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by Dr. Deah on Oct.23, 2011, under Tasty Morsels: by Dr. Deah Schwartz

My eyes open.  I languidly stretch my body.  I feel gratitude for my strong legs and murmur words of love to my round belly.  I roll over onto my side and serenely admire how my butt looks like two plump croissants nestled next to each other.  And as my thighs kiss each other good morning, I slip out of bed filled with excitement, self-love, and joy! Today is the first day of my new diet!!!

I walk into the bathroom and step on the scale.  Wow! What an amazing number!  I love that number! I am going to play that number in the lotto today!!  That is how freaking great that number is!  It must be a sign!!  I write the number down in my new Captain’s Log, after all this is a journey I am embarking on!  Sailing on the Good Ship Nutri-Pop!  I grab my robe and march towards the front door.

It’s still dark outside as I pick up the newspaper from the driveway and peel off the plastic wrapper dripping with dew. The crickets are cacophonous…who would think in East Oakland, California we’d have so many rural sounds?  Crickets, jays and that other bird with the beautiful song that I’ve never seen but always hear.  What a wonderful world! The snail slime is glowing, a luminescent magical trail spiraling back to my house, my neighborhood still in slumber. I’ve always been an early riser and have one of those freakish internal alarm clocks making it impossible for me to over sleep.

I walk into the kitchen, euphoric about my life.  Everything is so wonderful and on top of it all, today…I get to go on a diet!!  I start my “cawfee” (I grew up in New York) and open the pantry door.  Well, it’s just a cupboard.  Grandiose of me to call it a pantry, really. I guess that is a throwback to having grown up in a larger house in New York.   The place we kept certain kinds of food like breads and cereals, cans and nuts was called the pantry.

I pull out the box of prescribed breakfast muffins and unwrap this marvel…this miracle…this melt in your mouth,

“If you eat me for breakfast you will be thin and happy forever muffin.”

I am elated.

I am so happy with my body! I am so happy with my life! And this muffin “rawks duuude!” I write this down in my Captain’s Log along with the time I am eating it, how hungry I am before eating it, what I am wearing, who I want to sleep with, and the calories, fat grams, and sugars hiding in the crevasses of this mind blowing muffin.  I take a sip from my cup and then take a bite of the muffin.

Who am I kidding? Has anyone ever started a diet from a place of self-love and self-acceptance?

Take two

The alarm rings. I wake up with a start! I resist the urge to snuggle deeper into my cocoon and as I roll over I feel my stomach jiggle and my legs feel like two over inflated balloons.  I “greet” this day as I do every day with the mantra, “I hate my body.”

Then I remember, today is the first day of my new diet!  With a tremor of hope and anticipation, I roll out of bed and death-walk to the scale. I am filled with disgust as I record the number in my diet log, which I have used a million times before; for a million different diets.  I thumb back to the beginning of the book and my eyes, still crusty with sleep, well up with tears when I see how small the number was the first time I used this log. It is difficult to imagine why and how much I hated myself then! If I weighed now what I weighed then…I begin to spiral down…
“SNAP OUT OF IT!!!” I grab my robe and go outside to get the paper.  It is cold and dewy and I am greeted with the usual East Oakland morning concert of sirens, screeching cars, and the incongruent bucolic chirps of the crickets.

I make my cawfee and open the package that contains my prescribed morning muffin, which costs as much as a meal at French Laundry and is to be my breakfast.  Dutifully, I write down in the food log, what time it is, how hungry I and what I am eating.

The muffin,

which is the size of a ping pong ball, mocks me in its miniscule-ness.  It is not big enough to cut in half and enjoy the way a muffin is meant to be enjoyed…one luscious half at a time. It is dry, it is brittle, it is tasteless, and it taunts me:

“You wouldn’t have to eat me if you weren’t so fat and you weren’t such a failure!  If you had any self control you never would have gotten to this place. So nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah….I am all you deserve and in fact I am too good for you.”

I dunk it in my cawfee, partially to shut it up, but also to hydrate it… and it dissolves…leaving me with one itty bit left on my plate. 

Surely a tiny bit of schmear couldn’t hurt?  I mean really, this can’t be considered a breakfast?

My diet resolve has shifted gears now, and has moved to resentment as I pull the cream cheese from the fridge.  “At least it’s not butter!  If it was butter I’d really be bad! This is just a schmear!”

I put a dollop on the impostor muffin and pop it into my mouth.

“Mmmm, much better,” I purr as I take a sip of from my “You are the best mom ever,” mug.  I feel a twinge deep down in the inner mommy place as I think of my son, off at college now.  He always loved me, no matter what size I was.  How bad could I be if I was such a great mom? A feeling of familiar emptiness punches me in the gut as I look down and see that now I have a clump of cream cheese left over on the knife…it is yearning for a mate…like the back pages of the free newspaper listing singles ads, this schmear is undulating to be spread on something delectable.  Thoughts of my son replaced, like the yenta I truly am, I remember the raisin bread in the fridge…such a match!

I marvel at my self control as I wait for it to toast…if this was a real binge, I’d be eating it cold from the fridge, right?

But by now I have shifted gears again…in fact, I am in overdrive scrambling eggs, cutting up fruit and making myself a real breakfast with real food, schmear and all.  My fuel is anger, my fuel is the quest for self-soothing and yes, my fuel is hunger. Real hunger… why do you think breakfast is called breakfast?  Because you have been fasting for 8-10 hours and you need to break the f#*kin’ fast!

“Write this in your damn log,”…I tell myself after I have finished every crumb.

Too full, I ate more than I wanted…the myriad of emotions triggered by the deprivation and restrictiveness of this diet plan eclipsed my awareness of my body’s hunger/satiation signals.  What began as breakfast morphed into a whole new creature that in the end left me filled, not just with food…but with self-loathing. Another day and I have proven to myself that I am a failure.  Schmear and self-loathing in Las Vegas. East Oakland.

It has been a very long time since I lived in that particular hell, but I can recall every nuance as if it happened this morning because those days are etched in my psyche, part of a painful legacy.  But now that I have found and incorporated the recipe for living my life in concert with food and my body, instead of in conflict with food and my body I know and trust that those days are truly history.  Perhaps because of this past, I find myself becoming increasingly vehement in my anti-dieting stance as I engage with those struggling to find peace with food and their bodies.

What I hate most about diets is the total lack of self love included in any of the programs.  No one starts a diet from a place of loving themselves.  Restrictive diets, even when embarked upon for health related reasons, are accompanied by such an enormous lack of self love and a surplus of desperation that when combined are a certain recipe for failure.

I know someone is thinking, “But Dr. Deah, some people must be on diets for their blood pressure, or diabetes, or food allergies.” True, but that is really not the point I am making here.  Nor am I condoning unbridled unhealthy eating and suggesting that we all start living on M&M’s® and milkshakes 24/7.  What I am saying is that diets often use a goal weight as the measurement for success. This is problematic because too many people find that when they reach the magic number they are still unhappy.  Then what? They choose a lower number and another, and another. They are living in a state of suspended animation with self-love the ever elusive carrot on a stick.

Should we really be weighting to love ourselves??

In Dr. Deah’s Hollywood, it makes much more sense when loving our bodies/selves is a motivator for change.  Self-love does not mean that we have nothing left to learn about the world or ourselves, or that we don’t want to make changes in how we are living.  It DOES mean that we don’t have to achieve all of our life goals before we can begin to love ourselves.

I know it isn’t easy.   We’ve been trained to NOT love ourselves as we are right now, at this size, in this moment.  But honestly, it is worth the effort.  There are much kinder mantras than, “I hate my body.” And I guarantee you that trying to change from a self-hating to a self-loving mindset  is much more pleasant than eating those blasted turd-muffins for breakfast every morning.

Take 3

My eyes open.  I languidly stretch my body.  I feel gratitude for my strong legs and murmur words of love to my body.  I roll over onto my side and as my thighs kiss each other good morning, I slip out of bed.

No scale.       No diet.



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2 comments for this entry:
  1. Frannie Zellman

    For the record, the only people I have ever seen binging on M&M’s are a) those who haven’t seen M&M’s for months b) those who have been on a diet for months c) a and b are often the same.

    I am also wondering if there is another word instead of diet that we can use to describe the ways of eating for people who have diabetes or high blood pressure or food/gluten/wheat/other allergies.

    And yes, isn’t it an amazing weight *off* your mind and soul when you realize that you won’t be dieting again…thank you for portraying it so vividly and lovingly.

  2. Dr. Deah

    Thank you Frannie! And I agree about needing a semantic distinction. Food protocols sounds much too clinical, I wonder if other readers will have any suggestions?

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