Most people have probably seen Anne Lamott’s New Year’s article about NOT going on a diet. It starts like this:
I know you are planning to start a diet on Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ” Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”
I agree with what she is saying. But what caught my attention was the long “comment conversation” between a woman who was having success on her diet and disagreeing with Anne, and many other people who wanted to try to explain to her what Anne really meant.
All this led me to ponder–what good are diets, anyway? Well, I think they can be useful, depending on what your intention is going into it. If you go into a diet just to “get the weight off,” well, we all know how that ends up. I still remember a sentinel moment early on, when I started Weight Watchers eleven years ago. I was going to Weight Watchers with a friend. We were “working the program,” counting points like crazy. And we had enough points to go out for a light lunch. As we paid for our lunch, I stared longingly at the huge brownie at the check out counter. My friend said, “Don’t worry. Pretty soon we’ll be able to have one of those with our lunch.” I didn’t reply, but I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Never again will that happen. I have to change the way I am eating forever.” And pretty much, that is the truth. At least about brownies 🙂
But if you go into a diet “program” with an inquisitive, even slightly open mind, there is a lot you can learn. Some of the things you can learn can help you to have a healthier future life. New food choices, new ways of handling stress, the healthy benefits of exercise. Practicing all of these things during a diet program, trying new things you weren’t willing to try before–the things that work can become a new way of life for you.
Here’s some of the things I’ve changed in response to “diets” I’ve done:
- I realized that I ate in response to anxiety. Just recognizing that has helped me to choose to NOT eat when something makes me anxious.
- I’ve tried new foods, things that I would NEVER try before. Some of those things are my new favorite go-to foods.
- My diet is MUCH less meat-centric. I still know the value of having a fair amount of protein in my diet, but there are plenty of days that I just skip the meat.
- Sugar–its not my mortal enemy, but its not my bestie anymore. I know when to hold ’em.
- I know that super restriction does not work for me. The temptation is always there. But I can reflect and know that it does not work in the long run.
- Whole foods. Now those are my friends. And you know that thing about shopping the perimeter of the store that every new dieter learns? Who knew–I still am surprised sometimes when I realize that that is ALWAYS the way that I shop.
- Regular exercise is a given. Its just a huge part of my life. That is very different than how I lived before.
All of these things I learned and practiced until they became ingrained while I was “on a diet.” So a diet can do a lot of good, if you are using it to learn and grow and change. A diet’s a waste of time if you just want to “get the weight off” and go back to your usual way of eating and moving through this life.