Sunday, July 31, 2005

Casserole and adolescence

We were not into food growing up. Me, my sister, and my brother were all skinny kids. Food just wasn't a big deal in our household. We didn't get a lot of junk food for one thing, so what's fun beyond that? Plus, my mom has never been into food, and as a result she had a set dinner rotation she stuck to pretty fiercely for as far back as I can remember. We ate delicacies like "Lemon chicken" -- which was chicken cut into pieces in a casserole dish with butter melted all over it and lemon juice squeezed on top. Or fried steak, at least twice a week. Ground beef pretty much the rest of the time. We were a meat and potatoes kind of family, and that was fine because like I said, we didn't really care. As far as side dishes, it was often a potato concoction of some kind, or "mayonnaise beans" -- which, in retrospect, was every bit as disturbing as it sounds. As a child, I LOVED the bowl of canned green beans smothered in mayonnaise, the white stuff coating every single bean delicately in greasy goodness. Bleah. (and i'm sure that's why I won't touch mayo with a 10-foot pole today.)

Anyway, as a result of this food apathy, I left for college knowing absolutely nothing about nutrition or calories or fat -- I only vaguely knew what I weighed, because what did it matter? I'd never given it a second thought. Until my freshman year away from home. The year I discovered what other kids had known for years -- the joys of pizza. Fast food. ANY fast food. Restaurants of all kinds. Mexican food that wasn't El Chico. Snack foods. The ability to eat as many cookies as I wanted, no one was going to stop me. The ability to drink cokes all day long. Nirvana. I was thrown into this food mecca called college, and for the first time in my life I gained weight. I believe I gained the obligatory freshman 15, but at the time it was devastating. My clothes were tight. I felt bloated and icky. And when I went home for the summer, I promptly went on the fad diet of the early 90s, Slimfast. I stuck to that diet like no one's business. I remember I was doing temp work that summer, so every single day I'd bring an orange and a Slimfast bar (the old, gross ones, not the candy-bar-like ones we have today) and drink a Diet Coke in the breakroom for lunch. By myself. I remember co-workers commenting that I didn't need to lose any weight, and looking back, I didn't. In fact, I worked at a fancy bank downtown for a few months, and I can only imagine how those middle-aged women must have hated me. The 125-lb college girl refusing the cookies someone brought in, or declining a lunch invitation because she HAD to lose that weight. I know I hate girls like that now, when I see them :) I can't help it, I've become that bitter, overweight, middle-aged woman who rolls her eyes at interns who trot around in Melrose-Place short skirts and heels (although most of them don't even remember Melrose Place), who wear makeup every single day, who never have a hair, or a pound, out of place. Mixing among the rest of us, who wear jeans and tee-shirts and eat at ChickFila more often than not. I actually have evil thoughts, like "just wait til you hit 25, it all goes downhill from there sweetheart." But I digress. I was one of "those" girls.

That summer I lost the weight and then some and went back to school svelte and energized, feeling in control of my body. In truth, I was a little "too" in control; it was really hard for me to eat solid food again, I was so paranoid I'd gain the weight back. But I didn't, for years -- however I sure fretted about it every day of my life starting from when I was 18. I look back at those photos now, of me in school, me just married, and I slap my hand against my forehead because I was so thin and at the time, no one could have convinced me that I wasn't a cow. I HATE that. I even tried to be philosophical about it and apply it to now; thinking, hey, I think I'm fat, but in 20 years will I look at these photos and slap my forehead? Why can't I just live in the moment and be happy with how I am right now?? However, those thoughts just make me more depressed about the whole weight thing. And if that's true? If someday I look at photos of right now and think I'm thin? You might as well kill me now, sistahs.

But this is more about food than the ever-present and dull topic of weight. Somewhere along the way, I began turning to food for comfort. Also for celebration. For any mood or occasion, really. I developed a taste for restaurant food I have never been able to kick -- I hate to admit it, but I'd almost always choose a restaurant meal over home cooked -- not always, but often. Food cheers me up momentarily, only to devastate me an hour later. It is such a temporary high, how can it even be worth it? What I wonder is, what did I rely on in high school, because I know I had bad days back then, and I didn't turn to food; so what was my crutch?? Was it my best friend Ann? Was it my music? Adam and the Ants know a lot of my adolescent secrets, that's the truth. This mystifies me, because once I "discovered" food, I have never been able to go back. And I so wish I could go back to the days when eating a chicken leg and mayonnaise beans satisfied me. Well, rhetorically, at least.

Anyway, I've had a pretty solitary weekend, and I've been thinking a lot about my attitude about food and where it comes from. Mostly because I've had to feed myself this weekend and have been foraging around my kitchen, something that I really hate to do. But my desire to stay home overcame my desire for Sonic, at least this time.

How come some people turn to food and others to alcohol or drugs? Not that I'd rather be an alcoholic or drug addict; I guess I can live with being a few pounds overweight if those are my alternatives. So Internet, what is your secret comfort, your crutch? I'm really curious, because we all have something... don't we?? Please tell me we all do...

3 comments:

Crazy MomCat said...

We have talked about this too many times over the years for you to not know my response here...

AMEN, CHICA!!!!

And, if you get any answers to your questions, let me know please!

Oh, and I did the slimfast thing after my freshman year too. I lost 8 pounds and came back looking a million bucks, but yes, I too thought I was still fat. Sigh...

Suburban Turmoil said...

Heard about you from "momcat" and totally identify with the old pictures thing. I can't BELIEVE I thought I was flabby back when I weighed 120. And I thought my pictures looked horrible.
Since then, I've married a foodie and had a baby. I weigh 15 pounds more than I did when I married, but since I gained and then lost 50 pregnancy pounds, I'm actually feeling pretty darn good about myself-- Although I'm determined to get back to my original 120 pounds (ha ha ha!)
I feel like it was so much easier to lose weight when I was single. Now, I'm cooking for a family and there's no way I'm going to make a delicious meal for them and then sit myself down to a plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli... Oh, well.
When you find a solution, let me know!

Babs said...

how weird... I've been mulling over a blog entry on weight for awhile! I can totally relate to the LAME casseroles growing up... it's like how many things can you make with Cream of Mushroom soup?!? My sister and I always bust out laughing when people reminisce about their great homecooked meals growing up...

What I've come to realize is that I'd rather enjoy a good meal, or a few great drinks, without worrying about the calories (or points or carbs or whatever). My happiness is more important than the size of my hips! :-)