Monday, September 15, 2008

#17 How Hercules Cheats on His Wife

My husband told me this story about a year ago, and although he thought it was hysterical [in a guy-humor way], I saw it very differently. Here's how it goes: My husband takes a buddy [let's call him Hercules] to the hockey game. Hercules, being a vegetarian, orders a veggie hoagie for dinner. When the woman behind the counter asks him if he wants oil or mayo, he tells her both. She says to him, "Are you sure, honey?" He responds, "Give me a break; This is what I consider cheating on my wife."

Here's another story. My husband and kids are going to the shore for the weekend, and to make life easy, I drive my kids to my husband's New Jersey office so he doesn't have to come home first. Crossing the bridge back into Philadelphia, I begin to think about what I'm going to eat. Not, what am I going to eat for dinner, but what am I going to eat that I usually don 't allow myself to eat.

Do you see the parallel between the two stories? Hercules and I both felt liberated from our self-imposed food-choice prisons. It's not that our families are our jailers, but it's a role that we somehow bestowed upon them. Many of us eat a certain way in front of our children, spouses, parents, and even our friends. I have a friend who swears that she's never seen me over eat and can't, by looking at my size, understand that I have food "issues". It's because "that kind of eating" is done alone. I'm not a betting woman, but I bet in the Hercules scenario, if he'd ordered that same hoagie in front of his wife, she wouldn't have said a thing. Normal-eating people understand that eating in a restaurant or at a party or at an event is a treat, and that sometimes you indulge. They don't look at it as cheating. People with food issues DO see this type of eating as cheating, because more often than not, indulging means going overboard.

People like me restrain ourselves so much of the time that when we do let loose, it tends to be in gigantic proportions. When the reins are held taut, that's as close to normal as we get. And let me say, the reins may be self-imposed, imposed by others, or imagined imposed. For example, a friend of mine only eats healthy and "dietetic" meals when she's with her parents. Because she was a chubby child, her parents had held the reins and directed how and what she ate. Now, even as an adult, she still sees those reins, although she admits that her parents never say anything. I only eat one scoop of ice cream or small cones in front of my kids because I'm trying to teach them [without words] that dessert or a treat is just that. It's not a food group that is supposed to fill the belly nor fill emotionally empty spaces.

Over the years, and with many slips and slides, I've learned how to allow myself some out-of-control-time. Thank goodness, I've also learned how to rein myself in. Here's the SECRET!!! READ CLOSELY!!!! I feel better when I eat healthy food and normal portion sizes. There. That's it. Honestly. When I eat a side salad and a piece of veggie pizza, I feel satisfied. My tastebuds and belly are happy. I know if I so desire, I can have another piece, but I also know that I would feel a little overwhelmed - more full than satisfied.

Here's the next secret. Read closely!!! I can have another piece tomorrow. Normal people know their limit and, more importantly, they know the food will be there tomorrow if they want more. People with food issues think in two ways. We either believe that the food won't be there tomorrow so eat as much of it as you can today or we want to be "good" tomorrow so best to get rid of that "bad" food so it's not around tomorrow [that is, polish it off].

When I arrived home from dropping the kids off, and... feeling "let out of jail," I grabbed a bag of chips and a soda and went out on the porch to read that day's newspaper. While reading, I did something I hardly ever do [I mean, besides eating chips out of the bag and drinking soda]: I read my horoscope. Caroline James of the Inquirer wrote, Taurus, you bull, "Tomorrow is another day. This should be your mantra".

Amen, sista!

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