We all need it. We all want it. We all have to have it. What is it? Food.
And I have had a love hate relationship with it for most of my life. Photographs show that I was a child of average build and size, but all that changed when I was eight years old and had a three month long bout with pneumonia with much of that time being spent in bed.
I apparently did not have much of an appetite and the doctor advised my mother to not worry about what I ate as long as I drank plenty of milk which, in the early 1950s, was whole milk. Consequently, by the time I got out of bed, I was almost as round as I was high and so began my life long battle with weight.
It didn’t seem to matter what I ate, there was the potential for another inch on my hips. Through my teens I managed to keep a regular weight with numerous activities – horse riding, swimming, badminton, archery and good old rock ‘n roll. As a Mom with a young family, I burnt a lot of energy keeping up with my three kids. Then I experienced a complete metabolic flip-flop when, after a divorce, my weight plummeted. Family and friends encouraged me to eat – and I did. Anything, at anytime, anywhere. It made no difference. At my lowest weight I was 87lbs and it took me two years to regain a somewhere-near- right for my then age, height and build weight of about 120lbs. Once I reached that weight, I maintained it for several years but it was a constant balancing act.
I lost weight again, naturally enough I suppose, when I immigrated to Canada. My husband was a true blue, dyed in the wool steak and potatoes loving Canadian but he was also a man who loved to cook. How could I refuse to eat a meal so lovingly and carefully prepared for me? From chicken wings (I’d give you the family marinade and sauce recipes but my DH would probably come back to haunt me if I did) to planked salmon, chili and sea food dishes, he tried it all. And then there were the variety of restaurants we enjoyed.
And life was changing. We became so busy that what we were doing was more important than what we were eating so, you guessed right, I started putting weight on again. Breakfast was about the only meal we ate at home. Dash here, grab pizza on the way. Dash there, oh we’ll just pick up coffee and donuts at Timmy’s. Then there were the days when we didn’t make time to eat until the evening by which time we could have consumed half a cow because we were so hungry.
Everything changes, and life changed again when my husband passed away. Being a consummate shopper, he did the shopping for what groceries we did have at home. Now, faced with not much more than an echo in my fridge, I had to start taking care of myself again and I reverted to what the cashier in my local Safeway laughingly referred to as ‘English shopping’. I bought fresh produce on a day to day basis which is almost anathema to the average Canadian shopper. I started eating more meals at home, boring and time consuming though preparing food for one person is. I’ve never been fond of frozen meals, and can easily live without a microwave, so my meals at home are now mostly salads. When I do eat out I usually have a bit of a splurge and have fries with a steak or burger and always dessert!
Now being more mature than I’ve ever been, in years anyway, it really does matter what I eat. Over the years I’ve weathered the various theories that have been touted around. You know- the ones like apples-are-bad-for-teeth-enamel versus eat-an-apple-before-each-meal, coffee-is-bad-for-you then one-cup-in-the-morning-is-fine. It all boils down to eating sensibly. A little of everything does you good as my grandmother used to say, with the emphasis on ‘little’.
And where, these days, do you find ‘little’ of anything? Supersize this or that, MSG-laden pre-packaged food products and the question about a bag of chips, ‘Can you eat just one?’ I have discovered for myself the truth nutrition gurus have been telling us for a long time – diets don’t work. Diet programs are great for initially losing weight, but how many people actually learn the lesson of smaller portions of the right foods aligned with exercise? Many don’t so, when they stop the program, the weight piles back on.
So where am I on a scale of 1-10? I must be honest. I’m pretty low on the totem pole actually. I know I could and should pay more attention to my diet. I know I could and should take more exercise than my one mile walk most days with my dog. I know some of my problem is a steroid based post cancer medication, but I also know that it’s up to me and only me to do something about it. So now I’m going to slice an apple, sprinkle it with cinnamon, cut a small piece of cheese, make a cup of green tea and dream of bacon and eggs, hash browns and Texas toast.