Think It Through Thursday: Parachutes
First, I just wanna say that if you have been following and reading my blog for a while or even from the beginning, THANKS! I appreciate your support so much. It really is a journey and you have really seen the ups and downs of what I go through which may be similar to your own journey.
Now, I want to discuss my recent decision to free-fall from the great heights of Diet Mountain. I am of course referring to my last post that had a video talking about my choice to go diet-free forever. If you haven’t seen it, I think it is worth watching because I make a lot of valid points about the realities of being a serial dieter…….for 27 years.
There are a few things I want to list and talk about in greater detail that I didn’t get to expand upon in the video. They are mentioned, but not fully explained. You see, when I said I was free-falling, I forgot to mention that I also packed a few parachutes along with me on the way down. I’m using these as guideposts in my diet free life. They give me some control in doing something that I feel I have no control over, at least not yet. (It’s terribly ironic that being on a diet may seem to give a person control over food and over-eating and god forbid – bingeing, when in fact, and certainly in my case, it was nothing but being out of control.) These are actually lessons that I have learned in my reading of the French culture and the way they observe the art and science of food/exercise/joie de vivre!
Parachute #1: Eat Only When Really Hungry
Note: This tip has also many sub-categories such as – gauge how hungry you are towards how much you eat or plan to eat. It really is simple though. Feel hungry, then eat. As a dieter, you tend to become afraid of hunger; I still am terrified of a rumbling stomach. All I can think of is “Will I faint?” In the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, the author recommends taking a snack with you everywhere you go “…just in case.” She calls this your “en cas.” You don’t have to eat it, but it is reassurance if you get into a bind and the next meal is nowhere in sight. But the real magic in this tip is connecting to your body and feeling what it wants. Diets tend to be very planned and timed. I recommend eating 3 meals at least a day, but think about how hungry you really are before each. If it is time for lunch but your hunger is slight, don’t eat all that you packed/prepared. You can always save the rest for later or, gasp!, throw it away. Or, find another time later in the day to eat if possible. Check your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10; 1 being starving and 10 being maximum stuffed. Try to feel about a 2 or 2.5 before really enjoying a proper full meal.
Parachute #2: Don’t Snack
This was/is a big one for me. As an American, I know that there are entire food products made in my country just for snacking! I also am guilty, or, errrr, rather used to having 2 snacks a day between my breakfast and lunch. This was due to the fact that my meals were not satisfactory enough to hold me for four to five hours. So, a typical lunch would only fill me up to a 5 or 6 on the scale. Also, I did something called “preventative eating” which meant that I could get hungry after a meal between it and the next one, but a snack would thwart that. Therefore, I never really experienced true hunger. This parachute is key people! That whole concept of eating small, snacky meals 6 times a day is bogus for me. That is a body builder concept to “keep the metabolism running constantly.” I don’t want my metabolism running constantly! This forces me to always be thinking about food and when my next “meal” will be and I’m never really satisfied after eating.* So instead, I would suggest really understanding what types of foods fill you up and avoiding those that don’t. For example: Whenever I drink diet soda, I get ravenous no matter how much I ate before drinking it. So, I avoid drinking diet drinks or using artificial sweeteners. This also includes stevia I’m afraid to say. It also tends to press my hunger button. Also, high-glycemic foods make me ravenous in about an hour after eating them; example: Jasmine Rice. Time them wisely or combine them with other low-glycemic foods to balance them out in the same meal. Snacking is fine if it is truly needed, but make the food choice carefully and try not to ruin your hunger for your next meal. That is the goal.
*Note: I realize this is a personal preference. If you like the small meal tactic and it works for you, by all means keep at it.
Parachute #3: Stop Eating When You Feel Full
NO, you don’t have to finish what is on your plate. Yes, you can throw away the excess or give it to the dog if you can’t eat it all and don’t want to save it for later. If the fork is half-way to your mouth and you feel that sudden knowing of fullness, put it down and push the plate away. It really is ok to only eat to satisfaction. This is a real art to discover though. Dieters lose touch with their feelings of satiety. They weigh and measure and spoon specific portions and confine themselves to little boxes of food rules. If you binge, then being full can be completely ignored and one only stops when they feel physically ill from over stuffing. This means you have lost touch with fullness. Remember, stop at about a 7 or 8 on the scale. If you aren’t sure, think about it without eating in the meantime. Put the utensils down and just sit there not talking to anyone and think. Wait a few minutes. Drink some water. Take some deep breaths. Think about happy things, not stressful ones. Don’t distract yourself either. Really think about it.
Parachute #4: Eat Only Whole, Unprocessed, In Season Foods
Forget eating for health. Forget eating to lose weight or be cancer free. Eat to taste and enjoy. Do you remember eating a vegetable that was delicious? Really…like a tomato freshly picked from the vine still warm from the sun, sweet and juicy? Enjoying the taste of your foods and eating whole foods that are in season/ripe will fill you up much better than anything with a food label on it. If you are one of these people who eats from cans, bags and boxes (I see you out there!) this is exactly what you need to avoid. There is a whole British documentary you can watch on YouTube about how those prepared meals are designed (designed food???) with chemicals to make you hungry for more (MSG anyone?) so you will buy more and eat more thus paying the companies that make them more! Again, simple: If it did not come from the earth or have a mother, don’t eat it. Or, if it didn’t exist as a whole thing in nature 100 years ago, don’t eat it; READ: Cheetos, Progresso Soup, Healthy Choice Frozen Dinners. Shop for most of your food in the perimeters of the store – Produce, Dairy, Meat/Seafood, Nuts, Eggs, etc. Get out of the Cracker/Cookie isle! Yes, whole, unprocessed, in season foods are healthy and that is the bonus. But that is a boring way to dine. In other words, don’t eat boiled mushy broccoli because it is healthy and that is what healthy people eat. Eat broccoli if you like it, but learn to prepare it in the most delicious way possible. Enjoy what you eat or don’t eat it.
Parachute #5: Learn to Cook Really Good Food/Meals
If you have trouble with cooking, or hate it – learn to make a handful of delicious recipes that are simple to create but taste divine.* I didn’t say quick though. Quick cooking is not usually the most delicious way to eat, but not always. This may mean you need to experiment with recipes and find 10 solid, go-to meals that you can whip up without thinking. Some people hate the chopping and picking and bending over recipes to read the fine print meanwhile something is burning, part of cooking. I get it. But it is going to help keep your weight down much better than running to the nearest burrito shack every time dinner rolls around. Plan your meals in advance and make more than enough for left-overs for days of the week you cannot cook. I know, it’s a pain, but so is having cancer and sitting next to a chemo drip. Soon I will post a group of vegetable recipes that are super delicious and easy to prepare. I’m looking out for you!
*Need ideas for yummy meals? I have a section on my blog called Recipes and they are all delicious and road tested by me and my family and friends. I always assume that the person reading and preparing them are not advanced cooks, so they are easy to make. Also check out the book An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler for cooking simple, often cheap foods and making them taste great.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it can get you started if you want to jump off the carousel of diet-whirlwind. Am I perfect at all of these things yet? No way! This list is definitely a work in progress that will take time to master. But I am enjoying my meals more and I’m not constantly thinking about “how many calories are in that?” It is a freedom that I don’t ever want to lose again.