After watching one of the X-Men movies, I turned to Janette, my wife, and said:
“What would your mutant power be?”
“Cooking,” she said.
“Oh…what would your name be?”
And, as if she’d been waiting her entire life to be asked this question, she replied:
The Saddest Meal I Ever Ate
Once for dinner I ate a handful of croutons and some pickle chips. Janette was out of town and I couldn’t find anything. I was too lazy to go out and the croutons were just sitting there, so…
As I prepared for bed that night, I tried to avoid my own gaze in the mirror. What could be more pitiful?
But this pathetic little night says something about my relationship with food.
Relationships with food
Janette spends many of her evenings in bed looking at magazines. These magazines usually show centerfolds of gleaming spatulas and glistening noodles, draped over scarred cutting blocks and wrapped sensuously around forks.
“Oh,” she’ll say, starting to smile.
“Oooooo,” she say, smacking her lips a little.
“Are you talking to me?” I’ll say hopefully.
“Shh!” (smack smack smack)
This is an exaggeration, but just barely. I can’t complain. Her love of food means I eat well. And it isn’t that I don’t love food. We just eat for different reasons.
I eat because if I’ll do not, then I will die.
Many–if not most–people I know eat because food makes them feel better.
Every time I commit to eating better, I am always stunned at how good I feel after a day or two of eating healthy food. But it doesn’t necessarily feel good in my mind, and I’ve seen it take a greater toll on others when they make their own commitment.
This is a familiar refrain in my family: “Today I go on the starvation diet.” Or, “Today I work myself to the bone and I’ll be crawling home from the gym.”
Yeah! Wait, I meant no. I mean, what I really meant is why?
Any change feels better momentarily, but how odd that feeling better physically doesn’t automatically override the mental need. Why does it have to be all or nothing? It is a very predictable response and contradiction.
In the same moment I can think:
I haven’t felt this good in a long time
Crap, I really want an entire box of Strawberry Fig Newtons
So the reward of feeling better, stronger, healthier doesn’t always prevent the anxiety, sadness, or need for eating things that aren’t great for us.
I know someone who once said that my Tourette’s Syndrome would disappear if I “drank more carrot juice” and “ate more barley green.” The person who said this was a walking skeleton with a vampire’s complexion–but not that alabaster, sexy vampire look everyone wants these days.
Another friend that was trying to lose weight drank nothing but lemon juice. Then nothing but apple juice. Then nothing but air. Then everything all at once. The ideas got so crazy and at cross purposes that they…well, I don’t know what.
The basics never change
- More muscle = less fat
- Eat more protein
- Eat less fat
- Eat enough calories, but make sure they’re from good, healthy foods
- Drink lots of water
The packaging of diets change, but the principles are the same because our bodies work the same way today as they did a year ago. Our biological makeup really isn’t such a moving target that a “new” diet is required every year to keep pace with evolution.
But common sense sucks and it’s hard to be a grownup. I know I would like to eat Cap’n Crunch every single morning (and night).
What I’m trying instead
Alwyn Cosgrove has a diet called “green face” that I heard of via Dan John. Here’s how it works: you can eat anything that is green or that had a face.
I am now starting each day with a gigantic salad. It’s helping.
I don’t get bogged down in semantics. It doesn’t mean that green bananas are better than ripe ones or that watermelon rind is better than the fruit itself. Rather, meat and vegetables and things that are organic when possible.
So far, I like it. It’s simple and easy to remember and I feel good and strong. Surprise, surprise. When things are complicated, it’s usually because we’re complicating them in our heads.
The fundamentals are always the fundamentals. Milkshakes will never be as good for you as spinach, fried chicken will never be as good for you as lean meat, and so on.
Forget about diets
“Going on a diet” sounds grim and it sucks. I like “using common sense” much better. What do you think?
Let’s talk about two things in the comments:
1. What was the most pitiful meal you ever ate?
2. Have you ever tried a strange diet? If not, has any diet ever really worked for you? Why or why not?
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