A Minimalist Take on Diet
One of the things I’ve consumed more than I need is food. I’ve always enjoyed well-prepared food; my experience of flavor and texture is intense–so much so, that I can wax rhapsodic about a dish and its particulars to the embarrassment and/or boredom of others. But as most of us know, being crazy about food can lead to all sorts of problems.
One Single Pea
I’ve also engaged in neurotic eating habits–eating too fast, emotionally, or too much of certain things. My “full” sensor often doesn’t kick in until I’ve downed a scary amount of food. My weight will yo-yo between the far ends of a normal range for my height, but more often flirts with overweight than underweight during my late middle age.
Whenever I’ve announced I’m going on a diet, others’ reactions have tended to be: why? I wasn’t fat–what’s the problem? Blessed with height and a fairly good metabolism, I could get away with a lot. But as the years have gone by, my creaky back, hips, knees, and feet have been telling me more and more often what my stomach has failed to do: you’re eating too much! Give us a break! The only times they haven’t is when I’ve been at or around my “fighting weight,” that five-pound range that’s on the slimmer side of normal, but not too skinny. Nearly twenty pounds lighter than I was.
My knees had gotten so bad they’d lock up when I tried to turn over on my side during the night–a pain that made me see white light, it was so intense. I could briskly walk a mile, but getting up from a chair was arduous. So I spent a fairly intense month in physical therapy to build up the muscles and tendons that hold the knee joint in place. Losing weight would also help relieve some of the pressure and stave off surgery. So I studied calories and portion sizes, and the verdict was clear: I needed a heckuva lot less food than I was currently eating.
I was grossed out by my own over-consumption. The visual impact alone of smaller, “normal” amounts of food on my plate was stunning. At my age, beauty isn’t as important as health and consciousness, so being model-slim isn’t the point–but being able to move around better, to eventually become one of those sprightly old ladies with loads of energy–that’s the point.
And only eating what I need is philosophically minimalist. That realization alone did more to break my inner glutton than the pain in my knees. It got to me on a deep-down level, and it’s changing my relationship to food. I still enjoy it, but am actually satisfied with less.
After a couple of months of watching every single calorie and serving myself one official portion of any given food, the numbers on the bathroom scale started coming down. A lot of the pain started easing up, too. The grocery budget started shrinking. Food prep time started shrinking. And my “full” signal is starting to come back. Indigestion is much less frequent. I’m finally starting to feel like moving around now that it’s not such a big painful deal.
But most of all, it feels right to just eat what I need.