"Why is there no cream cheese?"
"Did you eat all the cream cheese?"
"I don't remember."
"Well who did??"
"There are only two of us living here! It wasn't me. So..."
"I was hungry!"
"You're always hungry!"
"Yes! I am! So what!"
It's the Mystery of The Disappearing Yummy Foods.
Now, Regina Wilshire once counseled me: Don't deprive a growing child of nutrient-foods; their body drives them to intake nutrients so they have what they need to grow. They need to have free access to the healthy foods so they can eat as needed.
I agree that seems like a sound philosophy.
But what do you do when the growing child only wants to eat all the peanut butter and cream cheese and any possible yummy snack (even homemade LC stuff), instead? In the night? Without mentioning it?
So I go to make something that for example has a little cream cheese, a quick meal on a break from work, and discover that while I bought half a dozen 8oz blocks of the stuff not long before, we now have... count them... none.
And while I don't tend to put much emphasis on calories as long as the carbs are kept low, the reality is that an 8oz block of cream cheese has 765 calories and 17g sugar carbs -- her eating it like candy with a spoon is unlikely to result in visible fat loss anytime soon, that's for sure.
But if I don't keep such things in my house, if I can't have any 'ingredients' like that lest they all disappear in the night, then MY diet totally sucks. It's not that I eat it a lot. But sometimes I want to have it around, dang it! I already have a diet which, compared to the cultural norm, is profoundly restricted. I already don't really care for veggies or fruits so they're minimal, don't eat grains or legumes at all, I despise seafood, must avoid gluten, and work to maintain low-carb. Sheesh, the food segment of the universe I have access to is not real broad anyway. It's important that I be able to make a quick bowl muffin or whatever it might be. When I do NOT eat, THAT is when I end up making "poor decisions" that take me offplan. When I feel angry and deprived, that doesn't help either.
It doesn't have to be this food item. It's less the specific than the overall point. Versatility and variety is really important when you're a full time job single mom trying to survive an eating plan where nearly everything involves shopping prepping cooking cleaning.
I got bent out of shape about this, because it was so repetitive and it seemed like no amount of griping on my part changed it at all.
If we had stew (it doesn't matter what kind of stew really) that I made in a crockpot? -- she would add tons of cream and shred cheese to it. By the time she is done, it is not only not a particularly lowcarb stew, but it's got enough calories for two entire days of food. The kid never met a carb or a cheese she didn't like, but she also avoids ever learning to get used to and like many foods, because she buries it in so much crap you can't taste anything but that.
Although this issue is not completely solved, it is better than it used to be. Here's the things we did to improve it at least to the point where it is now.
1. When we eat, I make a point to be sure there are LOTS of proteins and fats involved in our food. Not just some. A LOT. Enough that in a perfect world, she is as stuffed as possible, and less likely to be wandering around the kitchen noshing the minute I'm not looking. If we're having roast beef or steak, I put lots of butter on it, or mix butter into any sauce, to add some fats and calories. If we are having hamburger patties, I make sure to make it a good size and add cheese. If we're having various kinds of chicken, and the fat is sometimes very low in those meals, I try to find something else to add to it. For example I don't eat legumes but I keep frozen peas around for her, so I'll make her some peas with tons of butter in them. If we're having scrambled eggs, I make sure hers have some cheese, and maybe some sour cream on top.
Now, you might notice that this is greatly amping up the carbs and especially calories, and it's possible that soft-dairy isn't the healthiest thing in the world (for me anyway, which means possibly for her, genetically). I would say it's almost certain that her weight loss has been slower as a result of my intentionally upping her protein and fat so she is intentionally FULL at any meal we have.
On the other hand, when I did not do this, she ate anyway -- she ate at every opportunity and when I wasn't looking -- and she didn't eat meat, she ate cream cheese, peanut butter, lowcarb treats, and so on -- and she didn't lose much of any weight AT ALL and in fact she GAINED some.
I think this kind of exemplifies the problem a lot of people have with 'dieting': they want to lose weight 'faster' so they try to eat strictly, but then they just end up noshing or binging and not losing much weight at all, or gaining it back bi-weekly. Being willing to lose fat more slowly, by upping the protein/fats intake, if it prevents a larger degree of intake (or worse choices) as the alternative, is obviously a better choice.
2. I try to keep things in the fridge available so she always has something she can eat, that she likes well enough... she is never hungry without reasonably quick-food. THIS effort has been hard but has been something I came to understand was critically important to her progress. And if that means that she is eating too many calories, munching on deli ham and provolone on lowcarb wraps with salad veggies added, well, that's what it means. At least she is eating something semi-healthy, something with protein/fat and minimal carb and usually some fresh produce added, rather than whole blocks of cream cheese or half a jar of peanut butter.
3. I've tried to make a point to involve more of what she obviously wants, into our food. For example once in awhile I'll just mix up some fresh berries and cream cheese and Truvia / Sweetzfree as a surprise dessert of sorts. Not all the time. But enough that she gets a few more 'treats' and so hopefully won't feel as 'deprived', psychologically. Also, then if I have to say, "Oh. I was going to make you a yummy berry dessert... but there's no cream cheese..." THEN she is really mad at herself for sneaking it all, and not telling me, and now she doesn't get something she really wants.
4. I came to understand that some of her frustration is that we are different. I needed to recognize that better. She needs/wants things I don't. I could live on almost pure meat, and I can eat the same thing repeatedly for a really long time till I'm sick of it. I absolutely love hot spicy food and eastern spices. She is not so fond of meat as me, she gets sick of things very easily and needs variety, she really likes vegetables and 'lighter' feeling foods, and she likes cold-creamy things sometimes as a break from meat all the time. So I started making more things like chicken and hard boiled egg salad, with scallions and dill relish, mayo and mustard. It's cold, it's yummy, it's still got lots of proteins and fats (and if I get to the point finally of making my own mayo, decent fats then), but she feels like it's a nice change from "chicken or beef or eggs, chicken or beef or eggs" all the time.
5. I INSIST that she have a couple bites of any food without sauces, cheeses, etc. that she wants to add on beyond whatever I cooked. And I insist on hovering and nagging about not so MUCH cheese or sauce. It's annoying to both of us and a pain for both of us, but it does result in her tasting more actual food, and reducing some of the drown-it behavior, which I think over time has, actually, made her more open to the actual taste of food.
6. I quit making the foods she abused the worst, even though I love them and she liked them... only when drowning in cream cheese (such as chili, for example). The reality is, if she can't eat it without 6 ounces of cream cheese melted into that bowl, then SHE DOESN'T LIKE IT, ok. So unless I really don't mind that she's having chili "and cheesecake" for dinner, in quantity, I simply don't make it much anymore.
7. I tamed my tendency to overcompensate with more 'fun' but less healthy food. It's been a dilemma in some respects. I want her to like the food. I want her to be happy. So for example, maybe I will make her a big mushroom with ham and swiss and some sweet mayo-mustard blend. Or maybe I will make some variant on a pizza-something. But I have to be careful with this, because then I end up making food that is a little too carby, a little too processed, a little too 'special' -- a little too often. Then we BOTH end up kind of craving carbs and having trouble. So lately, I have attempted to make the weekdays pretty simple and plain, "meat and eggs" (she can always have salad stuff too if she wants) basically, and then on Saturdays we focus on cold creamy salads and more specialty foods (Saturday is "salad day"), and Sunday is "Fun Day" -- I try to do some kind of experiment that she is part of, for an LC sweet, or just something we don't have very often, like yogurt, or flax muffins, etc.
8. I make a point to always have salad ingredients on hand. I've made a point to make her prep these enough times to feel comfortable with it. I showed her how to make vinaigrette as well as we usually have bottled ranch (soon to be homemade hopefully). So she can always make a salad when another meal of meat is just not doing it for her. Plus, she can always go add some diced tomatoes and onions, or some sliced tomatoes with salt, to any food, if she feels like it.
9. When all else fails, I make sure she suffers with me. I hate having fits. I don't want to live that way. I hate nagging. Actually there's a lot about parenthood that ticks me off. So rather than having a hissy fit about it, which leaves me angry, or saying little (or just griping) which leaves me resentful, I just became the Tough Mom. Guess who is walking to the store just to buy us more cream cheese, at some very inconvenient time? Guess who wouldn't have to do this if she didn't eat all or most of it in such a short time? Now while she's not in her cool clothes, while she really doesn't feel like it, the two sides of the equation, consuming it and replacing it, become her issue, rather than the 'problem' of it being only mine. So if it's going to be a frustrating pain in the butt for me, it's going to be one for her, too.
This is not happening if she eats some of it once in awhile, understand. Only when she's consuming all or nearly-all of something in short periods and/or not telling me when I/we are shopping so I can replace it. I'm not so much punishing her (indirectly) for eating, I'm doing it for being inconsiderate enough to eat it all without regard to me, my food plans, my meal food plans for both of us, my shopping plans, etc. I don't mind her eating it now and then. Sure, I would much rather she ate it IN something reasonable, like a bowl muffin for example, than just ate it plain.
But I'm not going to freak out if sometimes she just really has a desire to eat. So do I sometimes, and I don't ask her permission for everything I feel like munching on, and I don't make her ask me (I did, or tried, when she was a bit younger). What I also expect however is for her to be responsible, and to be considerate and aware of the fact that her wiping out any food resource causes problems for me. I don't always have money for more. Or time to get it. Or transportation to get it. Sometimes I'm up at midnight on a Saturday and I want to do a fun experiment on some lowcarb item and I'm SO irked if it turns out we are out of an ingredient I was sure we had, as I have no way to get it.
But as you know, even ADULTS have serious problems keeping away from some foods. I didn't keep peanut butter in the house for like two months recently, not because of her, but because of me! I just kept eating the damn stuff with a spoon -- and often instead of meals. It was easier. Faster. Yummy and instant fat/protein. But it tends to spark some noshing cravings in me when other things don't, not to mention it does not constitute "real food". And the reality is, the more I'm NOT cooking an entire meal, the more I don't have any leftovers from that. Having 'foods you can't resist' seems to be an issue for lots of people and apparently that includes me too. It's simply that the "foods she is tempted by" are wide ranging, and include nearly everything in the "yummy" category that does not require serious prep and 20+ minutes of cooking.
I tell myself that since she is young, she has also just not had remotely the same amount of practice an adult has at 'doing without something you want' (especially as I have somewhat spoiled her in 'compensation' ways over time). She'll get there. I should be understanding that all things take practice and this no different than other things.
So I don't keep any kind of lowcarb junkfood around (like LC ice cream). Well, that's better anyway, we don't need that junk. And if I make some kind of LC treat, I make a fairly small amount that the two of us can eat, plus maybe one small meal of it after that at the most, so I don't have to worry about her plowing through a ton of it in the night.
And I try to keep up with the main list of things above:
Make her very full with protein/fat when we eat;
keep some kind of foods that she likes in the fridge or freezer so she can easily eat something decent-er if she suddenly wants to;
make treats of the things she likes best once in awhile, so she doesn't feel so deprived of them;
make variety in our meals so both the repetition and the 'heavy meat' feel are not so overwhelming to her;
make her taste the food to start adapting to it better;
avoid the foods she abuses worst;
avoid keeping LC "junkfood" around;
avoid making too-carby food too-often just to try and please her;
make weekdays super basic but designate weekends for novelty;
always keep salad/veggie food around she has total free access to;
and demand responsibility (and annoying results for her if not) for her helping me maintain 'food resources' I might want to eat or use in meals.
And you know what? A lot of this comes down to more work on MY part. More energy I have to come up with to plan, to buy, to prep, to cook, to clean, to make sure there's food for HER, not just me, and frankly keeping up with my own eating plan is hard enough.
I sometimes screw it up. Sometimes I'm lazy, or just incompetent. I'm working on my part. She's working on her part. It's not perfect yet. The cream cheese still disappears to those elves in the night sometimes. So does the peanut butter but sometimes that elf looks like me, uh oh. I forget sometimes that there's nothing to eat that doesn't take an hour of cooking so she's got limited choices if she gets hungry. So we're both a work in progress.
But we've gone from this being a chronic, insanely frustrating (even enraging) problem, one that seriously interfered with her success at lowcarb and weight loss, and even messed up my own eating plan at times, to this being a minor point that does not mess up our good relationship or available food very often.