I am quite certain that health professionals would say that I have an eating disorder. In this November 2011 post I discussed how my low carb diet was going. I am still doing the low carb thing, but I'm thinking about doing another round of the Rosedale diet, which I have found remarkably effective in managing cholesterol; although, not nearly as satisfying as my low carb regimen.

This interchange recently took place between my youngest son and me:

Him: "Dad, are you always on some kind of diet?"

Me: "Well, everyone that eats is always on some kind of diet." (being evasive)

Him: "I know. I meant are you always on some kind of ... uh, you know ... medical diet?"

Me: "You are asking whether I am always doing some kind of restrictive diet for health purposes?"

Him: "Yeah, that's it."

Me: "Yeah, I'm pretty much always on some kind of healthy diet."

Him: "Oh." (sounding rather non-plussed)

I have been fighting the battle of the bulge since I was 16 years old. I dropped 60 lbs a couple of decades ago and have pretty much managed to keep it off since then. Although I was never obese as a kid, I was somewhat chubby from the time I exited the womb. This feature was the preferred vehicle for much of the childhood ridicule that came my way. 

For all the paeans to the wonders of being child-like, children can be phenomenally brutal to their peers. I probably dished out as least as much as I got, but only the pain of being on the receiving end remains deeply etched in my psyche.

My wife reminds me on occasion that my obsession with maintaining a healthy weight is at least in part a response to the ghosts of childhood insults that were hurled by immature kids that have long since grown into mature, caring, responsible adults. (The petty part of me would add to that last sentence, "... that often are fatter than me nowadays.")

OK, so I've got some issues left over from childhood. Who doesn't?

The reason my son sounded joyless about my response is that dietary discipline simply doesn't sound like it's any fun. Here's a news flash: IT ISN'T! I have tried a number of different diets over the years. The ones that have actually been effective have all shared several features:
  • A: They are restrictive.
  • B: They require serious self-discipline.
  • C: Item A above means that unless you are into spending hours daily doing food preparation or can afford a personal chef, these diets tend to devolve into fairly narrow meal options, which means dietary monotony.
  • D: A + B + C = No Fun
Most diets are promoted as being pleasurable and offering a wide variety of dining options. The reality is that unless you are a foodie, pleasure and diversity are opposites of what you will find in any diet that really works.

I recently saw an article about a lady that was a hot starlet back when I was a teenager. She had subsequently added significant heft to her corpus but had recently slimmed down. She was quoted as saying that comfort foods are grand, as long as you only take a bite or two.

Maybe that works for her, but it doesn't work for me. It's far easier for me to simply tell myself that a given food is completely out of bounds. Unlike some, if I give myself permission to eat some delightful treat, I simply can't stop at a couple of bites. It's like giving a recovering alcoholic a bottle of whiskey and telling him to stop after one shot. Better not to touch the stuff at all. That's why I often tell myself and others, "Sorry, I can't."

But sometimes I tell myself, "I can." Yeah, I occasionally take dietary vacations. I don't go crazy with this. It is relatively rare and usually only lasts one or two meals. I may overeat a little on these occasions, but not a lot. It's pretty measured. I don't devolve into uncontrollable eating that is the marker of binge eating.

While diet experts warn against emotional eating, the fact is that everything we eat involves our emotions, often on a very deep level. It's inescapable. People aren't joking when they say things like, "I love donuts" or "I hate spinach" when talking about food. It is my opinion that even for those that opt for dietary austerity, eating should occasionally be a joyful experience (although it may cost some minor indigestion afterward).

When I do take a dietary vacation, I like to do so only in the company of my closest family members. This definitely smacks of covering sins and attempting to satisfy vain desires (D&C 121:37). I can dietarily vacation in public, as long as I'm anonymous. I don't like to be seen by neighbors, friends, and associates eating the less healthy fare that others regularly eat. Psychologists would say that this kind of secrecy is unhealthy and indicates a disorder. They're probably right.

Thinking back to my conversation with my son, I have to wonder what I am teaching my children by my example. No wonder my son views my dietary discipline with distaste. I wouldn't mind if my children learned the kind of self-discipline I have developed. But frankly, I wouldn't wish on them the same level of food frustration that I regularly deal with.

The fact is that I want to eat what I enjoy eating, but I don't want the consequences of eating what I enjoy eating. Most people would probably say the same thing. The difference is that I actually do something about it. And, no, it really isn't much fun. But I do like the health benefits. One of life's harsh truths is that you can't eat your cake and not wear it too.

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