Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is your diet your religion?

I'm always sort of browsing different eating approaches.  Absorbing little nuggets and leaving whatever else behind.   One thing I've noticed is a lot of the same thing.  For example, I've noticed a new way of eating called "Primal" eating.  Or living the "primal lifestyle."  And then I found out its somewhat connected to Cross Fit.  And so I had a discussion with a friend who eats The Paleo Diet (with a good sense of balance and actually enjoys it!) and he described to me what the primal lifestyle is. Turns out this new, extreme, cutting edge (but eating like our ancestors) diet is pretty much avoiding processed foods and doing interval training.  Huh.  Okay.  I think I do that.

So here's the thing: why do we need extreme dieting?  Of course living the primal lifestyle is great- I'm not knocking it at all.  But, why do we need labels?  Why can't we just eat well, indulge here and there and be merry?  Why so hardcore?  Why so "lifestyle?"  I'll admit that I really like the idea of doing a specific diet.  Ones where there are "good" foods and "bad" foods.  It feeds my type A personality.  It gives you rules that you must adhere to and when you follow those rules, you are "good."  And you see results.  But the best part about it is that you're in a new club. Complete with clicks.  It's fabulous!  There are message boards, workout groups, twitterers.  With each new diet, there is a new religion.

"I don't eat carbs."

"I'm primal."

"I'm Atkins."

"I'm Weight Watchers."

"I eat clean."

"I'm fasting."

"I'm South Beach."

"I don't eat anything white."

"I only eat small babies"

And it's all cool and stuff until you see a chocolate croissant....

 And you've been really good up until the chocolate croissant.  "Is there an extreme croissant diet I can follow?" you think.  No?  Shit.  Thing is- you haven't even cared about sugar until now.  But it looks....so....good.  You see that skinny girl over there eating the croissant.  "She's thin.  She's eating a croissant.  Why can't I be skinny and eat a croissant?" (you can, btw) Yeah, you've been fine eating your turkey bacon, egg white glob for breakfast with a side of fat free plain (blech) yogurt.  It's delicious, right?  But see, if you eat that croissant, you won't be living the extreme **fill in the blank** lifestyle will you?  You'll just be normal.  And who wants to be that?

I've been a successful fitness junkie and "dieter" for 4 years now.  I've been "dieting" for way longer than that- but it's only the past 4 yrs I've had success and actually figured out some things.  I lost 75 lbs.  I went from "walking 2 miles is really, really hard" to running, cycling and bootcamping regularly.  So, I guess I do have some insight into what "sticks" and what doesn't.  For me- extremeness doesn't stick.  It does the opposite.  I'd do really, really well for about a month on an extreme diet- then I'd binge from all the restrictions. Sure, I'd see results, but I can't maintain it.  And I don't like the emotional baggage that comes with extreme dieting (you're good when you're on it, bad when you're not).

 And then the mind games start:  "Since I messed up today, my weekend is blown- so I'll just start over Monday."  And who knows-  you may consume 30,000 calories between now and Monday.  But in your mind- calories/food don't really count until Monday.  Right?  And Lord knows you're going to get on that damn scale and weight yourself just in time to catch your upward swing from the binge and then be even MORE defeated mentally.  No thanks.  I'm sure there are many successful dieters out there that really thrive on extremeness.  "I haven't had cheese since 1997" and all that nonsense.  But, really, if the average joe wants to lose weight and keep it off- there's got to be a more balanced way.   I've been lectured here on my blog for how many pt/calories I'm taking in with my mochas.  I don't care.  Because any diet that makes me give up mochas is dead to me.  They are my deal breakers.  I don't care how much sugar they have.  I don't care how many points or calories they are.  All I care about is that I can order a double tall, non fat, no whip mocha when I get a hankering for one.

Make sure balance is a part of your eating.  Imagine a giant pendulum swinging.  The healthiest place is in the middle.  A good indicator as to whether you're being extreme in your eating is if you find yourself judging others for what they eat.  Don't make your diet your identity/religion/moral compass.   Because if that happens, when you slip up or fail or whatever (and you will because that's life),  you need to get back on the horse without any shame or guilt.  It's not about perfection- it's about progress.  I've found that food and fitness have to be integrated into your life.  They don't become your life.  When you wake up in the morning- what do you want to eat?  I'm sorry- but I've never woken up and wanted eggwhites.  Ever.  Some people do.  And they are weird.  But I have woken up and wanted lowfat yogurt with almonds.  Or Ezekiel bread with homemade preserves.   Or steel cut oatmeal with an apple.  Now, if you're wanting a donut every morning, then you need to find balance.  If it's a craving that won't go away- then go have your donut.  If you still crave it- then maybe compromise and have some Nutella on Ezekiel bread.

I do believe we all have our trigger foods...

I can't do tortilla chips or cookie dough.  Not together- separately.  Although dipping tortilla chips in cookie dough is actually turning me on a little.  Er...   Those foods trigger binge eating for me. I will literally keep eating until there is no more.  So, I'm mindful of my triggers.  If I just can't stop thinking of a snack or meal involving my trigger foods- then I'll have it.  But if I'm smart I'll ask my husband or a friend to eat them with me and keep me accountable.  Otherwise you'll find me locked in the bathroom nom nom-ing on cookie dough.

Striking a balance between feeding my body whole foods and letting myself have a treat every once in a while is where I'm trying to remain right now.  And I suppose I could give you a list of whole foods and what not- but it's nothing new.  You're smart- you know what's whole and what's not.  I think it's just a matter of doing it.

Listening to what my body really wants and not obsessing over food is where I want to be.  I'm going to write more on this later- but I'm really digging some books on this.  Food addiction anyone?

When Food Is Love by Geneen Roth

Why Can't I Stop Eating?  by  Debbie Denowski


Leaving Fatville said...

Bread is my addiction, and I've passed it onto my toddler. He loves all things biscuit and biscuit-related. I can't pass by french bread without drooling. And that chocolate croissant... sweet lord. I've learned to just give myself a little when I crave it and then move on. Not indulge until I can't move off the couch! It's made a huge difference, and no more binges.

Mama Bear June said...

Great post! I do agree with so much of this. But for me, I didn't really start losing weight until I gave up the white chocolate mochas. :-) I'll give myself a rare treat, and really enjoyed the new dark cherry mocha, but find I do better when I avoid them. :-)
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