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The festive season is over and your pants are tighter than your wallet. What went wrong? AGAIN?

3 Jan

Suzanne’s Perspective

The feasting , I mean *festive* season has come to a close.

Did you feast?

To be more accurate, despite promising yourself to take it easy this year, did you feast like there was no tomorrow, while promising yourself you would start your diet in January?

Now that January is here, are you still reaching for the pies because you are depressed about the enormity of the task ahead and too broke to afford a gym membership/buy healthy food anyway?

What went wrong?

Again?

For most of my adult life I have resented the festive season.  I feel out of control, as though the world is trying to force feed me, like a Christmas goose being fattened up for slaughter.

Despite what  glossy magazines tell you about how to ‘choose this instead of that’,  I have yet to find a non offensive way to insist on getting a blob of cottage cheese on a crispbread (‘cut the crispbread into small squares and layer them between the cheese! It will still feel decadent!” they promise) when the host of the third party in as many days, offers me a tray of mini pork sausages stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon, while shoving a fruity sugary alcoholic drink into my other hand.

Oh alright then, I will eat it all...

Perhaps there has been a magazine article written on how to artfully offend your friends, I have yet to read it.  If I was to demand a low fat snack at a party while rejecting the proffered offerings, I am quite certain I would not be regarded as sensible and empowered – I think it’s far more likely I would be called, smug, fussy and downright ungrateful.  To my face.  Possibly followed by that fruity drink and a dollop of spittle.

The trouble with asking for a paper towel on which to dab the excess fat off a double fried chocolate fat nugget, or eating half the food you have been served and piously pushing your plate away, or pouring half your cocktail down the sink and topping up your glass with water – if this is not obvious – is that it is RUDE.  Your host has spent hours preparing the feast and probably a fair amount of cash on the ingredients.  In addition to this, the meal, if it is a small party or family get together, was probably prepared with your tastes and preferences in mind.  Your sister saw how much you enjoyed the fat nuggets last year.. you asked for seconds!  That’s why she made them again this year… specially for you… how easy then, is it to push them away when they are proudly offered?

Not easy at all, you admit, unbuttoning another button of your jeans.

Imagine a world in which you could feel safe going to dinner parties in December knowing you would not have to eat anything which fell outside of your healthy eating plan.  Imagine not even being offered these things at all, not because you have been excluded, but because these things were not even prepared, based on your attendance.  Imagine a world where not preparing these items did not make your host feel resentful, but instead made them feel considerate and open-minded.

Welcome to the world of the belief system motivated vegetarian.

Think back on the last time you hosted a vegetarian.  When you decided to include this person on your guest list you already knew a few things about them.  You knew they did not eat meat for religious or other personal reasons.  You knew with certainty this was not a point for compromise or negotiation.  Did you then, insist on serving only meatballs, even when this guest was the only vegetarian at the table?  No you did not.  Instead you created some fancy sundried tomato-balanced on a soya bean starter (which everyone, seeking to appear evolved and tolerant of the veggie eating guest, raved about) and also probably served a vegetarian lasagna which it took you twice as long to make as a steak pie would have, necessitating a trip to three different stores just to find aubergines.

On top of that, I bet you felt rather smug about it.  It was probably easy to say to your brother Peter (known for only eating meat and potatoes) – “It will be a meat free evening tonight Pete”.

As the host you felt splendid about it – what a great chance to show how liberal and cosmopolitan you are.  Meat free?  Oh.. that’s easy!  That is just the type of flexible and inclusive host I am!

The same accommodations are made for diabetics and alcoholics and they are made just as happily.

So why then can a dinner party menu not be planned around the guest (or guests, which is more likely) who are trying to slim down or manage their weight over the festive season?

Here are a couple of reasons :

*We don’t declare our dietary requirements upfront.

*If we do declare our dietary requirements, we do it WRONG.

*We don’t follow through.

*We are secretly pleased we didn’t have to follow through.

Everyone knows who the vegans, vegetarians and diabetics are.  People who have specific dietary requirements have learnt that it does not serve them to stay silent.  It is not uncommon to meet a new colleague in the workplace and to have them introduce themselves as, “Hi, I am Johno, the new Accountant and I am a vegan”.   If you didn’t already know and you invite one of these people to a party, they will not mind reminding you either, several times if necessary.

People who are on a healthy eating plan are less eager to declare their requirements so blatantly for fear of scorn and derision.  If we are completely honest we must also concede that we sometimes do not describe out dietary requirements because we already plan to fail them and do not want to have to explain ourselves when the person who we outlined our carb free eating choices to in detail sees us grazing a family size box of doughnuts at the office a few days later.. but that is another blog altogether.

hmmm... I think I will pretend I want the carrots and then allow myself to be 'forced' to eat the pie...

Vegetarians and Vegans are not immune to scorn and derision.  They will tell you that when they first come out the soya closet into the meat locker which is the world in which we live, they are interrogated and questioned like criminals.  It only hurts the first couple of times though, and people do then eventually get over it and accept it.  Vegetarians and Vegans feel strongly enough about their choices and are prepared to face this sort of pain in order to reap the rewards waiting on the other side – evenings of dining without awkward moments or social pressure, without compromise or confrontation.

When followers of a healthy eating plan do manage to find the courage to come clean upfront they often hamstring themselves by apologizing or sounding ashamed about it.  The knee-jerk reaction of the person on the receiving end, when they hear ; “I would LOVE to enjoy your delicious lemon meringue pie again this season, but sadly, I am on a diet”… is to respond with, “you don’t need to diet darling! We all love you just the way you are.. don’t be silly.. one piece of pie won’t hurt you!”.  Both host and hosted disempowered… and you have only yourself to blame.  Listen to how different this sounds : “You are such a wonderful host so I thought I better let you know as soon as possible so you understand and are aware that I wont be having any of your lemon meringue pie this year; I don’t eat sugar”.

Case closed.

When a vegan gets to a dinner party and a bleeding slice of meat is served up to them, they don’t eat it.  They don’t guzzle it down while whispering to their partner that they ‘don’t want to make a fuss’.  They don’t eat it, even if it causes an awkward moment.  They know their abstinence is a sure fire way of underlining their dietary preferences to ensure it won’t happen again, and the hostess will probably be mortified when realizing the mistake and knowing the guest will go hungry.  They don’t feel bad in the slightest because they know they have explained their choices several times. They feel quite comfortable pushing that plate away.

The difference, the very big difference, is that the vegan was not secretly hoping they would get the hard choice taken away from them and get ‘forced’ to eat the meat.  The vegan is truly comfortable and satisfied with their eating plan.  They own it.  They are fully in, not balancing on a knife edge, hoping for a push to topple them and give them an excuse to abdicate from the choice and responsibility of eating too much of the things they said they did not want to eat this season.

So there it is.  Nobody force fed me this festive season, or any other festive season.  If I feel I have been fattened like a goose for slaughter, I need to acknowledge it is I that am holding the feeding tube.

Is it not time healthy eaters took on an empowering term of their own?  I am a….”X”… sorry.. I cannot eat that.   A friend suggested the term “Spartan”, or I suppose we could stick with “dieter”.  I am not satisfied with either as I would prefer to move away from anything which references deprivation or self pity.  We need something which spells it out in the same way Vegan spells it out.

I need to think more on it.  If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.

Diet Diaries : Part 2 : The Milkshake Diet and Soo’s Homemade “you can always eat it tomorrow” Plan

14 Oct

I measured myself after a week of adhering to the Atkins Diet (as described in my previous blog) and I did not lose a single centimeter.  Not one.  I cannot tell you whether or not I lost mass, as I don’t own a scale, but even if I had, it would be a misleading brain hump, as centimeters are what really count in this game.  So scrap that.  All that suffering for nada.

Well maybe it was good for something – my veggie friends would be delighted to know that I am currently repulsed by the texture and smell of red meat.

So here are my measurements, as promised, the week before, and the week after the Atkins Diet :

Chest 98 cm’s (38 ½  inches)

Waist 77 cm’s (30 ½ inches)

Hips 91 cm’s (36 inches)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches)

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches)

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches)

 

hmmm.. I am not sure I have got a fair shake

 

For the first three days after abandoning the Atkins Diet, I followed a Milkshake Diet.  This was probably venturing a little too deeply into old territory for the sake of science, but I weighed up my decision for about 30 seconds and decided I could handle it.  I went to the Supermarket and picked up a can of Strawberry “SHAPE”.

Although Milkshake Diets may have become more sophisticated since the nineties and there a several more popular brands available these days, “SHAPE” will always hold a special place in my heart.  I lived off it for six weeks straight (and the occasionally cup of Black Forrest Tea) while taking part in Bikini Competitions when I was 21.

It is cheap (R85 buys you a tin good for 15 meals) and it always promises quick results, if you have the right sort of twisted willpower.  I wondered how I would fair on it now, all these years later.

Making a glass of “SHAPE” involves scooping 3 nuclear pink tablespoons of powder into a glass, and adding 200ml of milk.  This inadequate amount of milk makes for a very sad looking half glass of shake, so I always top it up with water, which also dilutes it down, as I find it a little thick for my taste.

I watch the powdery lumps circling round the top of my shake nostalgically.  When you use the chocolate flavor you will grow to love those lumps, and hungrily claw at your empty glass with your fingers to scratch out the last of them, but the strawberry flavor is quite a bit sweeter, and the lumps are just plain nasty.  I had forgotten about my trick of making a paste with a bit of hot water first to remove the lumps.

“SHAPE” is quite delicious, although you will tire of the strawberry flavor more quickly than you will of the chocolate (which is almost impossible to find at the shops).  You need to replace two out of three meals in the day with the shake, and then you need to ensure your evening meal is modest.  A pamphlet attached to the lid of your tin (containing a ridiculous weight to height chart seemingly designed to make overweight people feel better about themselves) helps you work it all out.  A good evening meal would be a skinless chicken breast and steamed vegetables.

I find a good evening meal to be another serving of “SHAPE”.

What you can expect on a milkshake diet :

  • You will be starving ALL the time, despite what the packaging says.  I am not joking or exaggerating.  If you have never been able to handle feeling starving without heading for the fridge, this is NOT the diet for you.
  • Although you will be starving, you will not feel shaky.  Not feeling shaky will help you to get over feeling starving.  You are not going to pass out.  You will not feel dizzy.  Certainly better than being garden variety starving, with all the other side effects normally associated with it.  Here’s the catch though… people often quit diets because “I was feeling dizzy and felt as though I would pass out, and I can’t be expected to live like that”.  Well if those excuses have been your free pass to quit this sort of extreme regimen in the past, you will be deprived of them here.  The milkshakes are giving your body just enough nutrients to not shut down, but not enough to avoid discomfort.
  • You will be constipated.
  • You will feel like a social freak, so work around this by using your allowed meal on occasions where you are dining out with friends.

Milkshake diets are fuss free, as you don’t need to agonize over planning your next meal, and you can stick to them while working at an office.  Milkshake diets are NOT easy to follow.  I can’t stress this enough.

After a day or two on a milkshake diet, if you are a certain sort of person, you will start to enjoy the deprivation.  You will feel virtuous, smug and light.  You might even feel highly energized.  If you are me, with a certain history and following the plan for the purposes of blogging about it, this is when it is time to stop.

I lost 4cm overall in 3 days.

After that exercise in stupidity, I followed what I would like to call the “you can always eat it tomorrow” plan, for what remained of the two weeks leading up to today.

The rules are simple.  Stick to universally recognized healthy eating guidelines.  Drink more water and less soft drinks.  Cut out sugar wherever possible including the fair chunk you have in coffee and tea every day.  Remove visible fat from meat.  Eat more vegetables.

And most importantly, when you need to eat something delicious, eat it, but don’t eat it all.  Eat half of it, and put the rest in the fridge, and tell yourself – “you can always eat it tomorrow”.  When tomorrow comes, see if you can trick yourself into delaying it by another day.  Or eat it.  Whatever.  If you keep delaying it, it will eventually get nasty in the fridge and you will rather choose to throw it away.  If you do eat it, it is only a half portion of the original, spread over two days.

Here are my measurement’s, as of this morning.

Chest 95 cm’s (37 ½  inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the boobs always the first to go… *sigh*)

Waist 75 cm’s (29 ½ inches) – 2 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Hips 88 cm’s (34 ½ inches) – 3 cm’s lost (the place I really want to lose it)

Thigh 57 cm’s (22 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Calve 34 cm’s (13 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Upper Arm 27 cm’s (10 ½ inches) – the same. Not surprising, as not where I carry weight

Total lost in 2 weeks : 8cm’s (just over 3 inches)

 

there it is

 

I took these photographs this morning, and perhaps it is appropriate to admit a few things.

  • I probably wasn’t fat 3 weeks ago.
  • I probably got hysterical when I laid eyes on a very unfortunate and unflattering photograph of myself (see below).
  • I probably went about this all the wrong way.
  • I am probably still going to try to lose a little more, but not by using Atkins, or drinking shakes.
  • I probably need to pay a little more attention to my state of mind when conducting “experiments”.
  • I am probably only human, and I would rather be real, than pretend to be perfect, either physically or emotionally.

Next time, I would like to talk about what all of this means.  Do you know any women who have a healthy relationship with food?  What IS a healthy relationship with food?  And other thoughts.

Thank you as always for your emails.  I do understand why you cannot comment here.

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30 Days of Dinner – Own It.

30 Jul

Suzanne’s perspective

I want to explain why I have been photographing my dinner for the last 10 days, and why I will continue to do so, for at least the next 3 weeks.

Quite a few years ago, I went on a “Weigh-Less” diet.  I was attempting to lose the few kilos of weight I had gained in the middle of high school.

It was a pretty regimented eating plan, and you had to weigh most of what you ate, including your rice and veggies.  Although the diet probably worked (and continues to work) for a number of people, it didn’t work for me.  I lost weight sure… but I completed the diet more obsessed with food than I was before.  Although my eating issues are well documented, I was not fixated with food and portion sizes as a child.  I would go so far as to say that the “Weigh-Less” diet, was the start of a life-long obsession over what goes in my mouth, and in what quantities.  I have sustained a low weight most of my adult life through unhealthy methods to the point where it has impacted on my health.

dinners : day 1 to day 5

The “Weigh-Less” diet may have tried to teach me to consume a healthy balance of carbs, proteins and fats, but what it actually taught me is, I could not, and should not, trust myself to dish up a portion of food on my own.  It taught me, without rules and structure in my diet I would not have the ability to determine when I was full, or even when I was hungry.  Without referring to the cheat notes in my pocket, I couldn’t possibly navigate a buffet, or even the contents of my own fridge.

I needed discipline and rules, and I needed to apply them every day, at every meal, in order to remain thin.  I learnt those lessons well – it has lead to a lifetime of guilt and indulgence-incurs-a-penalty thinking.  I need to keep a firm grip on myself – after all, just like bankruptcy; we are all only one pay cheque away from The Chubby.

Diets and fear of obesity have sucked all the joy out of cooking for me.  I am afraid of food.  I am afraid of sauces and marinades, and am deeply suspicious of anything delicious.  For the last few months, as a single person living alone, I have existed on Woolworths pre-prepared “slimmer’s” frozen meals (they know how to put stuff together better than me, surely?) and toast.  When I go out and socialize I end up eating too much, more often than not, so deprived am I of anything even slightly tasty or satisfying.

The joke is that this see-sawing, without allowing myself to resort to the tactics of the past to compensate, has resulted in me being about one week away from the chubby.  It is an understatement to say I feel cheated.  Not only has my virtue and denial not resulted in me being as lean as a blade, but I am not enjoying food any more than when I was on one of my oats and peas eating plans of the past.

There is also the matter of green.  Not the lack of vegetables I eat (although that is also a factor), but the amount of trash I currently generate living off those little pre-packaged meals.  Oh… and also the amount of “green” I spend buying them, at R30 or R40 a pop.

dinners : day 6 to day 10

I wondered how I could motivate myself to make a change.  I wanted to challenge myself as follows – try to make dinner from scratch.  Try to look at food properly, and interact with it.  Try to allow my body to choose what it wants and needs, without rules and prescriptions.  To trust myself at the buffet again.  To trust myself at the fridge.

I didn’t want to go on a diet, and I didn’t want to start pretending I am always perfect and virtuous, like the film stars who claim to only eat steamed fish and salad for dinner every night.  I wanted to be real, warts, the occasional take-out, and all.

So enter “30 Days of Dinner”.  I wanted to make an honest account of what I eat for dinner every night, by photographing it, and posting it on Facebook, and every ten days, in this blog.  My dinners now have nowhere to hide.  I have promised to post the good, the bad and the sad, and I welcome any comments or feedback you might have.

I encourage anyone interested, to take the same challenge.  Own your dinners!  Proudly say – I ate that! Yeah!  Boast about your culinary adventures, and confess where you are fallible.  Let’s rediscover our passion for food, and make our choices based on our taste buds (with a dash of social responsibility) rather than wall-charts and calorie counters.  Allow your body to make its own choices. Remember the world you lived in, before it got twisted and warped by diet culture.

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