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Enough with denying
and restricting; I’m adding

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By Kathleen Chandler

Let’s talk about food. But first I want to tell you a story.

A couple of years ago I was in Traverse City, Mich., with some friends. On our way back down state it had rained, then as the sky began to clear the most beautiful rainbow appeared. It stretched all the way across the sky – a full arch. It was so beautiful that several cars pulled off to the side of the freeway and people stood next to their cars taking pictures. As pleased as I was to see such a rainbow, the number of people who were fascinated by the sight equally intrigued me.

What does this have to do with food? Keep reading. You know from last month’s issue of The Ann that I’ve tried a lot of diets. With every diet I tried I gained even more weight. When I look back I have basically been “on a diet” for the past 10-15 years. That’s a long time to be under such scrutiny – never being comfortable in my own skin, constantly craving food “they” say I shouldn’t eat, constantly feeling guilty over every food choice that wasn’t “in my plan.”

Read more of Kathleen’s fitness journey here.

Enough! Darn it! I didn’t get fat by eating too many carrots, or from eating an apple after 3 p.m. or by having a full serving of oatmeal. In fact, when I was a kid I was so thin that my older brother called me “String Bean.” My parents grew a garden, we picked whatever fruit was in season, we ate as much as we wanted and my mom canned or froze the rest. Several nights a week in the summer we had a dessert made from the fresh seasonal fruit: rhubarb upside down cake, biscuits and strawberries, blackberry pie, peach cobbler, apple crisp, etc.

We lived in a small town that was 30 miles from the closest fast food restaurant or movie theater (popcorn!), so I didn’t start down my slippery slope until after I moved to Ann Arbor where I could find both in abundance. So the difference between the time when I was still living at home and the past 10 years is the “rainbow.”

When I was younger I ate every color of the rainbow. (Red: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, tomatoes, beets. Blue: blueberries, blackberries, plums. Orange: oranges, grapefruit, carrots, pumpkin, squash. Yellow/white: potatoes, bananas, parsnips, corn, summer squash. Green: peas, string beans, Swiss chard, asparagus, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.) I started gaining weight when I started eating out more frequently, eating calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food loaded with sugar and fat.

Then, when I was participating in the “American diet craze,” I started weighing and measuring my food, making sure I got “enough” protein but not “too much” fruit and vegetables. One diet plan called for me to eat 8 ounces of chicken in one meal. Seriously? A half-pound of chicken, but I was only allowed one cup of asparagus?

And since I could only have two fruits per day, my sweet tooth was going crazy and I would finally give in and binge on an entire bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup miniatures. Or I was only allowed a half serving of oatmeal at breakfast, and then I was so hungry mid-morning that I would drive to McDonald’s during my break and eat a bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich. How messed up is that?

I was denying or restricting myself from eating colorful, healthy foods, and then I would go berserk and eat something far worse. Now I’m taking a different approach. Instead of denying or restricting, I’m adding. First, I added one more serving of fruit to my daily intake. A month or so later, I added one more serving of vegetable. Then I added exercise, and then another vegetable.

The strangest thing happened. Because my body is getting more nutrients I feel better and I actually crave fruits and vegetables. So, on a normal day I eat about three fruits and about six servings of vegetables (1 cup raw or a half cup cooked equals 1 serving), along with whatever else I eat that day. I still eat chocolate, pizza and theater popcorn, but not nearly as much as I used to; they aren’t as appealing to me. If just seeing the colors of a rainbow in the sky can be so thrilling, imagine how much more exciting it is to eat all those vibrant colors every day.

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