This month I took on a big challenge. I decided to try a very restricted eating program. For 30 days I committed to a diet of no sugar, no grain of any sort, no legumes, no dairy, no alcohol, no artificial ingredients, no fake foods. Did I say I was a chef? Did I say I love food, the experience of cooking and dining? I love to bake, rich gooey desserts and a grilled cheese sandwich has made me swoon once or twice. My husband also went on this diet. I cook most of our meals and he wasn’t going to eat something I couldn’t. He agreed to join me for weight loss and health reasons.
My goal with such a restrictive diet came from some gastro- intestinal issues. Eliminating dairy and wheat etcetera might be a chance to see what is really bothering me. Also, I have been working to lose weight. After ten years of gaining weight I knew I had to get some control. I either had to prove to myself that there was a medical reason i was gaining weight, or I was going to lose weight. I worked very hard to lose 35 pounds in seven months. But I want to lose more. This diet was going to allow me to evaluate my eating habits. I have self discipline but not where food was involved. Yes Please was my answer when offered- just about anything. I felt and still do, that I have a Healthy Relationship with Food. I have completed a series of artwork on that theme. But I didn’t like feeling heavy, and unhealthy. The person in the mirror didn’t look like the woman inside. So, for a gift to myself I decided to try new things.
It has been hard, I have had to cook just about every meal my husband and I have eaten. That takes work, we can’t have toast and peanut butter for breakfast, or oatmeal, or just about everything we were used to eating in the morning. I learned to make a few dishes that we enjoyed- an almond flour waffle with coconut oil rather than butter was satisfying with fresh pineapple simmered in apple juice. Eating a sweet potato hash for breakfast with apples and walnuts was also pretty enjoyable. Some folks have eliminated “carbs” from their diet and I can see how that can be a challenge. But, with a bit of creativity we not only cut out starchy foods but we added many healthy foods that I would not have eaten regularly. Parsnip mash with vegetable stock and olive oil is wonderful side dish to a hearty stew of chicken sausage and mushrooms. We have eaten a lot of eggs. I have restricted how much bacon we eat.
I just had a big birthday, one ending with a 0. I think I know me pretty well. But, what a surprise to learn that I can change! That I can learn something new, and I can achieve goals set before me even if my entire being said – you can’t to do this – you don’t want to do this. But I did.
For 30 days I have been positive about what I am doing, there have been several situations in which I have been around the foods that normally I would have enjoyed. I reminded myself every time, that I made a decision and I was going to stick with it. Every time I went out to lunch with a friend or when my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in a special restaurant or when it snowed for days, I told myself, I made a decision. I am going to follow through on this plan, for me, because I want to. Honestly I did have to remind my eating partner at one point we are doing this because it is a good thing, we are not punishing ourselves. That helped to remind us through these past 30 days.
So- the result? Husband and I both are happy with weight loss, it wasn’t dramatic, we like to eat. It was enough weekly loss to be sustainable. I have a number in my mind and I am going to achieve it. I can -not eat sugar for days on end, I don’t have to have cookies and tea at tea time. That is a big lesson!
The other thing I learned is I am not subject to the food I make, I decide- every time. Next week I have started back in the classroom and student food will be around me all the time. I have to remind myself of this decision. I will have to develop a plan for testing dishes. There may be some foods that I will not be able to eat any more (I don’t know what that might be- which is worse, no dairy or no bread)
Right now I get to slowly reintroduce grains, dairy and legumes back into the diet. I am not sure what will happen when I do that. But, this month has been so illuminating about habits. About how I feel about food! That is a huge remark for someone whose career and life revolves around food. And who doesn’t want that to change.
Right out of college, I very long time ago I worked alongside of dietitians in a local hospital. I thought my career might be around counseling people how to eat. I do counsel in an odd way. It has been a twisted path I do that, I cook and feed people as service. I feed people fresh whole healthy food when I cook, or teach cooking. I don’t provide nutrition information when I do that, I just provide the best food I can. Nutrition and dietary guidelines have changed so much since I worked in the hospital. But cooking and serving fresh whole food is what will continue to do.
I am still unsure about a lot of things. I am sure I have a healthy relationship with food.