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Steering clear of the dieting mindset

November 8, 2008

I’m sick. The kind of sick where I feel bad all day, but not the kind of sick where I can sleep all day or even lay on the couch. I start to feel antsy when I’m resting, but I feel dizzy and exhausted when I do anything.

Wah wah, I know. Somebody call the waaaaahmbulance.

Being sick also killed my appetite for most of the day. I sipped at a fruit smoothie for a while. I had two pieces of cinnamon toast, but otherwise I’d stuck with green tea.

My family, who all feel very well of course, informed me that they were planning on ordering chinese food for dinner, and did I want any. Figuring that I could eat some of it tomorrow if I never got hungry, I asked for some soup (this great veggie soup with homemade tofu) and an order of buddha’s delight.

As soon as the food was brought into the house, my appetite not only came back, it was ready to make up for the rest of the day. And I was struck with the urge to knock down my family, take the entire bag of food and run up to my room.

And then, from some dark and distant part of my brain, came a suggestion: I should only eat a small bowl of soup, really. Think of how good I’d been today. I didn’t want to ruin it, did I? Surely, if I allowed myself to eat, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I was too hungry and if I was going to eat at all, I would eat everything so it was best not to tempt myself at all.

Logic is not my inner dieter’s strong suit. Luckily, I’ve learned over the years that these sort of suggestions should be ignored. That doesn’t mean they don’t tempt me for a moment. Maybe if I just skip this one meal, I will only ever want to eat 1,500 calories/day and then I will be thin and everything in my life will be perfect!!!

Or I’ll be really hungry and miserable and then, when I can’t stand being hungry anymore, I’ll eat until I feel sick.

Because that’s the other half of what my inner dieter says. She says that when I’m hungry, I can’t control myself around food. That once I ‘allow’ myself to eat, I won’t be able to stop. And my mind will fill with a mixture of blind panic and self-hatred because I am absolutely not in control.

Really, that’s the double lie of diets: That you must be able to exert absolute control over your hunger and that, if you fail to do this, you’re doomed to be an out-of-control glutton.

Of course it doesn’t have to work that way. Being in control doesn’t have to mean refusing to be nourished or satisfied. And, even when I am ravenous, eating doesn’t have to be mindless.

So I had some soup and made sure to include a couple big pieces of tofu in the bowl. I took my time to eat it and then made myself a reasonably sized plate. I knew if I was hungry for more, that I could have more. It ended up that one plate was enough for me tonight. And now I’m satisfied and feeling good (although there might be a chocolate-covered oreo from Liz Lovely with my name on it in the kitchen.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. julie permalink
    November 9, 2008 11:36 am

    This is tough. I find that when I start slipping into that restrictive diet feeling (too early in the morning here for me to be lucid), I have to put it away. I think it’s more important for me to not sabotage myself psychologically than it is for me to not eat because I’ve been “good” all day. In other words, I will eat more than I “should” if I feel like doing that, because I think the extra calories are less damaging than the psychological games I will play if I let myself. I find, these days, if I eat way too much, I’m too full to eat again for a long time, so it probably balances. If it doesn’t, who cares, I refuse to torture myself with this stuff. With guilt comes bingeing, and I won’t go there. It seems that half the battle is not letting my mind get into “diet mode”, and if I have to intentionally do things that in the past might have “sabotaged” my diet, than I’m doing it right.

    Not to self: no commenting before coffee.

  2. November 9, 2008 12:35 pm

    I totally understand what you’re saying, Julie. I think staying out of that dieting mindset is, in the long run, much more important than some ‘extra calories’ here and there.

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