For the first 22 years of my life I was supermodel thin. In high school, when all the girls would obsess over their “fat,” I was an object of scorn. It’s surprising really. Both my parents were overweight. My dad was a gourmet; not by trade, but born out of his sheer love of food. He could eat a dish at a fine restaurant and go home and recreate it without a recipe. Cooking was the primary way I connected with my hunter, fisherman, business executive father; by his side as his sous chef I received his praise and his attention.
I love food. I love it for holidays, rainy days, sunny days, and any days. I love to bake–I’m known amongst my extended family for my exceptional pies, cakes, and deserts of all types. I love every kind of sauce…and cheese (except the ones that stink, taste like the inside of a barn, or come from a GOAT). I strongly believe chocolate should be a food group of its own. In spite of my love affair with food, I was always able to eat whatever I wanted and maintain a very slim figure; if I did gain a pound or two, I could simply hold my breath and lose it. While attending graduate school I lived with a woman who had a Master’s degree in Home Economics from the 1950’s. This translated to 3 large meals a day, plus desert every night. It was then that I packed on my “Freshman 15” and unfortunately from that time on I just kept packing. It took almost 25 years to shift from supermodel thin to the first time my doctor described me as “obese” at a routine visit. It had snuck up quietly: one pound, one holiday, rainy day, sunny day, and any day at a time. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed the gains. Along with my father’s love of food, I also inherited my mother’s loathing of her body. Sadly, even when I was supermodel thin I never felt really beautiful; my extra pounds made me loath my body more, but I always felt powerless to break what had become an unhealthy relationship with food. I lost my father in my early 30’s to heart disease (he was 58). My mother’s father died when she was 26 (he was 48) of heart disease. My dad’s father had numerous heart attacks. Heart disease is in my genetic makeup. In my 50’s I became very aware of my desperate need to change my ways if I hope to live long enough to be a grandmother. I took a class through the local hospital that’s central purpose was to help individuals who are at cardiac risk CHANGE their unhealthy behaviors. It started me on a path toward health, gave me incredible tools for my journey, and helped me realize I CAN change; but started is the operative word here. Changing our relationship with food, learning to like exercise, and moving toward a healthy lifestyle is not easy. I recently joined a weight loss program that attributes “points” to every food and gives me 30 points I can eat in a day. It is a very telling process. The other day I learned that my beloved Hagen Das ice cream (that I eat every evening to celebrate the end of any day) is a whopping 16 points for ½ a cup. Hmmm, I was early in the learning process -so I decided that since I am allowed to eat Hagen Das ice cream AND be on a diet at the same time, I would go ahead and eat it. After choosing to eat the Hagen Das, I woke up to the realization that I had essentially replaced dinner with ice cream and I went to bed VERY hungry. The process of becoming mindful of what we eat is painstakingly slow. One day at a time. One meal at a time. One food choice at a time. Counting points has translated to weighing the value of a food to me: 1 oz. cheese= 4 points, 1 slice of French bread=5 points, 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise =3 points. Since I’m choosing not to eat it all any more, I now have to decide, “If I eat this cheese, what will I not eat?” I feel like I’ve chosen not to eat SO many things these last six weeks. On weigh-in day week one, I was down 1.4 pounds. I should have been excited, but it felt like so little for all the things I didn’t eat. Wouldn’t it be nice if every point I did NOT eat would just translate to pounds lost? No Hagen Das=-16 points =16 pounds lost!! I would love to hurry up this process! The rewards are certainly not immediate. The results from exercise and weight lifting are not instant. It seems to take forever for the curves to shift to the places you want them from the places you don’t want them. In a world where microwaves cook our food in seconds, Siri answers all our questions instantaneously and Amazon practically delivers my packages BEFORE I even order them, it is difficult to keep working at something we want so badly and can’t see materializing. I am reminded that it took me 56 years to pack on all these pounds. For 56 years I’ve been nurturing an unhealthy relationship. It’s going to take a while for real change to happen in my heart, mind, and body and to replace an unhealthy relationship with a healthy one. Within the first few weeks of my new lifestyle endeavor we celebrated Easter, AND my girls were in town, AND we ate out three times. At my second weigh-in I was down 2 pounds. At first I was disappointed that is was ONLY 2 pounds. And then, as I shifted my thinking away from the false belief that the only measure of success is the number on the scale I began to ponder, “How did this miracle of 2 pounds occur?” In doing some observation of my week I noted a few small steps: I ate lemon meringue pie on Easter-but just one piece, and none of the leftovers the next day. I enjoyed my famous potato dish (potatoes, sour cream, mushroom soup, and ½ lb. of butter, cheese), but I ate a small amount and gave away all the leftovers. Instead of caramelized brie I made a vegetable plate, instead of deviled eggs- a fruit plate. When we ate out, I calculated carefully my menu choices. I saved some points/calories by not eating everything I wanted throughout the week, so I could afford to eat out. It’s now been six weeks since I started to be seriously mindful of my eating; I’m counting my points and have grown more respectful of what various foods will cost to my new lifestyle. In a random moment when I opened the freezer last night I saw a carton of Hagen Das ice cream. I opened it to check its status and noticed it had formed ice crystals. Ice crystals form when ice cream becomes old. This is a new thing for me. At my house ice cream never gets old, it gets consumed. The ice cream was symbolic for me. It may be a small thing to some, but the fact that ice cream sat uneaten in my freezer long enough to grow ice crystals is a sign that I am indeed changing my ways. One holiday, one rainy day, one sunny day, one any day at time.
June Guest Blogger Lyn is an exquisite home-cook who could out bake any Cupcake War. She is an itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing and loves helping her students become their best selves. She throws an annual Christmas Ginger Bread party for her students from all different schools so that they can bond and embrace their unique gifts together. Her greatest joy in life is in being a mother and she is proud to be Rachell’s.