My "No Diet" Diet
By Yael Kohen
What would happen if you stopped dieting? If you ate the steak — and the
frites — because you wanted them? Yael Kohen discovered that eating what you
want isn't as easy as you think.
It was the diet to end all diets. About a year ago — 15 years after my first
diet — I decided to break my perpetual need-to-shed-pounds lifestyle to do
something radical: eat what I wanted, when I wanted. Call it the "no
diet" diet. It's the hardest thing I ever did.
See, the first time I went on a diet, I was 12. I was hardly plump, but
there was no hiding my two stomach rolls in the black Betsey Johnson
spaghetti-strap dress I bought for my bat mitzvah. And on Manhattan's Upper
East Side, where I grew up, dieting is as much a rite of passage as your first
Through my teens and into my 20s, I went on and off a variety of diets, from
Weight Watchers to Atkins to Cabbage Soup, until finally seeing a nutritionist
I couldn't afford who had me eat four meals a day and diligently record each
morsel in a journal. I hit the treadmill because it supposedly burned more
calories than the bike. All this, and I was never really fat. Two years out of
college, I was just 3 pounds shy of fitting into the Citizens of Humanity jeans
I deliberately bought one size too small. But those 3 damn pounds wouldn't come
Oh, I tried. I ate salads and fruit, skinless chicken and broccoli. I craved
the pancakes but ordered egg whites and learned to drink my vodka on the rocks.
Except, of course, for all those times I didn't. The problem is, I love food:
the smell, the taste, the experience of sitting down to a three-hour dinner
with a bottle of cabernet and close friends. I love Italian peasant bread
dipped in olive oil and a little sea salt; I love braised lamb shank over
roasted fingerling potatoes; and I love, love molten chocolate cake. So when I
say I tried, I really did, following all those meals with calorie restriction
and exercise, questioning whether the gourmet food had been worth it.
Until one day, several years into this crime-and-punishment back-and-forth,
I heard a very skinny friend call herself fat. If she could think she was fat,
I wondered when, if ever, I would be satisfied with the way I looked.
That's when I said to hell with it and resolved to live guilt-free and eat
what I wanted, when I wanted. I'd seen other people do it, and they were trim.
But still, I knew I would need guidelines so I wouldn't revert to my
deprivation ways — or gain weight.