You might know Dayna Macy from her food writing at Yoga Journal or the essays she’s published in publications like Self and Salon.com. But the author doesn’t just write about food; her recently-published book, “Ravenous: A Food Lover’s Journey From Obsession To Freedom,” is all about her mission to lose weight by way of developing a healthy relationship with food. We talked with Dayna about how she went from a size 18 to a healthier and much happier size 12, and what she learned about maintaining a healthy body image and balanced relation ship with food along the way.
You went on a quest to improve your relationship with food and lose some weight, but you didn’t go on a diet. Why not?
I’ve been on diets, but I don’t even like the idea of them. To me a diet is temporary—something you go on and then you go off. And I don’t think that long-term answers to weight control and body image lie in temporary palliatives. In fact, about five years ago or so I saw a nutritionist and she told me to cut out sugar, dairy, and wheat, and guess what? Twenty pounds dropped…and I could not sustain it.
So my book is really a journey to figure out a way to eat that could make sense to me in the long-term—one that would help me lose weight and keep me steady. There’s the what to eat that you have to figure out for yourself, and underneath that, how to eat; and finally, under all of that, why you eat. I knew that if I was going to figure out a way to eat that makes sense to me I would have to go on a journey to figure out what lay beneath my overeating. Ultimately you can’t escape yourself and your relationship to food, so you have to really wrestle with that to find long term answers.
How did you determine a way to stay healthy and maintain an ideal weight without obsessing over numbers or a rigid diet plan?
I didn’t start out with a goal, exactly: I wore a size 18, and that for me was too large. And my body was rebelling in many ways and showing signs of stress. My [yoga] practice had become quite difficult, I became dispirited and poses that were once available to me had become unavailable, so there was no question that I needed to lose weight.
I’m all for the fat acceptance movement. I have a lot of empathy and I think people have the right to feel happy in their body no matter what their weight. I was grateful to my body but I didn’t feel good, and I needed to be truthful about that.
I knew that the weight charts were telling me to lose X pounds, but for me, if I had started by stating a specific number and I didn’t reach it, I would have felt like I failed. If you’re overweight, any amount of weight loss is a good thing. So all I tried to do was the next right thing. Goal setting is important, but we have to be careful with the pictures we have in our heads of what we want to achieve.
I remember when I lost my first 10 pounds, I thought: Oh my god, if I don’t lose another pound, I’m thrilled, because I feel so much better. I would never have believed I could lose 30 pounds. I only did the next right thing. The point is, if you change your behavior one or two degrees, over time you end up in an entirely different place.