Plateau, pizza, and becoming That Guy
Sunday, July 22, 2012
I ate restaurant pizza last night.
The moment I suggested possibly having pizza for dinner, I knew I was taking a risk--pizza (or indeed anything) from a restaurant being practically unheard of with me and Ben, partly because we're below the poverty line/usually don't have the money for luxuries like that, and partly because restaurant food is rarely as satisfying as what I can make at home. The risk wasn't that I'd 'blow my diet', as one might expect, because I'm aware that I'm on a journey and not just a temporary thing and thus one event can't ruin it. The risk wasn't even that I'd overeat, because I'm personally at a point where the only times I eat too much are when I've timed my meals badly and have gotten so hungry that my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and when that does happen I adjust the rest of my calories for the day to compensate.
No, the risk was that I wouldn't actually LIKE restaurant pizza anymore, just like I no longer like fast food or stuff from bar-and-grill places. The last time we ordered pizza was about three weeks before I started using SparkPeople, and the pie we got was not very good (you win some, you lose some; quality at these places fluctuates depending on the time of day and who's working the kitchen at the time). I was worried that we'd get another icky, unsatisfying pizza again, and we would have wasted money that could have paid for the ingredients for two or more home-made pizzas that could feed both me and Ben for several meals.
But something magical happened. We got the absolute best pizza I've ever had from a restaurant IN MY LIFE.
It was amazing, and I greatly (and slowly) enjoyed my share of it. Instead of picking pieces up, I cut them up and used a fork, because it helped me pay more attention to my food and it was easier to stop and appreciate each bite when the next bite wasn't already waiting in my hand. I also had a couple of strips of Ben's apple dessert pizza thing, and it was similarly glorious. I spaced out everything, waiting several minutes between slices, just revelling in the fact that I had really good food in front of me that I didn't have to make myself, and that the risk I'd taken had paid off.
I realise that I enjoyed that pizza so much not only because it was genuinely good food, but because I hadn't had take-out pizza in over a month. When I used to have pizza all the time, I took it for granted and didn't really notice the subtle flavours and textures as much; I'd just charge through it like eating was a chore. This has proven to me that it really is important to mix up my food choices occasionally so I don't get complacent; not just with things like pizza obviously, but with produce and proteins I have every day. Maybe I'll break out some different spices for my breakfast bean-pile tomorrow; maybe next week I'll put some different fruits on the grocery order.
I didn't log dinner last night, because I knew I was going way over-budget. Not that I do that often--I usually freak out when I can't log things accurately, because I need that sort of control over my eating--but because I don't want to look back on it later in pie chart and line graph forms, and regret it when it was actually a fantastic experience. Another reason is that my progress seems to have stalled, no doubt due in part to the fact that I eat the same five or ten foods every week, just arranged in different ways. I thought mixing things up a bit might kick my body into gear. Granted, I don't know how accurate that is, because some articles are conflicting, and I have no idea how to tell what my metabolism is doing because I have CFS, but it's worked in the past so I thought I'd give it a go.
That pizza taught me a lot of things, but most importantly, I think, is the fact that I don't want restaurant food again for another month or more. It's a treat to not have to cook, and to be pleasantly surprised by how well something has been prepared; it's a treat to have something completely disparate from what I normally eat from day to day. But for me, very quickly, even just after two such treats in the course of a month, it can become 'normal', 'justified', a go-to thing whenever I'm feeling low or tired or [fill in the blank with some other lame excuse]. I need to remember that 'comfort food' is JUST FOOD, not actual comfort. If I want more satisfaction out of a meal than the food itself gives me, I should make a greater effort to prepare it in a special way and take pride in a job well done, rather than to grope blindly for some sort of emotional solace in what is essentially just fuel. Food is the fuel in my machine, not the paint job or the custom interior work. Yes, thought goes into the selection of what fuel will work best for me and burn most cleanly, but would be weird if someone had a deep emotional connection to the type of gas they put in their car, so how is thinking of food as comforting any different?
Over the past year I've discovered that I'm a good cook; over the past forty days here on SparkPeople, I've discovered that I am especially good at improvising dishes with vegetables and beans, and am capable of reaching all of my daily caloric and nutritional goals on a regular basis without feeling deprived or pressured.
So why, I ask myself, would I ever want to throw those amazing accomplishments away by backsliding into burgers-every-other-day, I-need-food-to-feel-good territory, or any other negative food habit I had when I was a kid/teenager? That would be just as bad as going back to starving myself like I was last year, because both extremes equally disrespect this wonderful body that I have, with its complex power system and millions of tiny interlocking parts that sustain my life. I have so much more energy now, and my depression has eased up a bit, and I feel less helpless about myself and my life; crawling back to security-blanket behaviours that aren't even comforting anymore would be like putting sand in the tank of my efficient bodily machine.
The food I eat now nourishes and rebuilds my body, and by taking care of my body I am able to redesign and strengthen it. Even though I've still got a long road ahead of me, a road that I'm sure will span the rest of my life as I balance my eating and fitness and other lifestyle elements until I figure out what works best, I feel better about myself where I am now than where I've been at any other time. No longer do I genuinely care about being 'skinny' or 'perfect' or 'more like those hot guys that everybody likes and that have way more friends than me'; now I want to burn fat for the sake of my health, build muscle so that I can better maintain that health, and keep track of my food intake so I can be sure of what I've had vs what my body needs. I don't want to look better on the surface, I want to BE better all the way down to the bone. Because you know what's better than being the hot guy that everybody likes? Being the healthy guy whose heart functions properly, whose joints don't hurt all the time, whose stamina allows him to physically achieve whatever he wants to do that day, who likes and respects himself regardless of what others think.
A treat once in awhile won't prevent me from being that guy, but berating myself about it--or doing it all the time--would certainly set me back. So I'm keeping my eyes on the prize, and carrying on like that pizza never happened; not out of shame, but out of determination. I want to be the guy who likes and respects himself, and I'm on my way.