Food Culture (Or: Why I’m Chubby and What I’m Doing About It)
June 2nd, 2011
When I blogged a few weeks ago about joining Weight Watchers in order to continue my Battle Against the Bulge, a good friend of mine emailed me in response. She wrote to say: “We have such a pernicious food culture in the U.S. I can think of practically none of my contemporaries who struggled the way young mothers do today to lose their post-partum weight. And I am perplexed as to why you, in particular, are finding it hard, given your acute awareness of the pitfalls all around us.”
I’ve been pondering her words and have found the experience helpful. When trying to lose weight, it is indeed a good idea to think about how/why you got to the point you’re at. She’s right that I am pretty well versed in nutritional basics. I know my food groups and their relative merits. I understand the important role of exercise. And yet, there I was, twenty pounds heavier than when I got married…and not happy about it! So what gives? There’s no one culprit (just as there is no one easy solution!), but in my case, I find myself confronting the following.
1) I have poor will power. Yes, I know that a carrot is a better snack than a cookie. But I love cookies. I have a sweet tooth the size of Montana. We don’t keep sweets in the house for that very reason, but if someone brings in treats to work, or there’s a potluck at church, or my parents come to visit…all control flies out the window. Now, I recognize that a cookie isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I rarely manage to eat just one cookie. I’m far more likely to eat five. Or grab that third piece of pizza. Or go back for another helping of ham and bean soup, more because I loved the taste than because I’m still hungry. At the end of the day, I eat too much food. Period.
2) I’m an emotional eater. I have no idea when or where it started, but I find food comforting. If I have a bad day at work, I’m likely to feel like I “need” a piece of chocolate to feel better. If I’m celebrating, I’ll reach for the ice cream or grab a chai latte at Starbucks. If I’m bored? I eat. If I’m sad? I eat. Not in a “scary eating disorder binging” kind of way, but definitely not in a healthy way either!
Points 1 and 2 are then compounded by 3, which is…
3) I’m way too sedentary for my own good. These days, I get virtually no exercise. I work full-time, commute an hour each way, rush around getting dinner on the table, and put the babies to bed. I usually have about an hour and a half between kid bedtime and my bedtime, during which period I clean the kitchen, make Buggie’s lunch for the next day, do laundry, blog, catch up on email, etc. Could/should I jump on our elliptical machine for 15 minutes? Of course. But inertia usually wins and I prefer to collapse into a little heap.
There are other issues, too, but I’ve identified those three as the biggest in my life. And I’m doing something about them.
Weight Watchers is helping me a lot with one and two. (And no, they’re not paying me to say so — though I wouldn’t say no if they wanted to!) By tracking each and every bite of food that I consume each day, I’m really becoming aware of the areas where I overindulge. And having a daily points total really forces me to think about the food I eat, rather than mindlessly reaching for the chips and guacamole at work. Intentional eating is a Really Good Thing and helps to counteract the emotional eating as well as to provide some external will power.
Now, I stop to ask myself — “am I really hungry?” — before I grab a cheese stick out of the fridge or munch on some crackers. Is that muffin really worth “spending” a third of my daily food points on? Sometimes it is. But usually not!
As for point 3, I’m working on it. Now that the weather’s nicer, I’m hoping to rearrange my daily schedule enough to allow for some family walks (with Buggie strapped to my back it really adds to the workout!). And my best friend and I have decided to try a Zumba class one night a week. I’ve never done Zumba, but I love the idea!
And little by little, I’ll whittle away the flab. Two weeks into my new resolution and I’m down five pounds, which is very encouraging!