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On Diets

February 20, 2019

This time, I think it’s going to stick. In the past, my efforts at healthful eating have really been about gaming the system. My doctor would want to run a lipid panel, but I had just spent the last few months eating chicken wings, bacon cheeseburgers, and duck fat roasted potatoes. So, I’d put off the test for a few months, and engage in a period of extreme healthful eating.

My test results would be great. The doctor would say I’m healthy. And I’d go back to my deep fat fried fueled fantasies.

Right now, I have no blood tests on the horizon. I was just approaching the heaviest weight I had ever seen on the scale. It never crossed the 200 pound threshold, but it was pretty close. And that was my wakeup call. So once again I did something drastic.

Here’s the thing. I don’t believe in fad diets. It’s not that I don’t believe they work. I’m keenly aware that they work. I just don’t believe they work in the long term. Nor do I think they are particularly healthy. And it really all comes down to one reason.

All fad diets have their own language that surrounds them. But at their core, what makes them appealing isn’t the food you don’t eat, but the food the diet allows you to consume. Burgers without the bun? Bacon and cheese omelettes? A big bag of pork rinds?

“I can eat all the steak I want and still lose weight!” Yes, that may be true. But you’re not doing yourself any favors.

The key to healthier eating is to pay more attention to your hunger levels, and to learn how to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when the hunger has abated. That does not mean eating until you are full. That’s different. It’s a different feeling. By the time you are feeling full, you have already eaten too much.

In some ways we are incredibly lucky. We live in a period where food is cheap and plentiful. And by food, I’m merely suggesting things that you can eat which contain calories. I’m not making nutritional judgments here. Because there is a lot of “food” in the market which I’m less convinced should actually pass for food.

Supermarket sandwich bread is high up on that list. But I digress.

More and more it seems as a species, we have forgotten how to eat for survival. We eat for all kinds of reasons. We eat for pleasure. We eat to relieve stress. We eat because we are bored. We eat to suppress sadness. We eat simply because food is there.

Now I’m not suggesting one has to give up the idea of eating for pleasure. It’s just important to know when to say you’ve had enough.

You don’t have to count calories. You don’t have to avoid certain “bad” foods in their entirety. But I’ve dropped close to 20 pounds at this point be simply reconditioning myself to eat less. And let me tell you, the first month sucked. It was terrible. I was grumpy. I missed my evening beer or cocktail.

But now I’m feeling great. I’m in the zone. I’m grabbing one small bowl of pasta, eating it slowly, enjoying it thoroughly, and not going back to the kitchen for a second helping. The other day at lunch, I was able to steal two fries from my daughter’s basket. And really, that was enough. More would have just been more. It wouldn’t have brought me additional pleasure, it would have just extended my gut and made me feel overfull.

As a result of this eating training, I’m now much more comfortable walking away from the table without being full, but merely feeling sated. If hunger strikes later, I can always push it back with an apple and a small handful of nuts. And thanks to my flexible schedule, I don’t have to eat meals at specific times, so if I don’t feel hungry at noon, I’m under no pressure to take my lunch. I can wait until 1:30 or 2p when the hunger starts to kick in before I consider a meal.

Which is interesting, because thanks to some more modest eating, there are now times when I actually feel hungry. That almost never used to happen before. There would be cravings for food, sure. But they weren’t actually hunger.

We’re out of touch with our bodies. I know this, because I’ve been out of touch with my body for years. I’m thrilled to be paying some closer attention, and doing a better job at being a responsible eater.

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