Sunday, 6 April 2008

Just What I Need

I have been challenging old habits and exploring them. I thought of growing up and portion sizes and food. All things considered we were a large-eating family. Meal times were always times when we ate together. For the most part food was plentiful.

Pre-school years and all through grade school my Dad worked at a construction site. He was an electrician. He worked hard and purchased no food or drink. He brought his tea in a large thermos and all his meals in a lunch pail. When he got home he was hungry. In those years, his body required a lot of food. We were a meat and potatoes family - no pasta, pizza, stir fry's or tacos.
Definitely never eggs or quiche for supper. And that was before the expression, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" was vogue. Rarely, if ever, was salad served at the supper table although there were plenty of cooked vegetables.

My mom is 5'9" which is tall for a lady born in the early '30's. She is small boned and even now, weighs little. She's tall and lean and is 130 lbs. When they married, she was 28 years old and my dad could put his hands around her waist, fingers and thumbs touching.

However, can my mom eat! She eats large portions at lunch and dinner and usually a small breakfast. She usually made simple, nutritious meals and we always had dessert at supper. Whether it was a baked apple, fresh fruit, canned fruit, cakes, custard, rice pudding, ice cream or custard - there was always a dessert that she had freshly prepared that day. The rule was simple: if you wanted dessert, you ate your supper, no exceptions. I always checked first to see what dessert was before I forced down something like liver, heart, cow's tongue, or fish. My mom was smart though, on liver nights, there was usually a wonderful cake for dessert so I learned to eat liver. Sometimes I could quietly sneak it to the dog under the table.

We ate good food, heavy on protein, light on carbs, and a healthy variety of vegetables, and lots of fresh fruit. There was never processed food in the home, no peanut butter, ready-made snacks, chips or pop. We were allowed one 4 oz. serving of orange juice at breakfast and one 4 oz. serving of apple juice at dinner time - no seconds. When we were thirsty, we drank water - no exceptions! I think my brother could have a measured amount of milk servings. I didn't drink milk, after kindergarten. I gagged it down, sometimes bringing it up, until I was 5. I think Mom talked to the Dr. and then no more milk for me. I was relieved and I'm sure my mom was too.

I have a lot to be thankful for in terms of nutritious food and healthy eating habits that were passed down to me from my family. One thing that was never taught us though was healthy portion size. You ate everything on your plate or until you were full. I never learned when I was full because I was always stuffed and that became the norm.

Fortunately for me, we were an active family. Sports, walking, and lots of outdoor play was encouraged. My dad played badminton professionally and many other sports recreationally. He was a natural athlete. My mom was active too in a different way. She biked, walked, bowled, swam, and enjoyed canoeing in the summer.

As children, we were very active. Both my brother and I had fast metabolisms. All through school years, including university, I was tiny, or petite. I enjoyed sports and they were a huge part of my life. I don't know any girl, and few guys who ate more than I did. I had a reputation.

No one ever called me greedy or gluttonous but I probably was. For me, restaurant portions were never enough. I ate mine and anyone else's who couldn't finish theirs. A standard fare for me in high school and young adulthood at Swiss Chalet was: Half chicken dinner with fries and then a side order of fries and a salad with chalet dressing. I ordered 2 chalet sauces. Oh, and I always finished off with a chocolate Super Sundae for dessert. I rarely felt full when I was finished.

I guess because I fit in the culturally defined role of thinness, I was accepted. No one challenged me on my eating. I wasn't obese although many people who were, ate less than I did. Socially, I had no sanctions for my eating habits.

I am 43 now. For the last 10 years I have had to monitor my eating and maintain exercise. I lost weight easily after Hannah and with a little work, after Josh. By Olivia, it was more of a challenge. After 2 miscarriages, I got really high. It was then that I first joined weight watchers through a friend. She joined but I got all the information and bought a Weight Watcher's Cookbook at Costco. For the first time, I learned what were healthy portion sizes and what was a serving size. Was I shocked! I couldn't even imagine eating that little.

However, I learned and over 9 months, I lost 30 lbs. I didn't gain that back. I then got pregnant with the twins. When I came out of the hospital (5 days after their birth), I was back into all my pre-pregnancy clothes, and they were too big! I was nursing 11 and a half hours in every 24 hour period.

I indulged. I was getting very little sleep, averaging one and a half hours in every 24 hour period for the first 2 mos. What I didn't get in sleep, I made up for in food. By the time they were 6 mos. I began to gain weight. When they were a year old, I began exercising 3 times a week but didn't reduce my food intake. My hormones were really out of whack and I was officially in the "change of life", cycling on average every 16 days for over a year. When I was 30 lbs. overweight I knew it was time to change. I had to begin, "Stopping the Slide" and make healthy lifestyle changes.

After Shan's first blog, I thought about why I over-eat and snack. My parents rarely ever snack. It's just not part of their lifestyle. After dinner time is passed, they don't even have a cup of tea. Since I've been a stay-at-home mom, I snack. I look for after-the-kids-are-down rewards, especially when Jason's working his 2 weeks of evenings. I also seek out chocolate or sugary snacks about 4:00 p.m , my low time. Now I have nothing in the house, because of my lack of self-control. I eat protein at every meal, so I am satiated. I snack wisely in the afternoon (a piece of fruit and/or a ryvita cracker with cream cheese and salsa) to help with the cravings.

Sadly, I sometimes go out and buy a chocolate bar or when I am out I have a war with my self as to whether or not to treat myself to one. I crave chips during my cycle times or other salty snacks. I tend to desire larger quantities of food pre-cycle. I know what healthy serving sizes are and battle with it.

I am trying to learn to eat just what I need. I don't always discern, even now, when I have eaten enough. I enjoy food and if I like the taste, I want more - even when I'v had enough.

So by accident I stumbled on a blog 2 weeks ago that really got me thinking. It was a real eye-opener. The author is Bekah Ferguson and she lives here in Ontario. She calls herself a food addict and explains what an addiction is. By her definition, I qualify. She calls gluttony or greed a sin. Ouch! Her blog was convicting reading as well as thought-provoking. I guess I want to say, just because I'm not obese, doesn't mean I don't have a food problem. I'm not sure if it is fair to say that just because you are obese, you have a problem with food. We all need to learn to eat just what we need. Our exercise or output needs to be more than our input. It's that simple in theory. It's all those emotional attachments that go with eating that make losing weight so complex.

If any of you are interested, the site I stumbled onto is Sorry I can't do the link for you. I'm not yet that computer savvy. Incidentally, she is an author and a mom of 2 young children. Her blog is easy to read!

I need to explore the concept of food-addiction more. In the meantime I want to learn to eat just what I need!

Thanks for sharing this journey with me. It means so much.


Belinda said...

Dear Joyful,
I've had a very indulgent and unsuccessful week when it comes to eating healthily.

Your post was an encouragement, thank you for writing it.

It's amazing how much better it feels to know that I have friends fighting the same battle and we can keep eachother from giving up completely.

Shan said...

Thank you, Joyful Fox, for sharing all this. I don't know about you guys, but for me, exploring emotions, and the sources of food habits, is hugely important to motivation.

And I want you to know that I was downtown on Friday, hungry, with two little hungry girls, and I drove HOME and made lunch instead of getting fast food. Why? Because I said to myself, "I can NOT face Fox and Belinda next week and tell them I put fries and a spicy chicken sandwich into my body."

So thank you - so much.

Belinda said...

Both of you have helped me keep from starting the slide back up to where I began or worse. Your encouragement and being "together" in the effort towards healthy eating and healthy relationship with food are wonderful. Thank you both. So far so good today. Of course the evening is my worst minefield and lies ahead, but I will think of my "buddies against the bulge" as I cross it.