Dear Lieutenant Commander Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation, please excuse me from borrowing and modifying your Klingon battle cry; “Today is a good day to die.” But changing ‘die’ to ‘diet’ nicely sums up what I want to talk about.
For many of us, Monday is a mini New Year when we resolve that this is the week we start treating ourselves well and not like a walking version of the Central Bedfordshire food recycling box. I don’t suppose I’m the only one who forgets that left over food can go in here and be taken elsewhere to be composted, rather than being put in my stomach where it composts nicely onto my bum.
Monday in a lot of people’s books is a dreaded day, of hauling your backside off the mattress at some unearthly hour and schlepping into work to embark on yet another week of the same old same old. But even though we dread Mondays and they’re stressful enough already, we’re pretty sold on the idea that a new healthy eating or living regimen needs to start on this day of the week. Seventeen of my Facebook friends (always a reliable data set), would start such a campaign on a Monday and so would I. It seems the natural day for this to happen because you haven’t had time to louse anything up yet. You’ve got a fresh new week ahead of you, you’ve spent the weekend eating up the contents of the fridge and there’s a good chance you’ll make it to Friday – 5 whole days – before someone moots the idea of going for a curry. By Friday you’ll no doubt have lost at least 50 lbs (or it’ll feel like it), so will be entirely justified in having one of everything on the menu with extra poppadoms. You feel like a whale on Sunday, Monday rolls around and off we go again on the diet rollercoaster.
Some people have a different tack, such as starting midweek, on a special date or even a season. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a whole lot easier to embark on such things during late spring and summer. Blue skies and warmth really do have a positive impact on the way you think about yourself. I know there are such things as warm salads, but from about October to March I really don’t want to stray too far from casseroles, stews, curries and pasta. At this time of year my body is yelling ‘sod the cucumber, just gimme the carbs!’
But I’m weary of the diet treadmill. I’ve been on it with varying degrees of success since I was 16 and I just want to be off it. Richard Foster the author of the very wonderful Christian book Celebration of Discipline (no, it’s not any shade of grey), says this which resonates very deeply with me. “The disciplined person can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The disciplined person can live in the appropriateness of the hour.” In his book he says that the discipline you need to cultivate is not a set of rules. True discipline is being able to respond to things appropriately. Are you being the party-pooper holding the celery stick at the feast or, conversely, the greedy guts at the agape supper? There are times to celebrate and there are times when it’s just not appropriate to be stuffing your face and you need to be able to respond to that. Also, he tells me that discipline is something that’s a daily thing that you work on – it’s organic. It’s not an all-or-nothing event but a choice you make regardless of outside circumstances.
Having made my way through most of Richard Foster’s book now, I’m realising that every day is an opportunity to treat myself well and to care for my body. It doesn’t just need to happen on a Monday with all guns blazing. It can happen quietly on a Wednesday, a Friday or Tuesday afternoon. It doesn’t depend what’s in the fridge it’s just exercising the choice not to eat the contents of it and go into Sunday evening with that bloated, heavy feeling that makes you decide that Monday is another all-or-nothing event to get your head around this stuff.
As we know from the story of the Hare and the Tortoise; ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ OK, so you might not break the land speed record for weight loss, but making a simple choice every day to choose to value yourself and not be a Central Bedfordshire food recycling box is a good discipline to cultivate.
Lent starts on Wednesday (13th Feb) and many people choose to give up a food or drink item during that time. The classic is chocolate and at the end of it many are found in a Cadbury-induced coma on Easter morning. How about breaking that association with food that’s ‘bad’ for you (I detest that phrase, it’s not ‘bad’), and fast by doing something else? Give up watching TV, buying a newspaper or listening to music. Walk when you’d usually take the car, or dig out your bike and cycle to work. I’m going to try and not whinge and whine for the entirety of Lent. This is going to be extremely tough and will probably mean removing myself from all social media just to be able to cope! Some of us spend a lot of time criminalising food and that’s not really helpful when it’s our attitudes to it and to ourselves that are the real problem. So this Lent, be nice to your food and give up something else instead.