Friday, June 18, 2010

Born Round

I recently read the memoir of Frank Bruni, reviewer for the New York Times (amongst other things!). I found it a really interesting read, learning about his wonderful family and dear mother.

Over the entire book his weight fluctuates wildly as he desperately attempts to control his urges around food.

The most poignant episodes to me were times when he ended up baling on dates because he was so disgusted with himself and his weight, it seemed so sad that he gave up on companionship and love because he hated himself and his weight so much.

There were tales of bulimia and all kinds of strategies to keep himself trim and scary binges of pizza, cheesesteaks and ice cream.

It was sad to read about his mothers struggle with her weight, and maybe how she taught him to be wary of food as he grew up.
Learning more about the work of restaurant reviewers is a nice reminder that it really isnt that fun a job, eating out at least 7 nights a week, trying to grab enough willing diners who dont mind sharing their meals with you, and dealing with over-anxious restauranteurs who are desperate for a good review.

The main revelation from the book for me came when he lived in Italy, and he realised that the reason these people were a normal size was because of their portion control. They ate small portions of real food. Just like Marian Nestle and Michael Pollan have been trying to tell us!

It really struck a chord with me since I've always had trouble around food, knowing where to stop. I'm lucky, I'm not horribly obese, but I'm always on the chubby side of normal. I think the problems started as a small child, I was a little overweight and I was encouraged to cut back a little. I've never experienced that intense pleasure that Frank Bruni describes when he binges, and for that I'm very grateful.
Maybe I'm lucky, I generally just have a little more to eat than I need, I exercise as much as possible, and I eat lots of fruit and veg, and wholegrains to keep myself full, so I may even be healthier than some of my skinnier counterparts. I have to be relatively strict, I only eat out once or twice a week, I never go to fast food restaurants, and I avoid most processed food.

It also got me wondering, am I more normal than I thought? I always thought I was a bit strange with my continued thinking of what I'll be eating next, maybe looking forward to something for a whole week. Maybe most people think like that, and constantly have to keep check of their eating to keep themselves at a healthy size?

Its just so sad to me that so many people suffer so much with something that is supposed to be one of lifes greatest pleasures. At no time in history more than now have people been so large, we've somehow lost all proportion of how much, and what we are supposed to eat. Are we beyond saving?
I'd love to hear any/all opinions in the comments section!


Darlene said...

Thanks for sharing, Jenny. I will definitely check out the book.

I've been chubby as a child and always teased. My mother thought the true indicator that was a healthy was to be slightly chubby and fed me accordingly. It was only when I got into college that I was able to accept my body for what it was and some weight loss followed. I enjoy food quite a lot but find more pleasure lately, just tasting it and moving on. Aside from the interesting tastes and textures, I usually like to fuel myself with fruits and veggies. Unfortunately as a fellow food blogger, I think too much about what my next meal will be!

Jessica Rodgers said...

I also find that portion control is the best option! I try not to eat more than what I need because if I don't I just end up resenting the meal because then I feel too full. It's difficult to do this because our cultures often give us the mindset to take as much as we can...thus the giant plates of food when we go out to some of the larger chain restaurants. Years ago I worked at Starbucks, and a woman ordered a short latte. She shared that she only needed the 8 ounces of coffee...servings used to be much smaller. She didn't want to pay for so much food...she wanted just enough to taste it and get her share. I have to say that learning to taste food as an intricate makeup of wonderful flavors has allowed me to learn how to take my time with eating. It's tough, but we can do it...we have to know how to really enjoy food with the few bites we really need :)

The Cilantropist said...

This was an insightful post, and I am glad you shared your experiences of reading the book, plus your personal feelings.

I have had my moments in life where I have been more chubby but I generally stay on the smaller side, and am now probably the thinnest and most fit I have ever been. When you ask if we are past the point of being saved (as far as our eating goes), I can say from personal testimony, that no we are not. The only reason I am thin is because I eat in moderation, I appreciate all the foods that I eat, and I am very disciplined with what I eat and how much I exercise. If I ate whatever I wanted/as much as I wanted all the time, I would most certainly be veerrrry overweight! ;) (I love sweets!) This does not mean I don't go out to eat or have ice cream and sweets, but if I do then I am sure to balance it out with healthy eating and exercise. American portions are soooo huge that it makes it so difficult to eat normally. I guess what I am trying to say, is that it is not easy, but definitely not impossible.

Beth Ziesenis said...

Do you judge many of your days as "good" or "bad" based on what you ate or what the scale told you? I do, and I have all my life, and at the age of 41, it's getting pretty old. Many of my (mostly female) friends feel the same way. And many of us are endurance athletes!

I'm proud of both you and the author for spelling out some of your food demons. Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have them anymore.