Jam on toast
A few months ago, jam on toast seemed like the ultimate luxury brekkie to me.
Forget eggs Benedict or a Full English or waffles covered in chocolate and cream, all I craved was a bitta Bonne Maman, butter and bread.
But as we all know, and as the media bloody loves to tell us, our bodies don't actually know what they really want and are constantly trying to trick us into eating more Doritos and should one give into a craving that isn't kale or an eight quid açaí bowl, you are a weak-willed, out of control, garbage human. Duh.
And so despite my hankerings for it, during my diet days I would only let myself have jam on toast once a week, on a 'cheat day', when I'd most likely also be either hitting the gym for a couple of hours or running at least six miles for the half-marathon I was training for. Simple as jam on toast is, it makes sense to me now why I held it to be the food of the Gods. It was two of the purest forms of what my body craved and what my diet (deetz on how insane it was here) totally vilified: carbs and sugar. Carbs were making me fat and sugar was making me bloated, depressed, sluggish, snappy with my boyfriend, distracted, pure unadulterated evil, bad at replying to Whatsapp messages and disillusioned with British politics. Or something along those lines. And so I fantasised about when I could next have jam on toast; thick white doorstop slices of bread, salty butter melting into chunks of strawberry. Heaven.
Given the pure immorality that comes with eating jam on toast, I was totally astounded that people actually freely and guiltlessly had it on the reg. I once remarked to some pals of my boyfriend how warm and comforting I find jam on toast and how I'd love to eat it every day, and was taken aback when one of them replied:
"WHAT?", I thought. "Are you INSANE? How can you be THIN and INTELLIGENT and willingly ingest POISON on the daily?"
"Delicious", I said, bitterly.
When I first stopped dieting, jam on toast was one of the things I really wanted to eat but found most difficult to eliminate from my 'fear foods'. I found it really hard to start the day with something I considered 'bad', given that I'd been living for the past year considering each new morning as a new start, the day when I would eat only 'clean' foods in small portions and I would be perfect and good and pure. And to do so, surely, you must start as you mean to go on: high protein, low carb, low sugar- pretty much the antithesis of jam on toast. But after a while I started having it more and more regularly. In fact, when I moved to Spain and was living out of a suitcase, I ambled down to a local café and had it for brekkie everyday for a week. And even though at first was an experience tinged with guilt, it was still total bliss and as a grown-up lady person not on an insane diet, I told myself I could have it whenever I bloody wanted.
And then recently, a strange thing happened.
A couple of weeks ago, I got up to make breakfast and I didn't want jam on toast. In fact, it was the last thing that I wanted. I longed for some scrambled eggs or some porridge or some Marmite- anything but jam on toast. It had totally lost its sugary sweet sheen. I no longer thought of it as a 'treat'. I wasn't counting down the days to when I could have it next. It was just jam on toast. And I think this happened because I just let myself eat it, whenever I wanted, however much I wanted. And so now, I still like jam on toast, sure, but it holds no power over me. It is not the forbidden fruit (conserve). It is still bloody delicious but it is available to me unconditionally, without the promise of running 10 miles to make up for it or not eating it for the next 6 days. And so now it is the Switzerland of the breakfast food world- neutral. It's just food.
And little by little, this same thing is happening with all foods I used to avoid. When I stopped restricting my diet, my fixation on certain foods lessened and I became less obsessed with food in general and thus less prone to overeating and bingeing. It seems counter-intuitive to prevent binge eating by giving yourself permission to eat whatever you want, but one of the main things that was motivating my binge eating episodes was the fact that I restricted certain foods so tightly, that when I did allow myself to eat them, on that one sinful day a week, the 'last supper' mentality would always kick in and I would feel obliged to stuff myself until I was uncomfortably full, knowing that I wouldn't allow myself to have chocolate/bread/cake/biscuits for another seven days.
So if you're on a diet, and find yourself 'failing' and bingeing and overeating frequently- it's categorically because you're restricting. Stop the restrictions, stop the bingeing. Simple as.
And unconditional permission to eat plays into everything now. I used to be totally obsessed with baking, just so I could allow myself to eat cake. These days I realise what a ballache all the measuring and washing up can be and so 9 times outta 10 I will take a Mr. Kipling Angel Slice over baking brownies from scratch. And even last night, when a pal and I had the opportunity to share the above ICONIC selection of tiny puds, I could only manage half of one. Past me would've scoffed as many as poss, as the tiny window to eat such 'bad food' would soon be over but last night I was just too full after dinner. And I can eat adorable miniature puddings whenever I want, so I didn't need to shove six in last night. At times, of course, I do still overeat. That's natural. It's not like I didn't spend a good portion of the Xmas hols trying to invent a system of weights and pulleys that would deliver Quality Streets directly into my mouth so I wouldn't have to move the five metres from the sofa to the coffee table, but it's different to a binge- it's a feast, no guilt, no shame. The only urge to resist is not shoving the wrappers down the side of the sofa (soz Mum).