My colleague Dr. El-Sisi has likened diets to religions- impossible to prove, to be taken on faith, and not welcomed at the front door handing out pamphlets… darn those Girl Scouts and their cookies, anyway!
He actually makes a great connection between organized religion and most diets. Diets are so faddish- one year it’s the Cabbage Soup diet, the next year it’s the miracle of juicing. (not the kind Lance did). Then there are so many differing and strong branches of , for example, Christianity- which is ONE religion- that it’s scary and off-putting, to say the least. Why do we need so many variations and factions that are against each other for ONE God?
A few years ago, I followed a ‘diet’ that was based on religion. The two-headed dog, if you will. The Weigh Down Diet was actually quite novel in its approach. It placed the responsibility for one’s weight on the individual! It’s not Mom’s fault, McDonald’s fault, or the grocery store’s responsibility. It basically boiled down to not stuffing yourself, and finding existence worthy of participation outside of eating. The author championed waiting to eat until you were actually hungry, even coaching the reader on how to know the difference between head hunger and true hunger, chewing slowly and allowing your meal time to process, and stopping at the halfway point of the meal. Push the rest away and save it for later, or toss it in the trash, but basically- eat 1/2 as much as you thought you should. Her approach (Gwen Shamblin) was to relax, breathe, pray, and find that, given that half-hour digestion time, you would be surprised that you truly were not hungry anymore. The idea was to stop making food an idol- or the number one priority of life.
While I abandoned that plan years ago, because I didn’t want to give up eating just for fun at the time, her plan made sense to me on a lot of levels, and as long as I stuck with it, it worked. I found I was not hungry just because the clock chimed noon, or just because I rolled out of bed.
I do believe it is possible to eat whatever you want, if you can discipline yourself to eat responsibly- sized portions of it MOST OF THE TIME, and only when you are truly hungry, and maintain a healthy weight. I also believe that so much of what our society eats is genetically engineered to strongly encourage you to eat more, (see Supersize Me) that this is also arguably the hardest thing to do, and toughest ‘diet’ or eating lifestyle to maintain. Slowing down to breathe, or have a nice conversation at mealtime is another great idea. I knew a guy who wolfed down everything he ate and never even stopped to chat until he’d bolted through the whole meal. He kept his head down and the only thing you could hear was him softly moaning from time to time…
I used to love watching kids eat. Even with exciting birthday cake and ice cream, they would take a few bites, finally grimace at the overly-sweet icing, then run off to have fun with their friends. The point is, they are not, for the most part, engrossed with, nor obsessed by eating. It’s not their hobby. They are not lusting after the experience of eating. They are enjoying their food. They eat when hungry, stop when full, and don’t spend a lot of free time thinking about it, planning for it, or drooling over it. I say for the most part, because childhood obesity is at an all-time high. The whys of it all are beyond my ability to research and present, but I think it’s important to remember that parents do have the greatest role in determining what, when, and how much their children eat. I also know that it would help if parents and teachers did not glorify junk food, or reward their kids with it. The attitudes parents exhibit toward food and eating will be mirrored by their children. The trip to the museum can be fun without the ice cream cone. Movies don’t have to be accompanied by a KFC bucket size of popcorn and a box of candy for each person. Soda pop does not need to even be in the house. At all.
And, so, in conclusion, I believe that diets are to self-discipline what religions are to God; the best we can do until the real thing is discovered and embraced. Meanwhile, I still open the door to Girl Scouts and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but with very different messages for each group.
Also, since science is flawed, and ever-evolving, I keep my mind open to the possibilities. It is possible that for the weak of us, a generally lower-sugar and refined grains diet is best for health, and allows the smallest chance of addictive tendencies to develop from huge spikes and drops in blood sugar levels and serotonin/dopamine levels.
The psychological aspect of continually stuffing ourselves with food is an eating disorder best addressed by counseling.
There’s my take, and hope you got something out of it.
Our minds are always our most powerful allies in reaching any of our goals!