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February 13, 2020

The Ultimate Diet. (Or When Eating Is Religion.)

I first discovered myself on the diet-bunny-trail after the birth of my first child—over a quarter of a century ago. Already?

I was an over-the-moon-in-love new mom who wanted The Best for her child and her family—who doesn’t? Good intentions had me devouring copious amounts of reading material about health and diets. Except, are you familiar with the saying: “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?”

At that time, my keen interest was not to shed pounds—that came later—it was for health reasons. How I got on the diet spinning wheel is unimportant, since we all end at the same altar eventually—even if the paths differ.

My first commandment became no white anything. I concocted my first “healthy” cookies from whole wheat flour and honey. My experiment produced something akin to a hockey puck rather than something edible—much less tasty.

My mission did not end at a failed cookie experiment, however. No. I went from one thing to the next. I wanted the Holy Grail of diets. I was so militant in my beliefs that—I am a tad embarrassed to admit—I became concerned about food when invited to dinner.

Gasp! What if I was fed white flour? Or worse, the bleached GMO-stuff no less!

Growing up in France, the word “diet” was not even part of my vocabulary. Food is a love affair in France, not just sustenance.  Meals must not only titillate the palate but also feast the eyes. Eating is an entire body experience—may I even whisper— a spiritual experience?

We, French, are liberal with our flour, wine, and butter usage. And, I must admit, French food is wonderfully delectable.

In college, I gave no thought to food beyond survival. What I consumed had to be cheap, easy to store in my minuscule fridge, and equally easy to cook in—you won’t believe this if you know me—the microwave or on a hot plate.

Fast forward a few years, breeze through a wedding and two blue lines on a pee stick, and ta-da, usher my grand entrance into Dietdom.

Was it the pregnancy hormones?  The heavy mantle that I was now responsible for the growth and an entire human being from toenails to brain matter?  A being, who I might add, had no say? The ample amount of material handed to me by my midwife?  I don’t rightly know.

What is undeniable is that a seed was not only planted but also took root and sprung up like new shoots in the Spring, eager to produce fruit.

Much has changed in almost three decades while some things remain very much the same.

By all accounts, I am still interested in health.

I am still opinionated.

I am still a student of health—as well as anything which strikes my fancy.

I am still a bibliophile lost in the magical world of books, always a tad dismayed knowing I can never read them all.

I have also noticed something peculiar about diets over the decades: they come and go, and they are eerily similar to organized religion.

Before you lynch me, please, hear what I have to say, and then, we can agree to disagree if we must.

Diets—all of them—have the trappings of religious affiliations. The word “cult” may be closer to the truth. There is always a leader—an author, a doctor, a researcher. There is a “sacred” text of sort—a book, a study, a story, or an opinion. And, then, there is the promise of Paradise or Nirvana—weight loss, health, beauty, whatever. It’s always something we desperately long to manifest. Something with the promise of more happiness. Somehow.

And lastly—but not least—there are the devotees who adhere to the Diet and its tenants with dedicated fervor, sometimes bordering on the ­fanatical.

The darker side of these diet cults are the nameless beings—most often women—who are sacrificed on their altars.

I was once a devotee myself. I had fervor coupled with passion—a dangerous combination. I even had good intentions—moral, ethical…right?

Pass the chips, please.

A few years back, the middle age pudge caught up to me—overnight it seemed—although neither my diet nor my level of physical activity had changed. I was pugnacious about wanting to get back to my slimmer former self. I ravenously read through books and gleefully joined Facebook groups for “support.”

While I did not shed the resilient pounds, I did gain enlightenment.

One such group—which shall remain nameless—was stricter than most. The Book was only second to Holy Scriptures. Any curious bystander without knowledge of the Book was speedily referred to its pages with the accompanying admonition that one would never succeed without being well versed with its doctrines—which were neither to be openly questioned nor disputed.

Excommunication—or more aptly, expulsion—from the group for dissenters was swift. Admittedly, I did get my fingers slapped a couple of times.

The Believers defended their stance with forceful gusto bordering on hysteria. Those who praised the method with accompanying “success” pictures were admired and ushered to an inner sanctum akin to Sainthood.

Black Sheep did not fare as well.

The women who, despite heroic efforts and complete adherence to The Commandments, did not drop the offending pounds, or worse, those who did not adhere to the letter of the Law, were the collateral damage. Any failure was deemed the fault of the user, not the program. These individuals became the Rejects. The Lost.

Those unsuccessful individuals had high hopes when they joined. They wanted to believe this diet was the answer. The Way.

Finally!

Paradise!

The weight would come off and they would get their body back. Maybe even their AWOL self-esteem. They would be noticed and maybe even accepted. Like an unwanted skin, they would shed this ball and chain called weight and its accompanying shame.  The lost pounds would make them enough.

Some women remained for years in that group, clinging to hope. In this abusive cycle, some destroyed their metabolism at best, and their self-worth at worst. Others, despondent, quit. In the end, all their voices were silenced.

Sadly, as it almost always does, The Diet became more valuable than the beings it was supposed to help.

There are casualties in every diet.

I have known individuals on Weight Watchers, macrobiotic, low-carb, Keto, intermittent fasting, South Beach, vegan, etc. The list is lengthy—maybe, endless.

Some adherents were more militant than others in attempting to make converts.

I used to have a recipe blog and regularly I would receive messages such as this: “You used this “insert offending” ingredient in your recipe!  It is so unhealthy. I am unfollowing you.”

Why lose five minutes of our precious finite life to tap away on a keyword rather than just click “unfollow?”

I do not have an issue with conscious beings making conscious choices. However, I do have a problem of sorts with those who wish to make converts—especially if I am the prey. Our job is not to convince anyone to be like us. Our job is to live our best life.

I have yet to witness a single exchange—on the Internet or in person—where name-calling, threats (yes, threats), accusations, shaming or pointing out the “errors” of one’s way resulted in a positive outcome.

“Gee, thanks for butting into my business with your unwanted opinion and calling me an insensitive, uncouth, ignorant nincompoop. I now see the error of my ways. Thank you for saving me.”

People don’t give a flying leap about our opinions unless they know we care about them and, even then, we are all entitled to make our own choices as free beings.

Are there foods I will not eat?

Yes. But only because I am fortunate to live in a world where I can make such choices, and in which survival is not a daily occurrence.

Do I believe my views and my data to be “right?”

Of course, I do. If I believed my views to be erroneous, I would neither hold to them nor live by them. The same goes for everyone.

Have I always been right?

Goodness no.

Have my views ever changed over time?

Some of them—thank God.

The beginning of my fifth decade is behind me, and I am grateful I have grown, changed, and matured through each previous decade of life.

Life circumstances have shaped me.

While some of my beliefs have remained the same, others have evolved or gone by the wayside altogether.

To be honest, I worry about people who never change. It is good to discover early in life that the sun does not revolve around us—who knew? Also, not everyone cares to hear our point of view—although they should. (I am only kidding.)

I am ever-learning, ever-growing, and ever-changing. For these reasons, I am appreciative of the fact others are on their own journey, with their own external and internal struggles. I was not born on this earth to be “Messiah” to anyone. My job is to keep my eyes on my horizon—which keeps me plenty busy thank you very much—and to trust that others do the same even if their mission makes no sense to me.

Do I have less than kind thoughts about some of the choices some individuals make?

Sometimes. That’s not to say it’s a fact I am particularly proud to admit. I am a work in progress, and I have yet to attain perfection—and I don’t honestly expect to on this side of Heaven. I am a beautiful mess called a human being, as are you.

The science of nutrition is in its infancy. It was birthed at the end of the 19th century. The variables are many. I don’t even call it a science; it’s more of an art really.

I believe, as our fingerprints are unique, so are our biochemistry, thoughts, childhood, and so on. We are unique, and there are, therefore—or should be—as many diets as there are people.

Yes, some diets are effective, especially for the creators of such diets, as well as a handful of their followers.

Can we all agree some foods are not as healthy as others?

Yes. Nevertheless, I believe we have the right to eat such food. This is called Freedom. If we do not have the choice to put into our bodies what we choose, we are not free at all.

There are far more destructive things than any one food—or food group. Toxic things like negative thoughts, negative words, trolls on the internet, and people who do not mind their own business.

When did our bodies become the enemy to conquer rather a friend to love and accept, not because it looks good but because it is good?

Our body is not a foe to subjugate. The saying “no pain no gain” has not done us any favors. If we treated our friends as we do our bodies, I would surmise to say we’d have none. Our body is not just eye-candy or decoration. It is a tool for us to be in the world. To savor it. Experience it. Enjoy it. Can we love it even if it does not manifest the way we wish it should?

Our body is not a representation of our Essence. The person we really are. We are enough whether we are a size 0 or 16 or 22. Our worthiness should be attached neither to pounds on a scale nor numbers on a piece of fabric. In the end, we all need a plot six feet under or a simple urn.

We want to be vegan?

Great! Let’s go for it!

Vegetarian? Paleo? Keto? Pescatarian? GAPS? Soy-free? Whatever…

Awesome. Let us Embrace it. Live it. Embody it. Love it….and let us leave everyone else alone to find their own way.

Diets are neither a path to Sainthood nor a direct route to Heaven.

If we are asked for our opinion, then let us humbly share and teach rather than condemn or shame. Let us respect each other enough to allow different choices—yes, even poor ones.

Why?

Simply because we are all beautiful masterpieces and also mess-makers and I don’t think this fact will change anytime soon.

Dehumanizing others by using such tactics as name-calling only invites more destruction and hate. It does not, nor has it ever, nor will it ever, usher lasting change.

We all know the old saying: “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar.”

It’s true.

Grace is the honey. Criticism and unkindness, the vinegar.

As none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, I invite you to live fully today focused on your life and your choices.

We don’t miss the body of those who have departed—as we won’t miss ours when it’s our turn—we crave their Essence in a body.

In conclusion, what are my views on diets?

It’s simple really.

Human beings grow best on a steady diet of kindness marinated in love and liberally sprinkled with grace. And, yes, you may add the cherry on top.

This is the ultimate diet.

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Florence Witt  |  1 Followers