Saturday was my “free day” on the Body for Life program; I could eat what I wanted. What I wanted — what I’ve been craving for weeks — was blueberry pancakes. I went to a local diner and enjoyed two enormous pancakes topped with blueberries — not the blueberry compote found in most places (comprising tiny berries and a thick sweet syrup), but about a cup of actual plump plain blueberries. I also had a small plate of eggs and bacon. I could not eat it all.
I did not eat anything else that afternoon.
In the evening, Kris and I joined Mac and Pam for dinner at a nice restaurant in Salem. Again, because it was my free day, I ordered what I wanted. I had an appetizer of three pork ribs in a sort of soy sauce. (And sampled some of Kris’ salmon fondue.) My entree was “penne diablo”, a pasta dish with crab and pork sausage in a spicy tomato sauce. It wasn’t subtle, but it was tasty. For dessert, I had apple pie and ice cream.
As we ate, Kris and Pam admitted they could not understand the struggles that Mac and I face every day with food. For them, eating sensibly is natural. For us, it is not. Pam asked about my current regimen, eating six small meals a day.
“Do you feel this is sustainable?” she asked. I admitted that I did not.
“Six small meals a day means about 300 calories per meal,” I said. “And it’s difficult for me to find interesting food. Spinach is fine, but I don’t want to eat spinach salads every day. That’s the challenge, I think: to find a way to make lasting changes with food.”
For me, those changes include creating sensible, balanced meals that satisfy my sense of adventure and my craving for food that tastes good. But more than that, I need to learn to eat in moderation. For Kris, one chocolate chip cookie is enough. Not for me. I want three or four — but eight is better.
Discovering this balance is a process, though, and I’m working toward it.
Craig, shucking oysters before book group. That’s me in the background,
taking a picture from a different angle. Photo by Courtney Cronk.
On Sunday, our book group gathered for dinner. We discussed M.F.K. Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me. Fisher was a gourmand, and The Gastronmical Me is a book devoted to her life-long discovery of food and the pleasure food brings. Reading her descriptions of honest wine, honest fish, honest bread, and honest cheese made me really very hungry.
Because I knew in advance we’d be eating well for dinner, I was forced to make a decision: Should I stick to the Body for Life six-small-meals-per-day plan, or should I do something else to prepare for the evening meal? I had no desire to limit myself to only 300 calories.
I chose to eat two small meals for breakfast and lunch, and then nothing between noon and six. This was a conscious choice, though it may not have been the best one. Actually, I did very well, sampling the pancetta-wrapped halibut, trying two oysters (my first two oysters), enjoying the asparagus, and limiting myself to two glasses of wine. (I did very well, that is, except for the bread. I ate too much bread.)
As we discussed the book, I tried to articulate the psychology of eating. “I think there are three types of people,” I said. “There are those for whom food is an experience, a thing to be loved. I’m one of those. For another type of person, food is merely nourishment, a source of calories. And a third type doesn’t notice food at all.”
Those weren’t my exact words, and in retrospect, I’m not making the distinction as clearly as I’d like, but I still believe it. I love food. I love to eat. While it’s true that I eat compulsively, and that this is a very real problem, it’s my love of food that will always make dieting a challenge.
“What you need,” Kris told me the other night (as she’s told me many times before), “is to learn to practice moderation. It’s fine to love food. But you need to do it in a way that makes sense.”
As always, Kris is right. While I continue to exercise on the Body for Life plan (which is going quite well, by the way), I need to think about ways to combine my love of food with a healthy diet in ways that are sustainable. I believe that moderation is going to be key.