Reflections on Shuffle-Play

Extraordinary by Liz Phair

In the church basement we are collecting items for the next rummage sale. It’s a fun time of year as all sorts of interesting items show up. There are tons of Halloween decorations and Christmas decorations, old bookshelves, lamps, a nativity set, immense amounts of clothes and dishware, odds and ends of every sort – including books. Oftentimes the books are romance novels and mystery novels, but this time someone dropped off two huge bags filled only with dieting books. From “Wheat Belly” to the “17-Day Diet,” to old guides from Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers Points booklets, it was a small weight loss library. As I looked through the books, I wondered about how many broken dreams were between those pages.  How many times had this person bought a new diet book and thought, “This time! This time it will work. This diet will be the one.” And maybe some of those diets did “work” for a while, but obviously not forever, because more diet books were purchased. I thought about all the wasted time and money in those two huge bags of books. What great things could this person have accomplished in the hours that were spent counting points, calories, grams of turkey? How might this person’s life had been richer if instead of recording the number of minutes of cardio at the gym, he or she had learned a new hobby or written a letter, a book, a poem? What made this person decide to finally get rid of these books?

But mostly I thought about how a few years ago I did the same thing. I had at least a couple big bags full of dieting books that I gave away to Goodwill. This is why I did it: it became clear to me that life was too short for one more minute of the craziness of worrying about how much I weigh. With all the delicious food in the world, I couldn’t bear to only eat oatmeal or egg whites for breakfast anymore. Determining how good or bad my day was by whether or not I had stuck to a certain plan or an allotted amount of calories had done absolutely nothing to benefit my life. It took me decades, but I finally realized it was madness to give so much time and energy and money toward trying so hard to be ‘less’ in any way. I said a giant “NO” to the diet industry and sighed a relieved “YES!” to life and listening to myself – my body and my own wishes and wants.

However, it’s hard to learn to listen to your body, your wants and desires, after spending decades trying to bend your body into submission. From the age of 12 until decades later, I had known I was too big, too hungry, too much in every way and the only solution was to manage the calories, manage the hunger, battle myself until I would someday reach that elusive smaller size. I learned how to be good at starving. I mastered denial and self-control, how to say, “I’ll have a diet coke” when everyone around me was having ice cream. Occasionally I did shrink almost as small as I wanted to be – but of course it was never enough and impossible to sustain. I was hungry all the time, weighing myself incessantly, irritable, longing for food until the humming in my head just got louder and louder until finally, I had to eat – eat everything in sight. That is what happens when you starve – then you binge.

I don’t starve myself anymore because I don’t want to binge anymore. There will always be people who say that dieting is about balance and that one can manage their weight without starving. But dieting is always about restriction, and restriction almost always produces binging. It’s a very small percentage of people who lose weight that are able to keep it off, and those who regain weight often end up heavier than they were before they started trying to lose weight. In fact, I heard one researcher put it this way: the most effective way to gain weight is to go on a diet. Craziness.

So, while it isn’t easy to learn to listen to my body instead of battle it, it’s all I want to do now. I’ve given up the fight. That’s not to say that I don’t care what I look like – I do! I just see the process differently now. I sometimes choose to eat spinach and drink water because I like how they make me feel. I sometimes choose to enjoy a piece of cake with my kids because cake (but mostly frosting) is a beautiful thing. I choose to not eat processed cheese food very often because I don’t like how that makes me feel. I run most mornings because I love it. I will not force myself to go to the sterile gym and hang around in other peoples’ sweat for an hour every day just because I have to burn a certain number of calories. I listen to my cravings – for food, for movement, and I thank God for my strong, healthy body.

And I pray that whoever dropped off those bags of books in the church basement has found peace and joy in her or his skin, too. I pray they move their bodies for the love of it and eat exactly what they want to eat today.

If you want to be free from dieting, I recommend reading this article: http://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/ and reading the book, “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. An excellent podcast I listen to often is Food Psych by Christy Harrison.

You are extraordinary – as Liz would say – you “ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess!”

diet books

Extraordinary by Liz Phair

You think that I go home at night
Take off my clothes, turn out the lights
But I burn letters that I write
To you, to make you love me
But I drive naked through the park
And run the stop sign in the dark
Stand in the street, yell out my heart
To make, to make you love me
I am extraordinary
If you’d ever get to know me

I am extraordinary
I am just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess

You may not believe in me
But I believe in you
So I still take the trash out
Does that make you too normal for you?
So dig a little deeper, cause
You still don’t get it yet
See me lickin’ my lips, need a primitive fix
And I’ll make, I’ll make you love me
I am extraordinary
If you’d ever get to know me

I am extraordinary
I am just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess

See me jump through hoops for you
You stand there watching me performing
What exactly do you do?
Have you ever thought it’s you that’s boring?
Who the hell are you?

I am extraordinary
I am just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: