Finding Balance: Dieting

Unless you’re brand new to the blog, you know that I spent about 10 years sitting anywhere from 55 to 110 pounds overweight.

I got there because I adore food.

Cooking for people is one of my first loves. It started with baking for friends at sleepovers and then for dates, roommates, and huge groups in college. I reveled in the satisfaction of pleasing people with comforting warmth, bright flavors, and homey sweetness that all came from something I created.

I never really outgrew that feeling, and when I got married, the satisfaction of it inflated to monstrous proportions. I made elaborate, calorie-laden meals saturated in dense, luscious flavor (and fat and carbs). I was finally a wife, and my sense of domesticity blossomed all over our kitchen…and my behind. I gained forty pounds in the first six months of our marriage (eek). And then I got pregnant. With twins. Twice.

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It took a long, long time for me to realize that I needed to change how I was eating. Though I worked hard to make sure my children got balanced, healthy meals, I cheated with my own food. My health simply wasn’t important to me, and so I became the worst sort of hypocrite: “Do as I say, not as I do.” That poor example carried over into lots of things, by the way–healthy food choices, getting outside for some exercise, even seeing people for who they are rather than for their weight. Meanwhile, I systematically demeaned and destroyed my sense of self worth because I’d gotten heavy.

Once I finally decided to start following my own advice, I realized that I was not going to be the sort of person who has success with “diets.” My brain doesn’t do well with the kind of thinking diets are based on: sweeping change, foods that are off-limits, or the implication that the diet is a temporary state or has an end date. I knew that to be successful, I would need to use moderation, making small changes and incorporating ideas I could use for the rest of my life. In short, I needed balance.

Balance, for me, has meant:

  • I don’t believe food is the enemy.
  • I don’t cut out any food group altogether. Some I eat less of, and some I try to add more of, because they’re healthier.
  • If I eat something my body doesn’t process very well (carbs), I try to add something to balance it out (protein).
  • I generally do the best I can, but if I eat something that wasn’t the best choice, I don’t beat up on myself. I just try to do better later.
  • I get to have a treat, now and then. This is my real life.
  • Guilt doesn’t exist with food. It’s just food. It doesn’t control me.

Really, balance with food is all about my mental game. In the past, when I tried to “diet” and looked at food as a controlled list of things I couldn’t have, preparing food and planning food and thoughts of food ruled my life. These days, food is just a tool that helps me get where I want to go. Bonus: it tastes awesome.

The greatest help, for me, has come in learning to think in terms of addition: I try to think of food in terms of what nutrients I can add to my day. What am I missing that will round things out? What else is good for me, and what am I craving? What do I want in my house? Because I know I can have whatever (truly whatever) I want, I don’t spend my time fantasizing anymore about what I can’t have. There’s no such thing. As a result, I usually end up eating something that’s a pretty good choice. Usually. Then again, I ate some jumbo marshmallows with lunch yesterday. But it’s all good. It’s all about mindset. It’s all about balance.

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