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.