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Loving yourself and not succumbing to peer pressure when dieting is the way to go. A personal account of the struggle with this.
“Are you dieting?” the annoying question I was asked whenever I said I couldn’t eat anymore, when I was growing up. Because of this I never thought of dieting or even indulging in portion watching as a grown up. Partly, it was also because my mother was too sensible to approve of such vanity and I was far too honest to know how to hide any half-hearted attempts at figure watching.
So, whenever I felt I was getting too large in the nether regions I exercised. My friends were women who loved their food, gourmands all, and none of us ever went on a diet, priding ourselves instead on how much we could eat at a given sitting. Some of us were large, some petite but I don’t remember any discussion about our sizes, nor was there ever a feeling of inadequacy or competition around our appearance.
Later, in my 40s I had a friend who was very taken up with the Fit for Life Diet. It involves eating nothing but fruit till noon and no fruit after that. For the rest of the day you can eat what you like but never carbs and protein in the same meal.
I read the book, thought it was great, but not for me. My friend proceeded to make my life miserable, commenting adversely if I ate fruit after noon, casting a disapproving eye over my plate filled with a quarter carbs, a quarter protein and half vegetables and salad. I didn’t appreciate her commentary and we had quite a few arguments. I began to feel large in her presence and she’d tell me how happy she was that her skin was now so clear. If I looked closely, I could see no difference in her skin or her size but she was clearly a woman with a mission now that she had a stringent diet to follow so I said nothing.
Her sudden sense of importance reminded me of older women who follow ‘ekadashi’ diets where on the 11th day of the moon’s cycle they eat food specially made for them thus clearly managing both to diet under the guise of religion, and to gain some importance in a world that caters only to male needs.
A recycled version of the Fit for Life Diet has surfaced at the school where I work and it’s called the Alkaline Diet. It follows much the same principles except that gluten is also villain in this particular diet. So is dairy. No wheat or dairy and tons of fruit. People are shedding weight with the rapidity of a snake sloughing off it’s skin on this diet but again I haven’t chosen to follow it.
As some people unkindly point out – I could do with thinner thighs but I still believe that exercise and eating smaller portions are the healthiest ways to lose weight and my main aim is to have enough energy to get through an 8 hour work day with a long commute. I’m happy to look good too but this isn’t at the top of the list. Health and strength are.
Then there’s the Gluten Free diet that recently shimmied itself into my awareness. It should really be followed only after you have been tested for gluten allergy and/or dairy allergy. Simply following a diet to lose weight means that you’re cutting out precious nutrients from your diet. You then need to supplement those with tablets – which is more than a little ridiculous.
My youngest daughter, bitten by a tick in upstate New York developed Lyme’s Disease, and it was recommended she follow a gluten free and dairy free diet to lessen the distressing symptoms. This was advised by doctors and was the only way she began to feel stronger and got on top of her intestinal problems brought on by the Lyme’s Disease.
The only time I went on a diet was when I hit 40 and toyed in a desultory manner with the idea that I must go on a diet once in my life. A friend vowed to go on the General Motor’s Diet and considering it was for a mere 7 days and people lost a lot of weight on it, it was tempting.
I drank more water than I usually drink. I ate vast quantities of the cabbage soup till I almost puked. I, a huge fan of fruit couldn’t stand any fruit after the first twelve hours. I heaved a huge sigh of relief on the potato day – finally some carbs. The vegetarian version of the diet means the two beef and veggie days are replaced with paneer to which I have a huge aversion.
At the end of that week I had lost about 4 kg, which made me marginally happy but I was very certain it wasn’t worth the torture of constant headaches, hunger and nausea. It would make much more sense to drink plenty of water on a daily basis, increase your consumption of salads and fruit and go easy on the alcohol. After all, you need to be able to incorporate your diet into your daily life and if it’s so much effort to stick to it you can’t really see it through. If you’re faint from a lack of food, fight with all your friends and family and can’t think straight – it’s best not to diet.
Being health conscious and aware of an increase (or decrease) in weight seems, on the face of it, to be a good thing but the trouble is the amount of emphasis placed on dieting to look better. It’s such a shallow attitude to life and doesn’t really inspire you to deprive yourself of food and the pleasures of a good meal. What makes much more sense is knowing that eating food that’s good for you will improve your health, your well being and your longevity. That seems like a much more convincing reason to watch what you eat and watch your weight.
The trouble with dieting is that it takes so long for results to show up that you’re bound to get a little disheartened along the way. That and being overly focused on your bodily appearance, which you can’t do much about apart from eating less and waiting for weeks to see the results of your deprivation.
Exercise, on the other hand, shows results much faster and it isn’t only visual. You begin to feel stronger very quickly and results are even better if you ditch the rogan josh and parathas for sprouts and salads, less fat and plenty of fruit.
Feeling disheartened, or ashamed of your body as it is now, or eating food you don’t enjoy can end up making you feel bad about yourself. It’s quite common to associate dieting with the feeling that there’s something wrong with you that you have to fix. That’s a terrible attitude to have.
If you do choose to diet, do it with love. Love your body. Pay attention to the cravings and find something a little healthier than what you would normally reach for – but do try and satisfy those desires. If you want chocolate – treat yourself to a small piece instead of the whole bar. Go for an extra round of the park to make up for that indulgence.
Lose weight or gain it because you love yourself, not because you think you ought to be a certain size. It’s the dieting we do to get ourselves that bikini body (whatever that may – after all anybody can wear a bikini if they want to, you don’t have to be a certain perfect size or shape to wear one) that makes us miserable. So before you get onto that diet, explore your reasons for dieting. Ask yourself some genuine soul searching questions.
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A freelance journalist and teacher, Kalpana is a feminist, an animal rights activist, passionate about
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