I made a new resolution, just for the month of September: “Eat very right.” I’ve already made other resolutions related to eating, but this month, I’m pushing it further.
I gave up fake food a while back, which was a major step forward, but my eating habits still have a lot of room for improving the healthfulness of my diet.
Also, although I REFUSE to go on a proper diet, I’d love to lose a few pounds. I’m about three pounds over where I’d like to be – not my “ideal” weight, which is probably unrealistically low — but the weight at which I stop fussing much about my weight.
In his book What You Can Change & What You Can’t, Martin Seligman observes: “All thin-ideal cultures…have roughly twice as much depression in women as men. (Women diet twice as much as men…) [In] cultures without the thin ideal…the amount of depression in women and men…is the same. This suggests that around the world, the thin ideal and dieting…cause[s] women to be more depressed than men.”
He points out that two root causes of depression are failure and helplessness – and dieting makes you feel both. Plus, almost no diet works for long. Most weight comes back.
For me, it’s definitely true that, right or wrong, my weight has a big influence on how happy I feel. When I feel unhappy about my weight, it really weighs me down. Whether or not this should be true, it is true.
So…there are two solutions. The first is to change my attitude. If I accept my body as it is, I won’t fret about it. I’ve tried to adopt a modified version of this, by trying to feel more grateful for being healthy, pain-free, and pretty darn close to my ideal weight. I should be happy about my body, not unhappy.
The other solution is to lose weight so that I’m at the point where my weight doesn’t bother me. I’m extremely fortunate that I’m pretty close to that point. I would just have to lose a few pounds to get it off my mind.
I’m trying the multi-prong attack: revel in my body as it is; eat more healthfully; and also try to lose a few pounds.
My rules for the month:
1. No Tasti D-Lite. This is the biggest sacrifice and most dramatic change. Tasti D-Lite is a kind of frozen yogurt that I LOOOOVE. It’s allegedly low-calorie, but it’s probably not. Also (this is embarrassing) I usually get a cone of Tasti D-Lite twice a day, and having three in one day isn’t at all unheard of. This is really my one big indulgence. I almost never eat dessert, or drink alcohol, or eat red meat, or eat cheese…but for September, I’m giving up Tasti D-Lite, as well.
2. No bread unless it’s part of a meal. So I can have bread as part of a tuna sandwich, but I shouldn’t just take a slice of bread out of the package and eat it (which I do often) or eat bread from a restaurant bread basket.
3. No bites of candy, cookies, cake, etc.
4. No worrying about portions—I can eat as much as I want of fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein.
5. Keep a food journal. This has been one of my resolutions before, but I just wasn’t able to make myself remember to do it. This month, I’m going to try again. Studies show that dieters who keep meticulous food journals do a much better job of losing weight.
One concern I have: what if I follow all these rules – which, although I’m not on a “diet,” definitely have me feeling aware of what I’m eating and giving up things I’d like to eat – but I don’t lose any weight? I’d have eaten more healthfully, which is good – but I do want the benefit of the weight loss. So am I wrong to follow #4? Is it a waste of self-control to monitor my eating like this, without getting the pay-off of weight loss?
Really, though, I should think about following these rules for the rest of my life, so I don’t want to get caught up in the madness of “dieting.” I’m much thinner now than I was many years ago, and the way I lost that weight was by making big changes in my eating habits, keeping them over the long term, and losing the weight imperceptibly slowly. This is not an easy way to lose weight, but it’s probably the best way if you want to keep your weight off.
Now, some people are probably thinking, “Wow, Gretchen is waaaaaay too obsessed with her weight.” I am preoccupied with my weight, that’s true. Some people have told me that I should spend more energy trying not to let it bother me, and less energy on trying to keep my weight down. But the fact is — I’m happier when I’m at a lower weight, and it takes some concentration to stay there. So what’s the right approach? What do you think?
I was very pleased to be included in this terrific list of top Personal Development blogs. And I was also pleased to see many of my blogland pals there with me, each with an excellent blog: Jonathan Fields, Zen Habits, Life Clever, Life Hacker, Pick the Brain, Dumb Little Man, Alex Shalman, and several others.
But alas for human nature! Seeing myself on the list made me happy, then I became preoccupied with the question – how do I move myself higher on the list? If you could spare a few minutes to email folks who might be interested in The Happiness Project, to send them the link, I’d appreciate it very much.
I’ve started sending out short monthly newsletters that will highlight the best of the previous month’s posts. If you’d like to sign up, click on the link in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog. Or just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “newsletter” in the subject line. I’ll add your name to the list.