I’ve had ample time in the past few days to remember how warped of a world a performing arts school is, especially where diet and fitness are concerned. Back here in the real world, I am extremely in shape when compared with most of my state school friends–no freshman fifteen for BFAs. But at school, there seems to be a constant unannounced competition of who can be the healthiest, work out the most, and, obviously, look the best. Through my fitness journey of the past four years, I’ve come to realize how toxic that attitude is, so it usually doesn’t get to me. But while my mom and I were taking a walk last night and talking, I came up with my Core Value of healthy eating, which I am going to call the cookie principle.
An illustration of this principle, using Lauren and Collegiate Case A (another twenty something girl struggling to look good in this competitive theatre world). We are at dinner in the caf. I see that they have brought out a tray of freshly baked, deliciously aromatic chocolate chip cookies that I cannot resist.
So I go and get one.
CCA watches me eat the cookie over her salad and half a cumquat, and declares that no, she could never eat one, but it looks so darn good, and if she could only have a cookie she’d be eternally happy, it’s the secret of the universe and everything, etc…but she’s on a diet. I enjoy my cookie and move on with my day (that cookie was my treat; I’m not going to indulge in anything else because it was delicious and enough). Fast forward to a week later. CCA is starving, crabby, and most of all, NEEDS A COOKIE. So same place, same time in the caf, she cries out, “Screw the diet!!”, grabs five cookies and three scoops of ice cream and sprinkles and syrup, and downs it all.
Later that night, she goes home and cries, feeling incredibly guilty about the whole thing, and vows to go back to the diet tomorrow.
And thus the vicious cycle continues.
The cookie principle, in short hand: eat the damn cookie. And let that be enough.
I don’t think diets work. Which is sad news to a lot of people. There is this huge wish out there for a magic solution, a week-long fix. And it seems to me that people are willing to suffer horribly in the search of this magic trick, both mentally and physically. And a lot of the time, they end up in exactly the same place they started because they simply cannot take any more deprivation. I know that this happened to me, before I realized dieting doesn’t work. A complete lifestyle change is, at least for me, the only maintainable form of healthy weight and fitness levels.
This means that while I don’t always get to go for my impulse and eat a whole carton of Heath Bar ice cream every night, I also don’t go to bed feeling horrible guilt and disgust. I eat my normal healthy meals each day, exercise for at least half an hour almost every day, and then feel fine about eating some dark chocolate or going to get fro yo with the girls.
I have found a huge amount of peace and contentment in moderation, true joy and stress relief in exercise, and pleasure from the food that I eat. That, more than weight loss, is a truly worthy goal.
Do you have a cookie principle?