A lovely friend has pointed out today that maybe we ought to “keep your eyes on your own plate”, and they have a very good point!
It’s a natural reaction, especially when we feel criticised by friends and strangers alike, when they realise we have decided to step off the Diet Merry-go-round, to feel we need to fight back with criticism of other people’s choices. We are now outcasts in society (ok, I over dramatise, but we can definitely feel alone). We feel like our every move if being picked on and analysed. “She’s eating a sandwich made with full fat butter and full fat mayonnaise!” “She can’t possibly be planning to lose weight eating a full Sunday lunch WITH ROAST POTATOES!”. After years of agreeing and following all those plans where the food felt like it was lacking, and we felt deprived and hungry, it is lovely to be truly able to Eat What You Want! And in the early stages I certainly did this. There’s a section in Beyond Chocolate that discusses legalising food. Some people find Stocking Up helps to alleviate the power of certain foods over them. Others prefer just knowing that they can have a certain food when they want, even if it involves a long drive out to a special place to buy it!
Slowly, as we legalise, and accept there are NO good or bad foods, we can start to understand what our bodies really appreciate. There is a vast difference between eating a bowl fool of salad because we want to and because we need to. I think it’s safe to assume the majority of us genuinely know that fruit and vegetables are good for us, but wanting to eat them rather than a plate of fish and chips was never really something that happened to me terribly often. I preferred the taste and texture and naughtiness of the fish and chips. Why would I choose a Caesar Salad over that? And diets reinforced that belief and habit for me. If I was eating out, I felt obliged to treat myself on something naughty, something I wouldn’t be eating the rest of the time because I was watching my weight. Once I had left dieting behind I could start questioning myself as to why fish and chips appealed over something else on the menu, and the reasons were actually very interesting and rather personal. It is only in extremely recent months (given that I’ve been anti diets more or less for 5 years) that finally I don’t automatically order fish and chips from a menu when we go out. That’s not to say I never do any more, but it’s not longer a regular habit. Now, when we go out to eat, I genuinely peruse the menu for what I will really enjoy eating. I want to enjoy not only the taste, but also the feeling I will get after the meal. I don’t want to feel tired or sluggish, as if my body is struggling with what it has just been given. I want to feel light, and comfortable, ready for the next part of the day! It is only very very recently that I am more acutely aware of how foods really do affect me, mentally, emotionally and physically.
Last night saw a programme on BBC2, that followed 3 diet clubs and their members. I only got through 20 minutes, and felt genuinely sad and sorry for those people going to those clubs. I remember painfully the “treat night” after a weigh in, or panicking because I ate something and realised it wasn’t syn free, or had twice the points I had been counting. One of the moments that struck was a woman saying she’d not lost weight because she had been mispointing cottage cheese. “It turns out it was 6 points a tub because of the pineapple!”. Now I can look back with a wry smile, because I’m no longer in that place, but I am reminded how painful it was. How I dreaded those weigh days, if I thought my week had gone badly, how I looked forward to jumping off the scale and grabbing a coffee and something to eat. And I can be grateful that finally I will no longer be subjected to any of those “If you want a cake, reach for a carrot” moments.
It’s unfortunate that those people still on diets will sit in judgement on us, when they see what we’re eating. And sometimes it’s agonising, especially when we feel like we’re not being all that intuitive, and the weight is falling away ever so slowly. On the other hand, they may just be having an inner battle with themselves, desperately miserable at the sight of you eating that sandwich with full fat mayonnaise, knowing they’re not allowed what you are enjoying. Or they may be heading to a miserable post deprivation binge, where they will eat so much but taste and enjoy so little.
So while it may be frustrating and hurtful being criticised by the diet brigade (and believe me I’ve had my share a plenty), we’re in so much better a place that my friend is right. Let’s keep an eye on our own food, and let them worry about theirs!