Sunday, May 3, 2009

A New Diet, A New Love

For the past few days, I've been mulling over in my mind how many of us approach dieting. The one idea that seems to be sticking in my mind is how starting a new diet strangely resembles being newly in love.

When you're in love, the object of your affections can do no wrong. He (or she) is perfect in that he meets all your needs to a T. Everything he says is brilliant, helpful, insightful, understanding. You make the time to see him, even if normally you would be too tired or too busy. You will go that extra mile, because he is so wonderful.

Then, suddenly or gradually, he loses that patina of perfection. He watches stupid TV shows or watches too much TV. His taste in clothing or food makes you wince. He is much less attentive than you had originally thought.

After a few weeks, months or years, one or both of you end(s) the relationship. It doesn't have to be a terrible ending, full of sturm und drang. It may just peter out. There's nothing great holding the two of you together anymore and it's time to move on.

I know that I personally can relate to this scenario, though not with my husband. Today we're celebrating our 17th anniversary and although he's out at an antiquarian book fair and I'm here at home on the computer; although I think NFL football is violent and boring; although I never have come to appreciate science-fiction despite 20 years of science-fiction conventions and parties; although, although...I know that we go well together, that we love each other, that we're jointly devoted to our children's well-being, that he has always taken care of me through thick and thin, that he can often read my mind after 20 years of close observation...I'm glad I'm married to him and I can take the bad and the good, because the good far outweighs the bad.

But let's get back to diets:

In contrast to relationships that bend and adjust (at least to a certain extent) to the needs and wants of the couple, a diet remains rigid and unswerving in what it demands of us. In fact, as we all know, no matter how hard we adhere to the "loving" rules of the diet, we eventually stop losing weight quite so fast, or even hit plateaus where the weight remains the same no matter how hard we try. We have to work even harder, cut down the calories even more, ramp up the exercise to even higher levels. We become a slave to our lover and our lover constantly asks more and more of us to achieve the same--if not a lesser--result.

The diet becomes a controlling, abusive lover. It abuses us psychologically, and if we become bulimic or anorexic, it becomes a dangerous, physical abuser.

And so we stop dieting and regain the weight so much faster than we lost it. And the search for a new diet-love starts again and the cycle repeats itself.

I admit that I had an intense honeymoon phase with the Paul McKenna programme. It lasted about two months. However, although I have stopped losing weight, I am still assimilating the method's ideas and attitudes and remain fully convinced that at least for myself, diets are not the solution. I will never again cut certain foods out of my diet (in the sense of what I eat, not a slimming regimen) completely. I will never again separate my carbs from my proteins, or limit myself to only fruit until noon, or any one of the crazy things that I tried over the years.

All these rules have left me scarred and frightened of eating and of food. I'm certainly having trouble ridding myself of these fears and listening to my body. But I'm trying. That's all I can do.

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