Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas and Candy

Today, a coworker who is leaving the company gave me a box of 5 Ferrero Rocher chocolates as a goodbye/Christmas gift. In the past when I was trying to “diet” to lose weight, such a gift would have been regarded as a waste at best, and possibly a burden at worst. When “dieting” and denying myself such “forbidden” pleasures, I would have to give away or throw away this act of kindness and thoughtfulness (as it is one of my absolute favorite candies). My response internally would almost certainly have been one of repressed frustration at being given something I enjoy, but not being allowed to enjoy it. I might also have projected some sort motive to sabotage me on my coworker, who may have noticed that I had been losing weight but gave me candy anyway.

I’m pleased to say that I could accept it with a smile and the sense that I could look forward to five days of savoring the pleasure of them one at a time. At 75 calories per candy, they’re within the allotment I give myself for a day’s treats, though they are a bit on the higher side of what I usually eat as a single candy.

This experience has made me reflect on several things. First, there is the dieter’s mentality and how it increases the chances of failure because of the emotional responses to denial. I remember one of the times I attempted to diet and failed when I bought a box of chocolate and hid it from my husband because I didn’t want him to see that I’d was “cheating”. He found the half-eaten box and I felt terrible for having been “caught”. Of course, he didn’t chide me or accuse me of not wanting to succeed, as that is not his way. He just looked sad for me because I couldn’t make it work for myself.

Denying myself things I enjoyed in the past just made controlling my eating that much harder. It’s odd, but eating treats regularly in small quantities actually makes calorie control far easier as it leaves the baggage that comes along with feeling “deprived” behind. It also makes the notion of a “cheat day” ridiculous. By most people’s standards, I “cheat” a little everyday.

Second, there is also the part of the dieter’s thinking process where everyone around you is seen as a potential saboteur for offering you things that don’t fit in with the limits of your meal plan. I’ve written before about people who insisted and pushed me to eat pizza and other foods I saw as verboten when I lost weight around the end of college. What they did was far pushier than this type gift, and they were well aware of my eating restrictions and pushed me to “have fun”.

This candy gift is rather different because I have never discussed my recent dietary changes with coworkers. That being said, the very fact that I have been losing weight and that is obvious to everyone around me might make me think the candy is a passive-aggressive gift. I know it is not, but I might be more inclined to think it was if it brought out all sorts of feelings of denial and frustration. It strikes me that thinking that everyone should be aware of and accommodate your (unannounced) diet and restrictions is rather narcissistic (except in health-related cases such as being diabetic or having heart disease), but I think one’s perspective can get pretty warped when on the weight loss path.

I remember in the past when trying to diet that I felt really depressed and resentful when special days like my birthday or Christmas rolled around and I couldn't experience anything special in terms of food. A lot of people deal with these situations by focusing on the non-food experiences at this time, but I’m a food addict and part of the reason for that is that I love the experience of eating. I love the smell, taste, and texture of good food. There simply is no substitute for that sort of pleasure and I can’t fool myself into thinking that watching a special movie, singing songs, decorating, or doing volunteer work is going to obliterate the sense that I’m missing out on something I’d really enjoy if I were permitted it. I’m so gratified now to have found a way to not have to feel all of those negative feelings associated with the holidays and food, and to still lose weight.


dlamb said...

Totally relate to this post, including the narcissistic nature of looking at the world when denying myself "special" food. This is the reason I really like calorie counting and why it works for me.
Generally speaking I stick to what is considered good nutrition and I have given up a lot of things, for the most part. I avoid "empty calories" whenever I can. I've eliminated diet soda due to concern about bone density issues, though I allow myself about 6 sips a day with my vitamins, which refuse to go down with water, without my gagging.
Having said that, if I am having a particularly difficult day and I feel like I need to have something relatively innocuous in my mouth so that I don't overeat, I will allow myself several pieces of my favorite flavor SF hard candy. Is the splenda a great choice? Probably not but it keeps me happy and satisfied and distracted from something that could probably be more harmful. For the same calories as a single grape, I am "eating" for 30 minutes and feel like it is a great indulgence. At this point I'll take my chances with the artificial sweetener, rather than eat an additional 600 calories of something healthier. I'm ok with that.

screaming fatgirl said...

There's a bit of hypocrisy displayed by people when it comes to artificial sweetener use. They came into existence for diabetics, and no one would say a diabetic should have to lead a life of spartan eating or pious nutrition, but if a fat person uses artificial sweeteners to help lose weight, then they are derided for not eating more puritanically.

People "poison" themselves with food and drink of dubious value everyday (sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, red meat, fried food, etc.), but they never question their choices. It's the fat people who get scrutinized and roundly criticized for eating evil chemical sweeteners. My liver has never been touched by alcohol. I think it's powerful enough to deal with some Splenda everyday.

People would criticize me for consuming too many calories, and then criticize me again for needing such "crutches". They can't have it both ways. I'm not capable of living the nutritionally monastic life they believe I should lead (nor are they capable of it, in all likelihood). There is what is possible for me with my limits and leaps I can't make (at least not yet). We all do what works for us and we all accept the consequences. I'm with you in this regard. I'll take my sweetener and deal with the consequences because it helps me get from where I was to where I want to be.

dlamb said...

Oh, you would be surprised, or perhaps not, what people cannot tolerate when it comes to those suffering from diabetes or any other illness, disorder, disability or...inability. Doing YOUR best is not acceptable. Doing THEIR best is the only tolerable option to some. Any fluctuations, meandering on the continuum of human behavior or even taking one's time to arrive at their point of view is pretty much rejected and if you also happen to fail, get sick(er) or worst of all, not feel repentant for doing it your way...well, we talked about it on your last post.

What never ceases to amaze me is that when it comes to other issues, the same people allow themselves just about any behavior and are proud to go against the grain, are pleased with their individuality and pretty much blow off anybody who holds a different point of view. They stand strong and appear to be completely unwilling to see that their way is not the only way and they may, indeed, do some things that may cause harm to themselves or others, with their behavior. The irony of this hypocrisy appears to allude them OR they rationalize or justify their own behavior, though rationalizing and justifying is abhorrent in others.

screaming fatgirl said...

I think most people lie about what "their best" is. Some of the angriest and most over-zealous people out there fall back into their old bad patterns after some success, yet they continue to be extremely judgmental and lacking in compassion.

My husband and I have had arguments in the past because I am able to read most people very quickly. I size them up and understand them at a frightening speed and he can't see it. When they are people he likes and I see something negative, he can get defensive and refuse to believe what I have to say. He tells me that he has to "get there on his own". Knowing this, I try to understand that the dictatorial types have to suffer some more before they get there on their own and stop judging others. Suffering breeds the best understanding, unfortunately.