I was brought up in England and was always delightfully slender, then at 27 years old I emigrated to the USA, and the battle for my weight began. Several decades later I weighed in at nearly 100lbs more than when I arrived in this country. For someone who prided themselves on eating pretty healthy meals, how on earth did that happen?
My Cultural Heritage
Strangely enough, my mother was an exceptional cook and prepared meals that would rival a London five star restaurant. We had desert with our dinner at night and a tea on Sundays with some sweet treats. Mine was not a childhood deprived of food, despite being brought up in Post World 2 with ration books.
The first thing I noticed when coming to this country in the 1970s is that the portions were huge, and we know that nowadays many restaurants are serving even larger portions. I did not come from a country where doggy bags were the norm, in fact I had been exhorted to clean my plate with its veggies and modest protein, and think of the poor children in India! Doggy bags were crass. So ever a member of the clean plate club, I ate out in American restaurants and ate till my tummy was bursting. I would stagger out of a restaurant stuffed, and in need of a nap. In time, the exception became the norm and part of the pleasure of eating out, was eating more than I needed, but I dutifully cleaned my plate.
Snacking was not part of my childhood on a daily basis. I was encouraged to eat 3 meals a day and snacking was frowned on. My parents might have a few nuts with a before dinner drink, but snacks were party food and for very special occasions. I never felt hungry in between meals, and my mother would have been horrified at night time grazing.
I think snacks are part of the American food industry conspiracy to have us eat and spend more money. And so they have developed snacks to an art form, a delicate balance between sugar and salt, and precisely formulated to be addictive. I fell prey to snacking, and just that alone, a few extra calories at a time over and above what my body needed as fuel, slowly put on the dreaded weight.
Fat And Sugar
I do not remember either fat or sugar as a child being held up as the villains in the piece, although the emphasis was on healthy food. Our meals were not touted as such as being especially healthy, indeed there was no consciousness of the need to eat healthy. No one in my family was overweight. But my mother did cut back in later years on dairy fats when my father had heart problems.
I did not own or drive a car until I came to this country. I had lived in multiple places but I walked everywhere and used public transportation. It was safe to do so. So my daily exercise was walking and there was no need for special gyms or classes. I was encouraged to take longer walks with the family at weekends. As an adult, especially with the advent of computers and desk bound jobs, my natural activity level slowly decreased and I did not adjust my food intake.
After suffering from breast cancer and surviving, it was a wake up call. I knew that obesity was a significant factor in cancer reoccurrence. I decided that I had to take my health in hand once and for all and make healthy eating my way of life, but this time forever.
I rarely snack except with fresh fruit and eat 3 healthy, good sized meals a day of fresh, unprocessed foods. My portions are geared to satisfy and not stuff myself. And I move more with activities which I enjoy such as tennis, golf, and dancing. I plan to discover even more enjoyable activities that involve movement.
And the weight? It comes off slowly, even more slowly than most people, given certain post breast cancer meds which I need to take. I will never be as skinny as I was in my youth and neither would I want to be- I would look haggard. I am still a work in progress but at least I do not cringe when I see myself in the mirror. I look into the mirror and smile because I can see the beautiful woman whom I thought was lost to me forever. And best of all, it feels better to be healthy, and know I am doing my part to not have a cancer recurrence as part of my future.