by Jonny Bowden, MA, CNS
What I'm about to say may annoy or irritate you. So if you're easily offended, please skip this column, let's stay friends, and I'll see you next week.
But if you think you're up for a little "tough love," read on.
Still here? Okay, good. Then let's talk about deprivation.
The N.Y. Times the other day wrote in great detail about the genocidal strife going on between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda, complete with frightening descriptions of the murders and the tortures. They described the conditions of the refugees.
The other day, I was browsing through a college nutrition text and looking at some pictures of African children with kwashiorkor, the particular form of protein malnutrition where the bellies are swollen and you can't move their little limbs because it causes too much pain.
Only in the United States in 1998 does is seem possible for adults to have a serious discussion in which they label the self-imposed choice to eliminate doughnuts and cheesecake "deprivation."
Let's get real.
Your friend Mary comes to you and says she's having an affair with Fred, a married man, and it's causing her endless grief. Whenever she sees him, she feels bad afterwards. He's always promising to leave his wife, and he never does. When she stays away from him, after an initial period of feeling sad, she starts to feel good about herself; she begins to date other men, she begins to feel hopeful for the future. When she spends time with Fred, however, though temporarily elated, she always winds up being bummed out. She's always alone on weekends and holidays. And then she calls you, despondent.
What do you tell her?
Now why is it any different with the culinary equivalent of "Fred"?
We all have our Freds. They feel good at the time but take us down a path that leads to a place where we ultimately don't want to be.
Is leaving Fred "deprivation"? Or is it a choice about living a certain way that, although difficult at first, is ultimately going to create the space to design a life she can enjoy and live in?
And how many of us have left our Freds and gone on to build lives so rich and full and vibrant that looking back on that period, we can't imagine what we could possibly have been thinking?
Look, it's very simple, really. There are foods that support you in good health and there are foods that don't. There are foods that nurture you, provide nutrients and fiber and essential fats and protein and all the good stuff, and there are foods that leave you feeling tired, listless, bloated and heavy and keep you in a place where you don't want to be. Many times, unfair as the world is, the foods in the latter group taste really really good, and you come to crave them, and it becomes real easy to forget about what they ultimately do to you in the long haul. Or more important, what they prevent you from achieving.
Is it "deprivation" to make a conscious choice to include more of the foods from the first group and less from the second?
I never tell people to give up foods; I do however coach them to become mindful of the consequences of their actions.
The trick is to do it when "Fred" is around.
Maybe the first step is thinking about it differently. I find that redefining our terms often has a tonic effect on our psyches. How about this: "When I eat this stuff, I'm depriving myself of radiant good health and keeping myself from having the body I want."
Now that's deprivation.
It's your call.