October 26, 2011

On food and love

I love cooking, though it can be tough sometimes to cook for just one person. So I love cooking for a second person or a crowd whenever I get the chance. I love the process of creating something, and I love the reaction I get from people enjoying what I have made. My current challenge is figuring out how to reconcile my "need to feed" with maintaining balance and a healthy lifestyle.

Sometimes I will have dinner with Justin a few times during the week, but at the very least, we have a standing dinner date on Monday evenings. It started as dinner and driving lessons but after a mildly embarrassing driving-related panic attack, it has somewhat devolved into dinner and an episode or two of "The West Wing." (He's never seen it, and neither have I; I have a TV, so he bought the first season.)

It's so lovely. Whether I do the cooking or he does, it's just nice to share a meal with a good friend, to sit together and have a good conversation. We talk about a lot of different things. It usually starts with a run-down of how our weekends were and how work was that day. From there, though, anything can go.

Because we usually eat at the island in my eat-in kitchen, there's a clear view of my fridge and a copy of my "before" photo. I had told him about my weight loss before he saw the picture, and his first reaction was surprise. But seeing the photo really struck him. He couldn't believe it. He said what most people who didn't know me before tend to say: "... it doesn't even look like you."

Since finding out about my secret super obese past, he's asked a lot of questions about it. What does it feel like? What do you think when you see other big people? Did X/Y/Z ever happen when you were big? I don't mind fielding the questions - his questions aren't offensive or overly invasive, based more on curiosity. It's very interesting to him, someone who has been active his whole life and who has never had issues with his weight.

That, I think, is one of the reasons I like having dinner with him. He's actively interested in my recovery process, and has even gone running since I started back a couple weeks ago. (We'll see, but I'm hoping to convince him to run a half with me!) But the dinners are the best part. I like cooking with him and I like being cooked for, but above all, I really like observing his eating habits. Because again, he is who has never had a weight problem. So I like to see how he approaches food. Some interesting things I've noted:
  • He eats a good sized meal about an hour or two after he gets home from work - instead of something small when he gets home, then dinner, and maybe something small after dinner.
  • His portions are a normal, healthy size - then if he is still hungry, he gets more.
  • Related: he stops eating when he feels like it, not when the food runs out. We went to the movies one night and he got a medium popcorn and didn't eat it all. I avoided the snacks altogether, but in the past? That's unheard of. First - medium? Second - throwing out half the bucket? It was strange to me.
  • His plate is not usually spotless. (Let me explain: my plate, on the other hand, has been scraped clean of every drop like I was raised to do. He doesn't sweat leaving what could be pulled together into another spoon or forkful of something on the side of the plate.)
  • There's always more veggies than anything else (protein, carbs, etc.)
  • (Perhaps my favorite observation) He takes the time to really taste what we're eating. His first bite is always exploratory: he's savoring it, figuring it out. And his reaction is almost always the same: that it's perfect, so delicious, best he's ever eaten, and how did I possibly know this was exactly what he wanted tonight? The praises are fantastic, but the fact that they're genuine is the best part.
Since I have started trying to get healthier, I've been making progress on the "food ≠ love" idea, and it's certainly difficult. This is something that goes back to my childhood, to the big family get-togethers: we love each other, we take care of each other, and we're all breaking bread together. It's been incredibly important to understand that the love is in us and not on our plates - with a loaded table or if we only have bread and water, there is still love.

Something that has been incredibly important is grasping the concept of "quality over quantity." As long as I am able to, I want to help nourish the people I care about - I love you, and I want to cook for you. But: that doesn't mean I need to cook huge portions or that the food needs to be exceptionally unhealthy. I can love you without an overly rich dinner immediately followed by a heavy dessert. I can love you with lean protein and fruits and veggies, too.


LynnieG said...

Great observations. Reading your posts always make me think and this one is no exception...it's occurred to me that the the 'food is love' mentality was what I grew up with. Now that my family(2 siblings and parents) are all living in at least 4 hours apart - we no longer get together for any meals (even holidays are difficult)and there is a definite disconnect with all of us. We've lost the connection of food! I agree- it doesn't have to be unhealthy, but it definitely is something that brings us together.

Stacey said...

What a great post and helpful insight for me. I need to definitely grasp the quality over quantity thing too. I also need to start taking my time eating. I know they say it's best to not inhale your food but I do. I guess it's always come from the busy lifestyle of always on the go. Some jobs I had, you only had 30 minutes to eat so you needed to finish in a record time to be able to go back to work. I do need to slow down and smell the roses or in my case, savore the food.

Anonymous said...

The thoughts of the 'old you' remind me of what is slowly becoming the 'old me'. I can totally relate to the concept of food=love; and the pressing need to escape that equation, because it isn't true. In fact, it's morbid. This is a great post. I am so happy for you and your relationship with a new man who is supportive of your goals, your past, your lifestyle, your health. That is a real man! Enjoy. :)

Greg (Transformed and Scaled) said...

I've always done the "clean your plate thing". I think you're right, it's probably because we were told as kids that we couldn't leave the table 'til we cleaned our plates. I'll finish off everything on my plate, even if I'm no longer hungry, it's so ingrained. Trying to be better about it, though.
Glad you've got a supportive friend who wants to know all about you, and where you're coming from. That helps.

Chubby McGee said...

He eats "sexy." Haha! I love that you shared those little observations with us. It's how we're supposed to eat. An important rule in being healthy (and being a healthy eater).

And, it's weird, I feel the same way about cooking for others. I always feel driven to do it. It brings me great joy. The downside is that I often over participate in my meals for others. That's my downfall. :(

Anonymous said...

It's really great that you can count on Justin as part of your support group. I think I could learn a thing or two from Justin's eating habits.

Scrumpy said...

Had a lovely time catching up on your journey today. Was feeling a little down in the dumps because I am leaving beautiful Chicago and moving to Southern California next week. Nice to see that there is life after the Windy City. ;)

Tim said...

I'm going to start watching people eat now you've pointed out a few things Justin does.

Like Greg, I always clean my plate whether i'm satisfied or full just because it's the "norm" in my house.

Also it sounds so easy and an obvious thing to do when you mentioned that Justin puts enough on his plate and then gets more if he's hungry. I honestly don't know why I don't do that. The food isn't going to disappear if I don't eat it all straight away. Great post! Made me think lots!

Bluezy said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I love how you described Justin's eating habits. As I read it, I imagined you looking at him and gathering this all silently in your mind as well as admiring him. That is really the way "love" is. Concerned with the most simple things that actually amount to a lot after the thought.

I have reflected on the changes in my eating, as well. Living in the All You Can Eat capital of the world...it just seems that I would waste my money. The idea of plate after plate does not excite me like it used to,

Unknown said...

Wow this post made me realise how often I eat alone! Just circumstantial as I work in a small company and we all take lunch separetely and my boyfriend and I eat at different times because he works nights! Will defintely take more notice of people around me though!

SG said...

wow.. those observations about justins eating are so cool!! i never thought about it but its true of my "never been fat husband" too. hmmm...sooo whats the deal with justin??? you guys are just friends?