My 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.
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?