I’m reflecting today on the choice of the word “sane” in working toward healthier attitudes toward eating and weight. Why “sane”? This term rarely pops up, in fact, if you search diet or eating topics.
The word seemed right when I first started writing about what I now call “sane eating”: eating in a way that maintains a “good-enough” weight, without worry or guilt or obsessiveness—for good, not just for the course of a diet.
I think I first had the thought walking into a Dunkin Donuts one morning for coffee. The wire bins teemed, as we all know, with pink frosted and sprinkled and glazed confections. Yummy, maybe, but perhaps more like dessert than the way to start your day? The convenience mart next door advertised a super-jumbo-sized neon blue drink for $1.00. You really don’t have to be a health-nut to realize that these cheap, easy-to-grab items are not nutritious. You might realize, too, that they won’t keep you full for all that long. And some people might be even be aware of wanting more sweets and less real food after such a start.
This all struck me as pretty crazy, especially as I spend much of my day, every day, talking to people who struggle to make healthier choices, who worry about their appetites and their body size. And this includes people of all sizes and ages, women, of course, but men, too. It can also include people who suffer because their bodies aren’t picture-perfect, no matter how they eat or what they weigh. It can include kids doing damage to their bodies at ever-younger ages.
So, I defined the ultimate goal for many to be not necessarily losing lots of weight or adhering to a perfect diet of some sort—whether it be Atkins, Keto, intermittent fasting, Whole 30, or some other plan meant to shed pounds. Some goal that considered lifelong sustainability and lifestyle realities and emotional peace of mind seemed crucial.
The word “sane” comes from the Latin word for “health”. It has been defined also as “of sound mind, free from disorder, healthy”. That all fits what we’re talking about here quite well. Speaking specifically of dieting, too, a very common quote fits perfectly also: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We can think of the overall poor statistics on dieting outcomes here.
None of this is to say that breaking the habit of dieting is easy. Neither is learning to eat non-nutritious foods simply as occasional treats. Neither is learning to deal with life, relationships, and emotions without food as a kind of drug. It can take real effort and perhaps some discomfort. It can require the work of starting to think about ourselves and treat ourselves differently, despite the pressures and pulls to do otherwise. No, not easy. But not impossible, either. Getting started, shifting back when you lose focus, finding the supports that help you—this is how you’ll find your way.