“The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible. The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love. The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed. The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends. The word that fires evolution’s motor of mud. The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar. The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living. The word no mirror can turn around. In the beginning was the word and the word was CHOICE.”
-excerpt from “Still Life With Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins
Welcome back to the Captain Hammer Project. I say that for myself as much as I say it for you. I’m long overdue for a Healthy Gamer update, and well, really writing about ANYTHING that isn’t Thunderstone. I love it, but all things in moderation.
Moderation, a wonderful segue to this update. I was talking with a friend of mine a short time ago on the concept of overeating and to a lesser extent, emotional eating. I told her that for all of my varied problems, I didn’t think those were among them. She presented a different argument, that what I ate when I was alone and what I ate in the company of others were incongruous. She cited that with dozens of trips to Steak n Shake in our adolescence, I would stick to things like cottage cheese over cheese fries, salad over steakburgers. No one else ate like that, she argued, and she thought that I did because I didn’t want to make unhealthy choices in front of other people. She might have had a good point save for a few key facts. 1) Cottage cheese with a pineapple ring is good, and is a perfectly reasonable choice for someone who wants to eat things that taste good. 2) Steak n Shake fries are a huge waste of fry potential and in many ways an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. 3) It didn’t take into account the innumerable hot fudge brownies ala mode the two of us had shared, and there’s absolutely no making believe those are in any way shape or form are healthy.
My counterpoints were solid in my estimation, but they all fell apart under the masterstroke that she followed with.
If I was making good choices consistently, then how did I get so big?
I tell you, the truth has a nasty left hook. This got me thinking about the past, to the times that led to me being the weight I was, and the choices that got me there.
That’s the operative word here, choice.
There are no shortage of poor choices for us to make and when forced to take the look in the excruciatingly skeptical mirror, I’ve made a lot of them. One thing I can safely say is that I never medicated sadness with food. That’s the good news. The not as good news is that my crimes against health were in greater number and higher severity.
When I got to thinking about my own “choices,” I came to the awful conclusion that while I didn’t eat to fill an emotional emptiness, I did something worse. I ate unconsciously. Most of those choices didn’t even register as a decision. This was the real source. How many times had I snacked on things on a nearly limbic level? You grab a bag of chips, you eat them while doing something else…playing a game, watching a movie, reading a book, etc. Every few minutes or so you eat a few. You repeat this process and eventually the whole goddamn bag of chips is gone in a single sitting. You feel a moment of horror/shame before shrugging your shoulders, discarding the empty bag and not really learning any kind of lesson from the experience…which is unfortunately something I can speak from, and I’m willing to bet it’s one that some of you can speak to as well. I wish I could limit it to during activities, but that isn’t where it ends. How many times had I wandered to the fridge, opened it, looking for something when I wasn’t preparing a meal, or even hungry? Did any real decision making happen here? Nope. There was never even a hint of deliberation. Just habit.
Holidays were another problem. Thanksgiving is probably the worst offender. “Jive Turkey,” as we call our Thanksgiving tradition, started as a weeklong orgy of potluck food and gaming. Since then, we’ve all grown up some and have scaled it back to a single day, but all of us in attendance are still putting away 2-3 plates piled high with comfort food before we even spoke of dessert. How I am not diabetic is a medical marvel. Independence and/or Memorial Day barbecues are among the usual suspects of celebratory overeating.
I’ve had to teach myself how to cook for one. For years, I didn’t know how to ration things out for single serving use. While this is by no means difficult, you’d be shocked by how many people don’t do it. Making too much easily snowballs into eating too much. When I would make spaghetti, it was a package of pasta and a jar of sauce. All I should have eaten realistically was a small bowl, or a saucer-sized plate. What did I eat? A large plate or the kind of bowl you think of for pho or something. I couldn’t eat all that I made, but I ate waaaaay more than I needed to.
Not only was I making entirely too much food for one, but I’m a member of the Clean Plate Club. Many kids are brought up this way, and while the intent is good (parents want to take care of their kids), the execution is often significantly flawed. As a culture, we overfeed our children. When I did a little research on what constitutes the correct amount of food for a kid, I was a little horrified to discover how much I was expecting my daughter to eat, thinking that I was being responsible in her portion size. If I didn’t know and I thought I was being mindful when I was overfeeding her, what about all of the generations of people who did this? We give them too much, and then create habits to eat all they are given. What other outcome could there be?
These were the answers to her question. How did I get so big? Bad choices that I couldn’t even bother to be consciously aware of, made a countless number of times. Reckless gluttony during holidays. Making too much food to begin with and not exercising portion control. Not to mention that prior to the Captain Hammer Project, the term sedentary was my peak activity level. It’s all there, clear writing on the wall.
So how do you combat it realistically? Tune in next time to find out.