So, I’ve been on a diet, which is to say that I’ve been following a regimented eating plan in order to achieve physical results, namely weight loss.
I hate dieting. More than I hate the actual dieting part, though, I hate talking about dieting, because usually talk of dieting is tied to discussion of weight and appearance. Collectively these topics are, second to idle gossip, the most tiresome of discussion threads. You be the authentic you; I’ll be the authentic me. If the most authentic versions of ourselves happen to come in packages marked by either extra-cushiony tummies or finely-scupted biceps, well, that is an inconsequential matter. Be thin; be fat. Be you – the best version of you, whenever possible.
The best version of me, I must say, is not naturally abstemious. (Is that not the most marvelous word? You can thank Michelle at Gourmandistan for reminding me of it.) I am happiest, by which I mean easiest to get along with, when I’m being freely creative. Often I feel creative in the kitchen, and I find it easier to be creative when butter, cream, wine and chocolate are involved. Not one of these things is a staple in my current diet. As I mentioned, I hate dieting.
But I do enjoy living, even on the crummiest days, and I’d like to keep at it for a while longer, preferably without either daily medication or cardiovascular disease. Hence the diet to lose weight, as “lose weight” was next to last on the doctor’s “Steps to Address Cholesterol” checklist. The first item was exercise (check). The second item was food substitutions (also check, but also to no avail). The last item on the list was “Lipitor.” You get the idea.
There comes a time for all of us, I think, when staying at the party becomes more attractive than partying with reckless abandon, even if staying at the party means occasionally (frequently) replacing whipped cream-topped vanilla scones with oat bran and fat-free plain Greek yogurt.
Oh diet, how thou dost mock me.
Here’s a secret, though: the word-porn lover in me has always loved the word diet, despite my dislike for its most frequent usage. Diet is one of those great simple-yet-complex words with mixed Latin and Greek origin. Look up the etymology and you’ll find that our modern word “diet” has multiple roots, including Latin diaeta “prescribed way of living,” and Greek diaita, “way of life, regimen, dwelling,” and Latin dies, “day.”
I remember, as you surely do, sitting in 10th grade world history class and learning about the Diet of Worms, that assembly of good German men whose daily work was to handle Martin Luther, a good German man whose daily work was to buck the system.
I’ve always admired Martin Luther, even if I don’t necessarily agree with his basic tenets. He was, in essence, the gene mutation that propagated an entirely new wave of cell division in 16th century Europe. Think about that for a minute. One man, an Augustine friar, made it his life’s work to live by faith with conviction, even if it meant a life of exile. He said, in essence, “hmmm, I think there’s another way of looking at this,” a lot of other people said, “hmmm, maybe he’s right,” and even the Catholic Church finally had to say, “hmmm, maybe we should re-assess a few things.”
And it all came to a head at the Diet of Worms, where Luther was asked to recant his heresy, and instead he stood before the assembly and said, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” You do you; I’ll do me.
I cannot, with any degree of honesty, tell you that I’ve always lived by that principle, even though you know it is one of my favorites. I have not always avoided gossip or maintained a clear separation between “mine” and “not mine,” but I am growing into these things, I hope. I try.
Which means I still have work to do, daily, and I’d like a healthy stretch of years in which to do it. Hence the diet, the “eat a prescribed food regimen” one, one that seems to be working as intended, at least according to my cholesterol readings. Also it is reducing, by a tiny bit, the size of the goods I have to squeeze into my jeans. This is not an entirely terrible outcome, but it is merely a bonus side effect, not the primary objective.
I doubt I will ever get back into that violet Donna Karen dress that’s been hanging in my closet for 21 years, the beautiful dress that I just can’t seem to part with. This reality is acceptable, though, and more acceptable the older I get. Somewhere in between living abundantly and enjoying the abundance life offers there is a peaceful, and movable, equilibrium. Right now, for me, that balance hinges on a daily feast of oat bran, an occasional spoonful of maple whipped cream.
These things, I acknowledge, are easier to reconcile at 50 than at 25. At 25 I would have told you it wasn’t worth making it to 50 if daily living had to exclude cosmopolitans and include plates of undressed roughage. At 25 I wanted to look good in a bathing suit, but I did not want to give up much for it. Also I was often a gossip. I may have made an unkind comment about another woman’s weight. Life looks different from different vantage points. As I said, I am trying to grow into a better me.
One day, you know, irrespective of our wishes otherwise, worms (the creepy-crawly kind, not the city) will be feasting on all of us. That’s what our bodies are, in the end, when we’re finished using them: worm food. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It’s what we do between now and then that matters; that is our daily work, sometimes with a bit of required dieting. Here we stand; we can do no other.