Tag Archives: compulsive eating

Clean That Plate and Polish Those Bones

I heard it just yesterday – “All those children starving in Haiti and you’re going to leave that on your plate.”  Sister Paula’s variation for us first and second graders was, of course, the starving children in Africa.  My grandfather advised us to “polish those bones” when Nanny served chicken.  And, at the Doty dinner table, we were encouraged to belong to The Clean Plate Club.  How ever you heard it, I’ll bet you were also told to eat all of the food that you took or that was served to you.

Tacoma, WA, food bank
Shelves at the food bank in Tacoma, WA

Once upon a time, Americans didn’t have refrigerators or the electricity to power them. They had no way to preserve left-overs and, since food was a great deal more scarce then and too valuable to waste, it had to be eaten when served. Fried food was a good thing because it increased the number of calories in a single serving, providing more energy from the same dinner. When my mother was young, she and her brothers picked cotton in Mississippi.  Without that energy, it would have difficult for them to survive, much less work the farm. Waste not, want not.  Of course that is the right thing now, just like it was then.  The problem now, is that our plates are larger, our portion sizes are larger, our food is less natural and more loaded with sugar, salt and other preservatives.  We are eating ourselves to death to avoid waste!

When I first started changing my lifestyle, I left food on my plate at restaurants and even at home.  Even though doggie bags and Tupperware are options, it was physically painful for me to leave the food there. Like Pavlov’s pooch salivating at the bell, I felt physically ill when I went against my dinnertime conditioning.  It’s STILL a struggle and perhaps the source of my compulsion to finish off any open bag of Cheetos.  The thing is: it is essential to get over this false stress response.  I’ve gone back to eating all the food I’m served in a restaurant.  Even if my meal is a salad with no dressing, too much food is still too much food. In the lifestyle change, I halved my food immediately when it was served.  I ate half and brought the other half home.  I MUST return to that habit.  Otherwise, my stomach again looks for massive amounts of food to feel full.  The overeating cycle is re-enforced.

The truth that we know is that we all eat too much.  No one can break that habit but us.  We have to have a Nancy Reagan moment and “just say no” – no quart of salad, no 16 ounce steak, no Man vs Food (in my opinion one of the most disgusting displays of excess on television).  We can bring it home.  If not, the world won’t stop spinning if we just leave it at the restaurant sometimes.

Yes, we are morally bound to help the starving in Haiti, in Africa, and in our own communities (there are far more of them than we think); but, giving ourselves obesity induced heart-attacks and strokes just ain’t the way to do it.

Adult Supervision Required in Aisle Two

I have a confession that’s a little embarrassing.  I’m 45 years old and I can’t be trusted with a box of Girl Scout cookies.

Homemade brownie bites
My homemade brownie bites

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m an emotional eater.  As it happens, I’m also a little compulsive about some things – like finishing things.  And by things, I mean boxes of cookies, containers of ice cream, bags of chips more than I mean household chores.

My son doesn’t have these food issues and for that, I am profoundly grateful.  He can take a bite or two out of a candy bar and walk away from it.  That amazes me.  I am compelled to eat the whole thing, then look for more.  I don’t know if that’s a compulsion or a sugar addiction.  In any case, don’t ask to share my Lion bar.  It’s not going to work out for you.

In my profile, I say that I’m a non-smoking smoker.  I see myself that way because, although I quit smoking six or so years ago, I smoked for the better part of 20 years.  On a really stressful day, I still feel like I could eat an entire pack – aluminum foil and all.  However, I choose not to and I make that choice every day.  If you’ve done it, you know that quitting smoking is no walk in the park.  The thing is, though, you don’t have to smoke to live.

You do have to eat to live.  Changing portion sizes, food selections and cooking methods are all well and good.  But temptation is still EVERYwhere.  I choose not to smoke; so, I can avoid smokey places, cigarette stores, situations where I once would have smoked.  I can’t avoid food.  And, c’mon, have you seen the snack aisle?!  Plus, my dieting doesn’t mean that my son should never have treats.  So, what to do?

In theory, I should be able to just NOT eat those cookies.  Um, yeah.  In reality, I swear they talk to me. “Eat me!  I’m right on top of the refrigerator.  Look up!”  As long as the bag is open, I hear them.  Ugh.  I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only adult who cannot walk past an open bag of snack mix.

The obvious solution is to stay completely away from temptation.  To do that, I’d never walk into a convenient store, Starbucks, or grocery store again.  Clearly, that isn’t an option.  I CAN just abstain from buying any treats.  Ever. For the rest of my life. Again, um, yeah.

The best snack solution is to keep lots of fruit, string cheese, yogurt, nuts and other healthful choices around.  And I do that.  I also keep 85% dark chocolate in the freezer and unbuttered popcorn in the cabinet.

However, I want to be able to enjoy ice cream, chips, cookies and the rest from time to time.  For those snacks, I’ve found a pretty workable solution. I buy single servings and I give away most of what I bake.

Skinny Cow, Edy’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Haagen Dazs all make single serving containers (and, no, I’m not talking about pints).  We’ve all seen single serving chip bags as well as cookies at the deli.  Skinny Cow also makes low-calorie, single serve chocolate candies.  The cost per serving for treats packaged this way is higher, sure.  However, my largest concern with the snack issue isn’t my wallet as much as it is the size of the pants that wallet is in.