91. Just Eat

91. Just Eat

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Just Eat

Life is really simple,
but we insist on making it complicated.
 ~Confucius

After years of spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on diets, I finally figured out how to lose weight and stay fit. I just eat. I will never ever diet again. The sound of the word “diet” makes me shudder.

I wish I could say that I came to this epiphany on my own, but I didn’t. A registered dietician named Dr. Maureen Latanick helped me. Actually I should say that she convinced me.

In January of 2008, I finally reached the breaking point. While I wasn’t grossly obese, I needed to lose at least 20 pounds. I had been diagnosed as being insulin resistant, which is a precursor to diabetes. Frankly, going on another calorie or carb restricted diet seemed impossible to me.

Let me backtrack a few years. Like many young women of my time, I had a body image problem. My mother had allowed me to go on diet pills at the age of fifteen and so the yo-yo cycle of my food problems began.

I actually thought it was good not to eat. “Hunger is my friend,” I would mumble to myself while my stomach growled uncontrollably. If I could keep my calories under 1,000 a day, I was a happy camper. To me, that meant that I was in control. I even had good food and bad food lists. Vegetables and proteins were good. Carbs were bad. Sugar was horrible.

My lists caused me to publicly restrict what I ate. But they also caused me to binge in the late evening when I felt deprived. Year after year this snowballed, but it wasn’t until I visited Dr. Latanick that I actually came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t a normal eater. . . in fact, I had (have) an eating disorder.

While I thought I was putting very few calories into my body, my “stand up never sit down at the table” eating definitely had plenty of calories. Enough to cause me to gain weight every time I went off a highly restrictive diet. And trust me, every time I went on a diet and lost a substantial amount of weight, I gained just as much back. . . if not more.

I had actually made my first visit to Dr. Latanick 10 years ago. When she told me I needed to eat, I didn’t believe her. I saw her once or twice and then went back to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or something like that. Those programs are great for most people, but for me they are diets, and diets are bad for me.

This time when I went to see Dr. Latanick I was older, wiser, and tired of dieting with short-term results. Dr. Latanick convinced me to throw away my scales and begin to eat mindfully. She suggested a book or two which I read cover to cover.

The most meaningful thing that my dietician said to me was, “Look at it this way, if you only lose two pounds a month, in a year you will have lost 24 pounds that will stay off. In the process, you’ll begin to learn how to use food like a normal person. Just eat.”

“No restrictions at all?” I asked her.

“None,” she said.

I’ll never forget my first honest-to-goodness grilled cheese sandwich. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Up until this time, bread had been on my bad list, so grilled cheese sandwiches were unacceptable. Crazy as it sounds, a grilled cheese sandwich filled me with joy. Can you imagine that? Grilled cheese made me happy.

So did the corn, potatoes, and pasta. What I found was that when I allowed myself to eat, I didn’t go crazy, I just ate. I mindfully and joyfully ate from all the food groups. I even allowed myself fast food without guilt when I was on the run.

From time to time I’d fall back to my old bad habits and Dr. Latanick would say, “A lapse isn’t a relapse. . . just eat.”

The pressure was off. The feeling of having to go on a diet was gone. . . especially since the scales were proving Dr. Latanick right.

Little by little I began to lose weight. There was never the thrill of a huge weight loss in one week like there had been on diets. There was however, the knowledge that with very little effort I could get slow but sure results.

Exercise has never been a problem for me. I ride my horse vigorously five days a week. Now, because I eat at regular intervals, my blood sugar is stable. I don’t have highs and lows anymore. I am mindful of what I eat more often than not.

As the months have gone by the original excitement that I felt for eating has passed. In its place has come the confidence to know that I will never have to diet again. My guess is that I’ll add a few years onto my already active life.

Food and eating are never going to be easy for me. Being mindful can be though. I’ve finally figured out that all I have to do is just eat. Imagine that.

~Jan Mader

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