There. I've said it.
I love -- adore -- food. It has been more than nourishment to me in my life. It has often been my friend, my comfort, my solace, particularly when I was a child. My mother was one of those Southern cooks who made everything taste phenomenal, and we never talked about calorie or carb content, grams of protein or fiber, or saturated fat. She came from a long line of fantastic Southern cooks, and I learned a lot at her side. Though she often shooed me out of the kitchen or nudged me out of the way because I wasn't doing something the way she wanted me to, I learned to make fried chicken, delicious Texas chili, savory beef stew, and sumptuous meat sauce for spaghetti. We made pans of lasagna, made creamed corn from scratch (and froze plenty of bags of it for the winter), hand-mashed potatoes, and prepared incredible Thanksgiving meals.
Sundays were family dinner time. Mom would put on a pot roast in the morning before we left for church, and when we got home, we'd prepare the rest of the meal: vegetables, salad, potatoes, and cherry cobbler. It was a big, noisy event that was like having Thanksgiving every week.
The desserts were a big deal, though. Paradoxically, my mother and eldest sister were always on diets, but they had some of the most amazing dessert recipes. My sweet tooth has been with me my entire life. I grew up eating fudge that would melt in my mouth, sugary and rich; lemon meringue pie with just the right "bite"; coconut cake with a delicate homemade icing; cherry/peach/apple cobblers with big chunks of fruit; egg custard baked to a golden brown; and homemade hot cocoa with a big marshmallow bobbing in the mug. I can make a fruitcake that even fruitcake haters have to admit is delectable. I can make divinity fudge without a candy thermometer, using the tried-and-true method of watching the syrup drip from the spoon, patiently waiting for it to spin a fine thread, signaling just the right quality for the optimal fudge consistency.
Naturally, these foods exacted a price from us. Mom, like many of our relatives, became a Type 2 diabetic. It gradually damaged her arteries and her heart. One of my aunts went blind from uncontrolled diabetes. Even when my mother finally got hers under control, the damage was done. Her life was shortened by her love of food and of sweets and starches in particular.
Hubby and I have watched our family history evolve and have watched our own "numbers" change at our annual physicals. First we cut back on salt, then fats, then carbs. It's gotten to where we can't just enjoy food anymore; we have to think about what we're eating, and we read labels. That has taken so much of the fun out of eating. Yes, I know the old "eat to live, don't live to eat" adage, but c'mon, wasn't it fun when we could just eat? Has America gotten healthier or slimmer by focusing so much on the numbers? Nooooo. Does that mean we should just throw in the towel and eat whatever we want? Noooo. But we already do that, don't we? There's something in our brains that makes us rebel against what we know is good for us and just go ahead and order that pizza or pick up a triple-sized cookie to go with our latte.
I've been watching a couple of shows tonight about half-ton people. That used to be Guinness world record-worthy, but now, it's just another epidemic. What really gets me is the codependents who are mired in the lives of these super morbidly obese people (yes, that's the new term). Each one of them has one or more people in their lives who brings them their drug of choice: rich, fattening food in large quantities. And you can see the anxiety written all over these enablers when the patient finally has to pay the piper, being forced to prepare for and undergo bariatric surgery. Whatever will the enabler do once portions are measured in tablespoons and not platefuls?
One of the things a doctor said on this show tonight was that people are becoming super morbidly obese out of ignorance. I disagree. I think that people know that eating this much food (i.e., a dozen eggs with a half-block of cheddar, half a loaf of bread, and a pound of bacon for breakfast) will make them fat. It isn't as though any of these people haven't been watching television, being exposed to this information on a regular basis. Most of them can read, too. They know it. And they do it anyway.
We have a few issues in our culture. In some respects we have forgotten how to love others without buying that love with money or food. My dad was big about shelling out money for things rather than showing us affection. These enablers of the super morbidly obese are loving their person with food - lots of it. Add to that the switch that gets flipped at some point in a person's head, when their quest for the pleasure of food and its ability to let them stuff down their feelings overrides their better judgment or self-love.
I wonder if there has been any research into the codependency issues that co-exist with the patient's psychology and biology. If the treatment plan also addressed the codependency along with the patient's diet, exercise, physical and mental therapy, and surgery, would the outcome be better and more permanent?
For me, I don't see super morbid obesity in my future, but I do see a continuing struggle with my sweet tooth and love of the pleasurable sensation of food crossing my palate. in 2006-7, I lost 60 lbs. I no longer look like my driver's license picture. But when I reached a size 10, I was looking a little gaunt and hollow around the eyes. Yes, I could fit into anything I wanted, but I didn't like how I looked. I'm up about 17 lbs from where I stopped the diet, and I'm not entirely happy about that. On the other hand, I'm at a size 12, which has always been a very good size for me. It's the size I was when I got married in 1983. It's the size I was before and after having my first child. And it's the size I was in the late 80s. So I'm not really complaining, but sometimes I think I need to be smaller to have a bigger gap between me and metabolic syndrome (which I had before the weight loss). Now my numbers are all good, and I am happy with the way I look. But that pavement is oh so narrow.
What about you? Is food a dangerous thing for you like it is for me? Have you struggled with your weight? What are your thoughts on these codependent food/love relationships?
Discuss amongst yourselves. ;-)
Peace - D