Friday, March 25, 2016

my work in progress: eating

I've been putting of posting this part of my book for a while now. But I think it's time to just suck it up and do it. It will be broken into several parts, as it's pretty long.

And here's the standard kitty pic as your reward for reading. :) This is Tiffany.


I used to minimize to myself and to other people the amount of food I ate.  “No, I didn’t eat that entire bag of chips!”  “My husband had a handful last week.” “No, I didn’t eat the whole box of chocolates! I dropped one on the floor and Cindy ate two.”  “No, I didn’t eat a whole pizza!  I stripped the cheese off the last slice and didn’t eat the crust from two of the other pieces.” Surprisingly, one does not get to be 343 pounds by eating “just a few chips”, or “one cheeseburger with a diet Pepsi.”  Shocking, isn’t it?

Time for me to publicly admit what I used to regularly eat before I had the gastric bypass surgery.  I’ve avoided it for a long time. It was just too embarrassing.  Still is. But since I’m writing a book, I guess it’s time to be honest and just lay it all out there for the world to see.

When I was a kid living at home, I would usually eat a second helping at dinner.  That’s assuming I liked what was being served.  (Until the day my mom died, she insisted that I “liked” the things I was sometimes forced to eat.  Seriously, what young kid actually likes stuffed peppers??) Not unusual. But I would often precede that with a big after-school snack, like a sandwich, or a couple Little Debbie snacks.  My mom always bought those for my dad’s work lunches. She would hide them so I wouldn’t eat them all, but I knew the hiding places and I’d just dive right in.  I never had just one. It was always two.  And that trend continued up until my surgery. Actually, I still struggle with that now, even after losing 135 pounds.

I used to have a small paper route, a weekly circular actually, and my mom would take me after school to deliver the papers.  My route took us down near the Burger King.  Every week I would beg my mom to take me to Burger King so I could get something.  Some weeks she would give in and others she wouldn’t. When she did, I always got a double cheeseburger with fries and a soda. And then I’d go home and have dinner on top of that.

My parents usually had ice cream in the house.  Sometimes it would be the dreaded Neapolitan or Butter Pecan.  Those were flavors I dubbed, “Old People Ice Cream.” But most often it would be Heavenly Hash—not great, but doable—and I was a sucker for chunky ice cream.  Typically, I’d get home from school and on days when my mom wasn’t home, I’d pull out the ice cream carton.  I’d grab a spoon, open the carton, and proceed to eat all the chunks. I’d then scoop the ice cream over the spots where I’d taken the chunks out so no one would know I’d eaten them all. I’d sometimes follow dinner with a giant bowl of ice cream while watching TV.  If we had only chocolate ice cream, I would get really creative. I would spoon in some peanut butter, or maybe Rice Krispies cereal, or even some Nesquik powder (so delicious on ice cream!).  Sometimes it was all three if we had them on hand.

Speaking of being creative.  When I had a sandwich, I couldn’t just have a sandwich. It had to be topped with something, like chips.  Most of the time it was either bologna or ham, American cheese, and lots of mayonnaise.  (Actually, the amount of mayo depended upon whose house I was at.  My parents always bought Miracle Whip, which I barely tolerated.  Once in a while they would buy regular mayo, but not that often.  Cindy’s parents, on the other hand, always bought Hellmann’s.  I’m sure you know whose house I preferred for lunch.)  Peanut butter and jelly was a candidate for topping with chips, also. My favorite chips for topping sandwiches were Doritos or Fritos.  Cindy used to laugh at me when she ate lunch at my house.  We would be sitting in the sunroom, quietly eating lunch. She with her bologna and cheese on white bread with a bit of mayo, chips on the side.  I with my bologna and cheese on white bread with an obscene amount of mayo, topped with a handful of chips.  I would push the sandwich down, not only so it would fit in my mouth, but so the chips would adhere to the mayo-slathered bread, thus ensuring a minimum amount of chip spillage.  (Yes, it was a science.)  I’d then bite into my sandwich and all you could hear was a loud “CRUNCH”, followed by loud chewing.  Cindy would usually start laughing, which got me laughing; it was an enjoyable lunch.

And toast.  Toast is a wonderful thing. It’s great for breakfast, as part of a sandwich for lunch, or as a snack. One can put just about anything on toast and it tastes good.  I used to get a bit carried away when making toast. Not only did I usually make at least three pieces at a time—four if no one was around to see—but I would add things to it.  Usually it was just a lot of butter and jam, but sometimes I’d get creative and do peanut butter with Nesquik powder (instant hot cocoa powder works in a pinch), or peanut butter and Fluff.  If we didn’t have jam I’d do peanut butter and butter—one of my mom’s favorites.  I may have added Rice Krispies a few times….

Anyway, the point is that I often got creative with my food, whether it was a sandwich, ice cream or even toast, which basically ensured I got the maximum amount of fat, calories, and sugar just about every time I ate. I’ve always felt the need to embellish my food and have some variety.  It’s not enough for me to have the sandwich and chips.  It has to be a sandwich topped with chips.  And I can’t have just one of something.  It always has to be two or more.  And when I went to a restaurant, I had to get the meal and an appetizer, sometimes two appetizers, even though I couldn’t finish it. I can’t explain it other than to say I felt like I was missing out on something if I didn’t get the meal and the appetizer.  I felt like if I didn’t make the most of my meal when eating out, the restaurant might close down and I’ll never get to eat that particular item ever again.  I know that sounds strange, but that’s how it was. And I still feel that way sometimes; however, the size of my stomach after surgery and my desire to spend less money usually prevents me from ordering all that food.

For a long time I've been trying to figure out why I've always turned to food for everything.  When I'm bored, I eat.  When I'm happy, I eat.  When I'm upset, I eat. When the sky is blue, I eat.  Food was something to do when I was bored, happy, sad, stressed, or used as a reward.  You get the idea:  I could always find a reason to eat. I always assumed I ate because I enjoyed it.  It was very pleasurable—still is—and gave me a little high. (I seriously don’t understand the people who say they eat to live, or don’t enjoy eating. My mom was like that.  She ate because she knew she had to in order to control her blood sugar, but she didn’t really care all that much about food.)

But it’s not just the enjoyment and pleasure I get from eating that caused me to eat.  It was the instant gratification I got from it.  I've always been someone who needs results now and eating gave me that enjoyment immediately.  Now that I’m older, I see that pattern throughout my life.  I was never a money saver.  I knew kids who would save up their allowance for weeks in order to buy something. Not me.  If I had $1.00 in my hand, I had to spend it.  I just couldn't save it.  Why wait all that time to buy something bigger later, when I could buy something smaller now and get instant gratification? Lots of times I didn't even wait until I had the money in my hands.  I was often in the red with my allowance.  I would beg my parents to buy me something and then tell them to keep my allowance until the item was paid off.

I realize now that I also felt a compulsion to eat. I don’t mean that every night I stood in front of the fridge, in the dark, at 11 pm and binged on anything I could get my hands on, or that it completely took over my life.  What I mean is that when I was presented with a meal, it was like someone was giving me a job to do.    There was a plate of food in front of me and it was my job to finish it.  Since I was very driven in my work life, that’s how I treated food:  it was a job that had to be done to the best of my abilities.

Lots of people say that if someone’s obese it’s because they had a traumatic childhood or they’re depressed or they have family issues.  I’m sure that’s true in many cases.  But sometimes people are obese because they love to eat, and their desire to eat outweighs their desire to be thin.  Sure, they would love to be thin and are likely upset that they can’t get themselves under control.  But the instant gratification, the high, which someone gets from eating is a very powerful force.  I know, because I spent my whole life chasing the feelings that come from instant gratification. I’m sure part of the reason I wanted that high was because I had such an awful time as school.  I felt horrible about myself all the time and food made that feeling go away temporarily.  When I was eating, I was focused on the moment: the smell of the food, the texture, the taste, and the look.  I wasn’t thinking about being called ugly names for the umpteenth day in a row.

So, what does it take to become 343 pounds at the age of 38?  It takes years of sustained overeating.

To be continued...

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