Monday, January 18, 2010
Sneaking! Airing My Dirty Laundry
Except when I am secretly not. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were winding down in the middle of the week after a typically long and busy day. She announced that she was going upstairs, and I indicated that I would be up in just a little bit. After I heard her go upstairs, my vision got fuzzy, and I headed over to the freezer in a somewhat frenzied state. See, I knew there was ice cream in them there hills. I pulled out a spoon like a trusty six-shooter, and dug deep into the vat of Edy's (the fact that it was "low fat" was hardly the point). I was a fast and steady gunslinger, as I quickly brought spoon to mouth. Then my wife walked into the kitchen. Ooops.
As she put it, I looked remarkably like a seven year old boy caught completely red handed. Red faced too. Busted!!!
All this has led me to wonder the age old question: why do I sneak food? Had I merely had some ice cream in broad daylight under the witness of others, no one would have thought anything about it. You can certainly do this (in moderation) under the Weight Watchers program. What is it about sneaking that almost makes the food taste better? Why do I sneak even when I know that I will self-flagelate later?
Like most aberrant behaviors, I needed to go back to childhood for the answer. You see, I have always been a sneaker (behaviorally speaking, not a piece of footwear). When I was growing up, my bedroom was next door to the basement where we kept our deep food storage freezer. My mother would keep a large inventory of frozen bread (don't ask, she was very frugal!) and other various staples. As a little boy, I used to sneak into the freezer to sneak a piece of frozen bread (as I write this, it's hard for me to believe that I'm not making it up). Put aside the fact that I could have gone upstairs and had a thawed piece of bread. The frozen, stolen variety just tasted better to me.
My mother used to bake tin after tin of Christmas cookies during early December in preparation for the rounds of social events that transpired over the holidays. She would, of course, put the cookie tins in deep frozen storage, which was conveniently located next to my lair of thieves hangout (i.e., my bedroom). I would carefully attempt to orchestrate imperceptible cookie removal which required intricate rearrangement of the cookies within the tins so as to avoid loss detection. Of course, I discovered years later that she knew all along that I was engaged in these nefarious activities. She just didn't say anything as long as the shrinkage was at manageable levels.
I did the same with ice cream, attempting to employ the technique of perfectly removing 3 millimeters of surface across the area of the cylinder container. I really thought that no one would notice the difference. Of course, they always did.
I ultimately outgrew the freezer bread raids, but I never outgrew the habit of wanting to sneak food under the cover of darkness.
I really don't understand why. I was not an overweight kid. In fact, I literally could not gain weight until I went to college, and let's just say that my environment changed. I was rail thin through high school, bordering on emaciated in elementary school (it's a tall guy thing). Maybe I was insatiable because I was literally insatiable. I could eat anything and still not gain weight, so perhaps that's why I ate so much. People didn't eat as many treats back then, so maybe I simply craved what was forbidden. If I had to guess, I would say it was the latter.
As it is for so many people, forbidden, private eating remains one of my weaknesses. As it is for so many of us, I prefer to do my dirty food work in private. Why? A little dash of forbidden fruit and a little dash of embarrassment. There is a freedom to being able to self indulge without fear of recrimination and loss of approval by others. But all of this begs the question: isn't our approval of our own behaviors the only approval that matters? Clearly yes.
Isn't there a better way? Yes.
Step 1: put out my dirty laundry in a safe environment (this blog and a WW meeting is a good place to start) where others will relate and be supportive. In 1961, our founder Jean Nidetch did exactly this when she held the first ever Weight Watchers meeting in her apartment in Queens, NY. It is the whole reason that Weight Watchers exists today.
Step 2: find ways to care less about what others might think of our indulgences. I need to make healthy behaviors for myself, not for the approval of others. Whether someone else sees me indulging or not is completely irrelevant and frankly none of their business.
Step 3: understanding that it is the cover of night that allows our minor indulgences to blossom into monstrous food disasters. Just because I can't be seen by someone else, doesn't mean that I can't see myself.
Step 4: become more mindful of the situations in which I mindlessly head over for a sneaking run, and more carefully think about what I'm doing
Step 5: plan indulgences explicitly into my routine so I don't feel the need to steal my indulgences
Feel free to share your own frozen bread story.