My sister, Genese, is a new woman. She’s been on a serious health kick for about six months, and while she’s not the type to impose her lifestyle on others, it’s hard to be around her without wondering if I’m poisoning myself.
Nowadays, Genese is off sugar, alcohol and coffee. She has a pill box full of all kinds of supplements, and she drinks exotic herbal teas. Her best friend is unsweetened cranberry juice, and she swears by probiotics. She has a naturopathic doctor, who is testing her for all types of food sensitivities. She emails me about her test results figuring I may be able to benefit from her trips to the naturopath. Genese says she feels much better, and she is not the only one who sees a positive change. After all, a well-nourished friend told her recently that she looked “less inflamed.” That’s a good thing, right?
My sister isn’t the only healthy woman in the family. My two sisters-in-law are also on special, or at least super-healthy, diets. Nan is gluten free, and Katherine is on the Eat to Live diet (all raw fruits, veggies, beans and nuts). Both say they feel great as a result of cutting out many of my favorite foods.
So last year, I joined my sisters aboard the healthy food bandwagon. I wanted what they had. I was hoping to relieve my aches and pains, to have more energy and to look and feel more youthful.
First, I was gluten free, then dairy free, then gluten and dairy free, and finally I tried the Eat to Live diet. I stuck to each plan for about a month. My diets became a joke among my kids and my husband. I became one of those annoying people who asks waiters to list the ingredients of every dish on the menu. Despite my embarrassment, my cravings for restricted foods and my diminishing cadre of dinner companions, I plowed ahead, determined to find a cure for what ailed me.
Every time I started a new diet, I read up on it and visited Whole Foods, scouring the shelves for foods that met the diet’s requirements. Never mind that my grocery bill was twice as much as usual. Never mind that I had to cook a separate meal for myself each evening, since no one else in the family would go near the foods I cooked for myself.
After about a month on each diet, I tried to discern if I felt any better. I really couldn’t tell. I couldn’t remember how I’d felt before starting the diet. Perhaps I didn’t stay on the diets long enough? Maybe I cheated without realizing it? It was impossible to know.
Inevitably, I concluded that if I couldn’t recognize a significant improvement, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Disappointed but somewhat relieved, I returned to my former (bad) eating habits. I don’t doubt my sister and sisters-in-law feel better because of their diets; they just didn’t work for me.
As I look back on 5773 —the Year of the Diets — I wish I had something to show for my efforts. Alas, I am still “inflamed.”
So, in 5774, I’ve resolved to eat what I like. For me, it seems, there is no magical solution. There is only muddling through, enjoying an ice cream cone, an appletini or a slice of pizza along the way. Happy break-fast to one and all!
Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org