Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yes, I Would Like Fries With That.

I can't stop thinking about food and clothes these days. If you knew me when I was a skinny kid, you'd know I was a frustratingly picky eater born to a mother and father raised in the Great Depression. By the age of seven I could quote you chapter and verse regarding my Southern mother's memories of rationing stamps and my Yankee father's sad saga of meals where there was no meat to eat. Only beans. To my young ears it sounded like a nightmare, albeit THEIR nightmare. At any dinnertime moment, my own personal horror story consisted of three remaining bites of tomato that taunted me from the oily remains of my salad bowl. Dinner was long over and I was alone at the table watching the clock's minute hand creep closer to the deadline my father had set for the consumption of those three red taste bud assassins with their demonic seeds encased in gag-inducing slime. Food was my enemy then.

As a skinny teenager I did not know what a temporary privilege it would be to buy clothes at the 5-7-9 Shop. I had but to eyeball a pair of pants or a blouse from Casual Corner before taking them to the cashier.  My only concern being whether the pants would be long enough to avoid the "flood look" so feared in the 70s. Food was something I ate when I got hungry and nothing more. Clothes either fit or were too large.

Even as a young married I had a pair of favored black pants from The Gap which fit me to perfection and did so before I had babies and then again after I had lost all my baby weight. All this was true for me and yet I believed that this could also be as easily true for everyone else if they just tried. Even though I didn't have to try. It just WAS for me. I ate what I wanted and when I felt I had gone too far, I would simply run it off in during a soccer game or work it off at the gym. I was the Seinfeld-ian "master of my domain". Food-wise, anyway.

At 39 I trained for and ran a marathon and I have a photograph from the following summer vacation where I wore a bikini in public for the very last time. I didn't know it then, but I looked fabulous.  I drank beer on the beach and ate ice cream at night. I was having to work harder to feel normal (thin) but I had the time to do it and youth, plus the slightest overtones of my father's Type A personality helped me keep everything in check.

Then the freight train of middle age hit about the time our kids were in constant "graze" mode. We went through eight gallons of milk and two loaves of bread per week. I was cooking and either writing part time or doing my part as PTA slave. We saw two kids into college and then I went back to teaching while attempting to monitor the last son through high school. I developed an enormous ulcer which tried to kill me and almost succeeded. I was in ICU and then hospitalized with a nasal/gastric tube for another 7+ days, after which I then had to train my stomach to accept food once I was home, one bite at a time. THIS JUST IN: I succeeded!

Where does that leave me now? Hopelessly menopausal and in possession of a metabolism that is slower than an IRS refund and pants which are visibly angry with me. I don't recognize my body or my face. Age and stress are in collusion with what few hormones I have left to make me crave food that I cannot possibly burn and then arrange the results cruelly on a facial structure which--though never beautiful--was once strong and (some said) striking. Despite yoga, everything slops over its original boundaries like that melting watches painting by Salvidor Dali. And all I want to do is eat.

I get a pedicure and--over the scent of acetone, I can smell the Vietnamese noodles the manicurist had for lunch. I want seconds on everything all the time. I actually had a dream about bacon the other night.  Salted popcorn and cashews. Chips with salsa or guacamole. Happiness would be a tankard of wine, followed by a bucket of Ben and Jerry's and a shovel with which to eat it. I eat candy corn while grading papers. I have flashbacks about visiting the Betty Bakery in Boerum Hill during our last Spring Break trip to New York. I have a juicer and dream of replacing one meal with something healthy, but I'm afraid I'm too addicted to chewing to make a go of it. My sister-in-law told me last night that she's gone mostly Paleo in her diet and the results are amazing to behold. But doesn't that mean that planning/shopping/cooking/eating will now require as much energy as my job? The thought of that just makes me want to fall down out of sheer resentment. Fall down into a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. You see my problem, no?

I'm open to any helpful suggestions you might have, dear readers. Meanwhile, I must attend a birthday lunch for my mother whose own "love language" is food. Not eating very much will only send the message that I hate her, am not enjoying myself and that I wish nothing more than to destroy her birthday. But that's another Oprah entirely. What else is there to say but, Bon Appetit?


  1. I grew up just like that--picky, skinny, not friends with food at all. I gained a pound or two each decade, and then -boom!- almost twenty in the last ten years. My mom and sisters remained thin, what was happening to me? Unemployment, with its handmaidens depression and anxiety, have hounded me for a long time. I went low-carb and (slowly) lost about eight pounds, but it's difficult to keep up --carbs taste so good!-- and a few pounds have crept back. After the holidays I'll give it another try. More exercise would help but that's an even bigger hurdle for me than eating less. My heavier friends scoff at me for wanting what used to be so effortless for me--but I still want it.

  2. Never skinny, food has been my enemy for far longer but I can relate to just about everything else you said. I just had a conversation with my neighbor, who had some type of gastric bypass, and she said how, for the first time in her life, she feels satisfaction and contentment after eating a meal. And the constant craving for food has stopped completely. Though I'm not obese, I'm thinking surgery would be worth it just to let go of all the food obsession. Bedtime being the worst,. crave salty, crunchy, creamy, sugary ALL EVENING LONG. Corporate food industry is one culprit, I know, maybe the biggest. Biochemists in labs with the sole purpose of inventing the perfect combinations of taste, all in an effort to get us addicted. Sigh. When you find an answer, let me in on it, please.

  3. I don't know the answer. What I'm trying is to replace bad habits with good ones. Replace diet soda with V-8 or sparkling water. Replace evening snacks with no evening snacks. (That doesn't sound so tempting, does it?) I was always a good eater, and the only real difference I can point to between now and 20 lbs ago is that I used to gag if I ate too fast, and now I can gobble it down quickly. I don't know if that's a factor, or if it's more that I'm pushing 50 instead of 40 or 30. I'm trying a standing desk and giving up diet soda, two things which are supposed to contribute to "metabolic syndrome". We'll see if they help at all.

  4. Brave of you to give up Diet Sodas. I am just going to have to figure out how to like my body with them as they are my go-to when I need filling up . . . I know they don't really fill me up. Living with the illusion. How about looking back on pictures of yourself when you thought you needed to lose weight and you actually looked pretty good. Maybe this will happen to us in 10 years that we'll realize we looked pretty good. I remember playing tennis in my 40s and thinking that I would not let myself get "shelfy" like some of my older friends. Now I am one of the older friends and guess what, I am shelfy. I think of shelty as muffin top on steroids. One thing that comes to mind is that I don't remember our mothers worrying about all this too much. Of course, they weren't exercising either. Hmmm. But I am getting to the point where, we can do all that we can do to stay healthy, eat as healthy as possible and exercise, but for most of us who aren't exercising many hours a day, our bodies changing is inevitable and a pretty hard battle. I say do what we can and focus on improving ourselves from the inside out. Oh, and I am going to add I have discovered Skinny Pop. Even though I have always thought buying popcorn was a waste of money because it is so inexpensive to make . . Skinny Pop is great and has less calories than how I make it on the stove. Now if I can keep myself from eating the whole bag at once.

  5. Oh! This is such a marvelous and honest essay about food. You need to publish it. (I's SO easy to do that, right?) I admire your way with words.
    Sadly, I only type admiration, no advice. No metabolic slowdown yet, I weigh what I did in college, although 3 kids shifted the dynamics of that mass.

  6. I'm not naturally skinny, but for a brief period in my thirties, I dieted myself down to skinniness. (The stress of being a nurse and working night shift caused me to gain back what I'd lost.) In a way, it was a terrible thing, because I'll forever be obsessed with getting back down to my skinny weight. How did I lose weight? I have found that eating a very small dinner (or skipping dinner altogether) will cause you to lose weight. When I was skinny, I ate a small breakfast, a satisfying lunch, and no dinner, or else a teacup-sized portion if I was dying for a taste.

  7. Sigh. The Menopause. I can successfully blame The Menopause for all the Bad Things in my life. Seriously. Before The Menopause I was a perfect size two and my migraines had become almost non-existent. ENTER THE MENOPAUSE. Suddenly, I am a size four, and now I am diagnosed with "intractable migraine." My hair is thinning, and even though I drink NO BEER, I have a sort of pot belly-ish look, which actually has a name, by the way, the "meno-pot." I eat no breakfast, no lunch, and a small, healthy, reasonable dinner. Rarely do I have anything before bed. If I eat any fewer calories, I will eat nothing at all. This is not a new diet plan; I've always eaten this way. And my hair is greying more every day. Right now, I look like Lily Munster. I've pretty much decided to stop fretting and start listening to my husband, who tells me I look beautiful every day.

  8. What a lovely and honest post!

    I had almost forgotten about 5-7-9. When I shopped there, I was certain that I'd never weigh more than 120 pounds because, ohmigod, that was so faaaaaaat.

    Ha ha ha!

    I'm trying to focus on feeling right instead of particular numbers on the scale. But that's easier said than done.

    Obviously, I have no advice. Just know that you aren't alone.

  9. Join the club. My sister-in-law (who is 64) swears sit-ups keep her belly at bay. I can attest that it works for her.

  10. OH!!!! I was so skinny when I was a teenager. SO SKINNY!!!! So unaware of my skinniness and my ability to eat anything sweet and fatty and salty.

    And the truth is I miss it. No wait, I still eat anything sweet and fatty and salty. I'm just not skinny. The last year has been mean to me. I am honestly down to two pairs of pants I can wear. I wear the same two or three outfits all the time. I hate myself and yet I keep eating.

    I'm trying to become a runner, I'm trying to monitor the food. I just keep trying. I don't know what else to do.

  11. I too was always skinny, and then sometime in my 40s I saw a photo that had been taken - of my son and his friend, really, but there I was in the background with my back turned and OH did my ass look huge!!

    I've always loved to eat, and food is important to me, but lately I've been able to control myself through portion size. I eat whatever I want, only less of it. One trick is to eat more slowly, with smaller bites.

    I no longer feel guilty that I have to clean my plate. I think after having had a surprise colectomy two years ago, my body seems to tell me when I'm full and I don't go beyond that. Maybe it's purely mental, but it seems right. I won't be blackmailed into stuffing in something to please someone else.

    I say NEVER let go of your gusto and enjoyment for food!

  12. As I sit here reading your post, slopping the Aubergene Classic pannini I bought for lunch all over my keyboard after I called my trainer and fibbed to cancel my gym session, I feel a EUREKA moment. Always the skinny, fit sister, playing soccer into my 40's, ran the marathon, still doing 1/2 marathons, but I no longer have jeans that fit, my pants are disgusting, and that bikini? Ugh. I know it's largely hormones that I can't eat like I used to, but now that I can't, I just seem to want to even more. Where is the sense in that? I keep thinking that "next Monday" I'll find the willpower to change. I hate looking in the mirror. And yet? I ate the fries with my lunch first....

  13. I would love for the answer to be to accept and embrace who you are. You can eat what you want and exercise for health and be a happy person--I am and I do. It's really the only path because deprivation and self-loathing for not being able to attain and unattainable ideal do not a happy person make.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.