Saturday, October 07, 2006

Food in the Family

I mentioned before about the importance of food in my family. I think all families to some degree have this characteristic: we all have traditional meals, some of ethnic importance, some associated with holidays we celebrate, and there are those foods that, if they weren't on the table, would cause an uproar.

For example, years ago I started making Watergate Salad for my maternal relatives' holiday meals. For those of you who don't know what Watergate is (created by the chef in that famous Washington, DC, hotel, by the way), I make it with one can crushed pineapple, one regular box pistachio pudding, one eight-ounce container of whipped topping, and a liberal helping of mini marshmallows. I first ate it as a kid at my best friend's house, and her mother gave me the recipe. I loved the taste of the pistachio and pineapple, and I thought it would make a nice addition to our family dinners. Well, the dessert really took off. My aunt and her two sons in particular make a beeline for the stuff. All of them are from the "small-boned" branch of the family, both cousins are avid athletes who regularly run, cycle, and are long-time golfers. They like my Watergate Salad, which they call "whippy stuff," because it's light and refreshing after a heavy holiday feast.

Since that time, when these members of the family show up for our meals (which I now host), they always ask if there's any whippy stuff. The funny thing is, the last few years I've noticed that at the end of the day there's always lots of the stuff left over. Yet if I don't have it available there's disappointment. Apparently all they need is a little taste of it and they're satisfied -- smart, huh? So now as they're preparing to leave I put the remainder of the salad in a plastic container for them to take home. They always are glad to take it, because they can enjoy it more once they don't have a big meal in their bellies.

Then there's my husband and his family. Food is practically their religion. He told me just last night he loves every single aspect of it: the planning, the shopping, the preparation, of course the eating, critiquing, and even the storage of it (he adores his vacuum packer). And this pretty much goes for his entire family. In fact, his father was a potato chip distributor for over 40 years. So even the roof over their heads was because of the revered fried potato slices. And food tradition is extremely important to this family. Every time I make a meal, even if he loves it, his response always includes the line "it's not what I'm used to" or "it's not how I/my mom/my grandmother made it."

This preoccupation with food is what helped lead me to regaining 50 pounds of the 100 I lost from 2003-04. Of course I didn't have a gun to my head, but imagine a recently recovering alcoholic living with a family full of heavy drinkers who happen to own a bar. It's a little hard to keep up the resistance when you're surrounded by food and thoughts of food all day long.

Add to that the stress of planning a large wedding and combining two households into one, and there was no way I could say no to all the deep fried, buttery goodness of their "traditions." Once we got married and settled into our house, however, I buckled down and lost the 50 pounds -- amazingly, in the worst time of the year -- September through December of last year. I still don't know how I managed to avoid all the holiday pitfalls and temptations, but like Ant says on Celebrity Fit Club, "the scales don't lie."

The problem is, since losing that 50 pounds, I've gone nowhere. Throughout 2006 I've varied a little -- losing some, gaining some back, losing it again-- but on average I've maintained that weight for the past 9 1/2 months. My husband, friends, therapist all tell me that's an accomplishment in itself. This is the first time in my life that I haven't quickly gained all the weight back plus some. Ten pounds? Eh, that's nothing to the old days

The main reason is because when I do revert back to old habits, it only lasts a few days, maybe a week or possibly two. Then I find myself actually wanting to return to my healthier ways. Mainly because I feel so much better. I'm just hoping that my good habits and my attempts to steer at least some of the family's interests away from food will eventually rub off on my daughter.

Geez, didn't realize the time. Day 5 went great. Food went spectacularly -- I ate a healthy dinner and didn't chow down on junk food at the movie. haven't exercised yet, but I'm heading off to my daughter's acrobatics lesson, and they have a family deal there to use the gym facilities. So I'm going to try it out. No temptations in store for me today that I know of, bu the day's early yet.


Vickie said...

In all the years that I sat at gymnastics waiting for one child or the other - I always WISHED they had classes for parents - or even just a row of exercise bikes somewhere. Now, I have kids of the age where I don't usually stay for school activities and my gym is less than 2 blocks away from the girls' school - so even if I have just a half hour to kill - I can go get on a bike or the treadmill or something instead of just sitting, waiting.

Rowan said...

Hi Andrea,
I just started reading this blog and kept going until I got caught up. This post in particular I can relate to 100%. My parents are all about food, always have been. It is also the only area where we have an OK time as a family (long story there) so I just go with it when I visit with them and know that I am going to have a higher than normal points day (I use WW points among other things to help me on my plan..)
However, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had married someone into food. My husband has a slight glucose intolerance and ever since his doctor told him that, he has been very careful about his food intake and balance. I think if he had not been told that I may be having a much harder time of it.
It must be very hard on you to not only be trying to find your way to permanent healthy living but also getting critiqued for your cooking and/or being told it is not measuring up to your husband's standards.
My parents are total food snobs so I understand THAT as well. When they give me one of their coveted family recipes they will tell me 'Now, don't dumb this down by taking all the fat out - it won't taste right'. I always do take some of the fat out but I no longer tell them I do that. They seem to take it as a personal insult.
Anyhoo, I enjoyed reading your blog and I hope you continue sharing your journey!