I knew of a man who, in the course of a couple of years, quit smoking, quit drinking, and lost almost 200 pounds. I would have thought the smoking or drinking were the hardest but that’s not what he said. He said the weight loss was the hardest, because you don’t need cigs or booze to live. You do have to eat.
I have been living this for the last year. Living it, and fighting it.
I do all right watching what I eat, most days, but all it takes is for something negative to happen, and what life doesn’t have negative things in it? I have an argument with Dream Girl. Money gets tight. I miss Monster. I’m homesick. I’m stressing a midterm. I head straight for the coffee house and my favorite chai, because I deserve a treat. That’s not terrible by itself, because we all deserve treats and deprivation is the quickest road to overindulgence I know of, but I can’t pass up the cinnamon roll because dammit, today positively sucked and I really deserve a treat. My days are crazy: I am a full-time student with a part-time job, gone from the house up to 16 hours on some days, eating on the fly. Yes, I can prepare my own stuff to take with me but I don’t have a way to refrigerate and I have to get up at 5 a.m. as it is. I can’t remember the last time I ate a fast-food junkburger so I get lots of points for that. Still, I’m not helping myself when I’m eating stuff prepared by gods know who, with gods know what in it.
I do exercise, walking a mile and a half on my way to work every day. I walk on the weekends, or do yoga. It’s not even a chore. I’ve never been a fan of exercise for its own sake, but I do feel better when I get out there and move. It helps the arthritis too. I find it incredibly ironic that when I consistently exercise more than I ever have in my life (not counting my stick-limbed childhood), I also weigh more than I ever have.
Because despite my best efforts, my scale and I are playing on a teeter-totter. Up 5 pounds, down 5 pounds, up, down, up, down, ad nauseum
. Those same 5 pounds have become the bane of my existence. Other people’s pounds hound me too. Everywhere I go, the first, and sometimes only, thing I notice about people is their weight. They stop being people and become figure types, estimated weights and BMI’s. I see a whip-thin woman and spitefully conclude she starves herself and that being in bed with her must be like sleeping with a bag of rakes. A foodie posts about their latest kitchen delight and all I feel is envy. I see an obese person and superimpose my own face on top of theirs. I look at even healthful* food and think no, I can’t eat that. It has calories in it.
I keep thinking that if I could manage to lose ten pounds, my attitude might change. A taste of success might help. And then one day I stopped and listened to what was rattling through my brain as I was trying to figure out what to have for lunch, and those thoughts together with everything I already wrote here gelled, and I realized:
Food had become the enemy.
This is not a good place to be, obviously. With all my other issues (and I’ve got ’em), nobody needs me throwing an eating disorder onto the pile. I am still proud of myself for not turning back to cigarettes, but at this point I’ve merely traded one abuse for another. I learned that by tracking, which is very useful. I tracked for a few weeks a while back, writing down everything I ate and how I was feeling when I ate it. I often ended up not eating because I realized I wasn’t actually hungry — I was angry or sad or scared. Sometimes I skipped a treat because I just didn’t want to have to write it down. Accountability rocks, but it only works as long as you agree to hold yourself accountable. You can only eat so much spinach and quinoa before you revolt. I coped with tracking by not tracking anymore.
There’s all sorts of things I can try. I’ve seen the diets. Atkins. Vegetarian. Pescatarian. Gluten-free. Paleo. Any of those might work, or none of them. There is one big thing I’ve learned. Processed junk (read: pretty much anything prepared) is loaded with preservatives and other crap. This we knew, and it’s bad enough by itself, the guck that goes into our bodies, but now let’s toss in the fact that these delightful eats have been pretty much proven to be addictive
. You eat some, you want more. Kinda like cigarettes. It blows me away to learn that the food industry is engineering their products in pretty much the same way
Big Tobacco does.
So I wonder if the best diet of all might be simply to eat real food
, the kind our mothers used to fix. It had real ingredients and a recipe, not Envelope 1 and Packet 2 and directions. I’m thinking chocolate cake may not be so bad if it’s real
chocolate cake, made with baking cocoa and flour and sugar. How much more pleasurable would that be, when you have to take the time to measure and mix and fold and blend and create
? That would be a cake I’d love to look at as much as I’d love to eat it. Baking a cake like that would be making art
I’m not kidding myself. I’ve mentioned that I have a hectic schedule. I also live in an apartment. I’m not about to morph into Suzy Homemaker, baking bread from scratch and raising free range chickens and making all my own jams from fruit I grew myself. I’ve never been a foodie and I’ve never been into cooking much either. With the exception of a few favorite dishes, I cook mainly so things will taste better and not kill anybody.
But I beat Big Tobacco, and I’m determined to beat Big Food, too.
As I zoink around like a pinball, reading about everything from juicing to food additives to living vegan to carb addiction, the thing I keep coming back to is the way I look at food. I spent most of my life indifferent to it. Of late, I hate it. The time has come to develop an amicable relationship with it. That’s the only way I know of to transform an enemy into a friend.
So. I will be observing the enemy. Back to tracking. I figure it’ll be good for at least one more blog post.
And if I’m to properly and scientifically observe cake, I have to eat it.
* The correct word is healthful, not healthy, which everyone should know since I published this post.
Photos in order of appearance:
No food! uberculture, used under Creative Commons license
Cake: EvinDC via Creative Commons.