Saturday, November 19

Food Angst and Holidays

My aunt should have owned stock in Diet Shasta. She's been dieting with every option she could find since probably around 1969, and she's still morbidly obese--she got fatter over time of course. That's a lot of options and there's a lot of trying and it not working.

Sure, she lost weight. She just regained it of course. See this post on research related to weight regain. Concise summary: "Nearly inevitable." My theory: Moreso the more fat you begin. Caveat: entire amount may not be regained (so, that's something positive).

It is her daughter, my amazingly artistic cousin, who gained weight about as rapidly as I did and ironically at about the same age I did (I never thought of that until just now), and who eventually took up cocaine as the only hope for a solution for her wailing grief and mortified shame about her body. Now she is on the federal prison diet. That didn't end well.

I remember when I was 18 I went to a big celebration of my grandfather's 80th birthday. Family had come from around the country for this, and it was the first and probably the last celebration of its kind. My aunt was frustrated because she wanted to eat some of the food she'd spent 3 days cooking for it -- the smell of garlic bread wafting through the house was knee-weakeningly wonderful.  But she was on this diet at the time which was mostly about drinking so much water it's retarded and dangerous.

And... I could tell she felt like everybody might be "thinking" that she "should" be on a diet.

She might be right.

When I was at most 15# overweight (I didn't feel overweight, but I wasn't as thin as is considered proper today), age 19 or so (this is the 80's), I went to my stepmom's parents' house for the Thanksgiving family meal. She has 3 brothers. The entire family (except the brothers, and her at the time) was diabetic. I don't mean borderline. I mean losing eyes and limbs and dying over it eventually. At that time, several people were alive and whole who aren't now, and they were there.

Did anybody make LC versions of anything for them? No. The idea was, it's a special occasion, you stuff yourself on food that will kill you and then use insulin to compensate. Don't get me started on People Killing Their Diabetic Family Members By Making No Efforts To Help Them as that's another rant.

So, we are all eating. I was mostly scarfing down stuffing and white meat turkey which I love, despite it is dry and tasteless, go figure. Everybody else was eating more food than you can believe a person can shovel in. Plate after plate of macaroni salad, potato salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, twice-baked potatoes, brown sugar yams, fruit salad, on and on and on. I was sitting there feeling concern and pity for the fact that these people were diabetic and all the food seemed deadly. I considered eating some yams (love 'em!) but then I saw the dessert table! I decided that I wanted to have some pie instead, so I go get a slice of cherry pie. And I am walking back to my seat with it when her youngest brother eyes me with disdain and says, "Not like you NEED that, you know."

I was mortified. The other brothers laughed. I looked at him in some confusion, because a quick look around the room showed me that aside from those 3 young men, there were only approximately 3 other people in that entire seriously overcrowded house that were NOT fat, more fat, or hugely fat, plus diabetic: that would be ME, my dad, and my stepmom. So why he would say this to ME, when I weighed about 140 or so (~5'6), in that environment, compared to everyone else!, was a total mystery. I ate the pie (after saying something quietly unprintable to him) but I felt horrible then.

So the thing is, maybe people at that family gathering really WERE thinking that my aunt "should have been" on a diet. Maybe she wasn't just paranoid. Maybe she'd lived long enough fat to know what to expect.

It seems to me that this is often the perception people have about anyone fat. It doesn't matter how well you eat, or how much of the time you eat well. If you are eating anything but carrot sticks when they see you, "Well that explains it."

I (thin at the time) said you know, given you've been dieting since I was about 4, and given you are not thin, I think maybe you should take this opportunity to just enjoy the meal you worked so hard on. I mean if this were a one-time focus maybe it would be different, but this is just one day in the middle of 15 years behind and however many years ahead, and I do not think it can be held to blame for your figure. 

Journal Trolls

This reminds me of the people who on the internet, will go into someone's journal (I've seen this happen with several forum buddies), ignore that they have been eating nearly impeccably for years, point out the times in their journal that they said they ate "a coconut cookie" or "ten chips with salsa at the restaurant" or whatever, and then say, well it's obvious you just eat like crap so quit whining about being fat.

You know, if someone weighs 350# (let alone more) they are not fat because they ate 10 chips with salsa or a coconut cookie. Most people on an eating plan, averaged over a week, are low enough on carbs and calories both to absorb 'minor' things like that. People do not get and stay fat because they ate 6 cherries when otherwise VLC. That's stupid. We're not talking about major constant violations of eating plan here we're talking about occasional tiny things that were merely unplanned; not even necessarily exceeding their ideal food count totals.

Neurosis and Food

At minor gatherings, like business trips or vacations, I have gotten up and left a shared public table to eat elsewhere, because it was filled with women who the minute they sat down, started rationalizing why it was ok to eat what they were eating because..., or started talking about nothing but fat, food, food that will kill you, disease, etc. If we ever meet and you want to share a meal with me, do not bring up the evil of food, or disease! WTF is wrong with people that they can't just have a freaking meal without such neurosis?

I see it as even metaphysically bad, like cursing your food while you eat it because you're focused on totally negative stuff.  I want to tell these people, either eat well or don't, but shut the hell up about it and let other people enjoy their food! I've actually said that before -- more diplomatically of course -- but you will not be surprised to know that people did not like me any better as a result... :-)

I actually feel if you take total responsibility for yourself, oddly you don't have all that guilt because you simply accept that it was your decision to make, you had the right to make it, and that was the result and you will live with the results of your decisions. It's a matter of fact thing.

IMO the great angst is not about 'the decision' but about feeling one didn't really have the RIGHT to make the decision. So people are wringing their hands about what they should have done, even while they are with every bite making the decision over again. When you truly feel your food is your decision to make, you can just make it.

Holiday Food

In major gatherings like holidays, I'm not saying (in the above example with my aunt) that anyone should eat crappy food when they don't want to, or use it as an excuse to blow a good eating plan. Actually I'm very conservative on that point because it's been my experience that "going off-plan for a day" often derails people for six months instead.

I'm just saying that ideally, a person would not do it, and feel fine about not doing it. Or, if they ARE going to eat it either way, then they might as well enjoy themselves. The whole big complex of guilt and shame and longing and sense of unfairness and misery attached to holidays because of food is just crazy.

The best weapon is to eat yourself stuffed on meat/fats before going of course, but failing that, I would much rather a person just ENJOY LIFE if they are going to eat it anyway: being miserable doesn't reduce the carbs at all.

Being so fat and worrying about surviving to see my grandkids has really made me realize how important it is to enjoy the moment. "Life is what is happening while you're making other plans," as that saying goes.

I think for people who are new to LC or who know that they have a problem with carb-up days, clearly holidays breaks aren't the answer. But if the need feels real, you can work on enjoying life by learning to make yourself lowcarb versions of what you feel most deprived of, or alternatives that are yummy, and eat those before going.

A couple years ago my kid wanted to eat carby at Thanksgiving and she was on LC with me. So we came to an agreement: we would make some LC sweet-crunchy-maple pecans, and we would make some "almond joy" LC candy, and she could have some of that instead. It was a decent trade. Beat eating 3 plates of potatoes and more, which she might have otherwise.

I think the psychological element of food is almost worse than some of the health elements.



David Brown said...

To me, size should not be the issue. Note: whereas many skinny people develop diabetes and noncommunicable disease, at least some fat people remain healthy and active into old age. The important thing is to eat nourishing, enjoyable meals. If being thinner appeals to you, learn how to lose weight and remain thinner without feeling uncomfortably hungry. That can't be accomplished on foods that damage the metabolism or that fail to supply enough of the materials required for immune system function, energy release, cell replacement, and tissue repairs.

The Bionic Broad said...


Great post! When I got my Lap-band, I had family members horribly angry with me. They resented me for "ruining" their Christmas, because I couldn't eat. What the heck?


low carb recipes said...

If you cant rely on your family for your support what are you supposed to do, all i know is that with my decision to live a low carb lifestyle I would not have been able to keep it up with out suppost

*Sara* said...

So true. People refuse to see in themselves the faults they see as obvious in others, sad and annoying, but true.

Great post, thanks! :)