Into Her Clothes and into Her Head

I was standing in line at Bio Life yesterday afternoon, waiting to get my finger pricked and my blood pressure and temperature taken, when my eyes landed on a young miss who was probably five foot nothing with a tiny frame. I glanced around at the other attendants and determined that her lab coat was a mere fraction of the size of the others. Was it a small or maybe even an extra small? I wouldn’t have been surprised. Her slender body made the perfect clothes hanger for the lab coat that hung crisply down the sides of her body, unlike some of the wrinkled lab coats of her coworkers that tucked into fat rolls and stretched across girthy backs and bosoms.

Every woman in there would probably love to be able to get into her clothes, but, at that moment in time, there at Bio Life on that Saturday afternoon, I wanted to be able to get into her head. What did she think about? What was her relationship with food?

When ten or ten-thirty rolled around, did she start thinking about what she was going to have for lunch? Was she counting the minutes until her lunch break or was she one of those that others had to prompt to head back to the break room because food was the last thing on her mind?

What would she think if someone told her that a coworker had brought in a box of Lamar’s donuts for the rest of the employees? Would her mind wander to that box of donuts all morning long until she was finally able to partake of one? Would she worry that all the chocolate ones or coconut ones or glazed ones would be gone by the time she got to them?

What would be her first thought if coworkers asked her to join them for Blizzards at Dairy Queen after work to beat the summer heat? Would she relish in the thought or would she politely decline because she had determined not to fill her body with junk like that or would she go and order something else without even being tempted?

I can’t help but wonder if there are people in the world who contemplate what the bare minimum is that they have to eat to still be able to sustain life. Are there people like that? Are there people who don’t enjoy eating or, at the very least, don’t spend as much time thinking about it as I do?

I once had a skinny cousin who would forget to eat. How is it possible to forget to eat? For most of my life, my thoughts have been consumed with food. My whole family was that way, and probably my parents’ families were, too. It’s a cycle that’s difficult to break.

When you’re raised by a mom or dad who equates food with love, you carry that with you your whole life. I’m not saying that my parents didn’t tell me they loved me or that they didn’t give me kisses and hugs and spend time and play games with me because they did, but food was such a big part of our lives and when my dad made a big freezer full of burnt sugar ice cream or a triple-layer German chocolate cake with coconut and pecan frosting I felt love.

My parents were excellent cooks, and mostly our meals were wonderfully nutritious–except for the rolls, biscuits and potatoes and the eight or nine varieties of pies we had for Thanksgiving and Christmas–not to mention the cakes, bread and rice puddings and Jell-o salads.

My parents were reared in a different era. While they were growing up, there wasn’t money for extras. During my mom’s childhood, even a common food like an orange was a rare treat for her. I think my mom vowed that that would never be the case for us. Whenever there was a trip to the grocery store, there was always a treat in the sack for us kids: Slow Pokes, Black Cows, Snickers, Reese’s or Sweet Tarts.

My parents raised a big garden. They canned lots of stuff: green beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, chili sauce, pear honey, and I don’t even know what else. In the summer, we had a salad with every meal with lots of veggies cut up in there: green onions, radishes, tomatoes, celery and cucumbers. We had fried green tomatoes and fried okra. We had okra and tomatoes. We also had big bowls of cucumbers and onions with a vinegar marinade.

We didn’t have meat at every meal, but we never starved. Sometimes we had beans and cornbread with the homemade chili sauce they had canned. Sometimes we had fried potatoes on homemade biscuits with Velveeta cheese and Miracle Whip and sliced tomatoes, but always there was a big fresh garden salad to go along with it.

I don’t remember there ever being a shortage of apples or other fruit in our house, and we had every sugary cereal imaginable: Quisp, Quake, Sugar Smacks, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops. When we were little, Dad also made us lots of hot cereal, too: Ralston Purina, Malto-Meal, Cream of Wheat, oatmeal and big bowls of steaming white rice with milk and sugar. We were well-cared for. I mean, we really were well-cared for, but probably my parents weren’t as educated about nutrition as I am becoming right now.

We always had potatoes, pasta, and bread in the house and we always had milk. Now, I have none of those–except for Ezekiel bread and almond milk, and my family insists that those are not the same thing. I also keep plenty of our new bread, Santa Fe flax tortillas in the house. My husband takes those to work with his tuna salad, and I use them for our sirloin burgers and personal thin-crust pizzas.

We are getting by quite nicely without milk and bread and hotdog buns and hamburger buns.

I remember the spread my parents used to put out for our Fourth of July cookouts: big, thick BBQ burgers with hamburger buns and hotdogs with grill marks on hotdog buns, huge bowls of my mom’s potato salad and macaroni salad, a big plate of sliced homegrown tomatoes and onions, a couple of bags of potato chips and nacho cheese Doritos, a freezer of homemade banana ice cream and a cooler of pop, none of it diet.

I get a little discouraged sometimes because I know I can’t replicate what that meal looked like, smelled like, tasted like and felt like. I feel like it would take too much effort on my part to try to find good THM substitutes for all the comfort foods with which I grew up. There’s a definite learning curve, and I am a lazy person. I’m not using the term lightly. I really am lazy and, for the most part, hugely unmotivated.

Unlike many other ladies, I hate the time it takes to look through cookbooks and Pinterest files. I find it boring and time-consuming.

That being confessed, I am happy with the small changes we have made in our diets: no chips, no white bread or buns, no potatoes, no milk, but I feel that I’m limited now with what I make for dinner. When I was growing up, dinner was colorful and balanced. My mom would plan for some type of meat, generally (except for when we had beans and cornbread or fried potatoes and biscuits), some type of starch (either some type of potato or pasta), but she would also try to offer as many different colored veggies and other foods as she could to make meal time pleasantly appealing to the eye.

I can do that now with our pizzas, omelets and salads. I put as many colored peppers and other veggies as I can in them, but I am limited by my husband’s reluctant acceptance of veggies like celery, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower. To be frank, he doesn’t like most vegetables, but I hope he will grow to appreciate them more and more as I have over the course of the past couple of years. I didn’t like Brussels sprouts and wouldn’t have wasted my time on cooked zucchini at buffets, but now those are the foods that I seek out and I pass by my old favorites of mashed potatoes and brown gravy, mac and cheese and fluffy, buttery, yeasty rolls without so much as blinking an eye or even looking in that direction.

As of late, after reading the section in the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book about okra–two or three times!–okra has become the new additive to my shakes (and hubby’s shakes, but–shhh!–don’t tell him!).  I don’t think it’s my imagination that the okra seems to make the shakes more creamy. The cottage cheese also helps, but don’t mention that to my husband, either. He would insist that nothing belongs in shakes except ice cream.

Sometimes I miss my old life and the foods I used to eat, but mostly I think it’s the childhood memories I had that just happened to revolve around the foods we ate.

I can say with 100% certainty that I don’t miss hamburger buns or white bread. I don’t miss milk. I don’t miss mashed potatoes or french fries or baked potatoes or hash browns.

If little by little by little we can become accustomed to doing without those things that are poison to our bodies, not only may we live longer but the quality of the years we have left will be significantly improved.

If we have more energy, if we can sleep better at night, if our joints feel better, those are all good things. If I put hamburger buns on one side of the scale and all the health benefits I get from not eating them on the other side, I know which side of the scale I would choose. Every time.

Are those the kinds of things that Miss Skinny Minny at Bio Life thinks about? Maybe she had a different upbringing than I did, or maybe she knows the same struggles I do. It would be interesting to get inside her head–and wonderful beyond my wildest imagination to be able to fit inside her clothes!

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