Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Confessions of an ex-dieter

Some things are almost too shocking to admit. I was talking to a fellow ex-dieter the other day (the incredible Jenny Jameson from F*ck The Diets - why oh why didn't I think of that name???), and we were discussing how our eating habits had changed since we'd given up the dieting mindset. And then I tentatively let slip something so shameful...

'I actually really like cottage cheese...' She laughed, 'Me too'. Phew, it was like a weight being lifted. And then the flood gates opened. 'And diet coke'. Jen countered with 'oat cakes and marmite'. (Urgh) And of course, skimmed milk. I just can't drink the regular stuff anymore - it tastes like double cream to me.

It has been playing on my mind about why we were both almost embarrassed about our continued enjoyment of 'diet' foods. The only thing I can come up with is that it goes against our new-found pride in shrugging off the shackles of the anti-obesity industry. Standing up to The Man. Defiantly refusing to buy into somebody else's rules about what we should and shouldn't eat. If we want pizza, we eat pizza dammit. Chocolate? Ditto.

But it seems that some foods have become so associated with the diet movement that they are no longer recognised as perfectly reasonable food choices for anyone who is not trying to lose weight (without getting in to whether Diet Coke is a reasonable food choice, or even a food. I like the stuff. Get off my back already!) Jenny told me how some friends of hers had praised her for eating cottage cheese one day: 'Ooh, aren't you good!'

So listen up folks: we're done being 'good'. We no longer seek your approbation for trying to alter our bodies into a form that society deems acceptable. We want to stand up and shout: I'm not being 'good'. I'm not trying to change myself. I value myself just the way I am. And I no longer attach any moral value to my food.

Now that I listen to my body, sometimes it just wants cottage cheese. And that's just fine with me. But not today. Today I'm going to head out onto my balcony and enjoy the rest of this sunny afternoon with a nice glass of rose and some fresh scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Finally,  I can have my cake and eat it too.

My fave cottage cheese recipe
Take a handful of frozen blueberries and zap 'em in the microwave for about a minute, or until they're just starting to burst. Tip hot contents on top of a generous serving of cottage cheese. Sprinkle with flax seeds. Indulge. (This is a leftover from my high protein/low carb days, but it's still a fab snack.) Feel free to share your best 'diet food' recipes in the comments below.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The revolutionary dry cracker and boiled water diet

Despite making a promise to myself that I would never embark on another diet, I have this week engaged in severe voluntary caloric restriction. With the help of some mutant alien gut flora that have set up residence in my gastrointestinal tract, I have rediscovered the joys of depriving myself, for my own good, and just wanted to share this new-found revolutionary zeal with you, gentle reader.

I call it the Dry Cracker and Boiled Water Diet, and this is how you do it:

Preparation: Check with your doctor that you are a suitable candidate for this diet. Ideally, call him out at 2 o'clock in the morning to confirm this.

Day 1: Let nothing pass your lips, unless it is travelling in reverse direction. One exception, during any periods of semi-consciousness, you are permitted to sip some boiled and cooled water to maintain fluids. Don't overdo it though - most of the weight loss you can expect whilst doing this diet will be due to severe dehydration.

Day 2: You may nibble on up to three dry crackers, no seasoning, nuts, seeds, or spreads. If necessary, wash down with a few more sips of boiled water. Sleep as much as possible during the day.

Later, a family member informs you that apple is allowed on this diet. Slice up a small apple and eat one per day. An apple will never have tasted so good! If you are too weak to slice up your own apple, a friend or loved one is allowed to help out. In the evening, even if it is your husband's birthday and you have cancelled all other plans, do NOT eat any of his pepperoni pizza. You will only regret your moment of weakness later.

Day 3: After the zeal of the first couple of days, hunger is starting to kick in. Slice up an apple and enjoy. Half a tablespoon of honey may be added to the apple if you are feeling adventurous. If this doesn't satisfy you, you may eat up to two dry crackers. The crippling abdominal cramps you are experiencing are a sign that the diet is working. Revel in your discipline. You should be proud of these positive changes you are making for your health.

By evening, you will be craving sweet stuff. You want a mouthful of the 'chocolate lumpy bumpy' that came with the pepperoni pizza. Succumb. Oddly, you will not enjoy it. If you are still a compulsive dieter, eat the rest of it anyway. If you have already made peace with food and your body, you may stop after one bite. Repeat this process with a cup of tea. Pay dearly for going off your diet early. Your mutant alien gut flora will thank you for this windfall. Your nearest and dearest will not. Besides, you will certainly not get results if you don't even have the willpower to see out the first week! Pull yourself together - back on the dry crackers and boiled water for you!

Day 4: Take some overseas guests for an Indian meal. Look on smugly as they tuck into their butter chicken and think about how much healthier you are than them while you enjoy your boiled rice and dry naan bread.

Remember to weigh yourself at least once a day so you can see how well you are doing. So far, I have lost 5 pounds doing this diet for just 4 days. As I am now 5 pounds thinner than I was at the start of the diet, I can only imagine how much healthier I must be. In fact, I don't even like to call it a diet. This is a lifestyle change for me, a whole new way of eating.

Just think, if you are 'overweight' and therefore at higher risk of, well, nothing really, you could lose nearly three stone in just one month!! And if you are seriously morbidly culturally unacceptable, you could be NORMAL again in less than a year. Plus, if you add ridiculous amounts of exercise to your crackers and apples the results will be even more astounding!!

This incredible plan would normally cost $695!! But today I am going to share it with you absolutely free of charge. That's a $695 value completely free. So what are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose but the prejudice of morons. Simply come round to my house, let me breathe on you, and then we can all embark on this incredibly healthy lifestyle change together!

Disclaimer: Just in case you came to this blog by accident and are unfamiliar with my stance on dieting/weight/health, and just in case there is even the tiniest bit of doubt in your mind about the seriousness of this post, let me be perfectly clear - this is satirical. I do not mean it!! This 'diet' will not help with any health problems other than severe stomach flu. Just in case you are congenitally stupid and are seriously considering it anyway, let me perfectly clear - believe me when I say that your weight is not your problem. Please seek out professional help!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Walking the walk

It's been about a year since I discovered Health At Every Size and my life turned upside down.

Despite years of yo-yo dieting, compulsive eating, binges, cravings, and a generally wacky messed up history with food, the first step – normalising my relationship with food – was actually the easiest part for me. Once I 'got' legalising and made the mental switch that I could eat anything I wanted, the cravings, and my out of control appetite, stopped practically overnight.

I had a week or two of finding myself suddenly sitting on my sofa not quite sure what to do with myself. It took me a little while to figure out what was going on, but basically, I just hadn't realised how much of my time and energy went into thinking about food and eating and weight, planning, re-hashing, self-criticism, and living my life in the future at some indeterminate size smaller than where I was now. But it was incredibly freeing. For the first time ever, eating was neither a chore nor a minefield of guilt and recriminations. Now I think about food when I'm hungry, I eat what I fancy, and then I don't think about it again until next time I'm ready to eat.

There was a certain sadness that came with this change in me. I was finally free of my battle with food, but my weight was the highest it had been in years. For the first few months, I continued to battle with my poor body image. And rather than praise myself for the incredible change I'd made, I just couldn't help berating myself for doing it at 16 stone. How could I ever learn to love myself at this size? Couldn't I have lost 5 stone first, and THEN normalised my relationship with food?

But eventually I conceded that history had taught me the answer to that question. In fact, I remember reading a book about the dangers of dieting and the benefits of adopting an intuitive eating approach around 5 years ago. Although the book really resonated with me, I couldn't quite bring myself to take that leap of faith. I'd just lose a bit more weight first.... Five years and around 3 stone later.... I suppose you're ready when you're ready. Maybe you need to reach that lowest point before you can finally take on such a revolutionary message.
Me in my little black dress

Anyhow, over the last year, I have gradually come to accept, and even like, my body. Sure, I have my moments, but mostly I think I look 'not bad', or even 'nice'!!!! I can only wonder at how 'not bad' I looked all those years when I still felt 'too fat', not good enough. I have a photo of me in my 20s in a little black dress and a pair of black thigh boots. I remember breathing in when that picture was taken and angling myself towards the camera in a flattering pose. Just another seven pounds and I'd be happy. And when I look at it now...

This morning I was interviewed for a local paper, and I spent an hour talking to the reporter about Health At Every Size and being kind to yourself. I have been talking the talk for the best part of a year now, but when I got off the phone, I realised that I was finally ready to truly start walking the walk. This evening, I came home and started going through my closet. If it didn't fit perfectly, it went into the recycling bag. Several recycling bags actually. Years of my dieting history were hanging there in my closet, most recently my standard neutral coloured boot leg cords in gradually increasing sizes. Trousers that were too tight, blouses that gaped at the front, and even a handful of items I'd bought that were a bit small at the time, but that I thought would motivate me, and that I was going to diet into. Most still had their labels on.

I felt a twinge of guilt about the waste. But then I reminded myself that during those years, my driving force was not greed, but despair. And at least now they were going to a good cause and would benefit other people in a variety of different ways. When I thought about how this process was an act of acceptance, the guilt was replaced by a sense of pride that I finally cared about myself enough to do what was right for me. To wear clothes that fit and make me feel good. To not have a daily reminder of all that failure and disappointment. To not wait to live my life in some imaginary future when all my 'thin clothes' would fit, when I'd like my body, and when all my problems would magically disappear. To finally just be me.

Hubby was glad to know that while many of my trousers didn't make the cut, most of my skirts still fit fine. There were also a couple of surprise discoveries. One knit dress that I've had for nearly 20 years, and which I used to love, has been hanging in my closet for years. I just couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. Just to show hubby how much I'd changed since then, I put it on. And it fit. It didn't bulge. It looked pretty good. I'm going to start wearing it again.

But my once overflowing overstuffed cupboards now have oodles of empty space. Once upon a time I would have dreaded the thought of going clothes shopping. Trying to find anything that fit. Buying anything that did regardless of whether I really liked it. Peeking out of the changing room while exposing as little of me as possible to ask the assistant to bring me something in the next size up. Which inevitably they didn't have. Trying to find clothes that would camouflage my unacceptable body so as not to offend anybody's sensibilities. Standing in front of the dressing room mirror in a miasma of culturally sanctioned self-loathing.

But you know what? I don't feel that way now. I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm excited about the prospect of buying clothes not to hide myself and my shame from the world, but to express myself and my right to walk in that same world. I will no longer be dressed from head to toe in black. I can't wait to look at different styles and colours and textures. I will accessorise. I will look HOT! This is my time.