If there is one thing I would like to banish from the diet community mindset it’s that you can’t ever, ever eat the way you used to and not gain all your weight back. As I’ve surely said before, much of nutrition science isn’t ‘science’ like physics is ‘science’ – it’s folklore.
Perhaps not exactly folklore. Yes – plenty of researchers have run many test on many rats, mice, rabbits and people and discovered interesting things about nutrition along the way. Even assuming that all of it is true, things start to get very fuzzy very quick when at the end the researchers draw their conclusions. Conclusions very frequently find very subtle tendencies that come off as much more definitive in the conclusions drawn. Sometimes the conclusions don’t match the data collected at all. Then herds of people who collect particular types of conclusions to validate their preconceived notions find the studies that best validate their points of view and collect them like trading cards, inflating the points that support their view, and poo-pooing the ones that don’t.
I have been spending a lot of time lately reading books on the history of food, diet, nutrition and digestion, and let me tell you: while the researchers might have more modern lab equipment and no long wear frock coats to work, much of what eventually comes out of all the measuring and probing looks no different from what was concluded 100 or even 200 years ago.
Atkins himself only popularized a diet that had already existed in a number of forms for years. He learned about low carb reading research by another doctor, and that doctor was, no doubt, inspired by a chain of others going back to the 1800s when a fat undertaker lost a lot of weight on a low carb diet and wrote his ‘Letter on Corpulance’.
This has all left me rather suspect of ‘nutrition science’ in general and ‘weight loss science’ in particular.
I think I have arrived at the point where each of us must not seek the perfect weight loss guru, but rather find that guru in ourselves.
The next question that surely arises is: how do I find this guru then? You find it through experimentation and patience, trying this and that until you find what works for you. Edison was said to have tried 10,000 different materials as the filament in his light bulb before finding the one that actually worked – at least for a few hours.
I am sorry to say, that you, my dear dieting friend, probably need that same sort of tenacity and ability to fail over and over without discouragement in order to attain your goal.
The good news is that this does not mean a grim life of deprivation unless you choose to hitch your wagon to those sort of gurus that propose a grim life of deprivation. Life might be a puzzle to most of us, but one thing is clear: we were meant to enjoy food. And there are ways that we can eat and be satisfied and even lose weight, but as of yet there is no single royal road to this goal.
We are biologically different enough in the ways we have adapted to eat, and contain very different chemical oceans inside of us. Low carb has been very good to me and my health so far. I am certain that my way of living might have proven fatal to others.
It’s with these thoughts that I begin yet again to rein myself in so that I can pull off some weight. At 213.6 I am at my highest. I got here because I chose to – not so much as a bizarre proof of my dieting prowess but simply because I wanted to eat pizza with the works, ice cream bars and a juicy steak and wasabi mashed potatoes at the Mother’s Day dinner yesterday. I ate without guilt, and to the point of bursting. It was fun. I love food, and the inch-thick steak went well with the dipping sauce and the potatoes. The two baskets of bread before the dinner did not stop me from polishing off my plate, though toward the end I must admit that, like a marathoner, I wondered if I was going to be able to reach the finish line.
It was close – but I did it.
To further set the stage, this year has been a doozy in terms of stress – and I am a stress eater. The stress got so bad that I even started smoking again for 3 weeks, and was quite heavily drinking Trader Joe’s cheap red wine on an almost daily basis. These got old pretty quick, however, and I stopped both – I made myself sick of both, and am now only sucking on nicotine lozenges – better than cigarettes, certainly, but another annoying habit I will have to kick in the near future. I don’t see it as something bad, however – it’s just ‘something to deal with’.
Diet, nutrition, health, longevity and exercise have all gotten too wrapped up in morality. Both Hitler and Gandhi were vegetarians – I think that makes the point sufficiently.
And what about ‘health’? Should we reach the end of our lives ‘preserved’ or ‘spent’? And does what we eat really matter too much in all of this? Genetics play a big role in this. Years of ‘good eating’ might still land you in an early grave, and it is well-known that many centenarians have been found to have a fondness for cigars, booze and rich foods.
Your name is in that book and there’s a date next to it. You might be able to move it around a bit, but I don’t think that you can move it much. And even if you could – is a long grim life of deprivation worth the trade-off?
As Mae West said: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
One thing I am pretty sure of is that eating ‘virtuous foods’ – ones that proclaim their healthiness on their boxes or packages – is about the surest way to RUIN your health.
So today, with no guilt and no regret, I will again begin my diet. I’m going to start with an old favorite: roast beef and butter. Mostly fat and a little protein. I’ll also bring yogurt to work.
If I know me, I’ll probably fail – but then I’ll begin again. And again, if need be. It’s not the diet that works, it’s the constancy of diet. That ability to begin over and over and not let failures discourage you that seem to lie at the core of whatever success I have had. First and foremost, it’s about learning to lose weight without making yourself miserable.
So I start again. Let’s see what happens.