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My Eating Habits Are Worse Than My Kids'

Photograph by Getty Images

I used to love to joke about my boys’ “white food disorder” so much that I even had a story (with recipes!) published recently in a fun anthology about family life and food, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage. Oh, the joys of hiding behind my little darlings and avoiding my own challenges. Much more hope for them since they are little and will no doubt outgrow their unhealthy eating habits. Lucky them.

I recently turned an age I still can’t say out loud (Google me, it’s true) and the undeniable truth is that I have struggled with binge eating most of those years. It became undeniable recently after some blood test results that showed some high cholesterol and pre-diabetes action. Not that they are necessarily related, but at last I started to consider changing my eating habits.

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Not that I didn't know before about my obsessive tendencies when it comes to food and body image. In my defense, I come by it honestly, since my mother is still a nut job about her body and eating, and she's turning 80 next month. Love you, mom, but your preoccupation with weight from modeling days and before that ... well it's no secret it's created some hurdles for your daughters!

So about a month ago, after an obsession with "matzo crack," as my friend Jill calls a Passover confection consisting of unleavened bread drizzled with caramel and chocolate, I knew it was time for me to engage in different behavior if I want to live past 60. Then I ran into a mom friend of mine with a Harvard degree. I think. I could be wrong, but that is my impression of her. And she works in “business” and is just all-around very bright and together and nice. This particular chance meeting she also seemed sparkly, present and cheery.

“You look happy,” I commented.

“Really? Huh. I’m not,” she laughed. “I mean I’m hungry! But yes, I am feeling much more energized.” Intrigued, I had to ask.

"What's your secret?"

“This friend of mine started a company," she said, "it’s all about optimum body health. For the first three weeks you cut out gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners and alcohol. I do feel great.”

I toss my own goals for health out the window at the suggestion of hurting or inconveniencing someone else.

I don’t remember a lot of whatever else she said because the wheels in my brain started turning, something about her daughters and camp, blah blah blah. I was fast-forwarding to me on this diet, to cleaning up my act once and for all. Facing the music about my inconsistent eating and how it holds me back from conquering the world! With the zeal that only true addictive personalities can embrace, I wrapped up the conversation, nodded my way through whatever lecture on parenting I was there to see, and raced home to my computer to find out more about this plan.

I'm into my third week of the "Daily Burn" now, and I have to say it's pretty amazing. Not in the “it’s so easy and fun and delicious” way, sorry. But it’s totally eye-opening about nutrition. When you commit to cutting out what they call the "Evil 6," wheat, sugar, dairy, soy, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol, you have to read a lot of labels and get to see what food and drink really calls out to you. I haven't had a drink in eight years because I figured out my life just works better with out it, so cutting that out hasn’t been hard. But the dairy! Oh my!

I used to joke that on really bad days, at least God made lattes. Apparently, I wasn't kidding. I miss steaming, frothy milk probably more than anything else. But it's great to be off artificial sweeteners and sugar, both of which give me narcolepsy. No joke. I can drink a can of sugar free Snapple tea and fall asleep while you are talking. I have never wanted to fully admit this or take any action to stop it. That's how much I wanted my sweet zero calorie taste. So this has been great in breaking me from that stupid habit. Another surprising saboteur of this kind of diet is salad dressing—who knew rice vinegar has sugar in it? And sauces in general. And eating at other people's homes. I was derailed one night by a simple, "I made this tiramasu myself, you have to try some!" So I did. This response couldn't help but throw a light on how easily I toss my own goals for health out the window at the suggestion of hurting or inconveniencing someone else.

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What I'm learning beyond nutrition is that these kinds of strong choices for ourselves take a resolve of character, a belief in the primary importance of ME—caps intentional—and MY HEALTH above all else. I mean, of course you wouldn't leave your kids in a burning building while you grab your almond butter to stay on the plan, but you do need to have a resolve that I don't always have.

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