Monday, July 25, 2016

The Post-Diet Diet
(Today Is The Day 2.)

So we're decided. We're not going to wait until we've suffered and sacrificed to become a wholly new person before we live the way we always dreamed of living. How does this work? A good example is diet.

In our fantasy future, when we get up every day at the weight we always dreamed of being at, how did we eat in such a way as to a) stay lean, and b) enjoy life?

I think most of us would agree on the following principles, which show up again and again in the advice of those who successfully practice moderation.

1. We will eat a well-balanced diet, with no extreme prohibitions or overloads in any one category characteristic of fad diets. I am tempted to add my own dietary suggestions here, based on science and experience, but really, it's not my business. I will point out that nutritional science is turning against the anti-fat crusade of recent decades, and fat satisfies hunger, whereas simple carbohydrates like sugar can, if anything, stimulate it. But people who don't overeat can pick their own proportions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein, and usually do fine.

2. We will eat three moderate meals a day. That's three servings, or small-to-medium-sized platefuls, not piled high, with no seconds. Or two such meals and a substantial snack.

3. We will eat mindfully. Let me make this clear. We will not shovel food into our mouths while watching TV or playing a computer game or having a political argument with a deranged relative. We will set aside time and space to a) pay attention to what we're eating, b) eat it slowly, and c) enjoy and feel grateful for it. Remember, the mental attitude that has made us fat is the belief, often the insistence, that we love food because it makes us happy. Yet fat people eat ninety percent of their meals unconsciously. Those first few bites can be ecstatic, yes, but then it's a matter of making sure we get everything available and fitting it all in and being done with it, hard labor, even if we feel bloated and distended by the end of it. Whereas when someone eats slowly and mindfully, there is time for the chemical components of food to hit the bloodstream and send satiety messages back to the brain. You enjoy it, you know you enjoy it, and you don't need seconds (although sure, that habit will still have to be broken.)

4. We can have a glass or two of wine or beer a day, if they don't undermine the rules above, and as much coffee or tea as we enjoy. (If caffeine happens to over-affect us, of course, we wouldn't enjoy that.)

5. We will not regularly have sweets or sweet desserts, only very occasionally and in small portions, to be savored slowly.

That all sounds about right, doesn't it? We won't be deprived, we will enjoy what we eat, but we will no longer imagine that packing it in makes us happy.

If you believe that you will eat like that after you lose your current fifty or hundred extra pounds, congratulations. Today Is The Day. You can start now. Never diet again, just eat good food in moderation. If you also exercise in moderation (as you surely intended your future self to do), you will soon begin to lose weight. Slower than you would on a "strict diet"--maybe a little slower, maybe a lot slower, that depends on a lot of things. But you will lose and lose until you are at a healthy maintenance weight and can shake hands with the future self you only imagined. Don't tell me it might take two or three years and that's too long. Never is too long. And that's where we came in.

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