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(Im)moderation in all things

By Shelah Miner

Shelah EatsMy Instagram feed is a perfect illustration of my dilemma: first, a photo of a runner, then a video of an abs workout, followed by pictures of gluten-free, paleo, vegan, Whole 30 or otherwise super-healthy eats, all interspersed with pictures of beautiful people eating ice cream, or cheeseburgers, or liege waffles topped with cookie butter and creme fraiche, or waiting in line for food trucks.

I like to eat. And I’m an unrepentant omnivore– I like all foods. I would not turn up my nose at a McDonald’s french fry, but I’m also not afraid of octopus or swiss chard. I grew up in an home where we ate cake for breakfast (then shaved off wafer thin slices for the rest of the day). Food is the main love language in my family of origin, and it’s quickly becoming the same with my kids: a great band performance is always followed by a trip to Nielsen’s Frozen Custard, a 5K with donuts.

So it should come as no surprise that for most of my life, I was on the somewhat chubby side of average. Then, after I had my last biological child eight years ago, I discovered Weight Watchers and marathon running at the same time, dropped 30 pounds, and thought I was set for life.

Not so.

Weight Watchers taught me how to lose weight. When my head is in the game, I’m really good at keeping a food journal, at saying no to the the last three Cracklin’ Oat Brans in the bottom of my daughter’s cereal bowl, and walking right past the cake sitting on the counter. I avert my eyes from those waffles in the Instagram feed, turn up my nose at birthday donuts, eat pizza with sweet potato crust and tofu cheese while the rest of the family enjoys garlicky crust and mozzarella, and feel virtuous.

I can usually maintain this for a month or two, then I backslide to my hardwired ways–  a handful of chocolate chip cookies after lunch, ice cream after dinner, french fries instead of side salads at fast food restaurants. No one wants to keep a food journal for life, or at least I don’t. When one of the kids wants to go on a late-night shake run, I volunteer to drive. It’s like there’s a switch in my brain when it comes to food, and it’s either on or off. I’ve lost and gained the same seven pounds a dozen times over the last few years. Running 60 miles a week and doing yoga keeps me slim, but I definitely won’t be showing off my abs on Instagram any time soon.

Most of all, I think I need to decide if I want those seven pounds, and the freedom to be a social eater with family and friends, or if I want to be the person who brings pineapple for dessert to a party where everyone else is having cheesecake. As a decent marathon runner, I know I’ll never relive the glory days of the races I ran in my early thirties if I don’t drop a few pounds, but is chasing past glory worth all of the kale and quinoa?

Have you struggled to find moderation in all things? What helped? What has hindered you? If you’ve learned to  say no to some of the food things, but not all of them, can you share your secrets? If you’re someone who abstains, how do you do it without feeling like a jerk in social situations? Is it vanity to want a rockin bod when the one you have is just fine? Is that another way to interpret the “moderation in all things” admonition?

About Shelah Miner

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) teaches English at BYU and French at a Salt Lake City middle school. She has an addiction to her Audible account, hates making dinner, and embraces the chaos of life with a husband, six kids, a dog, a lizard and four rabbits.

8 thoughts on “(Im)moderation in all things”

  1. The crazy thing is that I have actually known women who don't care about food. I envy them. Although I am considered under weight (5'1 and 103 lbs.) I absolutely love to eat. It is my favorite thing to do. Especially desserts of any kind. Both my husband and I love to cook. It is one thing feel I excel at. I am sixty years old and I know very well, even though I walk an hour most days that if allowed to eat whatever and whenever my weight would escalate without stopping (I have seen this, during years when I ignore what I eat). This is because unless I keep a grip, I will eat large amounts… one little helping is just not enough. This can happen to me at , oh, say a pot luck dinner when I take enough "little helpings" that by the time I am done, I am uncomfortably full. I have to think about what I am eating or cooking (make sure it is healthy) and chart my weight every day. If I get to what I consider my ideal weight (105) I cut down pretty drastically. So when I am less then 105 all is happy and when I am at 105 it is a big concern not to go over. It is kind of a trap and some might say unhealthy in its own way to have to think about food so much. However, I honestly believe that life without an ice cream cone or piece of cake would not be worth it. Winter without hot cocoa would just be frozen waste land. Still, on the other hand every thing I read says thin is healthier and I have recently heard that thin almost exclusively has to do with what you eat, not how much you exercise (not counting genetics here). One more thing…just so you know, you can be thin and still look old. I am that and there is nothing that I can do about it. It may not sound like it here, but I am mainly a happy, optimistic person and I love life. I just wish I didn't love food quite so much!

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  2. I've used food to comfort myself, to feel a sense of control when my life was in chaos, ever since I was a child. The entire time, I've felt ashamed and secretive about it. About six years ago, my visiting teacher gave me the book "He Did Deliver Me From Bondage," by Colleen Harrison. After reading it and doing some of the study and journaling prompts, I went to my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I've also been to the Church's addiction recovery groups, but personally I find OA more helpful.

    It has taken me several years to learn how to apply the 12 steps in a loving, consistent way. I've now been abstinent from compulsive eating behaviors for over a year, and am 30+ pounds down. That may not seem like a lot, and it may seem slow, but I'm realizing that the slow, steady loss will last–because it's an outward manifestation of an inward change. I've come to understand that when I'm in my addiction, food becomes my God: my comfort, my balm, my escape. When I'm actively recovering, I feel connected to my Savior and Father in Heaven–they give me lasting peace and comfort. The Atonement replaces my addiction, and I embrace repentance as a joyful liberation from the insanity of using food to numb me.

    I remember reading an article by Russell Brand about addiction. About his chemical dependencies, he said, "I don't have a drug problem; I have a reality problem." That's always stuck with me. I use food to bring a sense of control when I can't handle my reality. But OA, the 12 steps, and my reconnection with God has allowed me to deal with reality, one day at a time. I've been a member of the Church my whole life, but being in recovery through the 12 steps has allowed me to unlock my understanding of the gospel I've always known and to apply it in real and meaningful ways that always eluded me before. I feel like recovery has deepened and strengthened my faith and testimony, and my love for the Lord, and for that I'm more grateful than I can articulate.

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  3. I've tried lifestyle challenges that have helped me so much. I am more conscious about my fruit and veg intake, and mindful of when I'm full because I'm a slow, deliberate eater. I've noticed that when I have eaten correct amounts of the fruit and veg during the day, I'm not wanting my typically craved cake and things. In social situations, I still have the dessert, but only if it's worth it. If it's not something I really want and like, I just don't eat it. Unless it's somebody who would be offended, then I eat just enough to appease.

    I love food. I probably think about it enough to qualify for addiction counseling. Good food is so wonderful.

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  4. Kudos to you! Colleen's book is wonderful for any kind of healing, especially from addictions, and we all have one or two. I really enjoyed working through it, too.

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  5. I'm with you, Shelah — I can't ever decide if that extra 10 pounds is worth the worry. There is a point, though (15 extra pounds, in my case) when I just can't stand the way I feel, so I go back to healthier eating, which I actually love anyway, because good food is SO much better than those addicting french fries or soda. But then I gradually slip back into a routine that looks something like this: Grape Nuts and Kefir for breakfast, a veggie patty and sautéed greens for lunch, a large $1 diet Dr. Pepper and small fries from the McDonald's drive thru in mid-afternoon, a healthy dinner, then I'm always hungry at 10 pm, so I eat whatever I can find, my daily dose of discipline completely shot by then. I'm not a baked goods lover, but I do have a stash of chips and dark chocolate in my closet. The abundant life sure does present some interesting struggles!

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  6. Oh, food and the waist line. I've had my battles with gaining and lose 28 pounds up and down the scale since becoming an adult. (And I'm not even 5 feet tall, so that's a significant amount I've been flinging around.) Most recently, I hired a personal trainer, increased my attendance at the gym, visited a diabetic nurse for advice on managing carb intake (diabetes runs in our family, but I don't have it yet) and kept a food journal this last three months of spring all in an effort to get back to my "ideal weight," which was my renegotiated midlife ideal. And then I dropped 5 pounds in two weeks after my kids got out of school for the summer.

    All that money and effort to WORK (supposedly) back to an ideal. And what was making me get a "middle aged bulge" was really all the reading, writing, live streaming, and surfing the net (and snacking all day at my desk, which is in the kitchen. Sitting and snacking were the real causes, not a "slowing midlife metabolism."

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