Red Tray Diet

I have been a yoyo dieter. Throughout my life, my weight has gone up and down and up and down. Not dramatically really. Most people probably would say that I’ve weighed about the same throughout my life. As an adult, my high and low weights have differed by about 35 pounds or so.

But I know when I feel good. I know when my clothes fit and when I feel good in my skin. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve never struggled with body image or dieting.

red tray diet

June 1983

Beginning in High School my diet of choice was starvation. I would not eat breakfast or lunch and then snarf everything in sight when I got home from school. At school, I took Dexatrim diet pills with caffeine to curb my hunger and I was so proud of myself when I was able to fit into and buy a new pair of Zena jeans. (I think I wore them once. You know what happens when you end a severely restricted calorie-focused diet…you quickly put back on the weight–plus more.

In college, I didn’t focus on my weight at all. I wore my favorite purple sweats with a matching vest and ate what I wanted. My weight slowly climbed much to my mother’s horror.

red tray dietIt was during this time that I was introduced to the cabbage soup diet. Grandma Doris weekly went to an organization called TOPS –Take Off Pounds Sensibly. I don’t think grandma ever lost a pound due to her attendance in this program. (Maybe that’s where the recipe came from…you ate the soup morning noon and night and magically dropped pounds.)  Forever after, you could never eat vegetable soup again and not get PTSD.

A few years later, right before Tom and I got married (during my Senior year of college) I lost so much weight that I had to work to keep my wedding dress up. I was no longer on the school food plan and was carefully watching my pennies, so I didn’t buy any fast food. And, I didn’t have the capacity to plan lunch or a snack on the go, so I just didn’t eat.

More recently, I would begin every school year with high hopes to exercise and help my family eat healthfully. At school, I ate “the red tray diet”.  We had lunch ladies at the school where I worked at that put out a salad bar spread for the teachers. Two handfuls of lettuce, veggies, and a generous pour of salad dressing, as well as the lunch that the children received, helped me to annually put on 15 pounds from September until Christmas. 

As soon as Christmas hit, I would begin bringing my own single bowl of leftover something for lunch. I would also begin running on my treadmill down in the basement or in more recent years, run or walk with my dogs before work.

By Spring Break, I could fit comfortably into my clothes again.

I would swear to you that I have never really been on a diet. That exercise is all that I have ever been able to use to regulate my weight. But is that truthful?

Lately, I’ve really noticed how I FEEL when I exercise and after I eat. I’ve seen that my body likes veggies and lots of water.

Bread makes me tired. Sugar makes me tired. Alcohol makes me tired. 

A couple of years ago, when Aubrey was about 10, we had a conversation about food, (most favorite versus “yucky” choices) when during a pause, she asked, “Mom, what is a diet?”

She probably doesn’t remember this conversation or the question. But it hit me like a hammer. We don’t talk about diets. Aubrey and I talk about how to make food and how to make healthy choices.  We talk about how food makes us feel after we eat it. I compliment her on her strong flexible body and I never bemoan my imperfect body.

My goal is really to feel good in the clothes that I have. I want to be healthy. It feels good when my body enjoys exercise and a quick jog through the parking lot or up a flight of stairs doesn’t make me winded. 

I guess I really don’t do diets. I’ll probably continue to yo-yo a little up and down as I continue to eat…what I want to eat. 

The only thing I can say for sure is that there are definitely no more “red tray diets” in my future!

Who is Lisa

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