When I read the Week 1 chapter of The Slow Down Diet, I was willing to buy into the idea that my speedy lifestyle had made me fat. Although I did not know how I was going to relax when I ate, I decided to try. Trying to relax has always seemed like a contradiction in terms for me, so I was not as successful as I might have been. Eventually, that changed, but not for a long while.
I continued my reading with the Week 2 chapter, which deals with food quality. Here begins the part of the book that really spoke to me. David's premise is that we overeat because our bodies know exactly what nutrients we need. They continue to tell us that we are hungry until we get those nutrients. This makes sense. It's easy to see how someone eating junk food could eat forever and never feel satisfied. The Slow Down Diet advocates eating only the best, most nutritious foods.
Unfortunately, what I heard at first was that I had to throw out all the food in my house and begin from scratch with "whole" foods. My belly button began to pucker. This was going to be expensive. I actually dismissed the idea that I could do it and put the book down for a long time. Even though I was not reading it anymore, the information I had gained stayed with me. Slowly, I began making better choices at the grocery store.
I was aware of some of the bad foods in my diet, things I would do better to leave behind, like white flour and sugar. Granting that these were not the best available foods for me, I also had to admit that I don't like home-made whole wheat bread. Part of the reason is that it contains very little sugar, unlike its store-bought cousin. I make most of our bread (with a bread machine), and I even went as far as to buy some whole wheat flour, but the results were simply unpalatable.
I needed to compromise. Changing habits is hard. Eating is a habit, possibly our oldest one. The only time I can make changes with staying power is if I do it a little at a time. I don't change my entire routine. I make one small change and work on it until it sticks. Then I can move on to something else. Some people call these changes baby steps. Most people forget that baby steps are still steps. So you don't go 60 miles an hour. Where's the hurry, if you still get there? On the other hand, if you go fast and can't see it through, like my low-carb starvation diet, where's the benefit?
The change was gradual. The idea was to eat the healthiest food I liked, and not cut myself off from any foods. I stopped buying expensive commercial whole wheat bread and ate my own homemade white bread made without sugar. I don't eat a lot of this bread. I began to buy a healthier brand of pasta. I don't like whole wheat pasta, and I won't eat what I don't like. I buy healthy whole wheat crackers, but I still buy white flour tortillas. Again, I don't eat a lot of these. A couple of times a month, I indulge myself with fluffy Southern biscuits or pancakes. One day I tried real maple syrup, the kind that costs $6 for 10 ounces. I discovered that I didn't need to use nearly as much of it as I did of pancake syrup made from corn syrup and heaven-knows-what.
I planted a garden. I started with cold-weather crops that were easy to grow, like lettuce. I began supplying us with fresh salads and other fresh vegetables. It didn't affect my grocery bill in any significant way, but it got me outdoors and gave me a new pleasure in life, that of nurturing plants and watching them thrive. It gave me a little extra exercise as well. The garden also helped expand my food horizons. When summer brought lots of fresh basil, I learned to make pesto and tomato-basil soup. My family quickly took to these healthy and delicious additions to our menu.
There were places I resisted. Until recently, when I made cookies, I used margarine in place of butter. My rationale was that butter costs 5 times as much as margarine. Not long ago, I made a pan of blondies. I decided to splurge and use butter instead of margarine. The cookies were to die for, but more importantly, we didn't inhale them. They were satisfying.
Sometimes, when I eat something sweet, it is no sooner swallowed than I find myself craving more. Pecan shortbread cookies come to mind immediately. I stopped buying them because of the alarming speed with which I consume them, and the great amount of will power it takes not to eat the whole package. There is something wrong when eating one cookie makes you want to eat a pound of them!
Now when that happens, I make careful note of what it was that made me feel that way. Then I try to improve its quality, so that it provides more nutrition. I did this with breakfast, and found that I usually need a light snack at mid morning, and I don't need anything else until noon, when we eat our main meal of the day. More about this next time.