Remember the playground?
When your parents parked the car, or when the bell for recess FINALLY rang…where did you run first?
I was all about the swings. Unlike the monkey bars, they didn’t require much athletic ability, and they didn’t scald the skin on your thighs like the metal slide did on a hot summer day. Didn’t we all pinch our fingers in the chains at least once when we were lost in the challenge of swinging hard enough to fly all the way around the bar?
(I recognize that some of you are too young to remember a playground that had actual safety hazards. But back in MY day <hitching up suspenders> we didn’t have plastic coatings over the chains. We had shiny metal slides that heated up to skin-blistering, egg-frying temperatures in August. Seat belts on the swings? You have GOT to be kidding. And we had NONE of that sissy-boy recycled-tire mulch at the bottom of the monkey bars. We had good old-fashioned DIRT. Soft landings = soft adults! Got a boo-boo? Pop that sucker back into joint, rub some gravel on it and get back outside!)
As adults, I think we look for that same thrill that the playground used to give us. We all need to find our fun, right?
Some of us look to extreme sports (100-milers. The Ironman.) Others look to death-defying activities. (Bungee jumping, anyone? Skydiving? That’s a big helping of NOT ME. But you go on with yo’ bad self.) And a few get way too absorbed in the drama of politics, Big Brother, or Facebook.
Some of us get a little lost looking for that playground thrill. That’s where things like gambling and alcohol come into play. And for me, obviously, food.
Recently, the hubs and I went to our local State Fair, where they historically feature diabetes and obesity “on a stick.” (Delicious, delicious diabetes. OMNOMNOM) You can find something for every palate – pickle juice Popsicles, chocolate-covered bacon, funnel cake, and deep-fried everything from candy bars to cookie dough – even butter. (But butter sort of terrifies me, so we are NOT having any of THAT.)
I joke occasionally that the State Fair is “the one day I allow myself to eat.” Now, I’ve been trying desperately to get these last
ten fifteen five few pounds off, and I’ve been trying to not go all eating-disorder starvation crazy about it. For the last four weeks, I’ve conscientiously eaten 1200 calories a day and gone for a run 3-4 times a week, with long bike rides on the weekends. Balanced. Healthy. Right?
So I knew the fair was coming up, and I know I like to eat fair food, so I decided to just have a day of “screw it” and eat what I felt like eating at the fair. One planned afternoon of once-a-year treats.
And eat I did. I had:
- a blueberry/honey/chipotle muffin (they were gluten-free, so I had to try one)
- a scoop of chocolate raspberry wine ice cream (fabulous)
- a beer-battered fried brat (also gluten-free!)
- a “triple peanut threat” milkshake (peanut butter, Reese’s pieces, and Butterfingers, which probably aren’t gluten-free, but my throttle was jammed firmly into don’t-give-a-s#it gear at this point.
- a chocolate-coated pecan nut roll (gluten? WHO CARES SUGAR SUGAR SUGARSUGARSUGARSUUUUUUUGAAAARRRR)
Now, that’s a lot of food, but trust me, in past years, when I didn’t need to worry about not eating wheat, I’ve done a LOT worse. (Add not one, but TWO, orders of deep-fried cheese curds, and probably a chocolate sandwich, which YES, is as good as it sounds, and maybe some sweet potato fries with a small lake of ketchup.) So, given that this was a planned indulgence, this wasn’t TOO bad for a full day of food, especially when you’re walking all day, too.
Right If I’d have STOPPED there.
I had been having quite a time on the monkey bars, enjoying the view up high, until I slipped, fell hard, and whacked my elbow on the unforgiving pavement. THUD.
Unable to do anything halfway, I gave moderation a hostile middle finger and ate half a king-sized pillow bag of popcorn once I got home.
And, despite sticking religiously to my diet for the rest of the week – zero weight loss.
Well, what did I expect, exactly? I guess I should feel lucky that I didn’t gain from my dalliance with debauchery. I know that one day off from diligence – one bad meal, actually – will cost me (I wrote about why here.)
But I also know it’s dangerous to dance close to the edge of that oh-so-slippery slope. Because with eating disorders, there is no “just once.” There’s no minor diversion. No day off. It’s black or white. All or nothing.
It’s kind of ironic, actually. I mean, when you’re starving yourself (alternating with periods of stuffing yourself senseless) you spend a lot of time on a scale. And if you’ve ever waded in past your knees in the eating-issues pool, you have a food scale, too.
The scale. A symbol of balance. A precise measuring device calculating, gram by gram, the distance of an object from zero. Calculating the mass between the amount of space you take up and the amount of space that’s acceptable to occupy.
Physically, you’re constantly working with this instrument to find balance.
Yet, when it comes to the food? Mentally, we can’t get off the seesaw. Up. Down. Back up. Quickly down. One minute, you’re briefly at the top, and in the next moment, you’re bouncing painfully off the ground when your partner bails from the ride.
It’s all or nothing.
And we all know how it SHOULD be, right? Mentally, we should strive to be balanced, aiming mightily for that elusive “moderation” bullseye, while physically, the scale should be an occasional, twice-a-year checkup at the doctor’s office.
My relationship with food, and my weight, should look like this:
But it feels more like this (except picture the elephant tumbling @ss over teakettle to the ground in a thunderous crash):
Or, more accurately, this:
Somehow, I need to move myself to the center of the seesaw. It doesn’t HAVE to be all-or-nothing, right? Most people eat when they’re hungry, stop when they’re not, and don’t burn up so much freaking mental energy on this stuff.
They just DO it. It’s like breathing.
It’s not so automatic for me. I have to keep reminding myself to find my balance.
Keep shifting to the center.
Try to balance.
Get back up. Rub some dirt on it.
Anyone wanna go back to the swings with me? Let’s leave all this food baggage in Mom’s purse on the ground, and just rock back and forth for a while.
If I lean back, and point my toes to the sky, I’ll go higher and higher, alternately reaching for the moon and gently floating back to earth, not having a care in the world.
For a moment.