Monday, December 07, 2009
The man crept down low, and gesturing for the woman and the small child she carried to stay behind the rock, he advanced slowly along through the thick foliage, sharpened rock in his hand. In the silence of the dusk he listened alertly even as the approaching darkness began inhibiting his vision. The wild creatures had the advantage he knew. They could smell the humans and see them in the darkness. The man was quite sure that no other creature like himself or the woman possessed these abilities. They had taken time to eat last when the sun was just dropping in the sky and now with the darkness coming upon them rapidly, he wished they had waited until back in the safety of the clan to feed.
He motioned for the woman to come quickly and they continued stealthily on their journey.
Suddenly, the man came to a halt and quietly parting the leaves saw the animal circling the remains of another creature. Alert to the potential smell and sound of the humans the animal lifted his head and began to sniff the air. The man turned to the woman and put his hand over his mouth in a gesture for stillness and silence. They crouched in frozen fear - woman clutching the child to her side while the animal debated sampling the available second hand remains or follow his instinct that might lead it to the live creature he sensed in the surroundings.
The child began to move it's head in protest against the hand of it's mother gripping it tightly against her. He began to whimper softly and the man - eyes wild in fear of ensuing wailing - gestured to the woman again with his hand across his mouth. The woman looked at him helpless and questioning with panicked eyes. Thinking quickly he pointed to the small soft animal pelt around her waist and pantomimed feeding. Reaching in she pulled out some of the berries inside and showed them to the struggling infant. He greedily accepted the offerings and stuffed them in his mouth --
AND THUS THE SHUT-UP SNACK WAS BORN!
It starts in infancy when mothers pack little bright colored Tupperwear containers of Cheerios in the diaper bag. Not to satisfy true hunger, but to occupy a bored child who wants to fuss. One of the women I work with told the story of her daughter pitching a fit during communion when the mother received the host on her tongue from the priest because she couldn't have a cookie too. The mother started bringing up a cheerio for the priest to bless and she could pop in the child's mouth.
I'm not judging, I did it too, but make no mistake, this was not a learned behavior. My mother needed no food bribes to get you to settle down. She had THE LOOK. It might have worked at the time, but didn't stick, because I grew up snacking out of boredom anyway.
If you look up snack in the dictionary it says: a small amount of food eaten between meals. A light meal eaten in a quick or casual manner.
In essence it's eating a small amount of food BECAUSE YOU ARE HUNGRY to tide you over until your next meal.
It's not meant to be a pizza or a one pound bag of M&M's.
This was one of the concepts I had a hard time with when I began my journey to fitness and goal weight -- learning the difference between a snack and a treat.
If a snack is a small amount of food to supplement your meals because you are hungry, then what exactly is a treat?
The dictionary defines the noun "treat" as an event or item THAT IS OUT OF THE ORDINARY and gives pleasure.
So when did one pound bags of M&Ms become ordinary for me?
I hate to keep picking on my husband in blogs but those M&M's became ordinary when I married him. He loves sweets. Especially chocolate in any form. I guess what they say is true: opposites attract. I've always loved salty. Chips, pretzels, anything with cheese. But like many brides eager to please I included candy, cupcakes, and puddings in my grocery cart along with my salty snacks and ate them both.
When I decided to try dieting, I discovered that many diets discouraged eating between meals, yet the portions allowed at meals often weren't enough to sustain me until the next one.
I can remember the very first time I went to Weight Watchers back in 1986. I followed the plan religiously and when my stomach began hurting, I couldn't figure it out. I feared that somehow, some food I was eating or the stress of dieting had caused an ulcer. I described the pain to my husband and he laughed uproariously! He was a thin man despite his fondness for sweets because he simply ate when he was hungry and when he wasn't, he didn't. He looked at me and proclaimed "You don't have an ulcer, for the first time in your life you are hungry"!
Stunned for a minute, I realized he was right! I had never in my life really known what hunger was. That actual gnawing sensation in my stomach was not anything pathological. I didn't know what to do. I was eating the maximum allowed on the diet already. Would my stomach truly "shrink" over time like the mysterious "they" said?
What that knowledge did was set me up for failure. Overtime, the hunger did lesson some as I learned that some foods stick with you better than others, but even so I still felt hungry most of the time and eventually I caved in and binged like - well -- a starving woman.
Now Weight Watchers has progressed over the years and has incorporated the necessity of snacking into their plans. My cynical husband said sure they did when they figured out they could make money off of selling their own brand of snacks. I hesitate to be critical of them though, because I have met many people who found success with them as I did. Many times over as I mentioned in a previous blog. The fact that I was eating treats instead of snacks didn't register with me because I wasn't going over my point limits and that's really what weight loss is all about -- eating less calories than you expend. However, in the long run that doesn't encourage the healthier concept of proper snacking. You are still eating treats.
It finally started to sink in to me when I found SparkPeople and started reading articles on running and how you should eat to obtain your peak performance. I adopted a program of eating six times a day. Three main meals and three healthy mini meals in between. It might be a banana or other piece of fruit. It might be some whole grain crackers and low fat cheese. Maybe some raw veggies and humus to dip them in.
I really never feel hungry at all anymore. I can get in all my calcium in because a glass of milk or a carton of yogurt makes a nice snack.
Occasionally I treat myself but usually only if I'm out. I try not to keep sweets that can trigger my old bingeing habits in the house. My husband has "his shelf" in the pantry that I don't even entertain the thought of reaching into.
Except for lately.
My Thanksgiving eating debacle set me back and ignited old passions that I had squelched for some time. So out of self-preservation I didn't put a single candy bar, cookie, or cupcake in the grocery cart when I went to the store last week. I just don't feel in control enough to allow them back within my reach.
The other night my husband came up from the television and automatically went to the pantry in search of his treats and found nothing but a few stale graham crackers and a box of raisins. He asked me what the deal was and I explained that didn't feel in control enough with my eating to allow them back into the house yet but would he like some natural style microwave popcorn? As if he didn't quite believe me he started searching through the cupboards and freezer. Nothing? Sugar free applesauce I suggested.
"Humpf", he huffed as he sighed and reached for a couple of containers of the applesauce. "Who made YOU the snack police?"
I looked at him and said casually "Oh that was decided at the meeting".
"What meeting?" he asked.
"THE MEETING WHERE I WAS ALSO ELECTED TO MENU PLAN, GROCERY SHOP, AND COOK"! I replied.
Knowing defeat when he was faced with it, he snatched up the applesauce and headed back to the stairs muttering all the way about "a man in his own home"!
Jeez! I thought...