New Year’s diet

I’m struggling with the diet my wife and I started after New Year’s. It’s only day 4 today, but the first week is always the worst, because that’s when you kick the sugar habit. Eating too much sugar is a life-long bad habit for me, ever since childhood, when I could eat everything I wanted and not gain a pound.

Weaning yourself off sugar (or caffeine, for that matter) does make you ask why you became so dependent on it in the first place. I haven’t read that much about what experts say about “comfort” eating or “emotional” eating, but the sense I have is that they are ways to find a quick, super easy way to feel better.

Of course, the real point is that there are more lasting, reliable ways to feel better, and most of these involve doing something worthwhile like helping someone else or helping yourself by eating right and exercising. Like most things that are worthwhile, these take more work than eating out of a vending machine.

Which takes me back to the first week of a diet. I find that I go into mourning for snack foods that I love (“I wish I had a black and white cookie.” “I wish I had a piece of chocolate cake.”) Then, the further into it I get, the more I admit to myself that I will appreciate being fit and in shape, and I will also appreciate not being controlled and hypnotized by processed, fatty foods.

Smokers say that after they quit smoking, they get to the point where they can really taste their food, and the same thing is true to a lesser degree with eating less junk food. All of the fresh vegetables start to taste delicious. I’m not allowed much fruit in the first week of this diet, but the fruit I am allowed (a tablespoon of raisins, a dried apricot) taste like candy.

There is a metaphor in this, that giving up quick, empty joys clears the way for you to notice deeper, more substantial joys. In three weeks, this will make me really happy.

For today, I am clinging to the fact that I have lost 2.5 pounds, and I get to eat a little applesauce for a snack later today.