Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Diet that Isn't a Diet

I've never been on a diet before, but it seems like I am right now. I've begun tracking my calories on an online journal (but I'm not telling you where, lest you go there and tell me to stop stuffing my face this instant and get your ass off the couch already, Elissa!) and have lost a number of pounds that I'm pretty happy with.

Still, I'm uncomfortable with this dieting thing. Growing up, I can't remember a single time when my mom wasn't trying to lose weight--getting ready for swimsuit season, slimming down for so and so's wedding, losing those holiday pounds--it seems she was always on a diet. I remember my mom and my aunt poring over calorie-counting books, drinking cans of TAB, eating nothing but grapefruit and iceberg lettuce. I specifically remember the 1,000 calorie diet they were on that had rigid meals laid out for each day of the week: Day 1: Breakfast: one half hardboiled egg and one half piece toast, without butter. Lunch: open-faced sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and one thin slice turkey and 4 oz. skim milk, celery or carrot sticks optional. Seriously, you want to talk about setting a woman up for failure? My metabolism kicked into starvation mode just reading the menu.

Of course I was never really happy with my body, either, although I think my mom did all right in not going overboard with the criticism. Like any mom, I suppose, she made small comments about how I should start sucking in my stomach and did I have to eat that last cookie, but the weight obsession was always about her own body, not mine. I remember Mom comforting me when my grandma told some friends who were picking me up at the airport to look for "the chunky redhead." Yeah, that did wonders for my self image. She reassured me that just because all the women on my step-father's side were like eight-and-a-half feet tall and couldn't pinch an inch did not, by any means, make me qualify as chunky. (Though looking back, I probably was, even for a shrimp.)

Still, I vowed that I would just be as healthy as I could be, that I would never obsess over the numbers on the scale, that I wouldn't worry about weight gain or pants size or whether my butt looked big. I promised myself I wouldn't avoid pictures because of a fear of my double chin or my flabby upper arms.

Yet here I am, counting calories. Two kids have redesigned my body, and I accept that. I love my shape-shifting self. Just...couldn't I be a little thinner? A little a mom, maybe? I celebrate my mom body while wishing to whittle it down to a more manageable me. I break my promise to myself and step on the scale with bated breath, hoping to fall below a certain number. I contradict my philosophy of self-acceptance while pulling the tape measure taut around my hips with pursed lips of disappointment. And I worry about cascading into that endless cycle of weight loss and dieting that I witnessed growing up.

So, I'm not on a diet. I'm just "eating healthier." (while limiting my calories, heh.)

And, several positive things have occured because of this diet that is not a diet, things other than the weight loss:

1. I have actually consumed vegetables on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day.
2. I have had a bag of jelly beans in the house for almost two weeks now, eating only one serving at a time, and not every day.
3. My whole family is eating less junk, especially if I do the grocery shopping. All in all, we've eaten much more healthy meals when I have to log them on the internet for anyone to see.
4. I have actually found more energy because of the exercising, which somehow has meant that I'm still getting stuff done around the house, even with the extra time I'm spending exercising.
5. I get to listen to back episodes of This American Life on my laptop while riding my exercise bike in the basement.

Just somebody stop me if you see me slurping a TAB and eating grapefruit, 'kay?


cowpops said...

grapefruit is good though!! =\

Your grandma is mean.

elissajanine said...

I do like grapefruit.
Grandma's dead, now, but she wasn't ever really mean. She just had a skewed perception of weight, being seriously close to six feet tall and having to work really hard her entire life to gain weight and keep from being anemic, etc. Maybe she thought that people who have some extra padding must be eating like fifteen times as much as she did?

Stephanie Jackson said...

I found your blog thru Momblogs..
Have a great day...

elissajanine said...

Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! I'm new to this blogging thing, but I'm loving it!
:) Elissa