This is not the first time I have commented that dieting is my final frontier. Nor is it the first time I have mentioned Reducing Diet #4 from the Shouldice Hospital. About a year ago in anticipation of inguinal hernia surgery I was introduced to Reducing Diet #4 from the Shouldice Hospital. I hasten to add that the Shouldice Hospital turned me away until I lost 45 pounds. Although I never lost 45 pounds (and therefore never had my hernia surgery at Shouldice Hospital) I nonetheless adopted the diet for about a month or six weeks. I can happily report that I lost some weight. When however my hernia surgery was accomplished I gradually returned to my old habits and added weight again.
This sequence is illustrative of the rigour of my habits. I weigh the same I have for the past several years. From this I conclude that I am eating precisely as I have done for the last number of years; that is, my calorie in-take (as excessive as it obviously is) is nonetheless constant. When I examine the Reducing Diet #4 (unlimited vegetables, two healthy portions of meat or fish each day, no sugar or starch) there is nothing about it which repels me. Where however I clearly run into problems is with extras like fruit, cheese, nuts, butter, peanut butter, yoghurt, bread, pasta and sweets, all of which are either severely limited or “forbidden” on Reducing Diet #4.
Considering that my normal meals are consistent with the diet, it requires little deduction to conclude that the problem is those nasty additives. Take butter and bread for example. I love butter and bread. And of course I seek to improve on the butter and bread by adding either peanut butter or cheese, lots of it. Frequently I can be found spooning peanut butter from the jar! Hideous, I know, but oh so good! And Roquefort cheese is the Sacrament of Heaven! The penalty of cheese I seek to disguise by combining it with a sliced green apple. And if all this fails there are always handfuls of nuts (pecans, cashews or walnuts) judiciously roasted without salt! Of course all those delectables – except in the most preposterously small portions – are right out! Unquestionably the residue of those items is disturbing and it is impossible to ignore the effect of their indulgence. The good news however is that those foods are perceived as rewards; more precisely, their purpose is not limited to providing sustenance and nutrition – in fact anything but! It is a small leap to the jar of strawberry jam or the pint of maple syrup. And as much as I may deceive myself to think otherwise, I regularly “treat” myself to things like pecan pie, donuts, fudge, ice cream and lemon cake. If I am at a loss to locate those items it is not beneath me to buy a can of sweetened condensed milk. Understanding this “reward” psychology about some foods is at the heart of my struggle. There may as well be some force to the sugar additive especially when I am feeling fatigued. The conundrum is tied up with conflict between pleasure and guilt. Inevitably it is a misguided trajectory.
All this is to say, small wonder! Aside from the gross habit of sweets, it is similarly deserving of analysis to question the matter of portions. In fact at this stage of my life the whole issue of eating has become a matter of education and refinement. There are so many sauces and jars of things that appeal to me when I am hungry. Yet after I have eaten I invariably wish that I had “purified” my consumption by eating plainer foods. But the model of eating celery or carrot sticks is seemingly not sustainable, at least not if one is at all sociable. I know this for a fact since I once lost about 60 pounds but during that feat I had virtually no social life. I spent most of my time on a bicycle and certainly didn’t go to bars or restaurants. I might also add that when my social life began to improve, I gained weight.
The inescapable conclusion is that those severely limited or utterly taboo foods are to be avoided. The educational part of this exercise is to learn that the deprivation is one that I can bear. Really, I can’t ever recall thinking that fudge was imperative to my happiness! And the business about shovelling quantities of stuff onto one’s plate has to be reined in. That’s the refinement. If all this seems impossible, I need only remind myself that there was a time when I conceived that a cigarette and a whiskey were vital elements of my landscape.
What propels me in this sadly repetitive exercise is the hope that one day I’ll be able to walk into a men’s clothing store and find something in my size without having to enquire whether they have a “big and tall” department. It is my ineffable ambition to sport a blouson short-sleeved white silk shirt and a pair of 34″ cargo shorts! That’s my final frontier! Meanwhile I am condemned to a far less appealing analysis of what’s on my plate.