It’s the eleventh of February which makes this almost the 41rst first day of my new diet.
It’s not a fad diet. I know those don’t work. The only ‘diet’ that’s ever worked (for me) was keeping a journal on paper or on my iPod and keeping myself accountable. But the part of dieting I really hate is not the calorie and fiber tracking. It’s not the preparation – I’m a surprisingly decent cook for someone who’s built a blog around being a bad housekeeper. It’s not the exercise which can be addicting once you get going (those endorphins are better than prozac). It’s not even the food itself – a lot of healthy food is actually pretty tasty.
The thing I hate about dieting is that it’s not a diet. It is recognizing that the bag of sour cream and onion chips I’m having for breakfast really does have to be off the list – forever. (Maybe not for everyone, but for me the salty sweet stuff is like crack to a drug addict.) It is accepting sensible portions for the long haul. It really is about making a life change.
My early adult years were characterized by many things, but one of them was not restraint – in any part of my life. I played. I partied. I sinned. And I ate. I ate anything I wanted. Food – especially good food – was my drug. When the Big Guy and I first married, we moved to Boston’s Italian North End, and I denied my palate nothing. When we travelled, indulging in local flavors was as much a part of the experience as the art and the sights. In my early twenties, youthful metabolism and a lifestyle centered around dancing and walking helped my body combat the effects of my food lust. I look at pictures of myself from back then and can’t believe I thought I was fat as a size 6 or 8 (does anyone ever NOT thing they’re too fat).
A few years after we were married, I took an office job that had me driving to and from work for an hour a day. Not surprisingly, retribution had an easier time catching up with me in a car than when I was walking to work everyday in the city. But when my jeans got tighter, I didn’t get wise. I got new jeans.
Now, many years and sizes later, I’m still trying to get my fat butt on the diet wagon and find a way to keep it there. I know that my issue food is not just about flavor. It is about fullness, however. I know that there’s been an empty part me for as long as I can remember, and I am sure I am not the only person who uses food to fill that void – even when my body is crying uncle. The worst part is, the more you try to fill it, the bigger it gets because you’re also filling it with shame and loathing.
I used to tell myself the big jeans didn’t matter. Being good at my job matters. The Big Guy matters. Thing1 and Thing2 matter.
But as I watch twelve-year-old Thing1 pour out my Diet Coke when he thinks I’m not looking (don’t let your kids read about all the things that could cause their mother cancer or diabetes), I realize the big jeans do matter. So far, I’ve dodged the diabetes bullet and a lot of the other ailments that go along with being fat. What I don’t do, however, is get out on the ice with my kids at skating practice. I don’t go one walks or take slides down the sledding hill because I’d have to climb back up it. And worse, I let shame dictate how I interact with the people who interact with my kids, and that does affect them.
Most of my diets start in the morning and are over by dinner. Today I’m trying something different and clearing out the crap before the family comes home. Dinner will be on a salad plate, and the kitchen will be closed at 8PM. And when I’m tempted by the cookie jar, I’m going to get out my journal and write a note to myself that it matters because they matter.
It wouldn’t be bad to be able to zip up that little number that’s been hanging on the back of my closet door for the last three years either.