I believe I may have mentioned in my book, Cherries in Winter, that I’m a reformed dieter (in the chapter that begins with a recipe for butter cookies, so you can tell early on where that story is going). After a rough time during which I went to three funerals in one year, I understandably gained some weight, about 14.6 pounds. I know the amount because at some point–when my underwear got tight–I stepped on the scale at a diet center, and that’s how much they suggested I should lose.
I lost all of it and then some, little over-achiever that I was. Then I met my husband-to-be Nathan, ate real food and some really good desserts, and gained some of the weight back. Then I’d go back on the mulch and lose a pound or two, and then I’d eat something lovely and gain it back again. The scale revealed all, everything I ate or didn’t eat, when I had pasta with sauce for dinner and when I had steamed cauliflower with three tablespoons of sauce.
I should interject here that I don’t have a weight problem, which I would define as a threat to my health or an inability to bend over and tie a shoelace or to climb up a flight of stairs without being winded. By those standards, no, I don’t have a weight problem. I have a problem with my weight, by which I mean that I don’t like the fact that my weight doesn’t measure what the diet center said it “should” be.
“Should.” That’s a word about as appetizing as steamed cauliflower with three tablespoons of pasta sauce.
For a while now–oh, about five years–I’ve been allowing the numbers on the scale to dictate how my day is going to go. Lost a pound or two? It’s going to be a great day! Gained? Bad. Bad bad bad. The same? What am I doing wrong?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing wrong: I’m focusing on what I weigh instead of how I feel. I’m looking at a number instead of being grateful that I’m healthy. I’m living in some fantasy future when I can wear my skinny jeans–the ones I had on when a friend asked, “Are you ill? You’ve lost so much weight you look like a lollipop”–instead of now. Which, when I stop this madness and think about it, is pretty wonderful.
As George Jetson said to his wife: “Jane, get me off this crazy thing!” The scale, the machine that dictated whether I felt virtuous or gluttonous, has been banished to the basement.
Since then, I’ve been listening to my body and eating when I’m hungry, not when it’s “lunchtime,” and what my body in its infinite wisdom tells me it needs, not just salad and that’s final. Instead of exercising to lose weight, I’ve been enjoying yoga, walking, and dancing around my home office to ’80s music. A nice side effect is that I’m getting fitter. Pants go on without any screaming from the seams. And life is good.
We’re entering a season during which we get to see a lot of family and have the pleasure of eating with them. People we love will make food that brings back sweet memories and invites relatives long gone to the table in spirit. This is not the time to worry about what we’re eating–or to overdo in preparation for January and its dreaded resolutions. But this is an excellent time to relax and enjoy the changing seasons, our families, and the recipes we love to make, to share, and to eat.
That’s a feeling that’s worth my weight–whatever that may be–in gold.