On Diets

23 Feb

Just walk up to a group of American adults and ask them how many are on a diet.  Maybe no one will say yes.  Maybe all of them will.  Maybe they will all laugh at their previous diet failures.  Maybe they don’t need to diet.  Maybe they plan to diet.  Maybe they eat a varied amount of carbs, proteins, and fats.  Maybe they only eat meat.  Maybe they’re vegan ( : O).  Perhaps (cough), they are on a “no carb” diet, a “no fat” diet, or a “no protein” diet.  Might they be on a new fad diet that suggests depriving themselves of all vitamins and minerals?  Or perhaps the liquid diet.  Maybe they are on a detox diet.  The point is, no matter what a person answers when asked if he or she is on a diet, the answer “no,” does not exist.   Rather, they could provide any sort of explanation of what kind of diet they are “on.”  The question we ponder most as consumers concerned with looks, health, and digestive contentment is this: What is the right diet?

I, myself have struggled with the “right diet,” for a long time.  As a young child, I was healthy and normal in weight, but my status shifted as I grew older.  The instance that may have corrupted me occurred when I was about 8 years old.  I had my friend, who we’ll call Sandra, over for a play date.  My mom always packed me two cookies in my lunch, and whenever I had an after-school snack, I ate two cookies, following my mother’s serving habits.  After my play date with Sandra, things changed.

When I got out the Chips Ahoy, I took two, ready to relish dipping them in my glass of cold, 1% milk.  Sandra took more than two.  Sandra took nine.  I was shocked.  Nine cookies?  Who the hell eats nine friggin Chips Ahoy? I had wondered.  Well, the fact is, it seemed pretty badass at the time.  So I had more.  I don’t know if that event changed the way I saw food, but I certainly didn’t stick to eating only two cookies throughout my teen years.  By the time I was in third grade, I was a bit husky, and my mom was not excited when I came home from the deli down the street waving a package of three-for-the-price-of-two Devil Dogs.

By sixth grade, I stopped growing, and although I had been a steady grower up until that point, stopping was harsh.  My friends were catching up to me in height, and I was starting to pork out a wee bit.  Since they were all later than me in hitting the ceiling, none of my friends really had to worry about what they ate.  I realized, though, that when my friend and I were the same weight and that she was six inches taller than I, that it might be time to start cutting back.  So I did.

In sixth or seventh grade, I began to research more about healthy foods and cut back on junk.  I was into sports still, so I had a pretty active lifestyle.  When I started to be more health-conscious, I immediately started to lose some weight.  I looked and felt better, and I was proud to be in control of my physique.  I probably lost around fifteen pounds.  Although that may seem like a lot for a kid, my ending weight was normal.

Later on, I had to deal with what I call “weightenance.”  Weight maintenance.  That wasn’t as bad as many people make it out to be.  I stayed active even though I tired of team sports.  Power walking (don’t laugh) became my usual exercise.  All through high school I maintained my weight, but sometimes it was hard.  After all, as you well know, I am a cooking fiend.  I don’t shy away from good food.  Fortunately, I began to see weightenance as a way to learn how to enjoy good food without over-doing it.

I ate a lot of healthier foods like fruit, veggies, salad (without fatty dressings), lean proteins, and chickpeas.  My staple breakfast and snack was Fiber 1 cereal.  Although that sounds silly and old-person-ish, I found Fiber 1 filling and a clean source of energy.  I also ate a lot of low-fat pineapple cottage cheese, low-fat pudding, fat-free whipped cream, and other light products when I wasn’t cooking real food.  Ultimately, I weaned myself off the fake junk, with the exception of the cereal and fat free whipped cream.

In college, things got a bit tougher.  In my first semester, I found all-you-“care”-to eat dining halls detrimental, and free alcohol and drunk munchies weren’t helping.  If you can imagine, drinking–or should I say “eating”–four beers and then a sandwich with chicken, sausage, cheese, sauce, and other shit on it, did not exactly fit in with my calorie balance.

I also found my digestion was off.  Before I started college, I had some stomach pains, but they only got worse as I got more laissez-faire in my eating habits.  I started to snack on Tums, but they didn’t really help.  They are kind of tasty, though.

Finally, although I only really put on the freshman “two,” as my mom jokingly calls it, I decided it was time to stop slapping random tastes of everything in the dining hall on my dinner plate, time to stop eating late at night, and time to stop over-eating at breakfast (sugary foods at the dining halls add up fast).  I would feel better and probably have less to worry about health-wise.

Solution?  I went back to eating Fiber 1.  I stopped going to dining halls for breakfast.  And I stopped letting myself get too hungry before meals.  For a long time I hadn’t been eating lunch.  I didn’t necessarily go back to eating full out lunches, but I tried something new: counting calories again.  If my breakfast (Fiber 1 and coffee, both with milk), was about 150, and I ate some extras (be it a bite of leftovers, here or there), I ate about 200 for breakfast.  I baked some potatoes to have on hand for snacks, since they are high in nutrients and similar to apples in calories.  For me, they are easier to digest than apples.  I could then eat what I wanted later in the day but not find myself shoveling on the food at dinner, because I had some more sustenance from the potatoes.  Things were looking better.

be healthy. be happy!

The bottom line, I suppose, is this: don’t be full.  Don’t be hungry.  Don’t sit still.  Don’t deprive yourself of everything.  Enjoy good food.  Don’t break down and eat giant sandwiches late at night or get gross candy bars from the vending machine.  As my grandma says, “Everything in moderation.”  I agree with this.  So for those planning to diet, listen to your bod.  You can’t beat your own system.  That’s just not how it works.  Oh.  One more thing.  If you are only eating packaged foods, you are living in a grotesque, plastic-wrapped, artificial world, and you’re gonna die from it.  Go eat some radishes or something.  The juice, the chips, the shit.  They are not yummy or healthy.

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