There's a first time for everything. Sometimes, that's a good thing. First crush, first chocolate milkshake, first kiss. But sometimes a first is reached out of necessity, desperation or fear. In my case, it's a combination of these three things that has brought about a first for me this week.
I'm forty-something years old, and am on my very first diet.
I know, I know, poor me. But think about it from my perspective. All my life, I've loved starch and dairy. Lived on it, in fact, even way before college. Seriously, I'd have made a great French woman. Every kind of bread, any kind of cheese, I was all over it, not to mention pasta, noodles, macaroni and anything of that ilk. I drove my mother insane, much as my son does to me now, by eschewing all "food" remotely produce-related, picking apart every meal that contained anything green, and drinking up to a gallon of milk myself each week. I wouldn't be surprised if my parents put me through college with the money they made buying stock in Ronzoni.
Despite my starchoholism, my weight has never been an issue. Good genes, high metabolism and a bit of luck kept me bony-thin till my 20s, with only the occasional spread. These rare shifts came, coincidentally, during stressful points in my life, with the stress leading to greater indulgences in red wine and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. But a couple of months of daily mountain-bike riding and I was back down to my old size. Ah, to be in my 20s again.
In recent months, I found my jeans fitting tighter and tighter, and then, much to my chagrin, not at all. Donning my 'fat jeans' and looser fitting kahkis, I attributed the change to immobility, stomach problems and hormones. But one day I stepped on the scale and found that I had gained 10 pound of hormones. I was smacked out of my denial.
Having no money (or desire) to go out and buy all new clothes, I decided to try the 17-Day Diet, a regimen two friends had recently started. One had lost 20 pounds, the other ten, in a matter of weeks. I had nothing to lose but weight, so I bought the book.
Day one was fueled by lots of salads, green tea and optimism. I followed the book to a 'T' and went to bed a little hungry, but confident.
Day two was mostly the same menu, but with a few tweaks to mix things up a bit. Cottage cheese instead of plain yogurt; salmon instead of chicken. Lots of water and green tea. By afternoon, I was lightheaded and tired, so I had more salad.
Day three found my confidence in the diet and myself wavering. I told myself my headache was due to allergies, even as I drooled while watching my kids fill their bowls three times at dinner with pasta and freshly made pesto. I drank another cup of green tea and soldiered on.
By day four, I was cranky, terse and miserable. Ready for french bread pizza and a big glass of wine, with a bag of Hershey Kisses for dessert, I instead headed for the scale. And was shocked to find I had lost four pounds. The number fueled my reserve, most likely because I was getting so little fuel elsewhere.
I made it through the first week and lost five pounds. This was enough to get me back--comfortably--into many of my favorite pants. I also noticed, though, that my stomach had stopped bothering me, my constant heartburn was gone, and I was sleeping better. This led to a better mood, which trickled down to the rest of my family and improved the dynamic between us overall.
Since then, I have switched to the exception section of the book (for those times of the month when you just can't say no to chocolate), and have found it much better for my lifestyle. And the weight has not come back.
The big test came when I tried on a dress from a friend yesterday and fell in love with the way it fit me. Looking ahead to an upcoming wedding in June, I smiled at the way the dress hugged my curves in an elegant, sexy way instead of a muffin-top, too many cookies way. And while I can safely say that I never want to have to 'diet' again, in the way that diet means starve myself and eschew those things that make me happy, I have also learned something. In eating, as in many aspects of life, we get into ruts. It happens slowly, as do the consequences. The shock to the system of cold-turkey shifts sucks. But sometimes, that's what it takes.
If nothing else, it's made me conscious of what I eat, and how often. But more importanly, I've learned how diet impacts the body overall, from mood to energy to size, and how it changes as we age. If one week and five lost pounds can alter all those things, as well as my perspective, then it was definitely the right diet for me.
And once was enough.