Seven years of marriage, another seven or so of dating. A 14-year span of time gone by inexplicably and unacceptably fast. Instead of dwelling on the shock of it all, I have been thinking recently of the time before the wedding. Seven years and three months ago, I undertook a dairy-free diet. I searched the web for diets that were good for skin, and out of the several I found, the only one I thought I could keep up for three-months was the one that eliminated dairy. I totally rocked this diet with only a single cheat day half-way through. I remember passing up M&Ms at work, rebuffing a coworker who was coaxing me to just take a few. If you know me, you know that passing up M&Ms meant I was deadly serious.
Spoiler alert: Avoiding dairy did nothing for my skin. However, by the day of the wedding, through what can only be described as a combination of diet and exercise, I’d achieved the figure I’d more or less been trying to achieve.
Let me explain something. I’ve never been fat. I’ve been skinny and even scrawny at times, but I’ve never had a particularly flat stomach. So of course that is what I want, almost more than anything, except of course M&Ms. I was proud of my small achievement and pinned all of the success on the dairy-free lifestyle. Dairy, I figured, just didn’t agree with me. Neither the exercise, nor the stress, nor the length of time figured into any of my post-wedding assessments of the diet.
I got married on a Saturday morning and by nightfall I was in Canada eating at The Old Spaghetti Factory, puffing out and completely ruining three-months worth of work. It seemed that to continue the flat-stomached figure, I’d need to continue the dairy-free lifestyle, and long story short, that wasn’t going to happen.
However I’ve spent much of the last seven years obsessing about my lack of resolve, feeling guilty whenever I eat cheese, and embarking on dairy “cleanses” in an attempt to recapture the glory. There are a few dairy items that I’ve had to divorce. Cream and I just didn’t get along anymore so we parted ways. And since I wasn’t much of a milk enthusiast anyway, I stayed with almond milk. But cheese. Oh my, cheese. I will always and forever love cheese. And it’s cheese that ruins any and all attempts to remove dairy from my diet. I can get by for a couple of months, or until someone puts a pizza in front of me, whichever comes first.
Recently, after attempting a difficult elimination diet that allowed cheese but almost nothing else, I decided that I didn’t want to eliminate things from my diet anymore. There are a few things that have had to go over the years, like MSG because of its headache-triggering properties, some legumes for the same reason, and the aforementioned cream, but they are minimal and not really missed. I started to realize that full-scale, cold-turkey withdrawal just leads to cravings and binges (duh), and that eating less of these things and exercising more over a significant and sustained period of time might be the thing to reproduce those wedding results.
We are a culture that is obsessed with food, and obsessed with elimination and diets. One year we have to eat no fat so we binge on carbs, the next we eat no carbs and binge on fat. It’s all meant to make us feel better about what we’re eating, because ultimately we are trying to feel better when we eat. But it makes no sense in the long run. Bingeing and purging is the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do — the right thing to do — is to make lifestyle changes and choices, and to stick by them through the fads and the fledgling nutritional science. So from now on I’m going to eat that pizza in front of me, I’m just going to try not to eat the whole thing.
Oh also, I’m trying this new thing where I accept who I am. I think it will help. Maybe you could try it too.