The Dangers of Dieting

Here’s how it happened.

I’ve told you before how, years ago, when I’d first started doing some of the cooking, Jo decided that we should eat more healthily. I’d been treated for Grave’s Disease, you’ll remember, a thyroid condition that sets your metabolism to “nuclear”, so that you burn through calories like a furnace. I could eat a meat feast and most of a New York style cheesecake every day and still stay around 8½ to 9 stone. Now, however, I’d been successfully treated and was starting to gain weight.

Jo had also put on weight keeping pace with me. She wanted to lose a bit. She sensibly didn’t rush it or binge on denial. Instead, she started requesting healthier, smaller meals and stopped having puddings or snacks. I don’t think she even mentioned her plan to me, so I was carried along, unwittingly, vaguely disappointed by the lack of chocolate, mildly alarmed by hunger pangs, which I’d never let myself feel before.

Suddenly, without knowing I was dieting, I’d lost half a stone! This was a dangerous revelation: when I was hyperthyroid, I’d felt fiercely driven by the demons of appetite. They were primal, intolerable; I’d writhed under their pangs. Now it dawned on me that hunger’s power was slight. You just resisted for a little while, not forever, went and did something important to distract yourself, exercised a bit more, and the results were highly beneficial: you achieved the weight and shape you wanted, and could still eat (smaller amounts of) yummy things.

Hunger was not only endurable, it was desirable: if you felt it, you were doing something productive: making progress; if you didn’t feel it, it showed you’d messed up, indulged yourself too much, been weak.

I wanted this sense to continue.  It was all about the direction of travel, the milestones, not the number itself. 50 kilos might as well be 60; 60 could be 70, just as long as it was always lower than before. If a malevolent genie cast a spell in the night and I woke up weighing 90 kilos, I’d be devastated, but I’d survive. It would be ok, just as long as I was 89.9 kilos the day after, and 89.8 kilos the day after that. I could still feel good about my success, my ability to control my base instincts; show restraint.

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