Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, January 20, 2018

If it’s January it Must be Diet Time



The ungodly cold and bleak weather finally broke and on the same day as I decided to re-join the human race after being under house arrest for catching one of the ‘yuckies’ going around. It was long enough that I was sure I wasn’t contagious so I took the shower I should have taken two days prior and I left the house for the first time in more days than I could count on my fingers. Well, assuming one finger had been cut off in an industrial accident which it wasn’t. Levi was out of peanut butter treats and it’s not fun to be in the house when the dog’s begging for biscuits that aren’t in the jar. So off I went to Chow Hound and since the Guy Land Cafeteria was several businesses down the street, I stopped there as well. I ordered the biggest breakfast I’ve had in ages: scramble eggs, bacon, American fries and English muffin toast. I couldn’t eat all the American fries so I carefully sorted the crispy golden fried potatoes from the anemic, soft white ones and ate the former. I was proud of myself that I was able to leave food on my plate but I covered the potatoes left with a napkin to make sure I didn’t keep picking at them as I stayed around to write in my little black notebook. I might not be a tortured author working out of a half empty pub in Havana but I play one in my daydreams.

What I am is a grown woman who hasn’t lived with my mother in a half a century but at mealtimes I still hear her voice in my head, “Clean your plate, children in China are starving to death!” It wasn’t just a throwaway line to Mom. She was militant about it. And at the dinner table I sat until bedtime on a regular basis if I didn’t heed her demands---to be more precise, every Thursday on liver night and whenever she served orange vegetables. It was just after World War II when the government put out its first guidelines on what to feed kids because the draft had pointed out an alarming problem: too many young people had Rickets and other vitamin-deficiency diseases. She followed that government chart to the letter. Even though her force-feeding came from a place of love, Mom creating a human being with an eating disorder. I still struggle with my brain not believing the messages from my stomach when it’s full. It can’t be full! There’s still food on the table! 

One of the very few arguments my parents ever had was on my 13th birthday when my dad finally had enough of the fighting at the dinner table over me cleaning my plate. Dad won a compromise of sorts: no more orange foods as long as I ate everything else I was served. And no more liver! But wasting food in our household was still a major sin. Fridays at our house was use-up-any-leftovers-in-the-house day because Saturday was shopping day. I loved Fridays for its bread pudding. To this day I get a warm-fuzzy feeling just thinking about bread pudding. I’ve collected nearly a hundred recipes for it but I haven’t made bread pudding since Don died because I know I’d eat it all within a day or two. Now, the squirrels get the stale bread. 

The day after hiding the anemic fried potatoes under the napkin I was back at the Guy Land Cafeteria for an impromptu lunch with three of my Gathering Girls pals. We like to go there for several reasons: 1) It has cheap-but-good food; 2) breakfast and lunch are served anytime; 3) it’s centrally located to us all; and 4) it’s large enough that we can sit for nearly two hours without feeling pressured to leave because they need our table. Trust me, sitting that long at a table after we’ve finished eating is difficult for me because even if I’ve cleaned my plate I’m eye-balling other people’s plates and I get anxious over all the wasted food. Thankfully the busboys often come by to clear our dishes, then I can relax. One of the Gathering Girls once talked about how much she likes to linger after eating because growing up, talking around the kitchen table after dinner was her family's norm. She gets annoyed when company at her house jumps up and wants to clear the table as soon as a meal is over. It’s not lost on me that we are polar opposites on that score and hanging out with her has been good for me. Although one time I got so obsessed and uneasy over discarded food on one of the lady’s plates that I debated in my head if I dared to ask her to cover it up. Out of sight, out of mind.

And since I’m on the topic of food, I will mention here that I’ve lost six pounds since January 2nd but more importantly I’ve broken away from the sugar cravings that always hold me hostage through the holidays. Like most people who struggle with their weight, I know my food issues. I know their causes. I know my excuses and I know what I have to do to get myself in check again. For me it’s tracking every single calorie that that goes in my mouth and I know I’ll keep it up until April when I see my doctor for my by-annual. As soon as he gives me that “good girl” pat on the head I’ll drift away from the boring process of accounting for every morsel that I eat until after the next New Years Day when I’ll begin the cycle all over again. I'm as predictable as sunrises and sunsets. ©

30 comments:

  1. I grew up so different. We were comfortable and even had a cook....but I was the pickiest eater and didn't like a lot of things. The most my Mom would say is just taste it, which I would do.
    But somewhere along the line in my 20s or 30s, I developed a LOVE for food..all kinds, all ethnic groups, everything! Now at 70 I love food more than anything, although I don't like to cook. I eat out a lot...fast food, down home and fine dining. I eat it all.

    I guess my point is that it doesn't matter how you were raised as we all turn out different on our own.
    Also maybe because I was a thin child due to being picky, I'm still fairly thin now too except for my stomach ( I look 5 months pregnant) ha!

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    1. That "just taste it" set you put to be open to trying ethnic foods. I don't remember having anything more foreign pizza growing up but pizza, Thai and oriental foods are my favorites now---and desserts. I've never enjoyed cooking and I eat out a lot too.

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  2. My own food issues stem from far different origins, but I do have them. I think most women do.

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    1. I agree with that! I've spent enough time in Weight Watchers and similar groups over the years to have heard them all. We are a nation of hang-ups regarding body images and eating patterns. I always find it funny how many magazine covers will have the latest diet featured on their covers at the top and a gorgeous dessert at the bottom. We are continuing to get mixed messages from the media.

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  3. OMG, we are on the same wave length today! I too had the mom pushing that all food must be eaten, but I didn't develop a lifelong, conscious issue over it. My eating problems stem from other issues, and well, simply loving food. But enough is enough for me, too. I've been 'forced' into unhealthy eating due to food intolerances that exacerbated my ulcerative colitis, but enough is enough. I have to get more veggies and less starch into my diet. Somehow, some way.

    We'll get this done!

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    1. I had a LOT of food allergies growing up---broke out in hives often from eating things like strawberries, for example. I suspect that my aversion to orange foods stemmed from a food allergy that effected me in a less obvious way. I didn't eat orange foods again until I was 40 but there are a few of them like pumpkin that physically effects my gut enough that I know I shouldn't be tempting fate. The bottom line is we need to listen to our bodies.

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  4. We had to care for the Chinese children also. I was never a big eater but luckily I had a Hoover for a brother. He would vacuum every serving dish empty and was a skinny little fellow. What a metabolism he had all his life or else he might have been wormy:))

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    1. I had a dog under the table part of the time, but my mom would lock her out of the kitchen if my brother told on me which he did from time to time. LOL My brother also never had a problem clearing his plate and he's never had a weight problem or dieted to my knowledge. Guys are just different.

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  5. A life long issue ... food. I wish I had half of your discipline so I could drop 30 lbs. I am not looking forward to my next Dr visit. I think getting 10,000 steps a day would help most of my health issues. Ugh! Hand me the bag of chips ...

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    1. I live by my Fitbit when I'm being disciplined. The more you move around the more calories they add to your day. I stay a 1,000 calories under what they say I burn. Works for me but my problem is I can't stick with it more than a couple of months before I drift back to old habits.

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  6. Liver! As a youngster, I hated it, though I was served it a lot because I was anemic. By the time I was an adult, I actually liked it, smothered in onions! Then about 30 years ago, we got a cat and she liked liver, and then she had worms ... vet said it was from the liver I was feeding her. Even though I know in my head that the worms are killed by the cooking ... I never could it eat it again.

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    1. We had liver once a week because my mom was anemic. Didn't help. She was anemic most of her life until they came up with the shots. Worms in liver? Wow! Who knew.

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  7. I learned to love liver and onions -- now I can't find a restaurant that serves it. I'd cook it myself, but the grocery stores don't carry it. My husband does not like it, so, even if I find it, I'd have to cook two meals...

    We were supposed to clean our plates, too, but we had so many kids that Mom couldn't always keep track.

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  8. I also grew up in a clean your plate family except my Mom said “if you are not going to eat it, don’t take it.” I was never forced to eat anything, including liver. Bless her.

    So, I can’t blame her for my life long struggle with weight. But, I want to blame her for my love of all things sweet. She was an excellent cook, but an even better baker. We had dessert after every meal except breakfast. We farmed, so work burned off most of those extra calories.

    I still love all things sweet.

    Ruth

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  9. The starving children in our house were from India.The doctor told me if I ate liver I would grow up to be like the beautiful, blonde lady he showed me a photo of. That's all it took. I still love liver, but can't have it because my blood is too rich in iron. Such irony.

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    1. Liver definitely a love it or hate it food, isn't it. I can't even be in the same room if it's being cooked. Funny story about your doctor.

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  10. Congrats on the weight loss!
    I despise liver. When growing up we had liver and onions and I hated it and we too had to clean our plates! But as an adult I have never had it again, it's a pulsating organ I would say to my mother. But that didn't matter I had to eat everything on my plate. I did get slapped and sent to my room as I have written on my blog because I responded to my father when told there were children in India starving, to name one. Never did that again. But I left to go to my room without eating those horrific beets.

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    1. Same here, never tried liver as an adult. Liver made me gag!

      Gosh, there are a lot of us who got told about the poor, starving kids across the world when we didn't want to eat something. I wonder where that came from. Had to be in the media some place...maybe a government PSA to try to get people not to waste food because the farmers couldn't keep up with the new baby boomer generation is my guess.

      I didn't like beets either when I was a kid, but I ate them. Now I actually love them baked in the oven with olive oil.

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  11. I don't remember where the starving children lived but they got mentioned in my house too. That's not my reason for being overweight however. Red licorice, gummy bears, and swedish fish are my irresistibles. When I don't have those around, I substitute with bread and crackers. I'm a carbaholic methinks. I have added 8 lbs each decade since 50, which means I'd like to be 20 lbs lighter, but I'd be happy with the permanent 16 I gained. I'm going to blame metabolism changes - I think that's a real thing?

    Thanks for bringing this up Jean. Now I'm going to use you as my inspiration, so keep us posted.

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    1. I'm not an inspiration. Remember last year when I started the intense gym program this time of the year, then quit in the summer? It's my self-improvement cycle. If I was an inspiration I'd stick to these things. LOL

      Definitely, metabolism is a real thing. Also so are the fat cells gained as children that will soak up and hold ever bit they can makes it harder to lose weight as adults compared to fat cells gained and lost as adults.

      I have a sweet tooth too but not so much for candy. I can leave that alone for months and months without thinking about it. But I can't have it in the house.

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  12. Congratulations on the weight loss!

    +1 to not leaving food on your plate. I hate waste.

    +1 to liking crisply fried chips, and dessert. If eating out, I'm quite happy to skip the meal and save my calories for dessert.

    I now generally eat what I want, and generally try to walk daily. The "generally" indicates that there are exceptions: days when I just don't want to leave the house, and food-binge. I don't want to be on my deathbed thinking I should have had that chocolate sundae when I could! ~ Libby

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    1. Going out for dessert used to be a 'thing' around here. I wish it still was. I could be happy doing that. Though I normally would not feel guilty having dessert in a restaurant with a meal, because I think it's a better trade-off than having a whole cake or pie or ice cream container at home to tempted me.

      I wish I liked to walk every day...impossible here in the winter but when is possible, I still have to force myself outside.

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  13. Yea, I gained a few of those hundred back this holdiay. And I have my A1C test next week so we'll see my high sugar is still kicked or if I'm back on the regimen.Of course' I've also fallen of the exercise wagon. time for a reboot.

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    1. I've fallen off the wagon and gotten back on again so many times, I can count them almost has high as I do my birthdays. You'll get rebooted soon, I'm sure. It's what we do, what we have to do!

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  14. Congrats to you! I wish I could say I've done as well, but I haven't. It is interesting -- I found a chart that told me my two-pound per week weight loss calorie intake should be 1200. I've been keeping track since January 1, and am averaging 1500-1600 calories per day. Needless to say, I'm down a couple of pounds, but it's clear that if I stuck to the 1200/day routine, I'd be down eight by the end of the month. So -- tomorrow is another day. It's a fact that 1200 calories is plenty for three meals: minus snacks, minus desserts. And I am given to a little of this or that between meals. I'll give the 1200 a try for this next week, and see what happens.

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    1. They say you shouldn't eat the same number of calories every single day, you have to vary it. It's okay to do 1,200 five times a week, but we should have a 1,000 calorie day and a 1,500 day as well to keep your body from trying to store any calories for a rainy day, so to speak. I love Fitbit for keeping track of my activities vs. food intake. Good luck to you...to all of us trying!

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  15. I grew up with those starving children in China, too. Two of my friends had snappy comebacks when their parents trotted out the starving children in China: One said, "Let's send it to them," and the other said, "Name three." Wise-ass backtalk from children was definitely not tolerated in my house, so I kept silent. But I did stare at the poster in school of the Chinese children with bowls of rice (one of my favorite foods) sans vegetables or liver and wonder why I was supposed to feel sorry for them. -Jean P

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    1. That's interesting that you remember a poster in school with Chinese kids. I don't remember that. My first real memory is of anything oriental other than my mother telling me about starving kids was reading Pearl Buck's 'The Good Earth.' But apparently one of their famines made the media here in the the States. I just read something on it that said people didn't even bury their dead, they'd put them in bed and keep collecting food ration for as long as they could. If they came across a dead stranger they'd eat them. No wonder people here didn't want to waste food on the heels of learning about our country's lack of proper nutrition.

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  16. I didn't have to clean my plate, thankfully, because I was a "picky" eater. I think they were glad I ate anything at all! I did get reprimanded for "playing" with my mashed potatoes, smooshing and smoothing them around on my plate. So great to hear of you weight loss! I lost 1.5 pounds and then nothing. But my sugar cravings are under better, if not complete, control too. And that's my failing, so if I can kick my aerobic activity into higher gear I might have more success.

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    1. I haven't lost anything more since I wrote this. :( You are so active, I don't know how you fit aerobics into your schedule. Sugar cravings are the worst, aren't' they!

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