I’ve often said, I just want to be normal when it comes to food. I want to be able to approach every meal with ease. I want to be able to walk into any restaurant without fear. I often have a vision that I’m sitting at a restaurant, looking at a menu and I order whatever I feel like eating. I eat as much as I want/need. I don’t think about calories and I leave the meal and never think of it again. I think about living this way often.
I am the person who overthinks every meal or order. I’m always “trying” to eat the right thing. I often scan a menu looking for the lowest calorie foods. I’ve created false beliefs for myself over the years that there are foods on a menu that are simply off limits to people like me. If you’re like me, you’ve placed labels on food. Food fits into two categories: good and bad. If I eat a good food, I’ll lose weight. If I eat a bad food, I’ll get fat. It’s very cut and dry in this simple minded weight obsessed mind of mine.
Here is an example of a typical meal for me, at a restaurant specifically. Every option and consequence races through my head.. I should get a salad. I should get a salad with grilled chicken to add protein. I wonder what type of dressings they have. I should get it on the side obviously. I read the list of salads, they have many ingredients and I get scared. Are these salads even healthy? If I’m going to end up eating the same amount of calories with the salad as the pasta then I’m getting the pasta. My attention veers over to the pasta. I read all the options, fantasizing about being a person who just orders pasta if they want pasta. Let me compromise, maybe I’ll get a chicken dish, limit the carbs, increase my protein but still have something more enjoyable than a salad. No be good, back to the salad. Screw the salad let me get the most fattening thing on the menu because I’ve officially decided I’m having a cheat day.
This usually goes on until it’s time for the waiter or waitress to take my order, I ask to order last. If I chose the salad I feel sad and deprived. If I choose the pasta or more fattening meal I feel the taste of regret before I’ve even taken my first bite. And I’ve already vowed to start my diet tomorrow.
It’s exhausting to live this way and it’s one of the most frustrating things for people who struggle with food.
This past week, I made a decision to try living “normal.” I use quotes around this word, normal, because I’ve been told that no one is normal when it comes to food. It’s funny because I always make decisions to try diets. This time, I made a decision to try to “not be on a diet.” And just out of principle, I started this practice on a Tuesday. I often talk about how I feel I’ve been on a diet every day of my life so making the decision to live this way for the time being is a combination of feeling relieved and feeling scared. It’s a huge relief to not have to “worry about losing weight” but it also comes with the fear of gaining.
I actually found myself out to eat a lot this week and I did what I said I would. I was going to order exactly what I was craving. Not what I thought I SHOULD eat but what I thought I WANTED to eat. At California Pizza Kitchen I ordered a BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad, dressing on the side (usually I’d try to find the lowest calorie salad with nothing but greens and chicken, this had beans and chips and corn, whoa.) At a Mexican restaurant I ordered a burrito (usually i’d order fajitas to ditch the carbs) At an Italian restaurant I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese and ate fried calamari as an appetizer. At cheesecake factory I ordered turkey and avocado with mayo on a brioche bun and split sweet potato fries with my BFF. Twice this week I had a bagel for breakfast, once with egg whites and once with cream cheese. I have a bagel maybe once every 6 months. And I also let myself snack on animal crackers, pretzels & cereal. Usually i’d stick to vegetables, fruits or nuts.
The interesting thing about this past week, I thought about food less. I of course feared I was gaining weight more but I tried to put that out of my head for the good of my experiment. But a couple things happened that I thought was worth sharing, the way I shared those sweet potato fries. First, I was able to put a meal behind me. When I eat very restrictively I feel like I always want more. Next, I went more hours in between meals because I was satisfied. I think what happens when we are “always on a diet” is that we’re always looking for the first opportunity to get off it. Next, I didn’t binge or overeat. Interesting enough, when no food was off limits, I never needed to binge on that food. I wasn’t planning “last hurrahs” with these foods because I wasn’t dieting the next day. If I wanted that food the next day I could to have it, therefore, I didn’t think about it as much. Next, I noticed I didn’t need to eat as much for dessert or late at night. I think when we are dieting, even if we aren’t hungry we convince ourselves we are because we just feel so deprived. Finally, I didn’t finish my meals and snacks completely. Again, the freedom of allowing myself to, took away the need.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t weighed myself. But that’s not the point, the point is I feel ok. Better than ok actually. I plan to continue this way of life for the time being and I will continue to blog about my feelings.
This has all been very eye opening to me and I think a lot of amazing things can happen when we stop dieting, and what I am seeing is that stopping dieting doesn’t have to mean gaining weight.
See here’s the thing, there are always a million cases FOR DIETING. But maybe we can build a case for weight loss, that involves NOT DIETING. A what a wonderful world that would be!