In the summer before my senior year in high school, my mother and I tried a new diet plan that she had ordered off the television. I scoffed silently to myself as previous diet plans ordered off of late night infomercials never did anything except waste time and money, two things I could have used to buy and eat some cookies. I wouldn’t be thinner, but instead of a heightened sense of failure I would only have had my normal sense of failure, plus some cookies. What we found was a reasonable system of exercise and food intake that sounded suspiciously like nutrition to me. This angered me. “Of course eating right and exercising would lead to weight-loss. I want results now, not six months down the road! Now, dammit! NOW NOW NOW NOW NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW!” After my mother slapped me so I would stop screaming, I calmed down enough to start thinking a tad more rationally and decided to give it a go. Who knows? I said to myself, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong this entire time.
How wrong was I? I lost ten pounds in the first two weeks, that’s how wrong I was. Granted, almost all of that was water weight and not actual fat, but the drop on the scale was enough for me to start taking the plan seriously. For six weeks I followed the plan to the letter, doing exactly what it told me to do. By the end I had lost around 20 – 25 pounds and was hopeful that I could do the rest. I wouldn’t end up losing that weight until five years later, but that hope that I could stuck with me. Without what that plan taught me, I would never have seen that real weight-loss was something I could actually do, instead of some far off fantasy; I would probably still be fat today.
And what did it teach me? That everything, absolutely everything, I thought about food was wrong. It taught me that food was not just what I stuffed into my gob just because it was lunch or dinner time, or something tasty to put in my mouth to help pass the time. It taught me that FOOD IS LIFE in a way the old adage, “You are what you eat,” never succeeded in getting across.
FOOD > EXERCISE
90% of my weight-loss I achieved through diet. Exercise helped me start to tone and sculpt my body and made me stronger so I could push myself harder, all of which helped me lose weight faster and more efficiently. I still would have lost the weight though, albeit at a much slower pace, and all through diet. What you put into your body entirely dictates the overall shape of your body. For weight-loss, food is the beginning, middle and end, and if you’re serious about the deed, you’ll be focusing almost all of your attention on what you are putting in your mouth.
I’m not saying exercise isn’t important to weight-loss or to good health in general, but if you’re trying to lose 20 – 50 pounds or more, it’s ALL about the food. Many dieters think that as long as they’re exercising they should lose weight, when it’s the exact opposite. Your exercise plan can be as simple walking at a brisk pace on your lunch hour, or always taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, and as long as you are eating right you will lose weight. But this is not a two-way street. You can’t eat everything you want (pizza, crème brule, a two liter soda, a baked potato, and a brownie) and then just work out a lot to burn it off. For a large person this plan is futile because you will have to work out for three hours just to burn off everything you just ate, by which time you’ll be too tired to start burning off the fat you see in the mirror. Exercise = strength, and food = every-fucking-thing else.
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT HUNGER IS
One thing that astonished me about the diet plan that my mother and I were on was that I was eating all the time. I was eating five to six times a day, and not tiny-ass portions either. Every two or three hours I was sitting down and eating a 4 oz. chicken breast and rice, an apple, a salad or something else, and it was enough to fill me up. Of course I was still craving all the food I was used to eating, but that’s not because I was hungry; it was because I was mental.
It’s not only about teaching your body what’s good for it, it’s also about teaching your mind. When I was large I didn’t know what being hungry felt like. I would eat because I was told I should three times a day, or because I was bored, or just because the food was in reach of me. Over years of that kind of eating your brain gets rewired to think that whenever you see food you should be eating it, and it will trick you body into feeling hungry. A huge part of changing your diet is not just managing your cravings but understanding why you are having the cravings in the first place. If you’re eating five times a day and getting all the calories you need to live and you’re still craving an entire Stouffer’s lasagna, then you have to start asking yourself, “Why?”
DIETING DOES NOT MEAN “NOT EATING”
Do not starve yourself. You will fuck up your metabolism, hurt your heart and other organs, and do damage to your body that might make it impossible for you to be healthy, let alone lose weight. Weight-loss is about improving your life, giving you more life, making it richer and fuller. It is not about killing yourself to look good. If you have the choice to either eat one large ice cream sundae or nothing at all for the day, eat the fucking ice cream. If you live in a first world country and are reading this on some wifi in a Starbucks, that means you are lucky enough to make a choice of what to eat. Starvation is not nutrition, it’s an epidemic, and it is not not not the answer. Ever.
Is there more? Of course there’s more I have to say about food. It’s the biggest thing about all of this so I have a lot to say on the subject, but I can’t put it all into one post and expect people to read. Plus, it’s late, and I plan to string out these diet articles for as long as I can. The next few articles will cover more of details and particulars like what you should be eating and why, ways to prepare and store your new food regime, and how chewing on a damp dish rag can help get you past the hard times. So clear your head of everything you thought you knew, because we’re going to replace it with the right stuff. And always remember that Food is Life. Say it to yourself when you want to cover your salad with butter. Drill it into your brain; because once you lose weight, and you can and you will, you’ll finally understand the key to weight-loss: