There’s almost nothing more cliche than a New Years’ diet, but year after year we embark on these fool’s errands as if they’re going to do us any good. The truth is, most people abandon diets after a week — if they even make it a week. So why do we do it? A new year means a new chance to reinvent yourself and if that means making a commitment (however unrealistic that may be) to losing weight, then so be it. I, like so many people, am once again making this commitment and I’m vowing to make it stick — until I quit.
I don’t think I’m going to quit, though, and that’s for several major reasons:
1. I’m not trying to starve myself and I’m not fooling myself into thinking that I will never have my indulgent foods again. That picture of the deep dish pizza up there? I ate that three weeks ago. I also ate roughly seven million other calories in December because I said, screw it, I’m eating whatever I want whenever I want. That was actually a strategy of some sort. I decided to indulge myself time and time again so I would have no excuse in 2015 not to eat well. I ate EVERYTHING I like to eat and I did it guilt-free. Now? I have no interest in the pizza/hot dogs/burger/pasta that I gorged on last month.
2. I’m not putting myself in a position to cheat. A few weeks ago, a wonderful restaurant called Terrine opened in LA. I was invited to the opening and got to try a lot of fantastic dishes. Now, they’re offering brunch and invited me in again to check it out. I politely declined. In December, media meals with unlimited food were perfect. In January, I’m sticking to my fridge as much as possible.
3. I actually like eating healthy foods now. This is a major change. Just the idea of a vegetarian meal a decade ago was enough to send this Chicago-born galoot into a rage. As a Californian of 10 years now, I have access to farmers’ markets year-round and stellar produce is both available and affordable. I’ve fallen in love with brussels sprouts and cauliflower and rich, multi-hued carrots. I get excited about CSA boxes. Vegetables and foods that haven’t been processed within an inch of their lives make my meals better now. It’s nice to grow up sometimes.
4. I plan to eat in so much more than I eat out. As a food writer, I eat out constantly. In fact, I eat out so often that my doctor told me that I’m the only patient he’s ever had that he can’t put on a diet. Losing weight requires consistency and when you eat in restaurants, you lose that consistency. I’ll be turning down most invitations to eat out this month. After I get back to a healthy weight, I plan to eat out more than I will in January but still cook at home much more than I eat out. It’s the only way to regulate my calories.
5. See you later, sugar. If you want to know how I feel about sugar, read this piece I wrote over three years ago for Bon Appetit. Sugar is my enemy and it’s convinced me to love it. How devilish. I hope to say goodbye to sugar as much as I can for the rest of my life. I don’t know if that will hold, but I’ll do the best I can.
6. I have a partner in crime. She’s the best ever. Truly. One of the most amazing things about her is that she’s a trained chef and she knows how to turn super fresh produce into mind-blowing meals. We’ll be going through all of this together and I’m grateful. Having someone there for support is wonderful and I think it’ll be the most important part of this journey.
I’m not a health coach. I’m not a dietician. I’m just a guy that’s tired of the way I look when I pass by a mirror. I’ve been a heavy kid for most of my life (with a few great exceptions) and I’m ready to stop being that guy. If I can adhere to a few simple rules (no added sugar, avoid white flour, eat in often), I should be back to a comfortable weight in just a few months. If you have any tips that have worked for you, please throw them in the comments. I’d love to get a whole set of great suggestions in there.