I met my husband in a restaurant 5 years ago and my best friend 14 years ago over a plate of spaghetti. So, food has brought me comfort on a variety of levels.
My favorite kinds of food are the kind that allow you use your fingers. I’ve never eaten fufu, but when I think about visiting Ghana or a Ghanaian restaurant, I imagine how the fufu will feel in my hands.
Mexican tacos, cornbread and collard greens, Naan bread and masala, fried green plantains, Ethiopian injera bread, homemade biscuits being sopped up with cane syrup–all require you to drop your man-made forks and use the ones God gave you. AND, I LOVE IT! Any food that will allow the seasoning of freshly cleaned hands to touch it-is my kind of food. If I loved sweets (which I don’t), I would deeply enjoy the bottom of the cake plate. When you get to scoop up all the crumbs that were left behind by the slices. Umm, fingers and food are the best. (It’s probably not the kind of thing a budding member of the black middle-class should say, but hey-I’ll probably never get invited to a Boule or Links affair anyway. Plus, I’m sure I’m not the only person who wishes they could pick up the chicken leg at formal gatherings rather than leaving behind perfectly good meat because the knife and fork can’t get it like your fingers will. What can I say…I like to connect with my food.)
But being a lover of food (even the kind that require the distance of knife-and-fork) caught up with me five years ago when I reached my personal MAX. I was a sneeze under 250lbs (and probably was 250lbs if I had weight myself more often). Something about seeing 240+ lbs on a scale when I don’t have any children (at least I could blame the weight on them) woke me up.
I remember clearly buying a new pair of jeans that were a size 20 and saying to myself “This is the last 20, I’m buying without being someone’s mother.” And, I meant it–I wore those jeans to death! By the time I was done with them, the jeans had a hole in the middle from the fight my thighs had with each other with every step. My mom likes to joke that when people’s thighs rub together they’re saying “You hit me? I’ll hit you back!”
I saw a nutritionist. We went over my diet (which consisted of too many fried foods, not enough fiber, and cereal that had little nutritional value). The consultation was oddly entertaining at one point because the nutritionist-in-training was telling me to eat egg whites, baked chicken breasts, raisin bran or other cereal with at least 5% fiber, and portions so small that I knew she had to be joking. So, I proceeded to say, “umm, nope, I can’t do that. I have a freezer full of chicken thighs and two new boxes of Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks.”
This totally annoyed her supervisor, so she jumped in and said “Look, we’re here to help you. You either want the advice or you don’t.” I must have been so determined to lose weight that I didn’t even respond to her attitude, only her words. So, I politely responded, “I not only want help, but I need it. The advice you’re offering right now isn’t helping. I can sit here and tell you ‘Oh yes, I’m only going to cook chicken breasts’ or I can tell you the truth-I’m gonna eat those thighs in the freezer before I go out and buy more chicken, I’m not going to throw away my Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks, and I hate egg whites. Once you know this information, then and only then can you begin to offer me some real assistance.”
The nutritionist-in-training broke the silent that followed my remark. She suggested that I bake the thighs and when they run out-buy breasts, mix a whole egg with an egg white, find a cereal with at least 5% fiber and eat half with half Apple Jacks. Now, things were making sense–That was advice that I could run with.
I got my cholesterol checked a few months later-it was 238 (elevated) and so was my weight. My new mantra was-I need BOTH to be under 200. I’ve been on the SLOW road to losing weight since I bought those jeans and it’s not been easy. I have friends who have tried ever diet under the sun and the gains (loses rather) they experienced made me want to try them too. But I never did. I knew that when I came down, I wanted to STAY down and that was only going to happen when I changed my relationship with food. I learned to eat Kashi Heart to Heat, tofu, ample vegetables, egg beaters (with one real egg because I still don’t like pure egg whites), baked chicken breasts, more fruit, and drink plenty of water. Before long, I couldn’t count the last time I drank Kool-Aid or Sweet Tea or ate something fried and smothered. In 4 years, I had lost 40lbs and it felt great. Sure, it’s only 10lbs a year, but they were 10lbs GONE! No quick fixes. Then the dissertation came and I gained 10lbs, but I made a decision to put graduation above my weight.
So, I came into the new year ready to continue my mission-get below 200lbs. Unfortunately, a month into my progress Diabetes came and now I’m having to completely changed my relationship with food again. Unlike some diabetics I’ve heard who say “I’m not changing what I eat,” I can’t be that way. Perhaps because I found out I was diabetic while on the brink of going into a coma, I know fully well that what you put in your mouth CAN kill you. Not only that but it can lead to blindness and amputation. My main goal now is to leave this world with all the limbs God gave me.
I’m not sure where my relationship with food will end up…for now, I’m learning all about carb counting. And I’m so scared of eating too many carbs that I find myself not eating enough-which is not good either.
No matter where my love of food will end up, I’m sure I’ll always enjoy the kind that’s “FINGER-licking good.”