I’m writing this just after enjoying a piece of cake and coffee for dessert. First off, let me just say both were amazing: the coffee organic and fresh-brewed, and the chocolate cake, with mousse filling, not too sweet and very delicious.
And I’m here to declare that it was not a slab of failure I had for dessert.
It wasn’t a symbol of past attempts at losing weight. It wasn’t a remnant of my dysfunctional childhood. It wasn’t a chunk of defeat. It wasn’t a treat, or a reward, or a cheat. It was just a piece of cake.
Throughout my life, I’ve spent lots of time beating myself up, berating myself for not doing enough, not doing it right, not following through, not taking care of myself—I could continue with this list for quite some time without running out of material, but I’ll spare you. So when I decided I was going to be kind to myself, and treat myself lovingly, it felt like a truly radical act. And it might in fact be the most impactful change I’ve made.
“Not beating myself up” has continued to evolve, as I’ve continued to pay attention to my inner dialogue.
One place that lingering unpleasantness has been present is when I “fall off” my diet. I haven’t talked about food in this column a whole lot, other than to note that I “eat clean,” which to me means only that I eat real food. I rarely eat processed food, I almost never eat fast food, and I cook most everything from scratch.
The main dietary change I’ve made since I started to get serious about my health has been to cut processed carbs: chiefly white sugar and white flour, both of which were abundantly present in the piece of cake I just ate.
I had an interesting argument with myself earlier over said piece of cake, and I came to the conclusion that is the headline of this column: It is not a slice of failure.
So what are the pros and cons?
Calories, of course. I estimate that piece of cake had roughly a zillion. Refined carbs. I don’t want to be diabetic, and that means keeping refined carbohydrates in check. The only other real con I can come up with is beating myself up.
On the pro side are things like being happy with who I am, and content with the progress I’ve made. As the singer Pink famously said when her young child asked her why she was squishy, “Because I’m happy, baby.”
Now, this last point is only true if I refrain from beating myself up when I eat a piece of cake.
This particular piece of cake—heavy burden to lay on a little spongy mass of chocolate, but there you go—also got me thinking about the days when I would eat the cake, but hate myself with every bite. Berate myself as I was eating it: Why are you eating this cake?! You know you’re trying to steer clear of sugar and white flour! This wrecks your plans! Cancels your workout! Eating this cake means you are a failure! Too weak to follow a simple dietary restriction! Again, I could go on in this vein for quite some time, but I expect you’ve had enough by now. I know I have.
We have so few days to walk this beautiful planet. Even if I live to be 100 years old, that’s the wink of an eye when you get right down to it. I want to be happy, and to find joy in small things, like currently, a piece of cake.
I want to feel content in myself and at home in my body. I have no more place in my heart for hating myself.
I don’t want to eat cake every day. I don’t have near the sweet tooth I used to have, and even my nighttime cravings have eased somewhat since I’ve started getting regular exercise. I want to preserve a space in my life for cake.
My goal is to be active and physically fit, not thin. Today in addition to eating cake I went to the gym and got on a treadmill for an hour. An hour! If you know me at all, you’ll know that is a big fat hairy deal. I wanted to get off that thing the whole hour, but I stuck with it. I was wearing new shoes and may now have blisters. I had wicked shin splints but I pushed on through. I’m still looking ahead to track and field events in May. And none of that is negated by chocolate mousse.
Do you have “food issues?” What are they? You can contact me at 505-286-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.