May 13, 2011 by Leah
In the lead-up to my GAPS diet start date of Sunday, I seem to have lost any shred of rationality I could previously claim. I’ve been guzzling wine like there is no tomorrow and having endless slices of cheesy toast. For lunch today, I had half a baguette and a dish of peanut butter cup ice cream. It wasn’t a good baguette, and I don’t really like peanut butter cup ice cream. Needless to say, the seven extra pounds I gained during my misguidedly thyroid-drug-free period are probably more like 10 or 15 now (I’m refusing to get on the scale to check what the actual damage may be). So, I find myself over our weekly food budget, wearing my fat pants, and for some reason totally freaked out about what’s going to happen on Sunday.
This is all very strange behavior, but it’s also hauntingly familiar. For the past couple of years I’ve been eating mostly home-cooked meals and trying to avoid processed foods. For years before that I did Weight Watchers, off and on. Both of these systems, like the 80/20 rule and other sensible dietary guidelines, make allowances for the human tendency to err, and are hugely adaptable – you really can eat anything, in moderation. (In college, my friend and I would save our extra Weight Watchers points for vodka-and-sodas at the bar on Friday night. Good times.)
While there is some room for “personalizing” the GAPS diet, personalization would look like “I think I’m going to move to stage three of the introduction diet tomorrow!” or “I’m going to sneak some avocado into my soup!” There’s no room for slipping and accidentally consuming an entire pizza and four beers in one sitting, e.g.
What’s bugging me about my current extravagance is that it’s actually an echo of a much earlier period in my life. The last “diet” I remember trying was South Beach, sometime around 2003. When I was a kid, though, I dieted all the time. I don’t know if it was the magazines I read or what, but I would try all kinds of bizarre diets, and they would always start on Monday, and I would always behave like an insane person when it came to food during the lead-up to those diets. (At least it wasn’t my money at that point.)
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my friend Erin in the reading corner of our sixth-grade classroom; I explained to her that I was reading all nutrition labels carefully so as to avoid consuming ANY dietary fat. She looked a little shocked and countered with, “We need SOME fat to function properly!” (I think she actually specified brain function, highly gifted child that she was.) She was, of course, totally correct, but I was suspicious of her rationale at the time. Everything at the store was low-fat or fat-free, so clearly the absence of fat was a goal to be pursued. (Apparently, I wasn’t as gifted as Erin. Or maybe marketing just worked better on me.)
I continued the quest for the perfect body – with only a vague idea of what that would even look like – for years. I tried to copy friends with eating disorders, I read every diet book I could find on the shelves, I drank ipecac after Thanksgiving dinner one year (it made me feel so awful I never did it again), I went vegetarian until I became anemic and my mom put a stop to it… It was a long several years, always marked by cycles of insane eating and then enforced deprivation. Which would make me feel, well, deprived, so I would sneak food (namely low-fat ice cream, usually eaten in front of episodes of The X-Files or ER) while my parents were at symphony rehearsal or before they got home from work.
Clearly, I had (have?) some issues. If I hadn’t grown up in a home where we ate home-cooked meals together every night I could have set myself up for some serious damage. My parents also made my lunches for years – I don’t mean it to sound like I had some kind of supervision-free, hedonistic upbringing. In fact, Aaron and I have since bonded about being the sad kids in the lunchroom with sandwiches on brown bread, carrot sticks, an apple, and yogurt. (The adult versions of us find ourselves quite grateful for our mothers’ idiosyncratic lunch-packing methodologies.)
I’ve been telling myself I’m worried about planning meals and cooking, which is ridiculous. I’ll be eating mostly soups at the beginning and I am a competent cook, even without a recipe in front of me. So, I think I’m actually worrying about being “deprived,” for some reason. I shouldn’t be nutritionally deprived at all. I’m not doing this diet to lose weight, I’m doing it to detox and, I hope, reset some of my internal systems in a way that contributes to my overall health, so there’s no reason I’ll need to be starving all the time. (Actually, people who have done this diet say you are starving all the time when you first go off grains, but if this happens, you just eat more and wait for the excessive hunger to pass, which it will.) Also, frankly, I think I could use a little deprivation. I certainly don’t need to be guzzling wine and eating pizza all the time. I have the tendency to excuse excess with the “I’m worth it” rhetoric, but that’s just silly. Usually the real reason is “I’m bored.” I’ll just have to focus on the stuff I’m allowed to eat and on keeping myself occupied (that’s going to be the real challenge). GAPS is all about listening to your body, so if, after a week or so, I decide I will DIE if I don’t eat a bagel, and I eat a bagel, it probably won’t make me feel too good, and I’ll remember why I’m doing this in the first place. Plus, in comparison to the excess of this week, my limited diet for the next few weeks could be just the ticket to getting our food budget back on track.