This past weekend, I was asked the dreaded question, the one that’s been plaguing me as I’ve slowly lost the weight gained from pregnancy (nearly 50 lbs) plus an additional 10 or so on top of that. “You are looking so skinny! How do you stay so thin?!”
It is a dreaded question for a lot of reasons. First, it has always bothered me that ‘thin’ is equal to ‘healthy’ in American society, but it isn’t always true. It is more important to me to be truly healthy, to manage my allergies and psoriasis issues non-medically, to have the energy to keep up with my son and pursue my goals, to be able to fight back should the end of our civilization come in our lifetime. And actually, the last few pounds I’ve lost recently are almost entirely due to stress and being too busy to feel as hungry as I probably should be. So I’ve been losing some muscle mass, and when my contracted jobs are done in a couple of weeks, I’ll probably gain a few pounds back. When someone asks me this question, though, I’m not getting complimented on my toned legs and my muscular structure. They sound wistful or a tad envious, and they ask in the hopes that I will tell them my secret diet or pill that I pop. They are looking for the magical solution, because in their mind, “thin” is “happy”, and they want the quick fix.
Inwardly, I groan, and I say “I eat as much real food as possible”. Most of the time, I am stared at blankly, but if there is a glimmer of interest, I explain further. “Over the past several years, I’ve completely changed how I view food. I don’t demonize fat. I eat limited processed foods which has drastically cut down on the sugar and refined wheat. I avoid fake sugar and chemical additives whenever possible. But I don’t deny myself at parties or if my husband’s grandmother sends us home with a package of Oreos – if I want to eat a little junk, I eat it. But I try not to keep it at home. I eat the best quality meat I can buy in smaller portion sizes and use all of it that I can (ie. rendering out the fat, making homemade bone broths, etc). I use full-fat pastured dairy products. I don’t count calories or weigh food but just eat until I feel full.” (I don’t list it like this – it is an actual back-and-forth conversation). Their eyes start to look a little glazed over at this point, so I inevitably scale it back. “But where I started, way back in 2008, is with what I drink. I slowly weaned off having sweetener in my coffee, and I took over a year to get rid of it entirely. So if you’re really interested in losing weight, I would recommend starting there for the first few months.” And usually I get some long-winded explanation about how they can never give up their diet coke or glass of juice or sugar-and-chemical laden non-dairy creamer for their coffee or their twice weekly bout of binge drinking, and they look at me like I’m crazy for eating the way I do.
And I am crazy, I guess. But if I can help myself ease my eventual arthritis and keep my brain and body active longer into life, then it’s worth being put into awkward situations and have people think I’m just an insane hippie.
Being thinner than I was does have some drawbacks. My stretchmarks from my son will never go entirely away. My laugh lines on my face show much more so I look older. And my boobs are no where near as magnificent as they were when I was 15-25 lbs heavier and nursing.
I do have a secret about the way I eat, though, and it’s this: once you cut out processed foods, everything else tastes so much better. Your taste buds just work better without the frankenfoods. My favorite snack is a crisp, in-season NY apple with a good size chunk (maybe 2-3 serving sizes) of NY or VT extra sharp cheddar. The flavor combination is amazing. Shhh… don’t tell anyone that I told you.