I got an e-mail today questioning my choice of intuitive eating over dieting. It said “This idea that you eat what you think your body wants is horrible – being on a diet would tell you what to eat and how much and what is good or bad to eat.” That inspired me to do some new food math.
Food math for me used to be about obsessively counting calories, weighing food, calculating and recalculating my basal metabolic rate when I didn’t lose what I was “supposed” to based on the calories in/calories out model that I used to believe in. If I spent half the time on calculus that I spent memorizing the serving size and nutritional information of almost every food that exists and calculating how that food would supposedly affect my body, I’d be working for NASA right now.
We’ve talked before about how our society is set up to create dysfunctional relationships with food. I decided to try to quantify exactly how much that had affected me. So I did some math. I’m 35 years old, assuming 3 meals a day I’ve eaten about 38,325 meals. I spent a good 10 of those years dieting so that’s about 10,950 meals. And those dieting meals were not about health for me. They were about obsessing, about living with being constantly hungry, with giving my body less food than it needed and then overcoming the barrage of physical and psychological symptoms that my body activated to try to convince me to feed it appropriately. They were about eliminating entire food groups, and eventually about starving myself and ending up in a hospital bed. That was not physically healthy, and it sure as hell wasn’t mentally healthy.
So let’s just say that I live to be 80. That’s 49,275 more meals. And if I’m going to do something almost fifty thousand times, I want to make it an experience that is going to be good for me both physically and mentally. Therefore, dieting is out. Remember, I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live, I am simply making choices for myself here. Which, as the boss of my underpants, is my right.
I used to treat my fat body like it was a problem – a limitation to be overcome through mental toughness. What I learned was that my body wasn’t the limitation. Our cultural views of bodies and food relationships, our obsession with thinness and dieting were the limitations that needed to be overcome. My body was fine the whole time. There was a time in my life when I lost my physical and mental health because I believed that I couldn’t possibly know what was best for me and that letting someone else tell me how to eat would guarantee my future health and a long life. Now I know that there are no guarantees, and I believe in a new equation:
Nourishing my body + moving it in ways that I enjoy + loving and caring it = my best chance for physical and mental health.
That’s my new food math.