December 15, 2011

Concern

The fall semester is coming to a close - which, for anyone on either side of the academic process, is a somewhat light way of expressing an incredibly heavy thought. Both students and teachers know that the last week of the semester, with all the projects/exams to either make/take or create/grade, is one of the most stressful all year.

While we still have a few days to go before the official end, Justin left on Tuesday morning. He's back home on the East Coast now, and when this post goes live, he'll be standing in front of a committee defending his dissertation. I'm nervous, excited, proud, and uncertain, for many reasons. He's been noticeably stressed quite often lately, and I hope everything goes well this morning so he can finally exhale.

I'm sure I'll miss him in the few weeks when we're in separate states on the same coast. But for now, this week ... I'm secretly a little glad that he's not here. I'm surviving finals week in one piece thus far, which I am grateful for; this was notoriously one of my most binge-heavy weeks as a student, and I'm glad to be feeling in control right now. I'm not sure this would be the case if Justin was around.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about observing his healthy eating habits, and how I enjoyed observing someone eat who is not recovering from an eating disorder. And for the most part, I still stand by the things I said. But as his deadlines grew closer, I started to notice a change in his food choices - more refined carbs, fewer vegetables - and it got colder in the mornings, so he started driving to work instead of biking. Up until about a month ago, whenever we ate together, it was always home-cooked - since then, though, we've gone out three or four times. Once a week might not sound like a lot, but considering that I only ate out maybe twice in my first 12 months of weight loss? It's significant for me.

Rereading some of my even older posts, and I found one where I had talked about the difficulties my father was having with sticking to a healthy eating plan while my mother and siblings ate unhealthy foods:
I remember when I first got started with losing weight, and how hard it was to commit to eating better and eating less. Eating habits are among the hardest to break, because they're rarely just about the food itself - there are feelings and emotions, too. Personally, I had always associated food with comfort instead of hunger, so even though I knew better, it was still unbelievably easy to eat junk food in excess - and to give up on diets because I missed those comfortable feelings. This time I stuck with it, formed new habits, and now fast-food cheeseburgers are completely undesirable to me - I prefer the good, clean feeling I have when I nourish my body properly.

That said, if I were continually surrounded by these temptations - especially in the first stages of changing my eating habits - I am not entirely sure I would have been so successful. A lot of people ask me how I could lose so much weight so fast, and to be honest, I think living alone has a lot to do with it. There's no one to come home to who objects to chicken breast for what sometimes feels like the fifteenth night in a row and insists we go out, my treat, come on sweetie, please? Just no more chicken! There are no dinner dates where I have to scour menus nervously and still consciously decide to put half my dinner in a takeout box before the plate is even in front of me. I go to work, I go to the gym, I occasionally run errands. I'm in charge of every decision, and there's very little temptation in such a simple life.

These aren't complaints - for the most part, I like being alone, and at this stage in my life, it's almost a necessity in order to stay focused on my journey. But I think about my father and what he must be thinking, how he must feel sitting at the dinner table with a small fraction of what he's used to eating while everyone else's plates are piled with pizza and not a vegetable in sight. And I can understand his desire to take off to Florida and wanting to be in control of this part of his life, even if I can't understand why he would act on the desire given his physical condition.
It's much easier for me to stay focused when I'm entirely concentrating on cooking and caring for one. The reality, though, is that that isn't sustainable long-term, considering that I would like to one day be married and have a properly nourished, healthy, happy family of my own. There will be other people's tastes and opinions to consider. Now, in the short-term, where I find myself cooking for two once or twice a week, I still try to do what I did when I first started eating better: healthier versions of the things I was craving as I detoxed from my unhealthy habits. But wanting to cater to someone else's desires occasionally wins.


Last week, he was cooking us dinner (a homemade version of the Thai lettuce wraps we'd shared at the Cheesecake Factory), and I said I was glad that we were eating something with vegetables. I was sitting on one of the kitchen island's stools while he chopped up cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and carrots, and I told him about a dream I'd had a few days earlier: we were both in my childhood bedroom back in Connecticut, holding each other and kissing a little, when suddenly he jumps up and runs out of the room - I think he's going to get a condom, but he comes back with a giant bowl of popcorn. The significance of this is, I think, pretty obvious.

I honestly believe there's a place for everything in my long-term eating plan. I had one piece of quiche, and felt satisfied - but Justin ate four. Half a quiche is more calories than I eat all day. I commented that he must be starving, and he said "it's just really good." And I felt conflicted.

I love that he loves my cooking, but at the same time, I hate feeling responsible for his recent weight gain. It isn't much, and I have no worries that he'll slim back down once the dissertation stuff is done with. But still, I feel guilty. I know it's his choice to eat things or not, in whatever quantities he wants. But I also know that as a recovering food addict, what you actually want is not usually food. I care about him very much, and seeing his habits shift with his stress level has been difficult. It may be a smaller scale than I have experienced as a binge eater, but it's still stress eating.

What about you? Do you cook for a friend/partner/spouse/family? How do you encourage healthy eating habits while also keeping everyone feeling satisfied? What are some of your go-to recipes when cooking for two or more?

7 comments:

Caron said...

When I started WW I did not even suggest that my husband join me. He continued to eat fast food every day for lunch and Little Debbie's for dessert. I cooked him meals he liked and I made my food separately. It was more work but worth it.

He watched me for a year and a half before he told me he wanted to eat like I was eating. Yea! It got easier after that.

When I'm here in Tucson with my daughter I'm usually cooking for one and she finds her own food. Last night I had a huge salad and she ate chicken nuggets. I'm not tempted by chicken nuggets. :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I feel guilty when they choose to eat things that I know are not healthy for them - and when they're not a once-in-a-while thing. I usually don't buy those things to have in the house but there are some things that my family prefers and I have given up the battle - i.e. natural peanut butter vs. the one w/ icing sugar in it...
In my mind I just try to move ahead and not make a big deal - although when I see that any of them is battling weight, I do feel concern because I know the battle and I don't want them to have to go through it - but sometimes people have to learn lessons on their own, you know?
I certainly don't need any more guilt or weight on my shoulders - so I try to move on, encourage healthy eating and let them make decisions (hubby and 3 kids - ages 22, 20 and 17). I don't want them to see my difficulties w/ food and get into any bad habits like I did.
Oh and I do like having no one to prepare food for - so I can think about what I would like to eat - no fuss and no complaints! ;) And chicken if I feel like it! :)
But I do miss the full table - full of people, not food!
Dawn

Arwenn said...

I have a male friend that I cook for/with and it is always surpising to me how much he can put away - but men have much higher calorie requirements than women, especially women on a weight loss plan. I just ran the numbers for WW points and a man my size and height would get 61 points to my 47 and that's for weight loss!

I cook pretty normal stuff I just make sure that I can portion it easily. I usually make a normal recipe even for just the two of us and then leave the rest as leftovers for him.

I am firmly convinced that weight loss is different for many guys than for women; whenever my friend, or father, or brother for that matter, feel like they've put on a few too many pounds they just change their eating habits and they drop right back down to where they want to be. My guess is that this dissertation related short-term disordered eating might be analagous to the acute short-term depression some people feel when going through a traumatic event that resolves when their situation improves. So, while I have a long-term eating disorder (and depression) I think people can have a short term problem with food that will resolve when circumstances change.

Amy Benitez said...

This is something I've thought SO MUCH about since going from long distance to same city as my boyfriend. He is really healthy and athletic and has a totally different relationship with food than I do. But he's also from the south and likes big breakfasts on Saturday mornings that involve eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. I noticed that when I was eating those breakfasts with him it threw off my whole week. I felt guilty for overfeeding him and guilty for overindulging myself. Not to mention the eating out and the drinking.

After three years of being together I've noticed that for him-- who has a sustainable pattern of healthyish eating-- putting on a few pounds is his signal to hit the basketball courts more, skip a weekend of drinking/eating out, eat a spinach salad for lunch instead of going out with his coworkers... and then suddenly he's back down from 210 to 190 in the blink of an eye. He doesn't even know how he does it. It's like his body knows its happy place and if he gives it the slightest opportunity to get back there, it will.

Anyway, long story short, I finally had to let go of the anxiety I felt over his eating patterns and take care of me. If I'm eating responsibly, I have to believe I'm influencing him positively to some degree. If I ever notice him careening waaaay down the overeating trail-- like if he gained 30lbs with no sign of stopping, I think it'd be appropriate to sit down and talk with him about it. Food is a very basal form of self soothing. In the short term it's normal, but longterm it could be damaging to not only his health, but also our relationship. However, the 20lbs he gained in May when he was stressed about moving from Virginia to Colorado are gone. He's been self regulating for 26 years with consistency I've never known. I was 330lbs not too long ago, so who am I to judge? I've finally decided that to stress about his menial weight gain during times of high emotional duress is just me taking my food anxiety out on him. Like an alcoholic cringing every time someone else has one drink too many. It's something I need to let go of.

....But I do use two egg whites to one yolk in his scrambled eggs, slowly transitioned him to turkey bacon, and cook his hashbrowns without oil. If he wants the real, full-fat deal he can cook it himself. ;)

Ann said...

I cook for me + Jay, and I will tell you - it's MUCH easier when we are both eating healthy, than when I was eating healthy and he didn't care either way. It's nice having someone keep you in check - "how many calories are this?" or "what's your deficit for the day?" I totally understand what you're going through, and I'm glad you have some time to get back on track. Looking forward to reading your recaps over the holidays! Thinking of you, Mary!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if, just maybe, you have a skewed view on what "normal"* is. I don't mean that in a mean way whatsoever; it's just, what you've described with Justin doesn't seem abnormal to me at all.

My husband and I eat healthy 90% of the time. We eat salads, cook vegetables with our meals, try not to over eat, and try not to eat out. But when we get stressed, or tired, or homesick, or short on time, we take short cuts. I turn to comfort foods for sure - cheeseburger and fries, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy - all good Southern food staples that remind me of the home that seems so terrifyingly far away at times.

I don't feel like I have an abnormal relationship with food. I try to treat my body right, I try to nourish it well. So if I go through a day or week or month of comfort eating I try to balance it out at the time with exercise or later with healthier eating. That's not bad, just "normal."

I can sympathize with your fears and where you're coming from, I just wanted to add a voice from one of those who's always been "normal."

(((hugs)))

*PS My momma always raised me to believe that normal is just a setting on a dryer. Every person is totally different, so normal is completely subjective.

Monicalatour said...

It's been hard for me.. But iv manage to Teach my self Temptation, But my Fiance, is a very unhealthy eater, He';s eaten some of the things i'v made us but, Most nights he eats by himself after work.. Which was hard for me at first Night time was when we use to eat, ( I was a one day a meal person) and it just so happen to be at night time after he was done work.. So By the time he gets home and eats it would bother the heck out of me because it was "Our" time together we associated that time together with food. But now its all different, Iv learned that i let him eat what he wants, I eat healthy, The Temptations are still there but As each day passes they grow less and less.