I love food. I know that is probably self evident by now but here is the deal. I like the sharp tang of a good cheddar and the elevated funk of a camembert. I love biting into a crisp granny smith apple and feeling the contrasting textures of the smooth outside skin and the rougher interior texture as my mouth puckers with sweet tart juice. I love a slice from a succulent roast or a loaf of fresh from the oven bread. Cracking through the sugar crust of a crème Brule sends shivers of delight through me. The cream and crunch of that first spoonful is divine.
Knowing this about myself (And having failed spectacularly in several food specific diets throughout the years) I knew that outlawing certain foods was like attaching a timer to a bomb. Sooner or later the bomb would go off and I would gorge on whatever I banned. Each day that timer ticked, my desire for the outlaw food would grow, absence making it seem more delicious than reality could ever provide.
So I came up with my calorie counting and exercise plan. Nothing is forbidden but everything is done in moderation. If I want triple cream brie I can have triple crème brie. I can’t have a lot of it, but when I weigh my thoughts of having one ounce of really good cheese against having eight ounces of fat free cheese product spread, I go for the good stuff every time.
It turns out I am at heart a quality over quantity type person.
Not me actually. That really wasn’t something I knew about myself before starting my diet. Not that I thought I was the other way around, it simply didn’t occur to me to check. I have to say that one thing counting calories has given me is an understanding of my own tastes.
In the beginning, I started with the ‘Is this worth the calories’ question, but the question itself kind of annoyed me . I think it is because it automatically reduces food to the level of fuel which has never been how I innately view it. The question I ended up asking was, ‘is this worth balancing?’
Because I am balancing exercise with calorie consumption, to indulge I have to either take away calories from something else (if I have this cheese now, then I will skip desert after dinner tonight, or something to that effect) or I have to add enough exercise to counter act the indulgence and stay on track.
To me this seemed logical, and while my weight loss hasn’t been a dramatic shedding of pounds instantly, it has been a slow and steady progress that I can keep up as long as I need to. It also removes both the feelings of guilt and of deprivation. I’m not denying myself, I’m just keeping things in balance.
Admittedly many of the things I would have automatically stuffed in my mouth because they were there, I’ve found I don’t really want. There are far fewer processed foods in our house then there were a year ago. Paying attention as much as anything else helped change a lot of my tastes in that regard. Even if certain things aren’t forbidden, I just don’t want them. If I do get a craving then I measure out a portion, recording the calories and consume it slowly, paying attention to the mouthfeel, the taste and how it lingers on the tongue. I make a conscious effort to taste it. As a consequence I found several things I thought I liked to be things I don’t particularly care for.
I did not think this was rocket science (mostly because it isn’t).
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who seemed to think this was a magical thought. I will leave her name out of this, but she is a naturally thin woman who has never had a weight problem. She has no actual health issues, but she does like to eat healthy. When I explained my calories in-calories out system her eyes went wide and she leaned in.
“Does that include …doughnuts?”
I explained that it did, although not an entire dozen in one sitting. Moderation is the key to making this work.
She then looked around and leaned in closer, her voice a harsh whisper. “Including Krispy Kreme?”
It was the kind of conversation I expect people to have when they are discussing disposing of a dead body, not a doughnut. It was a little on the creepy side. For a second I actually felt as though we were discussing something illegal.
It turns out, she loves doughnuts, specifically the regular Krispy Kreme ones. There is a store down the street from her office that makes them and flashes the hot and ready sign at her. She started eating healthy ten years ago and hasn’t darkened their door since. No doughnuts in a decade. Now I admire her will power, but it wasn’t pretty. She talked about those doughnuts like a starving vampire talks about blood. Seriously, I’ve seen people send loved ones off to war with less longing in their eyes.
So I looked up the details on the doughnuts.
Seriously, for one glazed Krispy Kreme Doughnut, the kind she was craving, it is 190 calories. Now if I walk at a casual 3.5 miles per hour, it takes one mile to burn 100 calories. (a little over actually but we’ll lowball it for this exercise). If we round the doughnut up to 200 calories, then it takes less than 35 minutes (34.28 minutes) of walking to burn off the doughnut.
I explained this. I also explained that to keep myself from buying a dozen, I buy one then take it away from the store to eat it. I also wouldn’t eat it every day. I’d get one maybe once a month or so. But then again I like the doughnuts, but sweets aren’t my go to indulgence.
Her smile could have powered a small substation. I’m pretty sure she hit up Krispy Kreme on the way home.
I know this is a long way to go for a point, but stick with me a little longer. If you have health concerns then fine, avoid what gives your body fits. Don’t send yourself to the hospital because you wanted something your body can’t process. But for me, dieting is a way to make me a healthier person, happy in my own skin and comfortable with myself. That level of denial does not seem healthy. And if there is no real reason for it, it doesn’t really seem right. Personally I know that if I tried to do what she did, I would snap and a swat team would be needed to remove me from the end of the conveyor belt. For me a little sin, a little indulgence, now and then keeps me on track. Dieting doesn’t have to be a grim death march into the kale fields. Just tack on a little extra work out time on the days you indulge and you will be fine.
You are doing good. You are exercising and eating right on a consistent basis.
Give yourself a break. You are human after all and not a machine.
A little sin isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Sometimes, it could be exactly what you need.