“Diet” is a Four Letter Word

 

“I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on.”  

-Jean Kerr

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I LOVE to eat. I truly believe that eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Not only can it nourish and sustain our bodies, but it can nourish our spirit as well. There’s seriously nothing better than taking that first bite of a perfectly cooked steak, or sipping a glass of wine with friends. However, like most love affairs, there can be a real downside.

Small indulgences can lead to overindulgence, which can then lead to emotional eating, weight gain, and in some cases serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and an increased risk for cancer. Just look at our general population for example.  According to Livestrong.com 28% of Americans met the medical classification for being obese. And surprisingly enough we are in good company with New Zealand (27%), Australia and the UK (26%), Canada (24%), and Ireland (23%) not far behind. That’s equates to roughly one fourth of the population being overweight in each of these countries.

We can blame it on prepackaged foods, large portion sizes, too much sugar in literally everything, and all of this plays a part to be sure, but I also think it has to do with a lack of education surrounding nutrition and an unhealthy relationship with food. At any rate, this has certainly been the case for me.

If I am being honest I have been blessed with good genes that make is relatively easy to stay slim (I can thank dad for that one). Even at my “heaviest” back at the end of 2011 I was still within a healthy BMI range. That being said, I have watched loved ones struggle with obesity and dieting. All throughout my childhood I remember my mom struggled with her weight and she tried so many things to shed pounds. She finally had bariatric surgery a few years ago and lost so much weight we can now share clothes. She’s doing so well and is so much healthier. I am so proud of her.

As I get older I am realizing that society has really conditioned us (males and females) to think that our bodies can only be “healthy and beautiful” if they look a certain way and that’s not always the case.

Back when I was doing the Paleo diet and gave up grains, dairy, and sugar I dropped weight like it was hot- 40 pounds to be exact. Which sounds pretty amazing, but in reality that much weight loss was not healthy for me. At my tiniest, at 5 feet 8 inches, I weighed 115 pounds. My bones stuck out. Yes, I had abs but you could also count every single rib when I laid down. Caring friends and family expressed their concern that I was too thin and I blew them off thinking (in a very narcissistic way I am sad to say) that they were simply jealous. After all, how could I be unhealthy when I was eating like a horse? I was constantly eating during that time, probably because my body was doing its best not to starve to death. It was so bad I was going through 2 full jars of peanut butter a week just to keep some calories in my itty bitty body.  I ignored everyone’s comments because I had been lied to by the media that told me this rail thin physique was what an “ideal body” looked like.

Sure, being able to fit into size 2 pants was great for awhile, however, want to know what I remember the most from that time? How ungodly uncomfortable it was to sleep at night. I had to prop myself up with 3-4 pillows just to get comfortable. When you are that thin there is nothing left to pad your body anymore. I thought I was crazy until I read an article a few years ago written by someone else who had lost a lot of weight and experienced the same thing. It felt like I was lying on daggers. Bedtime was definitely not a happy place back then.

Then one day a couple of months after I met Mike in 2013 and (thanks to his influence) started eating yummy stuff like Indian food and Jenny’s ice cream again (which were definitely NOT Paleo diet approved) I realized that I needed to stop this madness. I needed to stop demonizing entire food groups. I didn’t have celiac disease and I wasn’t lactose intolerant. Medically there was no reason not to be eating healthy versions of grains and dairy so I started eating them again. For a long time I felt very guilty about this. It was almost as if the devil himself had created bread so it was too evil to be enjoyed. These irrational thoughts are something I still struggle with to this day.

When I decided to make the first month of my adventure year a focus on health I knew I had to address my relationship with food. I refuse to be a food martyr anymore. I don’t want to feel guilty when I have a slice of pizza once a month and I certainly don’t want to deprive myself of the foods I enjoy so I can brag about how healthy I am being either. I know you know the type I am talking about. A food martyr is that person who makes sure to let everyone know about how “good” they were to resist that doughnut sitting in the office lounge, while simultaneously making everyone else feel “bad” that not only did they eat that doughnut, but they actually enjoyed it. I am a firm believer that if we are to stop emotional eating we have to include all negative emotions. Most people associate emotional eating with stress or depression, but I certainly think that feeling guilty or ashamed for something you did or didn’t eat also counts. Besides, once and awhile a girl just has to have a boston creme pie doughnut (margarita, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, *fill in your own favorite treat here*).

Therefore, moving forward I have decided to take a rather counter-intuitive approach by allowing myself to eat whatever I want… with only one stipulation. At each meal, no matter what it is I choose to eat, it must contain at least one of the 114 “superfoods” I researched in preparation for this month (more on this later in the week). By switching my focus onto eating the foods I love with the one healthy superfood clause rather than depriving myself, in just three days I have already noticed the amazing paradox that the foods I am choosing to eat just happen to be better for me. It’s definitely a lot more empowering to choose your food rather than to feel stuck with having something because it’s the only thing you’re “allowed” to have.

And you know, for the first time I feel pretty good about the things I am eating. I am not in anyway advocating that this method will work for everyone or that I intend to eat junk food all day long with just an apple thrown in here or there. I still have to pick realitively healthy food options. However, I think this method will really help change the negative thought patterns I have surrounding certain foods. Best part is, at the end of the day, I don’t have to feel ashamed for having a glass of wine or some dark chocolate because surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly as wine and chocolate both have proven health benefits) they are both on my superfood list 😀

 

References (because yes, I am a nerd).

Allen, J. (2013). Obseity in America vs. other countries. Livestrong. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/347190-obesity-in-america-vs-other-countries/

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