Staying on the Wagon: The Virtues of Dieting
When asked to write this post, I enthusiastically agreed, feeling a bit virtuous having cleansed my diet of both sugar and wheat almost entirely for six months.
Early last May, I woke up one morning and decided to eliminate sugar and cut way back on carbohydrates. I’d done this before, but never with much success beyond about six weeks.
I can do anything for six weeks. I’d completely eliminated carbs from my diet successfully on several occasions. Six weeks usually marks falling off the low-carb wagon with a painful and disheartening thud. Once, while visiting friends for the weekend after a particularly strict season of dieting, I found myself popping spinach and mozzarella ravioli like Tic Tacs.
This time was different, however. I had learned about the effect of wheat on blood sugar levels from a chance viewing of a Dr. Oz episode—the guest was William Davis, author of Wheat Belly—and I finally found a solution that works long term.
I found that giving up only wheat, as opposed to all grains, allowed me to feel satiated. I could still eat sushi—with brown rice—and not feel guilty. I could snack at a party—choosing tortilla chips instead of crackers—and still avoid dessert. The blood sugar roller coaster was tamed to a carousel. I lost weight, had lots of energy, and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
Dieting as a Mindset
It wasn’t just a diet; it was a lifestyle shift. I’ve since learned that the Greek origin of the word diet is diatia, which translates as “way of life.” It was like a puzzle I’d struggled with my whole life and finally found the last piece hidden under the couch cushion, and it fit perfectly.
The mental benefits are as important as the physical. Instead of the infamous downward spiral of soothing food guilt with more food, producing more guilt, this was an upward spiral. The positive energy from maintaining control motivated me to move more and continue further down this new path.
The newfound energy allowed me to do the impossible—exercise at night. I mean, at 9:00 at night, after the kids went to bed. This was unprecedented. I no longer morphed into an onion on the couch in front of the TV. Instead, I moved. It began to show and I felt strong again—like I could run for my life if necessary.
Mindful of the Commitment
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving arrived and destroyed any feelings of virtue. Both wheat and sugar crept back in for the holidays, like uninvited guests who crash the party, ruin it with their toxic energy, and then fall asleep on your couch. Their dreaded companion—mindless eating—came along for the ride. It’s now time to deliver them all to the train station and say au revoir.
If there’s one thing this journey has taught me is that perfection is boring. Forgive yourself and move on. It’s now two days after Christmas and I’ve just completed my first sugar- and wheat-free day in a number of weeks. Day one is always the hardest. I’m certain that after a few days however, I’ll feel good, physically and mentally—once again committed to my new diatia.