I do not go on diets. They aren’t healthy for me. Not so much physically, but mentally. When I was dieting, I got extremely obsessive about counting every single calorie, and my well-being was predicated on the number the scale showed every morning. Worse than that, though, was that I would get frustrated and angry. If I ate a few too many calories in a day, I’d decide it didn’t matter and eat more because I was so angry about having to be so careful. I don’t want to be obsessed, and I’m not pleasant when I’m angry. I did not like who I became while I was trying to diet.
That being said, I have lost seven pounds in the past six weeks.
I am not dieting, at least not the way I think of dieting. I do not pay attention to calories. I am trying to change how I approach food and exercise, and I am not getting angry or obsessive.
Michael Pollan, an author of several books about the relationships that people have with food, came up with this: “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” I add to that “exercise more” and you get my whole approach to eating at the moment.
In general we do not eat a lot of meat. Maybe once a week we will have dinner with meat, and we try to have fish fairly regularly, but meat is not a huge part of our diet. Also, we do not eat out very often, and when we shop, it is from the outside edge of the supermarket, not the inside rows with all of the processed food. This is not a moral decision, mind you, and we will not lecture anyone on how they should eat. We both like to cook and eat, and the processed foods take much of the fun out of it. We do buy some canned goods, but not even a lot of those. We have canisters of different kinds of flour, many types of dried beans, a few kinds of rice, and various other odds and ends that we have purchased for various recipes. In other words, the “real food” and “mostly plants” parts are not very difficult for me. We already do that.
“Not too much”, on the other hand, can be a significant challenge. I like food. I like eating good food. Portion control is not my strong suit. I mostly need one meal a day with some snacking the rest of the day, which I only recently learned. I am switching from having that main meal be lunch to having it be dinner because I think it is important to have dinner together. It is something that was very important to both of us growing up, and we would like to give that to our child, too. Considering how difficult it will be to set new habits with a new baby, we are working on setting that habit now. That did not work if I had already eaten my main meal for the day, however, so I am shifting to adapt. I eat fruit and popcorn throughout the day, but not too much. I am less hungry now, which makes it easier, and eating more slowly keeps me from eating too much. Also, if I want two eggs, I’ll have one instead. I end up pleasantly full, and the next time I think about two eggs I remember being content with one. It is getting easier.
The piece I added, “exercise more”, is another habit I need to form. I decided that I would spend the summer exercising in ways that did not require me to spend money to do them. That means running, for the most part. I am not doing Zumba, swimming, or belly dancing at the moment. I hurt my shoulder earlier this year and running does not make it worse, which is good; it is most of the way healed at this point. I do best when I exercise in the morning. I get up and climb into running clothes almost before I am awake. If I wait until I have fully woken up, I will often talk myself out of it. I had the same problem with swimming, so I know this problem. Once I am dressed, though, I feel like I might as well go and get it done. My running clothes are always on the floor next to the bed and I can put them on in the dark, so I do not have any excuse for not going running.
I do not count calories. I am tracking my weight on the Wii, but only the simple test because that way I don’t get commentary on whether or not I’m doing well enough. There are days that I eat too much, like last night – we went out to dinner. With this approach, though, I don’t care. It’s okay to have gone up a little bit in weight over a day as long as the general trend continues downwards.
I’m trying to build these habits so that once we have a child the habits will be sustainable. I would like to lose weight, but I refuse, at this point in my life, to spend the energy to obsess about it or to let it affect my moods. I need to be stable and happy as much as possible. There is enough other stress in my life; why add to it? This lets me adjust my eating and my approach to food and exercise without the guilt that comes with diets or goals or any of that.
I’m changing my relationship with food, and so far it is going pretty well. Guilt-free weight loss without weird chemicals! I’m actually having fun, which I never thought I would say in any way associated with losing weight.