The Zone, South Beach, Mediterranean, no I’m not talking about vacation destinations. As any well-seasoned dieter knows, these are regimes guaranteed to “shed pounds” and help you “reclaim your body.” Believe me, I’ve tried them all. Since the tender age of 16, when I began comparing my emerging curves to the then en vogue “heroin-chic” models in my fashion magazines, I’ve hungered for a body that’s simply not mine. I’ve counted calories, dedicated myself to step classes, and of course tried every latest fad plan out there. I even bought my own yogurt-making machine because if “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” and they do it, so must I.
Dieting literally felt like some alchemist’s magic that, when applied correctly, would mysteriously shed pounds. I succumbed to the typical pitfalls that abound in the hardcore-dieting community:
- Binge eating until my “start date” because, “I owed it to my favorite foods to say goodbye forever.
- Snagging any hot-off-the-press eating plan and wholeheartedly committing before even knowing what it entailed.
- Googling before/after and [insert diet’s name] to boost my mood.
- Imagining myself as one of the success stories that always start every diet book.
- A 100-percent sincere belief that this time it would work!
Sometimes I was able to stick to it – for a of couple days. Inevitably though, dieting always makes me miserable. I like to cook. I read cookbooks to lull myself to sleep. My spice cabinet rivals Anthony Bordain’s (probably). Adhering to precise meal plans that never meet my palette’s discerning expectations takes the fun out of something so inherently enjoyable.
Even when I did lose weight, I didn’t always feel so great. I remember a potential beau asking me mid-juice cleanse if I had the flu. My skin was green, my eyes drooping. I was five-pounds lighter and I felt TERRIBLE. His comments were a kick in the gut. With the zeal of a recently released prisoner of war, I devoured a Portabella sandwich smothered in melted cheddar on the spot. The end.
In my 30’s I replaced dieting for excessive exercise. I even hopped aboard the Cross Fit Craze and considered chugging a stick of melted butter in my morning coffee even though I don’t drink coffee or eat butter. Luckily, my wiser self intervened. Still, I suffered from bloating, and other TMI symptoms but this was just how my body was, or so I thought.
My friend Jen was studying to be a nutritionist and asked if I might work with her as a “test client.” I eagerly agreed though I expected little to nothing to actually change. What could this small, thin, white woman tell me about my body? Turns out a whole lot.
We started with the elimination diet, which I was, of course, dubious about and 100-percent dreading. But this diet wasn’t meant to dictate my life forever but rather give me information on what foods my body does and does not like eating. The mere idea that my body might react differently to some foods was an entirely foreign concept. To do the diet, I stopped eating the top 8 allergens (wheat, corn, dairy, nightshades, etc.) then re-introduce these foods slowly keeping tabs on how my body responded.
I discovered, much to my chagrin, that all dairy is no bueno for this body (well, that explains the yogurt disaster). Gluten, makes me sluggish. Corn makes me bloated. For this Red Hot Blues aficionado this was a major revelation.
Working with Jen, I started making meals focusing on the foods I can eat, and (bonus) I had all the control over what recipes I selected. My weight stabilized, the bloating ended and I stopped feeling guilty for eating “fattening “foods that really are A-OK for this body. Bring on the Gauc! This was only part of the good news. I can eat as much as I want, whenever I want and I never have to read another diet book again!
What I eat doesn’t adhere to any dictated protocol. I’m not pale, vegan, raw or French, I’m just me.
To discover your own, just-for-you eating plan you can try the elimination diet, or simply notice how you feel after each meal. Tired, sluggish, bloated? Maybe eat less of that. The key is to take it at your pace, love yourself and burn the fashion magazines.
[bio] Kelsey Blackwell is a freelance writer, dancer and appreciator of a well-cooked meal. Read more of her musings on her blog The Marvelous Crumb which she writes as “a celebration of the little delights sprinkled throughout our day that so often go unnoticed.”