I’m stepping onto a slippery slope here by admitting that I’ve been on a diet, more or less, for the last 45 years. That’s more than 16,500 days of thinking about food, the number on the scale and my ever-changing jeans size.
There’s just no other way to look at it, despite Weight Watcher’s motto that their program is a lifestyle rather than a diet and that diets don’t work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my lifestyle has included being on a continual diet, if you define a diet as limiting the types and quantities of food you eat. For instance, I long ago gave up Rocky Road ice cream, my go-to comfort food of yore. I can’t even have it in the house. I also can’t remember the last time I had a fast-food hamburger and fries.
I could go on and on–I eat my chicken grilled, never fried. I don’t buy candy bars, Cheetos or any other ersatz food from vending machines and I never cook any food that has heavy cream listed in the top five ingredients (that eliminates potatoes gratin and chicken tetrazzini to name but two).
Sounds like a diet to me. Take a look at this recipe card from the early 1970’s Weight Watchers plan, which is when I first joined the program. (About that curious table setting, the web site where I found this photo carries the comic caption, “Share this meal with the ashes of a loved one.”) Because I was a loyal Weight Watcher, I actually ate chicken livers once a week per their strict instructions, and topped them with home-made Weight Watcher ketchup. Was it a restrictive diet? Do you even have to ask?
Nowadays Weight Watchers says that you can eat anything you want as long as you count your SmartPoints. At the risk of throwing many of you off your balance beams, I don’t think that’s realistic. There are more than 40,000 foods in the average supermarket, most of them processed, and giving ourselves permission to select from all of them is asking for disaster. The more processed foods that are introduced (10,00 per year according to food industry statistics), the heavier we get. Not even a landslide of 100-calorie packs and fat-free snack foods have stopped the overall fattening of our country. The painful truth is this: we simply cannot eat sugar-laden junk and maintain a healthy weight.
This year Weight Watchers has addressed the disproportionate percentage of processed foods in the American diet by including sugar in their new SmartPoints calculation. Foods with added sugar are now higher in SmartPoints than protein-rich foods. That’s a good thing…if you’re a hungry poodle who loves chicken, but for us humans, it’s a matter of “read it and weep.”
In the meantime, I’m going to plug along on my never-ending routine of whole-grain breakfast, salad lunch and vegetable-laden dinner, with sensible fruity snacks thrown in as needed. And while I may not actually say I’m “on a diet,” I’ll be thinking it just the same.