It’s easy to become confused by holidays and special occasions. All that joyfulness and family time can put a big fat fog over your skinny vision. My fourth of July weekend did not include ice cream, BBQ ribs, elephant ears or cheeseburgers, but it was made even more confusing than normal after I watched Food Inc.
Fourth of July at the Blues Festival in Portland
I’ll just come out and say it: on the evening of July 3rd I became a Pescatarian. There are various reasons for this decision that I won’t elaborate on. I’ll just say that some are environmental, some are health-related, some are political and some are moral. But what’s relevant is that this added restriction more than mildly intensified my frustrations with food on July 4th. Not only was I taking sweet and fattening food off the table, but chicken and turkey were now also against the rules. Some way or another, I managed to end my mental suffering with a vegetarian plate of pan-fried noodles (I’m aware of what’s wrong here), and a bunch of watermelon.
The elephant ear was by far the most difficult to resist. I became wild with deliberation as I forced my friend Ryan O’quinn to look up the nutritional content on his smart phone. Remembering my earlier mishap with a three-foot long bag of kettle corn that my mother had provided that day, I decided against it. For the most part, I escaped the holiday’s enticing food stands, and opted for less fattening Independence Day treats like watermelon, fat-free Italian ice, and strawberry shortcake. But it wasn’t easy.
The holiday spirit is an evil fat man who will rudely try to make you forget about your goals. This Christmas I’m sure he’ll say that a few extra pieces of fudge are worth 2 or 3 pounds. On Halloween I expect he will offer weak excuses to swiftly but secretly scarf down the leftovers from the candy bowl. But you must pull yourself together and remember that he is a big fat liar!
Liar or not, the fat man makes a valid point: it is unavoidable that these treats will taste good. Very good. This is something you should say out loud and accept. But the beauty of it is that that’s all there is! It will taste good, you will eat it, and then it will be gone. History has shown that you will then want to eat even more, and will probably proceed to stuff your face until you are overcome with self hatred and regret. (Sometimes I play this scenario out in my head as if to remind myself of the unfortunate end result.) The truth is that you will feel equally as satisfied after eating two bites as you would if you ate two servings.
This is why I think it’s good to taste things, but not to eat entire servings…or, in some cases, entire cakes. So this is what the book, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself From a Lifetime of Dieting was desperately trying to instill in me! The author, Bethenny Frankel, preaches that obsessing over dieting mistakes and feeling guilty afterward is at the root of many women’s weight problems.
People are naturally thin because they are conscious of what they eat, their portion sizes, and their activity levels. When they eat a piece of cake, they don’t dwell on it for 24 hours, because they made a conscious–and composed decision to eat the cake. And after they’ve eaten the cake, they proceed with their healthy lives by exercising and eating just as they were before the cake. Ever notice how the thin girls at a Birthday party always ask for a small piece of cake rather than a normal one? That’s because they know they don’t need to have a big piece of cake to enjoy the taste.
In realizing this, I decided to taste the Birthday cake at my boyfriend’s Birthday party this June. I asked for the “teensiest tiny little piece,” which was actually more than I needed. It ended up being about 3 bites. Yes, of course the cake was good, but it wasn’t the best damn cake in the world. It was somehow very clear at that moment that it was not the last piece of cake I was ever going to have in my life, so I just tasted it, calmly. And it tasted good, but not so good that it was worth obsessing over for as long as I did.
I had built up the experience of having the fluffy and yet moist bite of cream cheese-covered cake in my mouth so much, that when it came to actually eating it, I was (dare I say it) disappointed. And this may be the most pathetic part of it all: my food fantasies surpass the food reality.
As it turns out, there is no need for desperation. Allowing yourself small tastes can be a good thing when you realize that deprivation can lead to relentless cravings later on, causing you to spin into a psychotic and irrevocable binge that will ultimately lead to your demise. I think we can all recall this occurring at one time or another.
It only makes things worse when you drive yourself up the wall wondering what the hell the cake tastes like. Although cake is definitely against the rules, I will allow a bite or two if it will prevent me from flying off the handle. So once in a while you should allow yourself a taste. It’s probable that in doing so, you will only solidify how NOT worth the calories it is.