Willpower.

I’m having a stand-off with a bag of salad in my refrigerator.

About a week ago, I finally got serious about going on a much-needed diet. I’ve been carrying an extra 10-15 pounds of baby-belly weight around the world with me, and I was running out of excuses. No more, “I have to keep junk around for the kids,” or “I’ll start after the holidays” or “It’s too hot/cold/rainy/snowy to exercise” or “crunchy vegetables make my dental work hurt.” Maybe it was my recent trip to Victoria’s Secret to redeem a  “free panty” coupon, when I found myself hijacked into trying on sports bras in the dressing room, a shop assistant coaching me to “jump up and down to test the support” while I was in there. Looking at myself, I rather felt like a squeezed balloon.

Whatever it was, I decided it was high time.

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I’m lucky, I know, I’m not as heavy as I could be. My habits aren’t appalling. There are certainly many, many, many people the world over who struggle with a bigger weight problem than I am currently addressing. But sometimes, it’s the lesser amounts of weight, on the more petite folks like myself, that is harder to lose. And, even after just a week, I already know these 15 pounds will be a lot harder to shed than even I expected. I sure wish I could put them in a bag and give them to Goodwill.

I’ve never been much of a dieter, aside from a stash of weight loss pills (now off the market) I used to take in high school to make my already thin body even thinner. My parents used to diet about twice a year, drinking shakes for breakfast and lunch like Tommy Lasorda, and I watched their weight go up and down with seasons and life changes and good and bad times. Even when I have needed to lose weight, I’ve always been on the sidelines, watching some wonder drug or machine or plan advertised on TV and think, “Man, if only it was that easy! Wouldn’t it be great if that really worked?” Because I’ve always known, deep down in my gooey chocolate core, that dieting would be much harder than that.

IMG_20150223_113118_resizedI’m being fairly low-key about it, frankly, because I have to. Between running a crazy household with two young kids and a husband who often works late, I can get easily stressed out. But I’ve cut way back on the not-so-healthy stuff I love to indulge in – refreshing soft drinks, decadent ice creams, high fat meats, potatoes cooked in oil, packaged snacks, and most of my homemade baking. I’ve also pared way back on my weekend relaxation propeller, a.k.a. beer or wine, and only allow myself one glass of one or the other per week. I’m drinking water and green tea, trying to cook with a lighter touch, upping my fruits, veggies and healthy grains, and avoiding sweets as much as possible. If I can combat my cravings throughout the day with some lemon water or a few pieces of fresh pineapple, I might give myself a reward a couple times a week, like one cookie, or a square of chocolate, or a small serving of frozen yogurt. Maybe I’m going about it all the wrong way, but I’m really trying to find something that works for me.

The thing is, I like healthy stuff. I actually do. I’m passionate about eating fresh, sustainable, organic, etc. when I can, and I feel like I’m usually a pretty balanced cook. But I’m making even more of an effort, like making my own spaghetti sauce rather than using a jar, or making my own frozen yogurt for treats instead of buying a carton. That way, at least I know a bit more of what’s going into my body.  And I’m a big fan of fruits and veggies. It’s just that I really like strawberries with cream on angel food cake. And I love asparagus roasted in the oven with garlic and olive oil. Even salad is a delight when made up with spicy thai peanut salad dressing. Now, I’ve been eating mostly plain fruits and veggies for the last 7 – 10 days and, while delicious in their own right, I’m just getting terribly bored. I kind of want to gag when I think of that salad looking up at my guilty face every time I open the fridge door.

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I’m always amazed at friends of ours who go on killer diets. Several of our friends have cut out all wheat, dairy and sugar. One of our friends, when we saw him last, said he’s gone from pescetarian to vegetarian to vegan to now only eating raw fruits and vegetables. *Gulp* And part of me wants to stand back and criticize, find some flaw in their thinking and point out their nutritional deficiencies and crow over them as I help myself to more pizza. But I can’t. Such friends are overwhelmingly healthy and fit, skin glowing, slim and lean like African antelope. AND I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY DO IT. And, well, is it awful to say I don’t think I’ll ever be like that? That I don’t think I want to go that far?

I just love cooking. It’s one of those things I love to read about, and watch, and research, and study, and play around with. It’s one of those things that I’m OK at doing, and something I want to keep doing, without restrictions. I want to learn more about baking bread – you know, that carb-ful wheat-ful hunk of comforting goodness? I want to explore more French cooking – even with all the butter and wine, and Italian cooking – even with all the pasta, cheese and cured meats, and Asian cooking – even with all the oil and white rice. When I see a beautiful cupcake, not only do I want to eat it, I want to know how to MAKE IT. And that is not something I am in any way ready to give up.

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I guess I should acknowledge that many people these day go on special diets not just for weight loss, but because certain foods don’t agree with them. There’s a whole section at Barnes & Noble about intolerances, and I’m rather fortunate not to suffer any of these, aside from a mild dairy intolerance. So there’s that. I’m sure if I, or anyone in my family, had an allergy, there would be no question of changing our diets.

But for now, all I need is some extra exercise, and heaps of WILLPOWER. And let me tell you, willpower (for me) is not about resisting a donut on a Sunday morning or a Jack ‘n’ Coke on a Friday night. It’s easy to resist when I am relaxed. Willpower is never more cruel than when I am in Target at 4 p.m., and Shea has whined through the entire store, and Evelyn keeps stopping to look at things, and I’m just trying to get the hell through my list, and I finally get to the line and it’s long and slow. And all I can think of is a Dr. Pepper. And a King Size Peanut Butter M&Ms. And a bag of Cheetos. And a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. And maybe a McDonald’s on the way home. For the kids, of course. 🙂

So the real challenge, it seems, is keeping my stress in check, taking a deep breath, exercising, cooking/eating healthier, indulging a bit, and somehow bleaching all memories of junk food from my psyche. Then, I’m hoping, one day I’ll get on the scale and find I lost those 15 pounds of baby weight somewhere along the way.

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