Why I Gave Up On Diets

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Diet is such an ugly word, isn't it? When I hear "diet", I think, "fad", as if it's just a short-term solution with no real sustainability. And I also think of suffering. Unfathomable human suffering.

I've never been one for dieting. I didn't try Atkins when that was the craze or buy all the South Beach books. But that all changed four years ago when I got back from living in Prague where I was drinking beer by the liter and eating whatever went with said beer, and I stepped on the scale and saw that I had reached my highest weight ever. This is what I looked like. That wasn't a good time.

Maribel Marmol
Image: Maribel Marmol

It took a lot of discipline and sacrifice, but I slowly started changing my habits and diet to lose weight. It took a long time and a LOT of hard work, but I did it, mostly on my own and with a steadfast determination to reach my goals. And now?

Maribel Marmol
Image: Maribel Marmol

Thirty pounds lighter and a realized passion for nutrition and health led me to this blog last year. And so we come full circle. Why this little walk down memory lane?

Well, I think back to about this time a year ago when I started joining groups on Facebook and Twitter that catered to this paleo diet. The first time I'd heard about the diet from a friend, I thought it was a joke. "You eat like cavemen? That makes absolutely NO sense!", I exclaimed. And yet, the more I read about paleo, the more I started to see the advantages. The diet calls for a total elimination of processed foods, which I was already doing because of my clean-eating philosophy. I felt that I wasn't eating enough meat, so following paleo seemed like a good incentive to get more meat protein in my diet. All of this and a commitment to eating the highest quality foods produced organically and GMO-free seemed like a major win. After considering those benefits, I decided it seemed like an easy transition, and I made up my mind that I was going to do this.

It was amazing. I felt like I had more energy. My stomach appeared flatter and I didn't have any problems with snacking or being hungry between meals. I also had a creative streak in the kitchen where I got to experiment with food in a different way. You can see some of those recipes here on this blog last fall. All of that was genuine fun and I didn't foresee any changes to the plan.

Then Hurricane Sandy happened.

Initially I thought it'd be good to try to maintain paleo throughout the week and then blog about it afterward. That lasted for one day.

After day three of no power and no hot water and then an exhausting hunt for food and supplies that took me all the way to the upper east side of Manhattan (a three-hour round trip that day from there and home), I stood in the bread aisle at Fairway and shrugged by tired shoulders. I just couldn't care at that point. Not when I knew I didn't have a refrigerator to preserve the meat and vegetables. And not while my city was falling apart. I had bigger concerns in that moment and none of them involved worrying about "cheating" on a diet. I snagged the rugelach cookies and went home with whatever wouldn't go bad to get us through the week, processed or not.

I was off the bandwagon from that week on. Maybe it was just the overwhelming power of sugar and it's ability to get you hooked like a drug addict. Whatever it was, I started to punch big holes through the diet and the tide shifted. I was no longer held captive by the allure of primal eating. Life felt too short and too precious to me at the time. I didn't want to spend any of it obsessing over what I was eating.

Which, by the way, is exactly what I was doing. Obsessing. Nitpicking. Over-analyzing. I realized a lot about myself during that strange week immediately after Sandy. There are aspects to my relationship with food that are ugly and the roots of that dysfunction are buried very deep. While I've managed to dig out some of that nastiness, I find that my past comes back to haunt me every now and then, and usually when my guard is down.

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