Since November I have lost 15 pounds. For about the past 10 years, but particularly since we moved from Chicago, I've been steadily gaining weight. Nothing crazy, just a slow gain. I've run a few marathons in that time period and tried several diets. I could prevent quickly gaining, but still felt the weight as it settled in for the long haul. When I discussed this with people I got a few different responses the most common being the following: 1.) You look fine! Don't worry about it. 2.) Do you want to buy this product or join this group to help you?
My answer to #1 was that although I appreciate the compliment, I want to feel comfortable in my own body and I currently didn't. I had started to reach the point where when out with Logan and he would say, "I'll race you to ____." I would say, "No, no running for me." Declining a spontaneous race is normal when I'm not dressed for a sprint or when I'm carrying a load, but that wasn't why I was beginning to regularly answer, "No." It was that I didn't have the energy. My body wasn't able to keep up and I just wanted to do nothing. That's when I knew things had to change. I'm not interested in crazy weight loss, but I want to feel good. I want to feel strong again. I know aging takes a toll, but I'm not giving up yet.
My answer to #2 was that I'm very skeptical about promises made by any company or diet. I am also a total loner when it comes to fitness and don't really enjoy working out with other people. My workout methods are effective, but somewhat inexpiable. The best way I can put it is that when people come with suggestions I have a Ron-Swansonish-I-know-what-I'm-about attitude. I know what I'm capable of and push myself to do that. Twice, only twice, in my life have I felt the aggressive "PUSH IT" that I hear from trainers. It is no coincidence that I've also had to seek emergency medial help twice. Twice. (Both are pretty good stories, but those are for another day.) Another issue with diets or plans is that I am a ridiculously picky eater. I don't like fish or seafood along with a plurality of other foods. I love many fruits and vegetables, but often they are the ones left off the list of particular diets. Travel also makes eating a particular diet very difficult. Munching while driving keeps me awake and focused and eating healthy while at restaurants can be quite challenging. Finding time to squeeze in fitness further complicates staying healthy on the road.
Anyway, all that to say, I needed something that I discovered on my own, that was flexible, and that worked with my health issues. (They are ridiculous and may or may not be discussed at a later time. ) So how did I finally loose weight? Well, the answer starts the same way most of my answers for life's problems start - I read a book. The book was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He lays out a case for the health benefits of actual food which he describes as either plants grown by the sun or meat raised on natural diets. This part of the book was interesting, but not necessarily life altering. What got me was his discussion of intentional eating. He stated that when asked to describe chocolate cake in one word, Americans most often used the word guilt while the French most often used the word celebration. He argued that there is nothing wrong with enjoying cake or treats in reasonable amounts while surrounded by family in friends, but that there is something very wrong with consuming cake when alone and depressed. He also discusses the importance of eating at a table and focusing on what is being consumed rather than scarfing something down in a rush. He admits that this may not always be possible, but it should be a priority.
The concept of intentional eating - considering where my food was coming from, where I am consuming it, why I'm consuming it, and who I am consuming it with - was revolutionary. I became okay with saying no to sweets when I was really looking to satisfy an emotional craving. I didn't have to say no to anything, but rather in moderation can enjoy a variety of delicious foods without eating the toxic "low whatever-the-current-trends-say-to-avoid" food products.
Every now and then I gain a bit (this morning after a fun weekend I am up slightly), but when that happens, I don't berate myself or fall into a cycle of self-loathing and punishment. I just go back to healthy eating and enjoyable exercise. I've also read The Omnivore's Dilemma also by Pollan which discusses how we solve the oldest question, "What should we eat?"
Eating is both an individual and a communal pursuit. How we eat is something that each individual must consider and answer for. It is also something that we do with others as we prepare food together and make decisions where to shop. If you think that intentional eating as a goal sounds over dramatic then look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God." As I reexamined this verse I realized I needed to live it out and in the words of Robert Frost "that has made all the difference."
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."