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Eat, drink and be merry

I recently proposed that we needed to come up with a word to describe someone who wasn’t fat, but wasn’t really thin either. While we’re revising the lexicon, I think we need to decide what the word “diet” is supposed to mean. Maybe we should just throw the word out completely and recycle the letters for use in other words. The word “diet” has so many connotations that using the word is like wielding a blunt object. It’s imprecise. It causes a lot of confusion. It makes me sound like I’m subsisting solely on tofu and rice cakes.

“Dieting” has a lot of negative baggage. If you’re on a diet it’s implied that someday you will go off a diet. It’s a temporary state of existence, like a month-to-month lease. Dieting implies another “d” word – deprivation. Dieters are accused of starving themselves and going hungry. It’s implied that if you break any of your diet’s multiple rules you are a very bad person indeed. Violators will have their knuckles rapped with their diet books and be sent to the corner to moan about what bad people they are as they suck their thumbs.

If that’s what you think diets are, then no wonder there are people who are anti-diet. All of the above behaviors are a pretty messed up way to live your life. I was always suspicious of diets because of all those connotations, which is one of the reasons I never went on one before.

I state on my “About” page that I follow the South Beach Diet. Maybe when people see that big D word they assume I fit into the category of people above. If I ever start taking on those behaviors, I give you all permission to tie me to a chair and force feed me cake. I’d prefer chocolate fudge cake if you’ve got it, but angel food cake is yummy too.

I do have guidelines that I follow when I make my food choices. I’ll always go for the slice of whole-wheat over the white bread. Sweet potatoes will beat normal potatoes in all my vegetable wrestling matches. I’m going to peel the skin off the chicken even if you call me a poultry scalper. But if I really, really want to eat something, I eat it. There is still a dried-up, sticky streak of mint chocolate shake residue on my car’s cup holder from my expedition to Steak N’ Shake a month ago. I haven’t cleaned it off yet because I’m lazy and I need to stick some more napkins in my map holder, but also because every time I see it I think “Damn, that was a goooood milkshake,” as if I am remembering the best sex of my life. I don’t regret the milkshake and if I ever get a big hankering for one again, I’ll go consume those 700 calories joyously.

I demand that I enjoy every single thing I eat. If I don’t, I say “Well, that was nasty. Let’s not stick that in our mouth again.” Recently someone asked me what I do when I’m hungry and I responded honestly, “I eat.” The idea that I’m starving myself or eating only raw Elmer’s paste is ridiculous. Paste tastes so much better when you add cinnamon and Splenda, duh.

Sometimes I still overeat. Last week I was lying in my bed after dinner with that sickly “Why did you eat the entire antelope?” feeling our cavemen ancestors must have had. I started to moan, “Geez, why did you have to eat all that….cauliflower?” This was completely ridiculous. I was guilting myself over cauliflower? Did I think tiny florets were going to spring up on my face like I had vegetable-induced herpes? I suppose that’s the biggest difference between my old way of life and my new lifestyle. These day’s I’m usually pigging out on little white vegetables that look like trees instead of entire pints of ice cream.

My way of eating and exercising has become natural part of my life. Planning what I eat is part of the regular maintenance required on my body, just like combing my hair, brushing my teeth, and showering. It’s just something I’ve got to do, less I be the crazy, smelly girl with fuzzy white teeth. It doesn’t mean I’m obsessed with dieting, not any more than I am obsessed with going to the bathroom because I have to pee 5 or 6 times a day.

I don’t want to say I’m on a diet, because this is a permanent change that leaves me satisfied and happy. I’m not suffering in any way because of it. The word “diet” makes it sound like I’m eating only protein shakes and vitamin pills. I also don’t want to say I’m not on a diet because I am following guidelines and actively managing what I eat. And I don’t live a life completely free of food guilt. There are still some days (like after an Easter binge) that I feel a bad about eating half a cake and I have to keep reminding myself to get over it already.

There are a lot of people like me out there. Wendy over at Pound refers to her lifestyle as “this thing I’m doing.” There was recently a survey that said less people were “on a diet”, and those who were dieting were “more likely to be on diets of their own making rather than following diets prescribed by physicians or by diet food marketers.”

I cracked open the aqua-marine cover of my South Beach Diet book last weekend to see how closely I was following the plan since it’d been about two years since I’d read the book. I discovered I have been eating the wrong kind of oatmeal, all the couscous I’ve been consuming hasn’t been Kosher, and that peas are starchy and I shouldn’t be raiding their pods so much.

Then I closed the book, put it back on the shelf and thought, “Well, that’s lovely,” and made some couscous and peas. What I’m doing seems to be working anyway. I don’t want to give up my Pine Nut couscous or my Baked Apple Instant Oatmeal. For the most part, I still am following the South Beach plan, but I’ve made my own modifications, picking out the parts I like best and rationalizing any indiscretions. It’s the buffet style approach, which is the same way many people approach religion. There are plenty of Catholics who use birth control despite what the pope might say. I guess I’m doing South Beach: PastaQueen Style.

Diet or anti-diet, I don’t even know what those words mean anymore. I’m just going to eat, drink and be merry. I’ll save a place at the table for you.

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23 Comments

Krissie • April 9, 2007 at 9:29 am

I laughed out loud about having peas and couscous anyway! Your blog inspires me. I love that you have embraced the occassional planned indulgence and have let go of the guilt…unless it’s caulifower induced. Have a happy Monday!

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Debbi • April 9, 2007 at 9:36 am

What impresses me most about how you’ve managed your weight loss is that you’re so matter-of-fact about it. I thought about this, but couldn’t articulate it (and still can’t!) when you wrote about changing your tire. You meet an obstacle and handle it, with no drama or gnashing of teeth. What a good example!

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bazu • April 9, 2007 at 9:39 am

Three cheers to the Pasta Queen! Why can’t more people, especially women, start seeing life this way? Life is too short to live overweight and unhealthy, but it’s also too short to live obsessing about counting calories and following a fad diet. There’s something in your personality and outlook on life that allows you to be so successful, and your ability to write harnesses your insight so all of us can share it. Thank you!

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Alicia • April 9, 2007 at 10:19 am

What a great post. I have just started making changes in my life (just about 2 weeks) and I am just feeling so good. You have just hit the nail right on the head because deprivation doesn’t work!

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Lose Weight With Me • April 9, 2007 at 10:40 am

What a thought-provoking post.

I lost the word “diet” from my vocabulary about 2 months after I started making my changes (I guess that’s how I refer to it…making my changes). I didn’t like it because it DOES infer a temporary thing. I knew that it could never be temporary for me, because it hadn’t worked before.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Brian

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Ty • April 9, 2007 at 10:53 am

Great post!

I’m starting to follow the rule of absolutely liking the food I’m eating. And I’m also realizing that though I may follow a particular eating plan, I have to make it my own in order for it be how I’m going to live rather than what I do to lose the weight.

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Lori • April 9, 2007 at 11:41 am

Love the site, and what a great post. Just wanted to de-lurk to let you know that your Pound link isn’t right. But thanks for reminding me about Poundy.com.

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PastaQueen • April 9, 2007 at 11:46 am

Lori – Thanks, I’ve fixed the link. All that sugar I ate yesterday has clearly affected my ability to spell :)

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deanna • April 9, 2007 at 12:19 pm

can’t wait for the book, you are so real, and inspiring!

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Jan • April 9, 2007 at 1:04 pm

I seem to make this pact with myself every night when I go to bed that the next day I am going to start that walking program. And every day after work, I say that I am too tired to go walking! What gives with that? I have admired your hard work and want part of that, too. I’m going today!!

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coraspartan • April 9, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I don’t like to say that I’m dieting either. I don’t consider what I eat a diet anymore because I’ve been eating like this for over a year and a half now. That seems like a long time to “diet.” When people ask me what I’m doing, I tell them I’m eating healthier. It’s totally true–I eat less fat/sugar, more whole grains, more fruits & veggies and I have reduced my portions. I feel like “eating healthier” is much more accurate than “dieting”. Great post!

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Debbie • April 9, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I’ve noticed that no matter what “diet” most people are on, they still manage to fit chocolate into the diet. I don’t know much about low-carb, but I’ve never met a low-carb dieter who didn’t eat chocolate. Same for low-GI, Weight Watchers, Jenny, and all the rest. I think it’s smart to modify your plan for what you like. That way, you’re more likely to stick with it.

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Les • April 9, 2007 at 2:43 pm

I agree totally. We should want to be healthy, but not overly obsessive about it.

http://weight-master.blogspot.com

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Deirdre • April 9, 2007 at 2:49 pm

It is refreshing to see someone take a sensible, sustainable, approach to eating. It’s even nicer to see them suceed at it.

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Cindy • April 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Pasta Queen, I have been reading you for about a month now, and find you to be a breath of fresh air in the weight loss world. I have been on a new eating adventure for 19 months now, and I’ve lost 130 pounds. I have a ways to go ~ perhaps another 25-30 pounds, but, like you, I feel like I’ll never be “done.” This is my life. I also need to feel like everything that passes my lips is worth it. I buy expensive fish, organic veggies (when i can), and I bake a lot of my own “treats.’ I believe in copious amounts of cheating, or I would never have lasted this long. I started out on the South Beach diet…and lasted about three weeks. I knew I would never sustain it, so I made up my own plan. I am convinced that it is the only way…everyone needs to create their own plan, and then, just maybe, they can be successful. I call mine “Cindy’s small plate diet” when I refer to it at all, which is almost never. I am a closet loser—I hate talking about the weight loss and I hate being noticed. Thankfully, most people get the hint pretty quickly and I’ve been able to make it through most of this unscathed. But it has been the hardest part of this whole business. Changing my eating was easy compared to having to talk about it!

Anyway, thanks for all your entries—they make me smile and they make me think, and sometimes, like this one, they make me think that there is someone else out there who is sensible and real about what it means to “diet.” I only wish I had started when I was your age—I am so jealous of your entries on running. My knees are shot and I cannot consider running, even after losing 130 pounds. But, at 45 (days away from 46!) I am grateful that I can walk. I must be satisfied with what I have and not dwell on what cannot be…

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Chris H • April 9, 2007 at 9:41 pm

I dislike the word “diet” as well, but usually find myself using it, but I am really just eating healthy now, and exercising… so a lifestyle change has happened and will continue to happen, cos when I’m on a “diet” I always tend to lose the plot pretty quick.

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Yolanda • April 10, 2007 at 5:30 am

Diet shouldn’t be something like skipping meals which is what most people believe it to be. It should be about a balance diet wherein we take in healthy foods in the right amount.

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Patty • April 10, 2007 at 4:25 pm

I dislike to say the ‘diet’ word too. I like to call it eating healthy. I did ww for a long time and had to tweak it and make changes that worked for me and it did work. Now I’m trying to do the intuitive eating and not do ww but so far this isn’t working too well for me without the accountability of the weigh in. I’ll keep working on it. Like your blog and your insights!

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Oscar • April 10, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Most people are having the wrong idea about diet. We should be concerned with eating healthy which includes a variety of nutrients and in moderation.

I guess that the work diet wouldn’t be so influential these days.

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chosha • April 11, 2007 at 8:34 am

I don’t use the word ‘diet’. I usually just say I’m eating healthy. If I’m deliberately cutting back on things that would be okay normally when you’re just maintaining a healthy weight (aka dieting) I usually describe that as ‘being careful about what I eat’. These words feel positive to me, whereas ‘diet’ feels negative.

And it’s not just about avoiding that dieting mentality. It’s also about avoiding the kind of ‘friend’ who just can’t seem to help offering you every unhealthy alternative under the sun the moment they find out you’re ‘on a diet’. They hear the word diet and suddenly the only thing on their mind seems to be convincing you to stop at a cafe and have cake with them. Drives me nuts.

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bloomie • April 11, 2007 at 7:03 pm

How about inbetweenie. That’s what we use in the fattie world for those who straddle both types of shopping stores, inbetweenies.

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James • April 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Weight loss = fewer calories you put in, against that which you burn.

As a man in the military, I take over 5,000 calories a day, and I weigh a constant 72kg (not sure what that is in pounds… 150lbs?). The recommended intake for a man is 2,500 calories.

I eat cake, chocolate and whatever i want all through the day, because my lifestyle demands it. I suggest you all do the same thing, and then get out and burn the energy.

Energy creates energy and before you know it, you’ll be running everyday!

p.s I used to be fat, living off fried food and beer. Weight loss is down to simple mathematics

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PastaQueen • April 8, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Thank you for solving the world’s obesity problem, James. Where have you been all our lives? As a civilian, I have some advice for you too. If everyone in the world would just be nice to each other and not fight, there would be no wars and you could quit the military to become a weight-loss guru. World peace is down to simple human interactions.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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