I wrote the below piece with the Huffington Post in mind; however, the editors declined to publish it. Without specific feedback, I can only conjecture that it might be because of my “European” (some might say “politically incorrect” or “controversial”) views about dieting, being thin, and getting satisfaction from fitting in size 2 pants and compliments from my husband. What do you think?
I recently heard Norma Kamali say that “Every woman has self-esteem issues [and] there isn’t a woman in the world that doesn’t have issues with food.” Is that true, I have been wondering? I am fortunate enough to never have suffered from an eating disorder, and think of myself as quite self-confident. However, a month ago, after being on a serious diet since January, I derived what some would call unnatural pleasure going to my favorite clothing boutique and purchasing size 2 pants (finally, I can again fit in size 2 pants!). I also am totally fanatical about entering everything I consume in my phone’s Lose It app, something my mother thinks is a sign of insanity. And I have a picture of the perfect female behind in a tiny yellow bikini on my fridge. Doesn’t everybody?
Let me back up. I grew up in Switzerland and moved to the US for college. One of the true culture shocks I had related to the food culture here. Aware of portion sizes and the ease of availability of fast food, however, I managed to avoid putting on the famous “Freshman 15.” While I have always been careful about what I ate (and I remember trying the Atkins diet around 2007 for a brief 14 days), I have never truly had to struggle with my weight. My father did however always tell me (and my three younger sisters) that sugar was evil and that we owed it to ourselves to be, and stay, thin.
Up to about two years ago, I could still fit in my favorite high school dress, and had a relatively stable weight that hovered around 120 lbs (not bad for my 5’3 height). Then, something happened. Maybe my metabolism changed when I hit my mid-thirties (my Mom warned me this happened to her at 32). Maybe I started spending more time in New Orleans. Maybe I was so happy in my marriage I let my “food guard” down. Who knows? My pants were feeling tight (they must have shrunk in the wash!) and looking inside my closet every morning became annoying and depressing. I tried to diet for 5 days at a time, which only added to my frustration as nothing changed that quickly.
Finally, after having my “fat weight” peak at 132 lbs., I decided this past January I really needed to lose weight. Seriously. I decided that if I didn’t do it, two years from now I would be at 145 lbs., and my tights would keep on getting tighter.
I made it back to 120 lbs. on June 26th, the day before I left for my beach vacation (I am sure I have since then put on a couple lbs. in Greek salads…).
My girlfriends ask me what I did – and I tell them: the best diet is to be hungry all the time. Specifically, here are some tips that have worked for me since January:
- I downloaded an app called Lose It, entered my actual weight and my goal weight, and received my “daily calorie budget” (just over 1,200, not a lot considering I like my wine). I enter everything I consume (eat and drink), as well as any exercise, and try to stay within my calorie budget.
- I pick my calories more carefully. Is that piece of bread really worth the equivalent of one more glass of chardonnay?
- I do also drink less, remembering that a glass of wine is worth about a 15 minute run.
- I have for the most part replaced red meat with fish. Amazing how few calories salmon has when compared to a steak.
- I have for the most part banned carbs, trading for foods that I can eat more of for less calories (most vegetables).
- I have realized that eating three “real” meals a day will never work with my calorie budget. For a day with three meals, I exercise, to up those total calories allowed. Otherwise, breakfast is now a 60 calorie yogurt, and lunch a salad with a tablespoon of olive oil.
- I have learned to love the feeling of being hungry. Being hungry means I am doing well on my calorie count. Also, when truly hungry, I try to drink some water before eating, realizing that my brain sometimes confuses the feeling of being hungry with that of being thirsty.
- When all else fails, I think back to those months of looking at my clothes knowing that I could not comfortably wear ¾ of them. And I look at the image of the perfectly shaped behind in the Mini Bikini of Mykonos that is on my fridge. And I remember that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
In addition to fitting in my clothes and feeling more attractive, my newfound motivation to keep the weight off, my realization that this is not a “diet” but my “new reality,” comes in part from the compliments I have received from my husband recently. While he never said anything negative about me at 132 lbs., he tells me at 120 lbs. how attractive I am, how beautiful my body looks, how easy my dresses are to zip up. And that gives me insane pleasure. In the July issue of In Style Magazine, Salma Hayek admits: “a lot of the effort I make [to dress beautifully] is for my husband because I want him to be attracted to me.” For example, she wears leather when in Paris with him because he likes her in leather. She loves it when he tells her she looks good; after seven years of marriage, she says, “it’s nice to know he still finds me attractive.” I haven’t been married seven years yet, but feel exactly the same – does that mean Norma Kamali was indeed right?