This feels like a good follow-up to my most recent series…
Years ago, when I set out to lose 135 lbs, my sister turned me on to Hungry Girl. It’s an e-newsletter you can sign up to receive daily that gives you tips, tricks, recipes, and product reviews about all things “healthy.” It was fun at first, to get the latest news about what products Quaker was pushing to the health-minded community, how I could slim down a Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse in the comforts of my own kitchen, and what Weight Watchers menu item had been added to the Applebee’s roster.
Hungry Girl felt like a Rick Steve’s insider guidebook to weight loss territory. The best ways to travel to Thinness, USA on a budget, and how to eat and live as the locals do. The thing is, it isn’t that.
I have lots of thoughts about moderation and mindfulness. You might know those by now. One piece of advice I have about losing weight is to not get wrapped up with “light” products. At one time or another during the process of losing a million pounds, I flirted with light breads, sugar-free fat free everything, 100-calorie packs, and just about everything with buzz words like diet, light, lite, and skinny. Their implication of lightness in product manifests itself as lightness of satisfaction.
It made it easier to meet calorie or point quotas, when I could use a low carb, 100 calorie tortilla in place of the real 250 calorie version. You think you can still have an ice cream sundae when your ingredients are churned five hundred times over, whipped, fat free, and artificially sweetened.
The problem here is that when you stop trying to get skinny, when you’re finally the person who doesn’t need to perform a magic trick to make a favorite meal, when Fiber One isn’t the only bread crumb mixture you use, you will not know how to be “normal.” I use that word, knowing it’s different for everyone, knowing full well that there is no one definition, nor do I want there to be one. But be honest with me here, we know what we think of as normal eating. Aside from the whats, the whens, and the hows, it’s the style of eating that involves an ease of mind and body. The one without hesitation and regret and panic when the options your mom puts on the table are anything but light.
You must learn to live as the person you want to be. This means finding a way of balancing what you love to eat, with what makes you feel good, with what you have available to you. It involves flexibility.
I used to eat two large bowls of Jello pudding each night (partially frozen). It was two full packages of Jello Sugar-Free Fat Free pudding mixed with skim milk. Roughly 500 calories for a treat. Did I know that for 500 calories I could have had two homemade chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk, and a square of dark chocolate? Maybe.
I had a go ’round with light english muffins. Used them to make one hell of a slimmed down sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich.
When you grow accustomed to eating the light version of everything, you don’t know how to start eating the real versions of things once the weight is gone. You’ve filled a jar with two dollars in pennies rather than two dollar bills. And when you’re in a situation where your light options aren’t available,and you must eat a sandwich at a deli, your sandwich is a whole lot more than the one you make at home with Sandwich Thins, Laughing Cow, and Fat Free Mayo. This experience, for me, was a sad one. I wanted to be able to go to Ben and Jerry’s and not feel slightly sad that the kid sized cup I ordered was calorically equivalent to the massive bowl of sugar free slow churned I scoop at home. It’s not fun to lament that real food is more expensive to your caloric budget than the knock-off versions.
The problem with all of these extremes- of eating and exercising, is that you’re not learning to live long term. You’re not discovering balance in the process of losing weight. And we both know that though we’re able to create an at-home version of a burrito that’s 300 calories, burritos are 800 for a reason. They are delicious and should be eaten in their full glory- without sacrificing cheese, without having to go low carb on the tortilla, without having to measure the rice and beans as though your life depends on it. We don’t need to process the food to make it smaller and more compact, to make it fit into our hungry bellies. The joy that comes from arriving at a place of moderation and balance and wholeness is worth taking the long, natural route.
Just trust me on this one.