Happy May! How wonderful that a brand new month begins directly in the middle of Reinvention Week. It is a much needed fresh start. It was a beautiful morning, and I got up and had a nice walk with my nephew, who happens to be a dog, and is the love and light of my life. Here he is posing with the flowers, being an angel, and making my day amazing from the start. I mean, it’s almost just too much. It’s obviously going to be a great month with a beginning like this.
Then I had to leave the baby boo and go to work, but not before he sat at the door patiently waiting for his expected treat that he gets every time he’s left alone. We never leave him without a treat because his sad little face is just too much to bear and so it works out best for all parties to distract him with some chicken livers or jerky treats or some other mildly revolting dog snack that seems to give him more joy than anything else in the world. Every time, he senses you going for the drawer, and his paws can’t catch traction on the floor as he runs full speed ahead and skids with excitement for whatever morsel you’re about to drop. Today it dawned on me: poor Bentley is always on a diet.
Like most dogs, he is literally always in want of food. He begs for it (in the politest of ways of course…you see his angel face, he has manners!!) with whimpers, yelps, and sometimes even barks (that’s rude, Bentley). The poor thing can’t feed himself; he is always at the mercy of someone else. If you think about it, that’s kind of what it’s like being on a diet. You’re controlled, you can’t make your own eating decisions because you’re following someone else’s orders, and you’re restricted to whatever the plan says. You’re at the mercy of an outside source. Of course, you can go off your diet, but you’ll probably feel guilt and shame. You’ll likely “cheat,” a term I hate, because I think negative connotations with food only perpetuate negative relationships with food. You might even end up like the poor boo last week when he got into his mother’s candy stash and ended up with a belly full of jelly beans. Look at that sad, forlorn face…he wasn’t right for days.
We’ve all been there, where little Bentley was; we’ve overindulged, maybe because something was too delicious to stop eating, or we were mindlessly eating a party, or we were emotional, or we were so restricted by our diet that we went to the extreme. For whatever reason, we’ve all broken a diet if we’ve been on one. Because diets are literally designed to be broken. We aren’t robots; there are too many factors at play in your daily life that can interfere with a set schedule unless you’re meticulous and flawless and, well, robotic. Diets can make you obsessed with food, always looking towards your next meal like little Bentley just waiting for some precious morsel to drop. Diets are restrictive by nature and don’t allow you to make your own food choices. I don’t personally restrict any foods unless it’s something I genuinely don’t want to eat.
I learned my lesson, after years of diet failure, and after an experience I had last year when I cut out carbs for a few months. Turns out, I was pretty unpleasant to be around. I didn’t even realize it, but my body wasn’t getting the necessary nutrients in order for me to have my usual, cheery, sparkling personality. Carbs stimulate seratonin production, and I wasn’t getting any. I didn’t realize it until my sister Kathryn (who is crazy enough to do pull-ups on the subway at 3am, so I don’t know why I worry about her opinion anyway) came home after having an epiphany upon hearing a coworker talk about how giving up carbs made her miserable. She proclaimed, “I finally figured out why you’re being such a bitch! You need to eat bread again!!” Nothing like brutal honesty from a sister. She’s lucky she’s Bentley’s mother, so I could never stay mad at her after bringing him into my life. But it was true, I had been eating an unbalanced diet, and it wasn’t helping me physically, mentally, or emotionally. It may have helped me lose a couple extra pounds, but at what cost? My own sister didn’t like being around me. So, bread was back in the rotation. Leave the diets to the dogs, the poor things. Instead, focus on having a healthy, balanced relationship with food.
Like Paul Prudhomme says, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” Food doesn’t have to be fancy to taste good and to be good for you. You can prepare delicious meals every day. All it takes is a little bit of planning and budgeting and the desire to put the effort in. Who needs fast food? Who needs diets? Convenience is for the birds, and diets are for the dogs. For us humans, we just need good, whole, real food.
Tonight, after a 3-mile run outside in preparation for my 10k, I whipped up a simple dinner. You can get the full recipe here.
I sat down to enjoy my delicious meal while watching the Yankees game (some say not to eat in front of the TV, but I gotta watch my boys!!), with little Bentley staring at me the whole time. I couldn’t take it, I gave in and tossed him a couple of pieces of chicken after seeing that look in his eyes. I know what it’s like buddy, I’ve been there, on that never-ending diet, unable to choose when and what to eat. But now that I know how easy it is to cook good, healthy food, I’m never going back.
How have you dealt with being restricted on a diet? What has and hasn’t worked for you in the past?