My first diet was suggested to me by my grandmother on a summer visit during my 17th year after I had recently gained 25 pounds in six weeks. I’m not kidding, a whopping 25 pounds in 6 weeks. It was a weight gain marathon. I was not cognizant of what specifically caused the weight gain. I only remember that I got a lot of flak from everyone around me. That is how I realized that I had gained the weight. It wasn’t how my clothes fit, or how I looked in the mirror. It was how people reacted to me. It went like this, “Umm Susan, I’ve noticed that you’ve gained some weight. Do you think you should start drinking coffee?” I would stare back too numb to even know how to respond to what people thought was a logical problem. If I knew what to do I would not have gained the weight. Duh! The only clarity surrounding the event is feeling very dazed by the circumstances surrounding my life. A 25 pound weight gain in six weeks is a trauma, and I was feeling disconnected from myself, as if there were two me’s. The me that I knew and could count on and this new me whose body had been taken over by an alien called FAT.
I had never heard my grandmother mention the word diet before that day. Diet or the term dieting referring to food restriction existed, but at that time it mainly pertained to meals at a sanitarium. In my grandmother’s day, people had the habit of three meals a day and sitting with family or friends to eat. They were happy that they had the resources to be able to provide food for their families. Statistics show that 40% of Americans currently eat alone. What a paradigm shift.
When my grandmother suggested the diet, it made me feel like she felt bad and disconnected from me. I don’t judge her, for my grandmother food was very much about survival, community, fun and sharing. I shared all of those values with her too and maybe there was a place inside of me that was trying to get back to those shared values. So food became a voice, but it was a voice that I didn’t understand.
My grandmother had discovered a miracle diet in Good Housekeeping magazine. The diet claimed a five pound per week weight loss (if you could stay on it). She thought it was brilliant; one half cantaloupe for breakfast, a Hershey candy bar for lunch and a protein and salad for dinner. She introduced the eating plan to me with such glee. What 17 year old would feel deprived eating a Hershey bar for lunch? This was like winning the diet lottery. Never doubting the good intentions of my grandmother and also feeling like I had just been sent to food purgatory, I agreed to try the diet. The first day I slurped down the luscious cantaloupe, devoured the Hershey bar and felt relief when I was finally allowed to eat the savory dinner. Second day went pretty much the same. The third day I spent most of the morning on the hammock, slowly swinging back and forth, too weak to do anything but dream about the upcoming Hershey bar. I was definitely in food prison without a speck of energy available to break out and defend myself. That night I obediently sat in the restaurant shaking and trying to hold my head up until the waitress showed up with the southern fried chicken and lettuce and tomato salad. O glory be to God, I get to eat.
As it turned out, starvation was not for me. This was the beginning of the destruction of my metabolism, yo yo dieting and feeling like a willpower failure. I was trying to fix me with dieting, a well planned disaster. It took a while to unravel what caused the 25 pound weight gain but before I was able to make peace with my weight, I tried every diet imaginable; no carbs, all protein, weight watchers, fasting, protein shakes, only grapes for a week, cleansing, raw food only, only liquids, Atkins, South Beach and other variations of food combining. They all had the same thing in common, dissatisfaction and failure. The experiences propelled me into a future course of learning and discovery.
Along the way I learned about my body, I read tons about nutrition and I experimented with what felt good to me. Some of my learning was scientific, some of it was experiential and much of what I learned was from formal education. I learned a lot from the visionaries who opened the first health food stores and took the time to talk and explain that we need higher quality of foods than was being offered and the benefits of different food choices and various vitamins. As it has turned out, it was a road that needed to be traveled and I know that I’m not alone in my distaste and dissatisfaction with dieting. My body thanked me along the way too, because it does not like to be starved.
With all the abundance in Western society, there is a starvation for a deeper view of life. Because of the multitude of choices and lack of a common community, people are experiencing more and more food related issues. Some of this comes from the corporate molestation of our food sources causing nutritional imbalances which lead to unwanted eating behaviors. Unwanted eating behaviors are also formed from the many ways that we experience stress, eating rhythm, nutrient balance and most importantly unprocessed feelings and emotions.
The word diet is no longer in my vocabulary. I cannot even imagine the concept unless I was restricting a certain food for healing. And my grandmother had it right with her three square meals a day and sitting down to eat with family and friends. This is definitely the road to travel for good health, healthy body image and for the right weight for you. Did you notice that, THE RIGHT WEIGHT FOR YOU! Our bodies are designed for eating, for digestion and for pleasure. The body is an engineering marvel in so many ways and the process of chewing, swallowing and our miraculous digestion system all have important jobs to do for us. Denial is a boomerang that will create significant health challenges and you won’t feel good along the way. Treat your body like your best friend; nourish it, talk kindly to it and make it feel good with whole foods. It’s your vehicle for this lifetime, tend to it with loving care.