People ask what I’m drinking. I say, “Mud.” By which I mean doctored protein powder, texturally enhanced so I can do some chewing. Other people drink smoothies; I prefer bities.

M. asks what it tastes like. I say, “Not much. Not bad, a little bit gritty, pretty bland, a bit like oats.”

I’ve been drinking this mud since the beginning of the year. I started bringing it backstage during my the last play I was in because I wanted to be able to carry my dinner with me and not have to buy food every night. Many people brought treats backstage to share, and when I thought about eating a truffle or a bagel, I’d drink protein powder or just unsweetened cocoa mixed with water instead.

That was during the first part of my eating shift. My dietary goal at the time was to feel better: more energetic, less queasy or sleepy after eating, more certain that I was making a choice that felt good on all levels, less hesitation and having to think hard about what to keep around. I hired C., who was already training my muscles, to help me come up with an Eating Plan, Not a Diet.

My goals have shifted over the last couple of months, especially as my pants get bigger, but I still don’t want to Try to Lose Weight. If I do lose weight, that will signal to me that I’m less stressed out, that my body isn’t storing fat around my midsection because of cortisol spikes and blood-sugar swings. Over the past three years, I’ve converted parts of my body to heavier muscle tissue, so I don’t even really weigh myself [link to 145 today]. I did today, though, and I find I’m moving in a lighter direction.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and turn to S. with The Dumb Question of the Morning. Today, I had a very delicate question I needed to phrase carefully.

“I’m going to make a statement that I think is true, and I want you to confirm or deny and explain, okay?”

“Okay. Sounds dangerous.”

“Here goes: You don’t have any investment in my size or shape, in whether I lose weight or not.”

“That’s true. I would say if you wanted to lose weight and you did lose weight, I would be proud of you and think you did something cool by accomplishing what you set out to do.”

“But you don’t think, ‘She would be hotter if she were thinner’?”

“Not at all.”

This is how the conversation was supposed to go. Even early in the morning. I do know he would think I was hotter for setting a goal and meeting it, for an achievement I had been pursuing. Mostly, though I evade goals.

I was a little disgruntled when in response to her orthodontist asking, “What’s that you’re drinking?”  M. told him, “My mom’s on a diet.” I prefer the phrase, “eating carefully,” or “eating selectively,” though I tend to say, “I’m eating weird stuff so I’ll bring my own food.”

I explained to M. that yes, I was on a diet the way everyone eats a diet, whether they are selecting consciously or not, but that I didn’t like the implication that I thought I needed to lose weight, and there are so many complexities around this issue, and I don’t want her to worry about her own weight. She listened, then said, “If that’s what a diet is, you are on a diet!”

Yes. A special diet. A thoughtful eating plan. A temporary plan to attain a feeling, a plan subject to revision. A plan on which I don’t think about “cheating” but about “choosing,” always consciously.

And continuing to break out the unsweetened cocoa water when somebody makes toast, because as C. puts it, toast never tastes as good as it smells. Buttered toast, crispy along the edges and salty and greasy in the middle, so many ways it can go, is unreliable. You never know how you’re going to feel afterward.

Time for a glass of mud.