[this is rather a long, rambling entry, but i'm in the mood to write.... pull up a chair and get comfy!!]
one of the hardest things to learn as a diabetic and someone who loves her food is the concept of less is more. i don’t just mean in terms of simple calories, i mean now the whole idea of just having a taste of something.
You see, when given a bowl of a yummy pudding.. lets say.. ooh, my favorite. Apple and blackberry crumble with custard, as made by my grandmother (and her apple and blackberry crumble absolutely rocks!). a bowl of that is put in front of me. I’d have that first spoonful, the flavours hit my tongue, and i immediately want to experience it again. and again. and again. At that point, its not about being hungry, needing sustenance, its about needing to experience that burst of flavour and texture in my mouth – the sweetness and sourness of the apple and blackberry, the creaminess of the apple, the crunch and sweetness of the crumble, the velvetiness of the custard. No matter how much i savour each mouthful, i’m always racing to the next mouthful, and the next, till its all gone. and then… like Oliver, i want some more.
and i usually do have more. especially of gran’s apple and blackberry pudding, cos i don’t get it very often, which is, perhaps, understandable. but i’m exactly the same with other things in my life, even those things that i have plenty of – i’m an addict, in a way, addicted to sweetness and sugar and spice and fat and crunch and creaminess and all those things that feel so damn good in the mouth.. and which are so bad for you. I’ve never exercised restraint, except when on a diet, and its always been so hard – when on a diet, i’ll go the cold turkey route – avoiding sweet foods for as long as i can, as often as i can, but invariably something happens to break that and then.. i’m back at square one.
and that isn’t really dealing with addiction.. its just avoiding it. And food, unlike drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, is a necessity for life, so its kind of hard to avoid completely.
As a diabetic, certain foods are inadvisable. However, i also know that i cannot go very long before i crack under the strain of self-denial. The book i have, which is written for Type 2 Diabetics (“Type 2 Diabetes: the first year” by Gretchern Becker) suggests that if you’re craving something you shouldn’t have, from the diabetic point of view, then learning to have a very small amount of said item, to be satisified with that, is an important part of learning to control one’s diabetes.
And as a fat person, as a foodie, as a food addict, i suppose, this is something so very very difficult for me. to have one taste, one, a small amount, and then to put the rest away. I’ve NEVER done this – always, i’ve eaten till its gone, or till i’m so full i cannot eat any more (or till i feel sick. Mom will tell you of the time i gorged on chocolate as a kid one easter till i *was* sick, if i remember rightly).
A lot of it is comfort eating. food is my friend: non judgemental, it’ll never reject me, and helps me to feel warm and comforted. even now, when i’m down/upset/unhappy, i turn to food – from sausage and mash with boiled onions and white sauce and peas (for me, the ultimate comfort meal, its like wrapping your arms around your tummy and hugging tight), through to a glorious sticky pudding, or some sweet, luxurious icecream from the freezer…. and then there’s chocolate. the ultimate comfort food, for me. I adore the way a square, placed on the tongue, begins to ooze and melt with my body heat. I adore the sweetness, the flavour, the velvety texture. of all the senses, i think my mouth is the most alive – if i could no longer taste, for some reason, i’d be devastated… i’d certainly find it very difficult to go on living. Its THAT important to me.
so to me, to have a taste, to put the rest away…. its like smelling a rose and not smelling it again. like having the best kiss from a lover, the kind that makes your toes curl and your heart burst with happiness.. and never experiencing that again. Life is grey, drab in comparison.
and that’s what i’m expected to learn to do. to learn to find contentment in that taste, to find satisfaction in that taste, to put it away, feeling relaxed, not resentful. and i honestly never thought i’d be able to even touch on those feelings in regard to this process, never mind fully experience it.
But to my amazement, i am learning. I bought a pot of haagen daaze strawberry cheesecake icecream a couple weeks ago. It was on special offer, a small pot, and while its dreadfully sinful (a lot of sugar!), its also a SMALL pot, so even if i did succumb to temptation, it wouldn’t do so much damage as if it was a huge one. well, that was my reasoning.. right?
the first night i sat down after dinner with a teaspoon and the open icecream and looked at it expectantly. pressed the side, where it was already melting. Inviting, oozingly. dug my spoon into the frozen mass, broke a chunk free, and lifted it to my mouth. and moaned, ecstacically, as the flavours broke over my tongue (and i should add, at this point, that Michiel ripped the pot and spoon from my hand and set out a similar moan when it hit his mouth, so it wasn’t just me…!). a second spoon followed.. then a third. “Go easy on that stuff”, Michiel warned me. i nodded, not really listening, intent on my usual pattern of gorging, spoon after spoon of the flavour, luxuriating in the sensations exploring my mouth, lost to the flavours, the textures, the sensualness of it.
and then something kicked in. I don’t know what it was, but after about 6 or 7 spoons… i’d suddenly had enough. It wasn’t the “OMG that’s now too sweet” feeling you have when you eat something that’s oversweet – i’ve had that before, and usually end up gorging through it. no, this was quite different. It was that contentment i touched on before. I’d quite simply had enough, and was content to put the lid on, put it back in the freezer, and leave the rest to be enjoyed another day. it was something to look forward to, maybe not even the next day or the day after, but at some point – like an old, and cherished book you own – there wasn’t this sensation, any more, of “must eat this NOW or it’ll be gone”.
I know what some of this is about, certainly. being at boarding school during my teenage, formative years, with very little privacy, and where i was bullied quite heavily, you learned to protect your food. Food was important – often, there was a choice of meals, and one was often better than the other. if you didn’t get in there fast, you’d be left with the rubbish choice. if you didn’t eat fast, if you had to get up to go get something else (like a sachet of tomato sauce), you might come back to the table to find your pudding gone. you learned to eat fast, too (setting up a pattern for years of overeating – something else i’ve had to learn how to do, to listen to when my stomach is saying “hey! you up there! enough already!”). Quite savage, really.
but that night, with the icecream, it was like … intellectually, i’d always known, as an adult, that i didn’t have to eat fast, but learning that emotionally is much much harder. and that night i finally listened.
and since then i’ve been able to do it with other things too. its a minor miracle to me, to be able to have a taste.. and put the rest away, without feeling the continual itch to go get more. sometimes i do still feel the itch for more, mostly when i’m already hungry, but denying myself that item because its not sensible at that point in time – and usually cos its right in front of me. An example would be last night: Michiel made some olive and feta bread, intended for dinner for tonight, and he asked me to cut and butter a couple pieces for him. In the interest of tasting, i had one very small bite of the bread myself, about a cm square piece (eating heavy carbs late at night is not a good thing for anyone, never mind a diabetic), and it tasted fabulous. and with it still being warm, smelling gorgeous, i had to really fight not to go and cut myself some more, made all the harder by my tummy actually rumbling. but i went to bed shortly after, and once the bedroom door was shut, the smell reduced quite considerably, the itch became much easier.
as a result, i’m finding it easier to keep to this new way of eating, this new diet, than i have before in my life. the weight is slowly dropping away again – I’m now just tipping under 15 stone, 14 stone 13 pounds, and i tried on a dress the other day. Its a dress i had bought for an office christmas do, back in about 1997, 98, a little black dress, and even then, it had been quite tightly fitting. At that period in my life i was on the lighter side, probably because my evening meals were at least a bit healthy (i was living at home then, and eating with mum and dad), and working, so i was getting more exercise than i would in later years, just moving around with daily life. i don’t remember exactly how heavy i was, i just remember being a little self conscious at the party that the dress was a little tight, and i wore a satin shirt over the top to disguise my lumps and bumps a bit.
wore it a few times more around that period, but after i moved out of mum and dad’s, i don’t think i wore it again – it just hung in the wardrobe, and i kept it, although i could never get into it.
Until the other night, anyway. not really expecting much, i slipped it off the hanger, and into it. the zipper runs up the back, so i asked Michiel to do it up, then turned and looked in the mirror.
It was loose.
i couldn’t believe it… it was actually LOOSE. i could pull the fabric away from my body. Still not pretty, still some unattractive spare tyres there, but… it fit. and didn’t look like i was busting out of the seams. i kept it on for a while, but later, getting out of it, i was upset. not crying upset, just sad. i felt like i was losing myself, in a way – not the dress, my fat. for so long the fat has defined who i am, i suppose, that losing it… its like losing me, in a way.
I’ve still got a long way to go – about 3 to 4 stone, but that was the first time i really felt i was making progress, i think. Oh, i knew i’d lost weight from my jeans, my belt – i can push jeans that i bought before christmas over my hips, now, even when they’re done up, and i’ve had to have more holes cut into my belts, little things like that, but i suppose you tell yourself that your jeans stretched, or whatever. its only when you climb into something like that dress that you really realise the progress you’ve made. and then, of course, that progress is, to a certain extent, self perpetuating. you look at the biscuit, or whatever is tempting you at that point in time, and think “but.. the progress!”. for me, this is another sticking point: I have to focus on NOT dieting, strange as it may seem. yes, i need to stick to the healthy diet (especially suitable for a diabetic) but that’s quite different to “dieting”. I think most women reading this are probably nodding at this point, but to belabour the point, for me, dieting is about going hungry, feeling you’re self sacrificing, going without, in order to lose weight – its a short term thing, in order to shift a few pounds. we’ve all heard people say it, hell, we’ve all SAID it.. “oh, no, I’m on a diet”. And that’s what i have to NOT do, because if i do, it gets me into the (dangerous) pattern of yo-yo weight loss – gain, loss, gain, loss – and that’s to be avoided at all costs. The one plus i have on my side is that i’ve never really done that – yes, i’ve lost and gained weight at various points in my life, but its always been a steady weight gain or loss, slow, and that means that my body doesn’t automatically go into starvation mode when i cut back even a little bit on food – and that’s a terrible problem that some people have to deal with. I, thankfully, don’t.
the temptation, for me, with “dieting” is to eat a light meal – to deliberately skimp on eating amounts, in order to try to lose weight, and this is the wrong thing to do – because what it does, is to set up a situation later, where i’m starving – and then i turn to food that’s bad for me, or i gorge. I have to resist the temptation and have a good meal, when i do eat – a healthy one, yes, but i have to make sure that i’m full, and then i can last till my next mealtime without that temptation to snack – which in me, is fatal.
At the same time… despite the progress i’m making, i’m impatient. i look down at my body, and think how little has changed. my spare tyres are still there. my bum still wobbles most unattractively. i still have podgy, sausagey fingers. i long for slender fingers – i’ve inherited my paternal grandmother’s fingers, long, with lovely nail shapes, and she always kept them looking lovely. And then, later, i’m struck by how much has changed. my rings are loose. i have one ring, which my parents gave me when i was about 18 or 19, a celtic style silver ring which i wear on the third finger of my right hand. always. i couldn’t get it off for a long time, although i could still twist it around, so it wasn’t quite at the point of growing into me, but it was certainly getting there – a sort of imprint, permanently left in that finger. i can get it off now, in the bath, at least. it twists a lot more easily – i often look down to see that the band has gone all the way around my finger, and the celtic pattern is on the inside. Its similar with my other ring that i wear always, that Michiel gave me for christmas – i don’t know how much longer i’ll be able to wear that, it’ll probably have to be resized. i can certainly wear it now on the fattest finger (my middle finger), which i could not have done before christmas. Other things, at odd times, strike me. putting my hand on my tummy, occasionally, and feeling that the shape has changed. instead of my tummy button resting at a diagonal, its now flat. the upper spare tyre of the two is flattening, slowly. i looked down at my jeans the other day to see, again, with a shock, that my upper legs were actually relatively slender. and some skirts/trousers i’ll probably never be able to wear again.
don’t get me wrong, i’m not complaining about losing weight. god knows, there’s a lot of people out there who are wishing they could too, i’m well aware of that. its just that there’s been a lot of stuff rolling around in my head over the last few weeks and it feels good to get it all out onto a keyboard, to let go of it….