The Importance of Respecting What You Want to Eat

IMG_0612I feel like lessons are being taught. For example, I made a soup out of the left over vegetables. This is something that I do. I love these soups. They are all unique, so never boring and they give me this sense of satisfaction. No food is going to waste. I have found a way that even the water that I keep my carrot and celery sticks in is going to go into a food. It is decidedly nutritious, delicious and frugal. These are all of the great things when it comes to food.

So, the problem this time was that the soup was not all that good. There was a flavour that made it unpleasant. I tried adding cheddar cheese on top of the first bowl that I had and it was nice, but not delicious. Then, I tried to add chicken bouillon to the soup to give it more of a soup base taste. The truth is that it didn’t help. I continued to eat a bowl of this soup essentially once per day, being careful to boil it frequently enough to make sure that it did not go off and to refrigerate it when necessary.

This boiling and refrigeration technique has been in place for over a decade. A good friend went to Ghana, where refrigeration is rare, and they had a technique and understanding that you needed to bring a soup to a boil and cover it with a lid and it was OK for another day.

So, I was using a combination of boiling and refrigeration. This was a large pot of soup because there was a lot of food in it. Now, of course, the amount of soup kept decreasing because I was eating bowls of it. But, I was not really enjoying it, so I kept trying different things to make it better. The last thing that I tried was adding in gravy thickener. I only added this to one bowl so that I could try it without ruining the soup and it was nice, more like a stew though.

So yesterday, I came home for lunch and I microwaved a small bowl. I have been keeping a food diary to see what foods give me an upset stomach and which ones give me heartburn. So, I knew to not take too much. Apparently, the size of your stomach is about the size of your fist. I had taken the time to measure the size of my fist and it was about a cup. I poured this amount into the bowl so that I would have a visual reference to know how far 1 cup filled the bowl and I had put less soup into the bowl than that.

So for the non-scientists in the crowd: The way that you measure the size of your fist is to fill a glass or bowl or some sort of container right to the very rim. Put in enough water that any more water would spill out over the top. Set this into a very large bowl or pot. The idea is that when the water spills out of the top of the first container it will be captured by the larger container.

Now, slowly, you don’t want to create waves, lower your fist into the first container. If you have set it up properly, the water will begin to spill over the top of the rim and it will be caught in the larger bowl or pot. Once you have submersed your hand right up to the wrist, stop. Remove the container that originally held the water. Now, pour the water that overflowed into the larger container into a measuring cup and you know how much space your fist took up. For me it was 8 ounces.

I have been learning the importance of not overeating, because after paying attention to it now for a very long time, when I do overeat, even a little, the pain in my stomach and my discomfort is immense. There is no question that the extra few bites are simply not worth it. Add in the possibility that what I have eaten is dense, versus liquid, and the time it takes to feel better is considerable.

So I had less than 1 cup of soup in the bowl. I began to eat it and the potatoes that I had recently added were quite nice. Overall though, it is not something that I would choose to eat. I loss interest quite quickly and decided that my hunger was gone and that was enough. So, there is no possibility that I had overeaten. None.

Before I started to eat, while driving home to have lunch, my stomach was growling. There was such an intense hunger that I was sneezing. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that I sneeze when my stomach is unhappy? Apparently, it is a recessive genetic trait that has only been studied minimally because, quite frankly, no body cares! If my stomach lining is irritated, for instance, think about eating candy that is extremely sweet and possibly sour, on an otherwise empty stomach, or eating too much, or being over hungry, I sneeze, repeatedly, but I digress.

So, I was hungry and I did not overeat. These are two very important criteria for me to follow when eating. I began to feel uncomfortable. By the time I got to the corner of Downey and the Hanlon, I knew that if the light did not change soon, I would have to open the driver’s side door and vomit onto the road. Let me explain that this is not only a very busy intersection but also a particularly popular intersection, because it is the most direct route out of my neighbourhood. I regularly see one or more people I know, at this intersection while waiting for the light to change.

I made it through the light and turned right onto the old Hanlon road and parked. This is the original road that was ignored when the highway was built beside it a very long time ago. It has been left in place and is now largely an off leash dog walking area that runs up the side of the new highway.

I made sure that the car was in park, turned off and out of the way, which seemed to take a lot of thought and care. It was as though I had forgotten how to do all of these automatic things and now I was going through a checklist. Yes, pull off of the road, watch for the potholes! Put the car into park. There. Now, shut it off. Let’s see, I’m off of the road, the car is in park and it is shut off. OK, now I can vomit.

I walked over to the side of the road and found some rather tall weeds. I suspected that the courtesy of finding tall weeds would not be appreciated by many of the passersby, but it is the thought that counts. At the very least, people were less likely to see that I had been there. It would be unlikely that this would be visible by someone walking along the road.

However, I could not forget that this was an off leash dog park and a few weeds were not going to fool a dog and that sniffer they have.

So, I vomited. The first few heaves were just dry air. It was a relief to have the pressure off of my stomach because it had felt as though it was going to burst while I was waiting for the light to change. Then it came, first in small amounts and then in larger ones. It appeared as though the only thing in the soup was carrots. There was no sign of potatoes and all of the liquid was that orange so characteristic of the carrot. I had not realized that there was that much carrot in the soup.

I continued on. I had an appointment in less than an hour.  The man that I had it with is not the sort of guy that you just drop in on and say, “How’s it Hanging?” So, I was reluctant to miss our meeting. It had been scheduled for a few months.

When I arrived, I found out that the meeting was cancelled. Fine. I went home.

The way home did not feel as bad because I was on my way home, which is always good, or at least now that I’m divorced is always good, and I managed to make it without needing to pull over to vomit. I did take the precaution of staying off of the highway. The sidestreets are easier if you have to hurl. Simply having a place to pull over can be a large advantage.

I plugged in my phone, put my food back into the fridge and walked up to my en suite. I undressed, hurled again a few times and went to bed. This time the acidity of my stomach was the main component of the vomit and it burned my throat and the inside of my mouth. I slept for over three hours and I felt OK but not great when I woke up. I did not vomit again and managed to eat some nuts in the evening.

All of this was to say that I didn’t want to eat the soup. Why did I force myself to eat it? What is it that I still need to learn about not eating things that I don’t enjoy? It felt as though I was being taught a lesson. If you don’t want to eat it don’t. That sounds simple but there are a million messages from the other direction including the classic, “People in China are starving to death” which somehow justifies North American obesity by contrasting it to a great lack in another part of the world. How does my eating this help those in China? I guess I’ll never be able to ask that question now.

I came from a family of plate cleaners. I vividly remember my father telling me with great disgust how a woman that he was having a meal with left a couple of fork fulls on her plate. This was ridiculous to him and totally unacceptable. I was supposed to concur with this story, but rather it illuminated the messages that I had been given as a child. It is imperative that you eat what is on your plate. Let’s not forget, this is not a plate that I have filled myself. This was a plate assembled by some other person, an adult. An adult that likely felt that if they could get me to eat a large amount then they would not have to bother to feed me as quickly after this particular meal.

My grandmother would walk around after our Christmas dinners or large family meals and empty the large serving bowls onto people’s plates. Now I mean large here. She often had several tables end to end in her basement with assorted chairs up each side and large bowls of food. Bowls that would look suitable on buffet tables in a restaurant. This woman was accustomed to serving meals for a family with nine children and possibly some invited guests. So when she was making a “big” dinner it was actually a “huge” dinner.

I have a particularly vivid memory of having a huge bowl of corn scraped onto my plate. It was understood that I could not leave the table until this was finished. Any protesting would be met with stories about people that my grandmother had watched starve to death during the depression. She would talk about people that became so frail and so thin that the slightest cold would kill them. It was assumed that it was much better to have the extra weight from overeating than it was to not eat when I was over full.

I also remember being forced to sit at the kitchen table, when I was quite young, until I had finished my meal. In one particular memory, I laid my head down and pretended that I was asleep. I did not want to eat the food on my plate and I couldn’t leave the table until I did, so I might as well pretend to be asleep. The good thing was that a parent, and I don’t recall who now, carried me up to my room and I was never forced to eat the remaining food.

So yes, I know that I shouldn’t eat past being full and I know that I shouldn’t eat something that I don’t actually want, but I am still climbing over the mountain created by my upbringing. Vomiting after eating something that I didn’t want to eat in the first place will probably go a long way towards blasting a hole in the side of that mountain. That is for sure!

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