I usually post these kinds of posts on Tuesdays, but this whole holiday short week post-turkey bliss has thrown me off. And I’m okay with it…so here you go.
As of late, I’ve noticed a lot of people taking a stance about “clean eating” in the blogosphere–many of them pointing out that talking about “eating clean” is kind of silly. I’m not an advocate for strict diets or food rules or language around food that suggests it carries moral connotations, so you can probably guess where I (kale loving and chickpea snarfing as I may be) stand in terms of the debate.
Since I have a little bit of a beef with the nutrition pros out there who want you to be “all in” and who suggest that if you’re not all in, you’re a failure, I thought I’d throw my two cents out to the interwebs today.
Maybe because I have spent so much time on the diet rollercoaster and finally feel like I’m getting off of it—I can eat for health without dieting, I realize that if my goal is to lose weight I’ll probably end up gaining it in the long run, etc.—when I see things that suggest extreme eating measures, I lose my stuffing.
If someone you’re following tells you that you need to be all in in order to get the benefit of something, I’d caution you to re-think taking their advice. I stand behind people setting goals, transforming their bodies, having six packs, etc., but I am too practical and too dedicated to people’s long term health and sanity and ability to live normal lives to buy into the idea that you need strict food rules to be successful. Never eat another cupcake, you say?
My apologies, but when it’s my birthday, I will eat cake. When it’s your birthday, I will probably bake you cupcakes (in the shape of your favourite animal)—and eat them with you. That doesn’t make me any less of a healthy person, nor does it mean I’m destined to be fat and miserable.
My heaviest years were in high school, when I started baking cakes and cupcakes for people. The funny part? I never ate the things I baked—with people. That’s not to say I didn’t eat…leftover, half-full tubs of icing; whatever was left in trays of Oreos missing two cookies that I’d used for a Panda’s ears; pieces of cake I’d cut off to make the cake take the shape of an elephant’s face—I certainly ate.
A serious win for me was getting to the point where I could bake something for someone, give it to them, and actually enjoy it with them. When I was particularly “good” with my diet, dessert was a minefield. Sharing a dessert’s a possibility now whereas before, if I was having dessert, I wanted to really have it and I was not interested in sharing. I’d order the richest, most decadent thing I could find and I’d make sure that I finished it because if this was my dessert for the month, gosh darn it, I’d be enjoying it—all of it. This Thanksgiving, as I threw an unfinished piece of pie (that had started as a sliver, even) into the garbage can, I ticked +1 for Cheryl leaving her all or nothing attitude behind.
I recently had a discussion with a friend in my life who has started to consistently lose weight that she’s wanted to for a while. Unlike other diets and programs, the nutritionist she’s working with this time around stressed to her the importance of figuring out an approach to eating that will work for 5 to 10 years, not just for now. I loved hearing her talk about how good her progress feels and I’m really encouraged that there are weight loss programs out there that do take health-focused, long-term, and realistic approaches.
Whether you want to lose weight or not, what does your ideal diet look like?
When it comes to eating, are things black and white? Do you say things like “I will never eat a cupcake again in my whole entire life”? How’s that working for you? My guess is that you’re like I was—you’d do “good” for a while and lose some weight, but then you’d be “bad” and you’d end up eating all the things you’d wished you’d let yourself have while you were “dieting”—in mass quantity. Where a sliver of birthday cake enjoyed with your family could have satisfied you if you’d allowed yourself to have it in the first place, half a cake (that’s probably stale and eaten over the garbage can) can’t take away feelings of deprivation and unworthiness.
So, what might a healthier goal look like? I’d suggest coming up with something that will work for you long term. In this long term, you might find yourself facing a cupcake (let’s hope it’s as cute as the ones I bake). And you might not want a cupcake, and that’s fine—don’t eat it. And if you want one? Have the damn cupcake. I am almost certain you’re going to eat cupcakes between now and the day you die. What’s the use in feeling bad for it along the way? Allowing yourself to have them, you just might find that you eat less in the long run—and that they’re less stale, more enjoyable, and not served with a side of guilt and shame.
What do you think about food rules?
Do you “eat clean” or wish you did?
What’s your stance on cake as part of a healthy diet?