by Stewart B. Segal, MD
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, diet is defined as:
A: food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b: habitual nourishment
c: the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight <going on a diet>
Definitions “a” and “b” pertain to what you and I eat every day of our lives. Our diets are much older than we are. Our diets are derived from our family, religious and national heritage. Maybe there was a time when humans ate for sustenance, but today people eat for a multitude of reasons. We eat when we are happy, sad, celebrating, or commiserating. We eat when we socialize and we eat for business. We indulge ourselves with “sinful” foods. We gorge ourselves on fast foods we know aren’t good for us. We cheat with food!
Today, one of my favorite patients talked about cheating on her diet. This person would never cheat on her husband, her child, in a store. She would never cheat anyone, yet she cheated herself. She has a nutritionist who is working on modifying her diet. The nutritionist is trying to help her feel better yet the emotional power of food is so great that she feels the need to cheat. This powerful, ingrained, emotional need to eat “comfort foods” (in my case a hot Krispy Kreme) brings us to a discussion of definitions “c” and “d”.
My patients define diet as something they do today to lose weight so that they can go back to eating hot Krispy Kremes and overindulging in whatever else is calling to them. Most of my patients never lose weight; they simply misplace it. Christmas/News Year is just around the corner and the food orgy is about to begin. January second begins the great national diet. New Year’s resolutions almost always include dieting to take off pounds. Unfortunately, my office records document the initial 20 pound weight loss is followed by a 25 pound gain. So what can we do?
As I have previously stated, our diet is old and complex. Think about it as a massive concrete anchor buried in the ocean floor. We are sitting in the boat rocking gently on the surface when we decide we don’t like where we are. Most of us ignore the anchor and simply gun the boat, speeding off at high speed. We make good progress until the anchor line goes taut and yanks the back off the boat and we sink.
This year we need to resist the urge to go speeding off blindly on our quest to change. Instead, it’s time to slowly and meticulously dismantle our anchor. To do that, we need to understand what is wrong with our everyday diet. We need to learn how to address our comfort foods. We need to find other, healthier ways to comfort our souls. Most of all, we need to not cheat ourselves.
If we set long term goals, we will succeed. If we set realistic goals, we will succeed. Decide you want to lose 10 pounds over 12 weeks and you won’ have to cheat yourself. If you like how you feel when you are 10 pounds lighter, then you may want to go for 10 more over the next 12 weeks. Work hard; you are worth it.
It’s funny; I no longer want that hot KK.