This Year, Don’t Diet: Eat with Joy

I love food. I enjoy thinking about new recipes, planning menus for dinner parties, cooking, and, of course, eating: everything from fresh baguettes, cheeses of all kinds, chocolate, and, especially, the New York pizza I grew up with; the kind that turns the paper plate transparent because it’s so greasy.

Fewer than ten years ago, though, I wouldn’t have been able to admit that this most basic of human comforts–food–brought me so much pleasure. In fact, food didn’t bring me all that much pleasure in those days. For a full ten years–from age 14 to 24–I struggled to get by mostly on Diet Coke and Granny Smith apples. I was eating so much raw broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and spinach that I had intestinal trouble and my doctor, after calculating how many servings of fruits and vegetables I was consuming each day, insisted that I needed to cut back for the sake of my health.

I had to cut back on vegetables and fruits. For my health.

My body–still growing during many of those years; I was a very late bloomer–craved heartier nourishment, and as a result, I began an unhealthy pattern of alternating self-starvation with the consumption of huge meals (often eaten in secret) after which I always felt guilty and awful. Once, I walked for miles and miles to ‘atone’ for what was, in retrospect, a thoroughly normal meal. I was embarrassed to be seen eating. I didn’t want anyone to know that I secretly loved food as much as any person, maybe even a bit more.

I thought the ideal attitude to have toward food was indifference: ‘fill the tank with healthy fuel, not too much, just enough’ was the philosophy I tried to live by. If I happened to enjoy eating something at one time or another, I’d be filled with guilt and shame. Dietary “righteousness”–usually in the form of huge salads with no dressing besides a splash of vinegar–was all that could please me. I tried to live as if I had no sense of smell or taste; no hunger or cravings.

I wish I could say there was a single moment in time when that all changed–a New Year’s resolution I made to start enjoying food and stop abusing it (and my body) for good. But the truth is more complicated, as the truth often is.

{this post continues at iBelieve}

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