Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Why is my Diet a Bad Boyfriend?
I was twelve years old when I had my first boyfriend. His name was Michael and, no this is not his real name. (You know who you are, consider me a forgiving soul for giving you and alias) We dated for four months which, when you are twelve is pretty much a lifetime. We had our own song (“I can’t fight this feeling” by REO Speedwagon), our own restaurant, (The Swenson’s Ice cream Parlour on Mcphillips in Winnipeg) and even our own nicknames. (He called me “Ali-cat”) I should have known then and there that the boy lacked vision, but it was 1983 and I was a visibly awkward chubby girl raging through puberty. I could NOT be picky. Michael was a nice guy with cute curly hair and he had the ultimate trump card. He LIKED me. Michael made me feel like I was perfect. On June 7, 1983, he took me to his sisters wedding as his date. I can still remember the pink and grey dropped waist polka dot satin dress I wore. My hair was the perfect “sun-in” orange and I even wore pink fish net tights to match. I had pink rhinestone earrings and a large pink bow on my purse. Overall I looked like a chubby version of Cindy Lauper and I felt perfect. We danced all night and drank whisky sours that Michael’s snuck us from the bar. On a magical night in June when Michael kissed my goodnight, he told me he loved me. I was Cinderella at the ball and his parents’ ’82 Oldsmobile was my chariot. But unlike a fairytale, real life has a morning after. Mine came the day after Michael’s sisters wedding when I had braces put on my teeth. The very next day, I returned from the orthodontist’s office with a mouth full of metal, Michael took one look at his “iron Jawed angel” and broke up with me immediately. Apparently the space between my two front teeth WAS the lesser of two evils. When it came to a headgear and a bit guard, Michael COULD fight that feeling…
And yes dear reader that is when it hit me. I had a BAD boyfriend. My boyfriend was not the Prince Charming I had imagined. He was a twelve-year-old boy who has the attention span of a homing pigeon. He was fleeting and self-centred. He wanted a date for his sister’s wedding not a lifelong partner with a smile less than perfect.
The decades have passed and my braces are long gone. Pink fishnet tights made a brief comeback and have returned to the fashion halls of fame. High school came and went and I realized that orange was not a good hair colour for me. “Sun In” has been replaced with “L’Oreal” and now instead of natural looking highlights, I strive for complete grey coverage.
But through it all I have realized that there have been quite a few BAD boyfriends. We have all had them.
I have realized that the only other constant in my life has been that I have always been on a diet. I started my first diet at the age of ten. My gym teacher proclaimed me fat and sent me home with a list of foods I could eat and a list of foods I was forbidden. From this cam the grapefruit diet of the early eighties followed by ten (yes count them, ten) Weight Watcher’s membership, two Jenny Craigs and a Nutrisystem. Coupled with The Zone, South Beach, The GI Diet, Dr. Phil and Atkins, I like many of my North American sisters have been dieting for decades.
And it is only until recently that I have realized, my diet really is a metaphor for a bad boyfriend. When my diet and I first get together, we have a period of infatuation that borders on the absurd. I think my diet is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t imagine what I did before my diet came along. I will give up nights with friends and dinners out just to be with my diet. I will plan events around my diet’s schedule and dream about the day when my diet and I finally achieve perfect bliss and I DO fit into my skinny jeans. I will walk into a room in my perfect size 28, two hundred dollar boot cuts and my diet and I will make every bitch who every said we would not “make it” cringe with remorse.
But that does not happen. In reality, my diet makes me do all the work while it shits all over me. My diet is aloof and unattainable. It makes me reform my life and give up that which I love in exchange for a sense of self loathing that I could not even pay for. In short I will never measure up with my diet and so after about four weeks together, I know I have to break it off. Then of course comes the usual mourning/euphoria of being free again until I find a new diet to take on with the same gusto. We usually meet online or in a bookstore and pretty soon I am back on the same roller coaster ride. I am pimped out in a grey and pink polka dot dress, taking what I can get until I have braces put on my brains and I sober up.
But somehow, twenty odd years later, after bad boyfriends/diets, I woke up and got off the dysfunctional merry-go-round. Today things are different. I have spent the last eight years not on a DIET, but changing my lifestyle to be one where health comes first. Make no mistake, I am not about to give you another diet to “shack up” with and spiral off out of control. I will however tell you a simplified version about what helped me get off the diet dating cycle and settle down with a relationship with food that makes me feel good about me and my health.
So if any relationship has a set of rules, here are mine:
1. Keep your kitchen safe. Will power is bullshit. Eighty percent of overweight women surveyed are emotional eaters. Having a bad day? Binging on the yogurt and fruit in your kitchen is going to be a lot less damaging on your emotional wellbeing than a bag of Cheesies. Make no mistake, I LOVE ice cream. But I am asking for it if I keep it in my freezer. Want a treat? Get your ass of the couch and buy yourself a cone. I would not be caught dead with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in my freezer.
2. Exercise daily. Do something every day for at least thirty minutes. Keep it simple. You do not necessarily need the drama of a gym membership and the perfect outfit. Just go for a walk or bike ride or even take a class you night not otherwise do. You’ll be surprised how it keeps your head in the game. Make no mistake, you may never get that “runner’ high” al the skinny broads talk about. Hell I’ve done more than my share of marathons and triathlon and am STILL waiting for it. (I secretly think it is the Robaxacet you take after the race that gives you the “high” they so fondly refer to)
3. Keep a food diary. Studies show that people who keep food diaries automatically regulate their caloric intake and stay on programs longer. There are a variety of online food diary programs that can help you get started. Hell, you have a shoe budget (and if you don’t- get one immediately); you should have a similar attitude to nutrition.
4. Establish a “bare minimum”. What I mean by this is, GET A BOTTOM LINE. You have a bottom line for your relationships with people, get one for your relationships with food. For example, you would not take him back after he slept with your sister, don’t start the day without breakfast. Okay, a bit of a severe comparison, but I needed to make a point. Have a “set of rules” that guides you through your nutritional life just like they do your social life.
So there you have it. We’ve all had our hearts broken, whether it was on the scale or at the roller rink. We’ve all had a diet or a man who made us the ultimate promise and then could not deliver. Make no mistake; blame the Michael’s of the world as much as I blame the “low carb” craze. They could not help themselves. They were just doing what they were supposed to do. By some cosmic curse my diet is supposed to be a BAD boyfriend. How else would I have figured out how good a healthy lifestyle can be?