7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you doEcclesiastes 9:7 (NIV)
All the years I have had dogs, food rarely was a problem that required a lot of attention. Overeating, junk or fast food, was never a part of my upbringing or life in the military. I did not feed my dogs junk food, and gave them a decent amount of daily exercise. Most of my canine friends have been shelter or rescue dogs, so they have actually been quite relieved to have had plenty of healthy dog food, clean water, and a dog biscuit or bone on a daily basis. For the longest time, I never thought of food as “comfort”. Nor did I understand that some struggled as much with self-imposed starvation, or anorexia, as those who were grossly obese. I knew a few older people over the years whose animals took on the same rotund form as their master or mistress. As I became one of those rotund middle-aged people, the vet was commenting that Dexter and Comet could afford to lose a few pounds. But my own gluttony was not apparent to me until a young fellow nicknamed me “Santa Claus”. I made a decision to change all that.
being “sick as a dog” was a new “leash” on life
As 2017 became 2018, in combination with an illness, surgery, months of a restricted diet and a specific daily exercise plan, I started to feel like someone I hadn’t felt since my late Thirties. Daily exercise, gym membership, long walks with the dogs, and eating home- prepared organic meals. My wife and I talked over a plan for me to stop working full-time once my military pension – at age 60 – started coming. Three hours of daily commuting, with an hour of gym time afterward, was my coping plan till then. And then life got complicated again after we welcomed a grandson into the fold. My father-in-law, an octogenarian, visits family and friends all over the country, goes out to eat with them all, struggles to manage his weight, and periodically has a heart attack, or needs surgery. This usually occurs during his visit with us.
a plan to lose weight when life got easier
My sole (amicable) maternal relative, also an octogenarian aunt in New York, because of chronic health problems is going through financial issues and asked for our support. That created unwarranted strife with less-amicable relatives. Closer to home, in the summer of 2019, we celebrated a first birthday. Keto diets gave way to “eating a balanced diet including “no red meat” way more vegetables and being very choosy about eating out. But indulging in popcorn, encouraging a sweets addiction, and “comfort” bingeing were always on the horizon. Of our three adult sons, the youngest had been hiding the extent of his personal turmoil for years, until he made a series of unscheduled visits to hospitals, rehab centers,jail and sobriety-living homes in two counties, starting in the late summer and early Fall of this year.
bright lines, scales, and planned meals
My spouse is seeing a change in her health, and her response to turmoil, at work and in the family, though a program of study and diet, that eliminates consumption of processed sugar and flours entirely. I have not been as diligent in studying the “whys” and “hows”, but I have severely restricted my own consumption of these. My support for diets, fads, plans, and regimes has been less than enthusiastic for several years. When I embrace a new plan, even when I am happily supporting my spouse, it is not long till I feel that I am forcibly denying myself. Strangely, the longer I have eliminated processed sugars (donuts!) , and eat much more consciously, I find that I do not eat to cope with things. Stress is no longer a driver for me to indulge myself. Rather, fitting into my clothes keeps me accountable. And there are added benefits to this new outlook. With our own business, I have eliminated daily commuting. I have more days to walk the dogs longer and to exert more on those hikes. My breakfast is a home-prepared protein shake. Lunch is usually a snack or leftovers from the previous evening meal. And on days my wife is working for her employer, I cook or prepare healthy meals with fresh produce and home-made sauces and dressings.
binge-free and at peace
The turmoil in our lives is never going to go away completely. We can enjoy the periods of calm between storms. But where these once a major factor in having a “Good” or a “Bad” day, and choosing a coping food, I am choosing to be different. Walking the dogs, going into the yard to do a little pruning or watering. Meeting a friend for coffee. Taking our grandson together to the zoo, or to church on Sunday. Making plans with one or both of our elder sons, for coffee or a meal, does not have to be overly-planned and diet-restricted. But I also do not feel a gallon of ice cream is a necessary item on the weekly grocery list. Nor do I “deserve” a treat on any particular day. And after my wife has been on the phone with our youngest son, reasoning, calming, but mostly listening to him, she has a stress-reliever. Tea, an apple, or an orange is a better comfort than bingeing through a bag of caramel corn.