Back when I was dieting, my focus for the day was often on The List, that is, the list of permitted foods. Of course, during my lapses, I pursued the foods that weren’t on The List, mainly sweets, starches, and fried or creamy delights. At the time, that meant glorious freedom. It was as if I’d broken my leash and could run across a wide open field where everything was fair game. So I ran.
In time, running translated to bingeing.
Now that I’m not dieting anymore, I’m rethinking the definition of freedom. Yesterday, over breakfast, as a group of friends talked about attitudes toward food, someone said that she’d always felt free to eat desserts because her dad would start dinner with dessert, so it wasn’t any big deal to her. Unfortunately for many of us, sweets did become a big deal during one diet after another. Because whoever heard of a diet that majors on cake, or chocolate or chips?
Last night I ate a candy bar that didn’t do a thing for me. When I took the first bite, I thought, “I’m never buying this one again—it’s too dry, crunchy, and the chocolate is too dark.” I could have thrown it out, but no, I finished the whole thing. Then, because the candy bar was a disappointment, I ate some Ruffles, for Ruffles have ridges. What kind of reason is that?
Freedom as a non-dieter means we can eat whatever we want. No restriction! Translation: we can eat our favorites, including but not limited to candy bars, potato chips, waffles, and other processed foods that are never on The List. Although I’ve always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, I still tend to reach for those once-forbidden foods.
But, believe it or not, there are times that I actually prefer a slice of watermelon to a maple bar, or a salad to French fries, or pecans to a Milky Way (which I do plan to buy again). Fortunately, freedom means we can evaluate what we really want to eat at the moment, turn down what doesn’t appeal (I hope you’re listening to your own advice, Norma), wait until we’re hungry, and choose whatever will truly satisfy, whether it’s an orange or a homemade oatmeal cookie or a milkshake, or you name it. That’s a lot of freedom!