The Weight Thing

Here it is. I started out a regular apple, brownie, spinach, cheetos, carrot, ice cream in particular butterscotch sundae loving girl. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and a snack of popcorn or a really hard to peel orange during
“To Tell the Truth” most of the year, and on holidays a whole lot more. I say I love cheetos and I do, but growing up I probably had them 10 times.
I never thought about the relationship between food and weight. You ate because you were hungry and whatever weight you were, that’s what you were.

When I started college my diet changed to a bagel that I could make last all day, iceberg lettuce, and 7 cans of Tab. The look I was after was a sort of denim and bones. Food was an enemy, always lurking and in my face. I hated it.

When I was pregnant everything changed. In one of those militant-wake-up-you’re-growing-a-baby books, I read that statistically the healthiest babies were born to women who were eating really well. Seriously well. Vegetables and fruits of every color, protein, carbohydrates and even high quality fat. Tab and bagels were going to get me nowhere.
I tucked in and fell in love.

I ate spinach, salad greens, yellow squash, green squash, tomatoes, onions, basil, thyme, rosemary, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, braised meats, fish still flapping thrown on a grill, chickens stuffed with lemons, rice simmered with bay leaves and a little butter, potatoes roasted with whole cloves of garlic, lentils with curry and coconut milk and a tiny heap of flour rubbed into eggs and olive oil, cut into tender noodles and tossed with briny mussels braised in white wine with shallots and parsley. I never dieted again. And I lost weight. I have been the same weight now for about 20 years.
I think what happened was, after I started truly eating I no longer felt deprived. I shifted into thinking that it was a good thing to eat, a healthy thing to eat. I gave up all things “diet”; no more skim milk, no more diet soda or diet jello or non fat ice cream. I walk because I have to get somewhere or I run up the stairs from 3 flights down at 53rd and Lex on the 6 train because I love to feel my heart beat. I bicycle because I like going fast and I am cheap and it costs a whole heck of a lot less than driving.

When September rolls in after a life time of school starting it’s always a beginning. If you happen to be in a place of wanting to make peace with you and food and all that that is, here is a list of one way to start:

1. Forget thinking about losing weight or eating less. Just think about eating differently.

2. Move everyday. You don’t have to time yourself, but get outside two times a day. Bike to the grocery, walk with your kids around the neighborhood which gives you a chance to talk to them (when they are in the house they are almost always doing their own thing) walk the dog-heck get a dog.

3. Don’t worry about changing what you cook for your family, just start from scratch whenever possible and add more to the table. For instance, if you make frozen lasagna, make your own lasagna instead. If you have no time to make lasagna, make ziti w/sauce and meat and cheese and spinach. If you buy cookies, don’t. Make them. Anything in your cupboard that somebody else packaged and convinced you to buy, don’t buy anymore. Make it yourself. If time is an issue, eat way more simply and then you won’t have to cook such complicated stuff. Throw a whole fish in the oven with slices of lemon, rosemary olive oil and salt. Or get a pan super hot, put a little sea salt on a chicken fillet and and throw it in there with a few slivers of shallot and a chopped red pepper. Have plain pasta and olive oil w/some red pepper flakes, chopped tomato and garlic and a salad on the side. All of that is just about getting in the habit.
Eating processed foods, even in between meals can really slow you down; the idea is, if you have to make something, you will be more conscious and respectful of what you are eating. And ADD vegetables. Always have plenty of salad on the table or raw vegetables or raw cut up fruits.

4. (cont./it’s just too much to put all of this in #3.) Here’s why. It’s almost guaranteed that as much as you love fresh fruit and vegetables you aren’t eating as many as you need.
The trick: whatever is for dinner, give yourself as much as you think you would like once. That’s it. If you find you are still hungry, fill up on all those fruit and vegetables on the table. If you are still hungry, eat more of the fruits and vegetables or give yourself a bigger initial portion of what’s for dinner. You might not be giving yourself enough when it’s serving time. (If you know that you are starting out with 3 sandwiches when other people are having 1, don’t worry about it; it’s just nerves. When your mind gets that you are going to have enough food and you feel comfortable, serve yourself what you would serve a pre teen. (Pre teens get a solid portion. As a measure, ittle kids don’t eat enough and big kids eat enough for 4.) After that portion, as many fruits and vegetables as you need.

5. Freeze your fruits. Freeze your peeled ripe bananas, seedless grapes, watermelon and blueberries. They taste really good like that when you are craving ice cream between meals or whirred up in the food processor with plain yogurt.

6. Have dessert (cake, pie, ice cream) the way my mother would have served it. On a Friday or a Sunday. Have a regular sized piece and if you are still hungry, have fresh fruit. Unless you need it. If it’s somebody’s birthday or it’s a holiday, be served a slice on a plate along with everybody else, sit down (this is the important part) and enjoy it!

7. Almost everybody craves sugar/chocolate. Keep a bittersweet really expensive, really delicious bar in the fridge JUST FOR YOU. Take a bit if you need it. If you are seriously hungry and it’s a long time until the next meal and you will slap the next piece of fruit or vegetable that gets in your way, keep UNsalted peanuts or almonds in the cupboard. Take a handful and you’ll feel better.

8. (I know already said this but it is worth saying again.) Eat foods that are unprocessed and as close to their original form as possible.

9. If you can, breathe deeply a few times a day.

10. Get enough sleep.

PS I am in no way an authority on this except for my own experience.

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