Posted in Life
The “D” Word
Hat tip again to Ragen, who got me thinking about diets this morning. Diet is such a complex issue.
I’m not on a diet, I have a diet.
There are restrictions I must make: I am gluten-free due to gluten sensitivity, and must eat a high protein diet due to damaged digestive tract from years of undiagnosed gluten problems. There are also restrictions I choose to make: primarily I closely manage my intake of simple carbohydrates because I tend towards insulin resistance, and simple carbs give me a huge blood sugar spike and crash. I feel better if I eat more complex carbs, which means less grain and sugar.
My diet is based on the goal of being healthy, and is expressly without a goal of weight loss. I must say I welcome the downs and rue the ups, and happily over the past 7 years since I stopped being *on* a diet and started *having* a diet, the trend has been every so slowly downwards. I think I was suffering from so much pressure, applied internally and externally, my eating became much more fraught. I thought in terms of earning food, or deserving food.
Now my success or failure to meet my diet is a moment to moment thing. Each food choice happens independently, and isn’t weighted with feelings of success or failure at some lifelong goal. I’m just eating. If I want a cookie or a piece of cake I think about how I will feel an hour after I eat it, not what it would mean for my waistband in a month if I eat a cookie every day. If I decide I want the cookie, I can think about how to eat it in a way that will mitigate feeling bad later. Honestly I’m much more likely to grab a carrot instead of a cookie now because the thought of the headache and exhaustion I’ll feel in an hour is much more motivating than the old thought of some future thinner me.
I’m working to be mindful of what I eat, both in terms of the impact my consumption has on the planet and the impact my consumption has on my health. I know food is nutrition first, a pleasure second, and a reward never. I know this, but it’s difficult to be mindful about it all the time. I want to enjoy my food. I find the better the food I consume is the better it tastes, but there are times, particularly when I’m outside my usual routines, in which what I need is a specific distribution of calories and macronutrients. I have to fill those needs in weird and sometimes downright unappetizing food combinations, particularly because of the restrictions I must keep, or feel bad later. I am experiencing the freedom to make food choices with the primary consequence being how I will feel physically instead of how I will feel emotionally.
When I was on diets food was never a pleasure. I was either eating what I was supposed to eat, which was unsatisfying because it was what I had to eat not what I wanted to eat, or I was splurging, causing the guilt and self criticism to overshadow whatever pleasure I might have had in the food. I never felt healthy. Food never made me happy, instead I made myself miserable with food. Nothing could satisfy.
Now I am much more Zen about starting my day with what I would have seen as a boring bowl of oatmeal and some turkey bacon, because I know they will get me off to a good start on the morning. I may add some nuts, but I feel no need to count or weigh them. I may add some brown sugar or syrup, but if I do it’s not because the oats justify the sugar so I “allow” myself, it’s because I want a taste of something sweet. I’m just as likely to chop some dates or add some seasonal fruit. Instead of focusing only on the sweetness or fat- the calories in the bowl and what that represents in terms of a weight loss goal, I think about how much better I will feel through the day because of what I’m choosing. I notice the flavor and texture; the gritty graininess of the oats, the aroma of whatever spices I added, the sweetness of fruit or sugar, the crunch of nuts or granola. The values of the various components in my bowl are assigned not based on what I feel about myself eating them, but about how they will make me feel. Much more honest. It’s now so much easier to appreciate each food for its own merits without weighing it on the diet scale of value.
My weight moves around. I was recently vitamin D deficient for months, which left me exhausted and constantly hungry, so I’m up a pants size or two from a year ago. I wrote about how that felt from the middle of the exhaustion, before the diagnosis. Now that I’m supplementing appropriately my waistbands are getting more comfortable. I expect picking up belly dance will also send me digging in the smaller end of the pants drawer. The smaller pants aren’t a badge of honor, though, and I have 4 sizes in my drawer because I shift around. I am working with not assigning value to bending over comfortably in a smaller size, but rather placing value on wearing comfortable clothes. It’s a hard change for me to make, but it’s a good goal.