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August 7, 2012 / E. M. Wynter

Why are we fat? Or…

Why am I on a diet… again?”

Hmm… Ok, for the past year or so, I’ve been working a lot, exercising very little and eating pretty much what I want… also known as the Middle-American Diet. We’re all on it here in Michigan and it’s really effective: you gain about 10-15 lbs. a year, feel like crap and worry the whole time that you’re not getting enough exercise – which you aren’t.

Like you, I see the endless news reports, editorials, documentaries and books that scream the same things at us: we are fat, we don’t exercise enough, our food is toxic and we are letting it kill us.

Thanks for the info.  Do you happen to have any real solutions?  Oh, another diet book that tells me not to eat carbs, except in the lowest quantities?  Or maybe an extreme exercise program like PX90 that puts me through near Olympic training rigors?  Hey, how about Jillian Michaels screaming at me for 60 minutes?  Awesome..

These aren’t real solutions, folks, and we know it.  That’s why there’s growing research that diets don’t work anyway. 

It’s a real, liveable lifestyle that is supported by realistic goals, eating patterns, decent exercise and the people around us, that’s needed. Or, at least, that’s what I think.

And who am I?  Just a regular consumer who’s tried it all and has some observations to share. 

And are we going to cover The Evil Food Industry?  Oh, they’re evil, alright, but since they’re making billions on the status quo (and they do make a few tasty items that I adore like Reese’s Pieces), my guess is they have no plans on changing anytime soon.  So we’ll leave them alone for now.  Besides, our media friends have them well covered. 

So let’s look at ourselves, shall we?  No, this is not the moment where we grab a cat o’ nine tails and go all Fifty Shades… I’m saying, let’s look at our lives and ask exactly how we want to live, what we would be happy with and what or who is standing in our way.

 

Do you really want to look like Jillian Michaels?

Do you know what that woman has to go through to look like that?  No carbs of any kind, baby. And torturous exercise routines that easily last up to two hours daily. 

Maybe she likes it that way.  Maybe being obsessed with abs, eating nothing but protein and the wonderful effects that kind of diet has on one’s gastrointestinal tract is fun. 

Not. For. Me. I realized recently that as much as I’m envious of that much muscle tone, there is no way in hell I’m giving up carbs. 

I live to bake fresh bread and eat it with real butter that melts immediately because it’s still warm from the oven.  These fabulous things are not departing my life under any circumstances.  They are important to me.

However, something does have to give.  So, I can watch my calories and budget for the treats I want as well as the exercise I need.  I want to fit in my jeans, be able to climb twelve flights of stairs (without risk of dropping dead of a heart attack) and still have potato chips, peanut butter, cheese, mayonnaise and hot chocolate semi-regularly (but not necessarily all at once – Eww!). 

 

Is there an Elephant in the room, or are there just a ton of peanut shells everywhere?

This is the part of the story where we get to blame others.  I know, everyone clap, right? I love blaming others. 

But this time, you actually can. 

This health guru crap “there’s always time for exercise” is not entirely accurate.  Yes, time does exist and I can do things with it but other people want me to do stuff that is important to them before doing what is important to me.  Circle of Life.  Also, there are little things like sleep, childcare and hygiene that get in the way as well.

Hopefully, after you’ve stood in front of the mirror and taken a long hard look at yourself and figured out what size you want to be, what foods you’re not giving up period (and the meaning of life and our place in the cosmos), I would recommend examining the human-sized hurdles you’re going to face.

Our lives, the people around us and our food are absolutely entwined.  Friends, colleagues and family want you to enjoy food when they enjoy it and most will take the news that you are watching your weight (at worst) as a personal insult or (at best) as an inconvenience to them.  Yes, there will be a cherished few who will cheer you on, but the majority will be happy to hand you a slice of birthday cake and another beer while blithely dismissing your Friday yoga plans and saying you should meet up with everyone for dinner and drinks anyway.  

That’s very tough stuff for people who are used to putting everyone first or hate just saying no but in order to get healthier it’s actually that that you have to get good at: putting yourself first and saying no.  

 

Sucks.  But you can do it. 

Ask yourself: Does everyone really need to know you are on a diet?  Next time the treats roll around, just explain that you already ate (technically you did).  Demanding boss?  No need to mention that you need that 30 minute lunch hour for a walk or a trek up the fire stairs. Just say you have something personal to attend to (because you do). 

Your friend hands you that second drink?  Don’t drink it.  He was the one who opened it and its value is already spent regardless of whether it’s down a drain or in your system.  It doesn’t need to be in your system.  So take a polite sip, carry it around for a while and set it down later. 

Got chores?  Ask which ones are absolutely essential and do only those for a little while.  Assign any others you can to the kids, significant others or just consider postponing them.  Yes, I said that.  The sky will stay up there, I promise.  Then you can worry about the cat litter later… Oh wait, did I say cat litter?  Man, that stinks already.  Go get to that now!  Ok, I meant vacuuming.  Let that hair pile up and then whisk it all away in one fell swoop every three weeks thus clogging the filter and requiring you to clean it manually.  Yeah, yuck-O, but this is your health dammit – we are trying to get you on a better path!   

Oh and, before I forget, when your significant other gives you grief about going for your run instead of doing the dishes, just ask he or she whether or not they want to cuddle up to Jillian in a month’s time.  Well, maybe it won’t be Jillian ever, but a little salesmanship here will not hurt your cause.  Or take the direct route and tell them to pound sand and deal with the fallout later, hoping that you burn a few extra calories in the impending screaming match. 

Yes, just as those ridiculous health experts said, the time is there but you actually have to dig it out of the grid – and that grid is made of people who feel pretty entitled to your time. When you start infringing on them, don’t expect them to make it easy for you.  In the end, it’s going to be up to you to defend your health and harmony.  The good news, is they will enjoy their time with you even more once you start feeling better about yourself.  You will enjoy your time with yourself.

And nice of me to say all this, but what exactly do we get to eat?  Well, to start, I think it’s about budgeting calories, not starving yourself.  My view: food = good; too much food = bad.  What exactly you eat, well, that’s your business, not mine and since I don’t like to make my blog posts the size of War and Peace, I promise I’ll do another post in a week with my own progress on my diet, what’s been working and what hasn’t.  See you then.

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