All the while I spent time reading about diet (not the kind we go on, but the kind we follow) and I read about animals (the ones that don’t cuddle up with us on the living room couch). I read about the health risks of certain food choices and the health benefits of others. I lowered carbs. I found alternatives for cheese and meat. I found plant-based sources of protein. I exercised. It worked. And five years later it still works. Sadly, the only thing that didn’t work is that inside I still feel like that ‘husky’ kid trying on clothes in the weeks leading up to the start of school, but I guess that’s a topic for later. Maybe.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2020 10:28 am

    Ha! I often think, “The problem with food is that it tastes so good.”

    I completely agree with your bit about other issues. I can’t follow a diet with depression, stress, lack of sleep, or major life events.

    Thanks for sharing such a long comment! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. February 11, 2020 9:54 am

    Michael, I appreciate your thoughts on dieting: “Diets focus on denial and not on healing.” Our relationships with food are complicated. I used to write member profiles for a Twin Cities co-op and I was always curious to learn about each person’s idea of what healthy eating meant. I don’t think anyone ever said the dieted, which I found fascinating. But they all spoke about how they related to food on what they considered healthy terms. More people mentioned their attitude toward food than anything. One woman claimed she only ate what made her happy! Now, that might sound like a recipe for disaster, eating whatever she wanted but actually she explained how she learned to be mindful when shopping for food and eating, learning what made both her body and brain feel good. It seems you have also come to learn what makes you happy, eating healthy.

    Ah, yes, the struggle with size is another topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. February 11, 2020 4:14 pm

    Hmm, I hear you, Michael, and I appreciate your view. Diets are rarely a healthy way to go when the focus is on denial and fast results. I prefer to think in terms of lifestyle focus and health – that works for me!

    Liked by 1 person

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