("My Ultimate" will run every-other Tuesday and will feature any
topic that hops into my head. The views expressed here do not
necessarily reflect those of the other New England Mamas. . . although
"EAT DONUTS AND STILL LOSE WEIGHT!"
"LOSE WEIGHT WITHOUT EXERCISE"
"TRY THE GRAPEFRUIT/CABBAGE SOUP/ EGG/TUNA DIET"
"LOSE 10 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS!"
"JOIN NOW AND EXERCISE TO A NEW YOU!"
At this time of year, millions of us vow to eat healthier, exercise more and lose weight. New memberships to health clubs are at their highest level in January. I just got a pedometer to see if I'm walking enough each day (and failing miserably, as I've documented here). We bought a recumbent bike and set it up in our family room to encourage its use. And, I bought Fairly Odd Father the weights he's been coveting as a Christmas gift.
One thing I won't change, though, is my attitude toward dieting: I won't do it. And, I haven't done it in over 15 years, and yet I eat what I want and have maintained the same weight, give or take 5 pounds, for over a decade (minus three pregnancies which added between 30-50 pounds but came off before each baby turned a year).
Before I sound too cocky, let me take you back to those dark days of my early 20's. From about my sophomore year in college until around the age of 24, my weight was a constant issue, although many people had no idea how consuming it was to me. Food was either 'good' or 'bad', and I was either 'good' or 'bad' depending on how how much food I had eaten that day.
Most mornings saw me drinking cup after cup of (black) coffee, followed by a (virtuous) lunch of half a sandwich and a diet soda. By dinner, I would be dizzy and famished and would eat anything that wasn't bolted down (although, given my paltry entry-level advertising salary, there was little to eat other than pasta or bread). Then, feeling guilty ("bad"), I would go to the gym for a couple of hours of pre-bedtime penance to work off the extra calories.
What a crappy way to live. I thought about food all. . .the. . .time. There were times I thought I was going crazy, or at the very least, was doomed to a life feeling that my body was something to be kept under control; if I didn't control it, I would never, ever stop eating.
And then, one afternoon, I found myself in a bookstore, standing in front of the 'Diet /Exercise" section of books. I was trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. I knew I wasn't anorexic (because I did eat) or bulimic (because I didn't/couldn't 'purge'); my weight was fine (I wasn't overweight or underweight); but, I felt totally out of control.
The book I picked up was called Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth. To say that this book changed my life is an understatement. I saw myself in those pages, but, more importantly, saw the person I wanted to be in those pages as well. I wanted to trust myself and to let go of the 'tug of war' I was having with my hunger.
My first step was to figure out why I was doing this to myself and to let go of the notion that food is either bad or good. I also had to pay attention to what my body wanted and feed the hunger, not the loneliness, the fear or the quest for 'perfect'.
I still have my issues, as do most people, I suppose. I get bloated, my pants get too tight, I don't exercise enough, I don't know how to stop eating french fries until every last one is gone. I still feel ugly, stupid, insignificant, or any other negative emotion at one time or another. But, I now see that these feelings can not be chased away by a jelly donut, or by a day of eating nothing but saltine crackers, or by an hour (or two, or three) of exercise.
So, while my 2008 resolutions include getting more exercise and eating healthier, I hope that any grapefruit, cabbage soup, egg or tuna I eat is enjoyed fully and without guilt.