Saturday, October 3, 2009

How (Perennially) Fat People Diet: Part 7: The Bipolar Diet

In part 1, I described how lots of (perpetually) overweight people approach (perpetual) dieting. We've been going down the list and finding the mistakes (read all previous entries in reverse order). Now we're up to this:
Special Occasions
The above regimen is quite unpleasant. It leaves one feeling vaguely but deeply discontent, battling endless cravings, and experiencing a sour sort of near-hunger which eating never quite satisfies. As the long day of fasting rolls on, there's a light-headedness and lack of energy. Mood swings are the norm. Consciously or not, this is accepted as penance for being fat, and this penitent, sacrificial feeling, in and of itself, ought to translate into lost weight!
To preserve sanity, there are periodic "special occasions" when one goes off the diet in a limited way. Lasagna, steak, cupcakes...eating like a human being again. Such meals are perceived to have been "earned" via prior sacrifice. But while they may satisfy emotionally, they don't leave the body feeling satisfied. Rather, there's a sense of unwellness, which the mind seizes upon as shame. And so the harsh regimen of fasting and the gym hammering is resumed with an attitude of even more sour aggression.

There may also be binge periods of a few days or more where one falls totally off the wagon. That's to be expected amid months or even years of dismayingly fruitless dieting.

As I've explained, the crashes, the cravings, the deadened-yet-strangely-unquenchable hunger are the result of poor dieting choices. There is a middle ground between bingeing on chocolate cake and torturing your body with a cycle of starvation and glycemic overload. The middle ground consists of giving your body what it needs: regular, consistent, modestly-portioned meals made from healthful simple ingredients in an appropriate ratio of protein, carbs, and fat.

Destroying your health and disrupting your metabolism via a punishing diet is no better than gorging on Twinkies. If you give your body what it needs, you'll never want to change back, and eating in a way that makes you feel bad will no longer seem like a "special occasion".

The word "diet" has evolved to have two nearly contradictory meanings:1. a habitual eating pattern, day in and day out, and 2. a temporary regimen of deprivation undertaken to lose weight. It's widely acknowledged at this point that diets, in the #2 sense, don't work. Their effects are as temporary as their measures (which makes good sense!). Weight lost from temporary measures tends to be lost only temporarily (according to a scientist quoted in that last link, "at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher.")

Our bipolar diets - cycling between periods of poor quality over-eating and poor-quality under-eating - are lunacy. Why not just eat sanely forever? You'll feel great, and you'll slowly, gradually, lose the weight. And it can still be delicious (more on that later).

Meanwhile, if you at some point find yourself snarfing a gigantic bag of Cheez Doodles, remember that
nothing is ever shot to hell. The cure for imbalance is balance. Don't starve or punish yourself after eating crap. Don't feel guilty. Just return to your diet (in the #1 sense); feeding yourself good healthful things three or four times per day.

If you're eating right, your body, which is
only trying to accommodate you, will quickly (we're talking days,rather than weeks or months) come to love, even crave, the right things.

Continue to Part 8

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