Practicing “No” Through A Diet

Photo by Andy Tootell

Do you want to go to lunch?” they asked me. “We’re going over to the market and are going to bring it back here.”

I thought about it. Yes was what I wanted to say. There’s an old lady at the market that makes these killer sandwiches. She the slowest artisan west of the Allegheny, but her sammies are damn good.

“No, thank you,” is what I said, tricking myself into feeling strong. “But I’ll eat with you when you get back.”

Saying no is really hard for me. I value making others happy and I like spending time with other people. I also really, really love sandwiches. But I turned these people down for two reasons.

  1. I need the practice. I’m not good at saying no and it’s going to be a requirement if I am to succeed as a leader, businessman, and (maybe someday far in the future) father.
  2. My wife began a cleanse, which she’s maintaining throughout the month of May. A cleanse is the hipster word for diet. For a month, she’s abstaining from added sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol. I decided it seemed like a (not so) fun challenge to help me be in touch with my body, and that it might feel good after a week or so. So I joined her, substituting caffeine for alcohol.

Twenty minutes later I sat around a small table in an open atrium, talking with my new colleagues. The table was filled with cheese- and ranch-topped salads, heaping piles of cottage cheese, small bags of cheddar and sour cream potato chips, and barbecue brisket slices on a fluffy bun.

I looked down into my fragrant Tupperware container. It was filled with noodles—cucumber and carrot noodles (remember, no gluten)—brussels sprouts, chicken, and a few other ingredients, topped with a sauce that was peanutty, with a focus on tahini (a flavor with which I’m still not quite comfortable).

As I looked around with a brain full of order envy, I realized, in that moment, I felt proud more than envious.

Because I had said no, and that was a small, but powerful step in the right direction.


(I must mention my lovely wife one more time. She is not only the reason I’m challenging myself in this way, she also primarily makes all the food, which is super time-consuming and keeps me healthy. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be doing this diet, or if I was, I’d be making it as unhealthy as possible.)


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