Yes, you saw the title correctly. Not very glamorous is it? Not a real attention-grabber like, say, “Lose 10 lbs. in 2 weeks!” Or any of a number of other “instant fixes” we see every day online or inprint. “Be bikini-ready by next week without dieting!” It’s time to face facts: “Dieting” is a fraud. Indeed, in my opinion, it should not even be a word.
What prompted this rant was the realization that it has been a little over two years (Ash Wednesday 2009) since I began trying to walk on the pathway of healthy eating as a method of weight loss and control. My mantra has been, “Diet should be what I consume, not what consumes me.” And other stuff like, “When did diet become what we do instead of what we eat?” I am on a mission to return the word “diet” to its proper place as a noun. We have made it into a verb, and it has turned on us. As a verb, its battle cry is, “The first word in ‘diet’ is ‘die’.” You know what I mean, don’t you? Uh-huh.
What prompted the desire to lose a few pounds? Well, could it have been the lack of desire to shop? “Nothing fits! What’s wrong with these sizes? This lighting is horrendous!” Yes, that was a hint, but actually my fear of doctors and anything medical was really beginning to worry me. All those weight-related conditions really got my attention. But what to do? I gave it a lot of thought as I ate a large platter of pasta.
A new year had arrived. It was January and I had seen a picture of myself on the edge of a chair, holding up a gift and smiling happily. However, what really became the focal point of the photo was my tummy. If its goal in life had been to take center stage, it had attained it. So . . . the lack of shopping desire, the fear of doctors and the offending photo all joined forces to stage an intervention.
I had heard of healthy foods — fruits, vegetables, etc. — I just never paid much attention to them except as side dishes or snacks for the kids. I’ve never cared much for fruit; I do like veggies (with a lot of ranch dip). But now I tried to recall all the foods I had heard were really good for you, and I made a list (of the ones I liked) in the back of a little notebook that I would use as my daily calorie-counting journal for as many days as it had pages, which turned out to be twenty weeks.
The list did not include soft drinks or potato chips or dip. It did include dark chocolate, red wine and coffee. There were a lot of things I liked: mushrooms, blueberries, bananas, yogurt (the plain low or non fat tastes like sour cream, which I love), oatmeal, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, tomatoes, avocadoes, asparagus, and cheese (small amounts). I even began to learn about “superfoods” like sweet potatoes, which I am learning to love, and spinach, made famous by Popeye, with good reason.
Can you believe that the proper portion for meat is the size of a deck of cards?! Unbelievable! I thought half-a-plate was a portion. (We do need our protein, don’t we?) All in all, it was an eye-opening venture. The number of calories in some things (like orange juice) is appalling. (I always wondered why juice glasses were so small!) Sites like www.calorieking.com became my friends.
For me, the only way to fool myself into doing this was to consider it a lifestyle change. I would control my diet (defined as “what I eat”), not the other way around. So, on Fat Tuesday 2009 I ate three brownies, knowing that the next day I would begin what I hoped would be a lifetime of healthier habits. This season of Lent would mark the time when I would begin giving up things that were bad for me and start adding things that were good for me. I think the spiritual aspect helped, especially that verse that says “their god is their stomach.” (Php. 3:19 to be exact. Who knew that was in there?)
Counting every calorie was tedious; writing down every morsel that crossed my lips was time-consuming; and not seeing instant results was boring. I began on February 25th and on March 14th I wrote, “Two and a half weeks and I’m a little tired of my diet. I’m doing well but my enthusiasm is waning.”
However, the very next day, “The Ides of March,” I entered this: “I’m wearing the gray ‘Limited’ pants to church today. They’re a bit snug, but I can wear them!” I had hung them where I would see them every time I opened the closet, as a reminder that my goal was to get into them by October! Suddenly I was ready to embrace this new diet. What a difference a day makes. It gave me the motivation to continue. To think . . . I could so easily have given up just when I was on the verge of success! It was a good reminder to persevere.
Slow? Yes! Setbacks? Yes! Did I continue to eat pizza? Yes! Do I still pig out on holidays? Yes! Have I learned to love carrots? No! Do I own a scale? No! But on April 29, 2010 I wrote: “I don’t know my weight but I do know what I can fit into — those skirts I wore on our overseas trip in 1997!” (I do weigh when I go to my mother-in-law’s house every few months. I do weigh 25 pounds less than when I began.)
The real question is: Have my habits really changed? I think so. I still eat mostly what I want. I just want less, it seems. Except for pizza. I still eat as much of that as ever. Once in a while I have dip, just not an entire carton. I learned that I do have more will power than I thought I would, and that is gratifying. I have become aware of the number of calories in things, and that really is the key — taking in fewer calories than my body burns.
Not glamorous. Not popular. Not instant.
Just so daily. And disciplined (not something I am known for). But so very satisfying when I can walk uphill without gasping for breath; and when I can get out of bed in the morning without my feet crackling and hurting; and when I can fasten those hooks on my pants without sucking in all my breath!
“Dieting,” the verb, has never worked for me. I am reclaiming “diet” as the noun it was meant to be! From now on, “diet” is what I eat, not what I do.
Guaranteed weight loss: 25 pounds in 2 years
Ready to sign up?