I was sick at home a few weeks ago and my appetite (along with my energy, my throat and my good humor) was shot. I didn’t feel like eating anything in particular, but I was still hungry and I knew I needed to put something on my stomach. I did what any sick person with no sense of smell and a craving for carby, starchy, sweet and/or cheesy foods would do – I picked and pecked at random selections of food for three days straight.
And suddenly I remembered ABC. If you’re a dieter, and maybe even specifically a Weight Watchers alum, you will know what ABC stands for. WW Leaders would chant this weekly to their loyal followers, reminding us why we might not be reaching our goal weights. “ABC – All Bites Count!” they would decree, and we’d nod our heads in unison.
Another way of saying this was “If you bite it, write it.” It means that literally every little bite you take must be logged into your journal. It means that no bite of food, no matter how innocuous seeming, no matter if it was a whole bite, or a half bite, or a measly nibble, should go unrecorded, because surely it will be that one bite that will take all your weight loss efforts down. Unless we stopped to figure out the points value of one quarter of an Oreo cookie and write it down, surely that one unrecorded bite might be the gateway drug to actually satisfying our appetites, and that would be the death knell of our weight loss. One cannot have a satisfied appetite and lose weight, we all knew that.
That’s how it eventually got for me, caught in the frenzy of weight loss and weight maintenance: seemingly innocent crumbs of foods here and there could not could not go unaccounted without worrying about how they would affect the scale the next week. And god forbid you end up getting sick, or divorced, or have a loved one who dies, or you lose a job, i.e. real life stuff…because those are prime pecking situations, and you are seriously not going to want to record anything when any of these happen (which explained why so many people dropped out when major life events occurred. Because you cannot diet and lose or maintain weight and still have a real life that can accommodate important stuff.)
And then there are those times, like at a party, when you have one bite, then another, and another and another and you think, “Oh what the hell, too many bites to remember, might as well go for broke,” and you eat so much that your belly hurts and you feel the shame of going so far off your diet that you’ll surely have to starve the rest of the week to make up for it.
What no one ever tells us is that even if we manage to write every single bite, we might not be happy or satisfied with either our eating OR our bodies. No one ever tells us, “95% of people who write down all their bites still regain most or all of their weight within three to five years after losing weight,” even though that is what all the current science tells us. No one seems to want to acknowledge that even if you are a super-bite-writer, a significant chunk of your life might be sucky because all you can think about is how you’re going to avoid the bites you might have to write. Because even if you are one of the miraculous 5% who maintain their weight loss longer than five years, your whole life will be dedicated to this one task.
Let’s be honest: having to account for every single bite you put in your mouth – whether it is “working” or not – is a fucked up way to live.
So although I was sick and sniffly and kind of miserable, I was really grateful for one thing: I didn’t have to worry about any of the bites. I could give my body the energy it was asking for, no questions asked, no bite-writing required. I’m going to stick with intuitive eating and eating competence because for me, that is eating well and enough and guilt-free. No more ABCs for me.
Dietitians Unplugged podcast – episode 6 available now!
Episode 6 is called “Clean Eating or Toxic Ideas?” and we had so much fun talking about this subject.
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