It’s week three of my one small change: eliminating “boxed carbs”—cookies, pasta, shortbread, and my beloved Wheat Thins—from my diet. I’m not going to lie: It’s been a slog. (To get caught up on my journey: The New Eating Habit That’s Changing My Life, How Giving Up “Boxed Carbs” Uncovered the Need for Me to Become a Meal Planner.)
Not the carbs part. That part’s surprisingly doable. I know myself well enough to understand that I rebel against absolutes, so I gave myself a couple “outs.” I wouldn’t try to eliminate all carbs; if I wanted a pasta dinner, I’d give myself permission to get it—at a restaurant. (Realistically, I’m much too cheap to take advantage of this very often—though I admit that I’m probably lucky the Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Pass sold out in like five seconds.) If I wanted a loaf of bread, I could get one—at the bakery, where I’d buy bread made that morning, and which would be stale in 24 hours. (No desperate midnight toast from plastic bags of white bread that way.) I still eat sandwiches made by the master sandwich-maker on the ground floor of my apartment building. Half the time he runs out of bread by mid-afternoon—and once he’s done, he’s closed for the day. All these “outs” mean that I don’t do what I’ve done on previous diets: stare out the window and daydream about Dorito’s, or doughnuts, or pasta, or whatever it was that I just tried (unsuccessfully) to ban from my diet. Now I focus on one small change—and if I mess up, I let it go and move on. Or at least I try to.
The problem, then, is not avoiding the boxes of carbs. It’s what fills their place. I wrote last time about how this experiment has revealed my inability to plan meals. Three decades of bad habits have not been overturned in the previous seven days. At the moment, I’m ricocheting between good days and bad. On a good day, I have a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and salmon and vegetables for dinner. On a bad day—geez. On a bad day, I’ll have nothing for breakfast. String cheese for a snack, because of course I’m starving. A sandwich for lunch. Maybe another sandwich for dinner. Maybe a bar of chocolate. Maybe a bag of gummi bears. Sure, some days I’ll have the delicious grapefruit salad I found in Martha Stewart Living. But on a bad day? Probably not. Probably, I’ll have ice cream. Or maybe I’ll just do what I did a couple days ago: I bought a baguette, smooshed some brie into the middle of it, and ate it until I wasn’t hungry anymore. I remember crumbs everywhere, and being vaguely disgusted with myself.
Nobody needs to tell me how bad this is. When I said that this has been a slog, I was, if anything, under-reporting. It’s laid bare how much I relied on the very basics, on pasta and bread, to get by—to the exclusion of the vegetables and proteins I know my body craves. I can do a lot of things: I can run a marathon. I can find exciting young product designers (my main job). I once drove from London to Mongolia in a 1990 Nissan Micra. I can happily spend an afternoon catering to my dog’s (or my godchildren’s) every whim. I can boil some pasta, dump some jar-sauce on it, and call it dinner. But I cannot “whip up” a healthy meal.
Well, yet. I can’t do it yet. But I promise you—even if, as I said, I can’t change 30 years of bad habits overnight, I can begin to steer the ship in a different direction. By my next post, I’ll know a little bit more than I know today. I messed up. I’m letting go. I’m trying to move on.
Have you learned the art of self-forgiveness? What helps you stick to your diet goals? Share in the comments below!