Hand me a carrot. And by that I mean a carrot cupcake.

I just ate a small coconut ice cream cone. And now my stomach hurts. Which makes me think of a friend.

That didn’t quite come out right, did it? Let’s try again.

My friend is a nutritionist. She has, for as long as I’ve known her (many decades) eaten like a rabbit. A vegetarian, she does not touch eggs, chocolate, processed sugar of any kind, simple carbs—I could go on, but I’ll spare you. She is the picture of health. Fit, radiant—a triathlete and long-distance biker/runner who scales mountains like you climb the stairs to go to bed.

And no, I don’t hate her. You can, I guess. You don’t know her. Go ahead. Get catty. I won’t tell.

She asked, several weeks ago, why I thought it was so hard for people to eat healthy. “It’s so simple. I just don’t get it,” she complained. “You pick up a carrot instead of a cupcake.”

Oh honey.

Puleeez.

I did not mention to her that she has a food addiction, just to healthy foods. She is as obsessed with crudités as most people are about chocolate chip cookies. There are no exceptions. Ever. Not a single cheat ever. And her workouts? They also satisfy a compulsion for her. She is no less compulsive than most overweight folks. They just channel their compulsion into food while she channels her compulsion into more “socially acceptable” things. Is it normal to do a 20-mile bike ride with a fever? I rest my case.

Regardless of her issues, the rest of us need to be cut a little slack. The honey ginger salmon and kimchi I had for dinner? That brave effort was overshadowed by the coconut ice cream cone, despite my best intentions.

It’s NEVER about just the food (unless you’re talking about homemade pasta and crusty bread—then, it really is about the food. It’s too damn good to pass up). If it were simply about the food, we’d alter kale to taste better and be done with it.

As someone who has never struggled with her weight, I am now facing a thyroid that is behaving badly. The result has been (gulp) a 25-pound weight gain over the past two years on my not so towering frame. For the first time in my life, no matter what I seem to do, food seems out to get me.

I hate it.

I’ve always been able to eat what I want, when I want, with no consequences. I was tiny for most of my life. And while I did not eat unhealthily, for the most part, I did not worry about dessert after dinner or cheese on my appetizer.

As my body seems to betray me, I’ve had to take a hard look at why it bothers me so much to forego some of my favorites. Other than my natural hedonistic tendencies (see here), I’ve determined that eating is sometimes about how I feel. This, coming from a girl who knew, as she watched her father down a half gallon of chocolate almond ice cream, that it had been a less than pleasant workday for him. And could not understand why the ice cream made him feel better.

Truth is, it didn’t. Two heart attacks later, he was still struggling with a love of food and the sense that it was a reward. When the boss is inconsiderate, your daughters are acting up, your wife loses herself in her work and your life is not what you thought it would be—chocolate almond ice cream just sits there and lets you do what you want with it. It fills a void for a while, at least.

My own food habits did not become apparent until they mattered to my weight and overall health. Let’s see—there was breakup #1, which resulted in a Gilmore Girls marathon and too many bacon cheese fries. Breakup #2 was more of a wine-and-cheese affair that went well with too many episodes of Mozart in the Jungle. I’m avoiding my next relationship and the potential for Breakup #3 because I see pasta as the sure winner—and am just not sure what Netflix show pairs with that.

Do I exaggerate? Perhaps a bit. But as a divorced working mother of two boys, as a head of household who supports a family and works a lot of hours—there are many “chop wood, carry water” days. Days in which deadlines come and go in a blur, boys are cranky and ungrateful, client egos must be massaged. Days in which little ‘ole me feels she is supporting the picture, but not really in it. Not even as an extra.

Food can then be an easy “reward.” In a world where little is controllable, what you put in your mouth is your choice. And on the tough days, you want those meals to be GOOD, dammit. Good not necessarily meaning healthy. Just something that satisfies a craving to treat yourself.

Here’s the silver lining. I recently wrote about the changes I’m making in diet for my overall health, given my thyroiditis. And those of you who read me often know I’m a seeker, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve found food does not really cure what ails me. Oh, it can probably cure my body. It just can’t fill the void at the end of a long day that has nothing to do with calories or taste.

The coconut ice cream may have been channeling my father after a long day, but it no longer works. All I walked away with was the realization that dairy really does upset my stomach. Did it taste good enough to “reward” me? Not really.

What rewarded me at the end of this long day was the soothing scent of diffused essential oils in my bedroom. A comforting bath. A heartwarming book. The sound of my dog’s snoring and my son’s singing in the shower.

And, if I must admit it, the scale. Two pounds down. Not much. But perhaps my body will work with me again—forgive me my past sins—if I show it I’m approaching food in an enlightened manner.

I will not pick up the carrots versus the cupcake every day. But somehow, I think that’s ok. Compulsion in any form—even a healthy one—no longer attracts me. Sanity lies in the balance.

In the meantime, hand me a cupcake—dammit, I mean a carrot—won’t you?

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55 Comments Add yours

  1. Aunt Beulah says:

    The nugget for me in this thought-provoking post was the idea that we tend to think of food as a reward, to feel we deserve it. Bingo! I identified myself. I usually manage to control this impulse, eating a mostly healthy diet with occasional binges after which I feel varying amounts of remorse. it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my struggle.

    1. candidkay says:

      Yes, yes, yes. I am always amazed at people who have never thought of food as a reward. I think they’re the exception rather than the rule. And yet, I find myself encouraged as I realized food no longer does it for me. I think that’s progress:).

  2. KIMCHI!!??? LOL. I don’t crave it. Shows how Korean I really am.
    Yep, food’s never really just about the food. Just like the argument was not really about who lost what at the park. Hmm…so food is like a dialogue…with yourself.
    It is very much about the issues of comfort, pleasure, and control.

    1. candidkay says:

      If you came to Chicago and had the fish/kimchi dish at one of my fave restaurants, I bet you’d crave it:). But then we’d have to discuss control issues!

      1. LOL. I would travel the distance to sit down with you and discuss anything, if I could. Even if I didn’t think the kimchi could win me.

  3. Not much beats the smell of Eucalyptus mint after a stressful day! It’s refreshing to read someone write about how exercise and healthy eating can be just as compulsive as overeating and being glued to the TV

    1. candidkay says:

      Everything in moderation, right?!

  4. Bernadette says:

    Thanks for taking the time to contribute this to the Senior Salon.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for inviting me!

  5. George says:

    I think it’s great if someone wants to live their life as your friend does just as I do the choices of the rest of society.
    As someone who struggled with weight for a few years after I stopped playing ball, I came to understand that moderation in almost anything in life is the best approach.
    Ice cream as a reward is not a bad thing..;)

    1. candidkay says:

      You won’t get an argument from me on that!

  6. A day at a time and you will get there…

    1. candidkay says:

      Love those words of wisdom–my father used them often:). I try to remind myself it’s one day, one choice, at a time!

  7. srbottch says:

    Everything in moderation. I told my wife, ‘no more M&M with the peanuts’. And to make sure I wouldn’t be tempted, I ate the last 6 today. I rationalized that it was good for me because it was ‘dark’ chocolate. Love those tanins… (they were easier to swallow with a glass of red 🍷!!!

    1. candidkay says:

      LOL. Those things are addicting:). Haven’t eaten them for years but ooh, they were good when I did! And that red wine–don’t give that up! We have to have some vices to be interesting:).

  8. fritzdenis says:

    My wife and I used to get a snack as a shared reward after we got the kids to bed. That was fun back then, but now the kids are grown and gone and late night food expands my waist. Your solution sounds good, especially the part about reading a good book. That is my deliverance when I’m stressed at the end of a day.

    1. candidkay says:

      You’re telling me! I don’t know how the Europeans stay so trim with such late dinners. I think it’s the lack of packaged food and their penchant for walking:).

  9. lifelessons says:

    The only answer to it is not to have anything naughty in the house. Unfortunately, I am very skilled at making naughty out of the unlikeliest of ingredients.

    1. candidkay says:

      Why, you’re my favorite kind of person then😋

      1. lifelessons says:

        Ha. That would be a fun party to have. Stock up and then have each person create a dish out of what is at hand. You could call it a stone soup party. You know that story, right? In addition, each person could bring one ingredient. Their choice.

  10. Ninasusan says:

    Compulsion in any form is not healthy! I’ve always been overweight and if wasn’t moving I would eat it. With health problems, age and knowledge I’ve learned that what I eat can kill me…knowledge is healthy.

    1. candidkay says:

      Good for you. Not an easy task to accomplish. I struggle to find time to keep moving, as my job requires me to sit long hours. I think most of us have to figure out the balancing act.

  11. Tom Schultz says:

    All these years I’ve been deceived. I thought carrot cake was a health food. Good for your eyes, right? If you do go on a pasta binge, I recommend “The Sopranos” as complementary viewing. Pass the ziti.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, yes, The Sopranos! Of course! With a good red wine, of course:).

  12. Yesterday, I was stressed and couldn’t stop fantasizing about “Charleston Chew bars.” Then the stressor stopped and with it, my craving. I’ve never seen it spelled out so clearly before. Will I stop eating bad stuff completely? No, but now I see there is an emotional component I didn’t realize before.

    1. candidkay says:

      Man, you’re taking me back! I had forgotten about Charleston Chews! Glad you were able to get beyond the craving. Sometimes, it just takes a few minutes to yourself.

  13. dinnerbysusan says:

    As someone who — after years — still fights body image and food demons, I’ve found peace in the all-things-in-moderation mantra. (And sometimes a carrot cupcake really is the only thing that will do!)

  14. I think it’s harder when you have always eaten everything you want and then as an adult, try and balance trained eating habits. I was fat at 14 ha and so had to learn how to eat leaner and healthier then. It’s easy for me now to make those choices but I envied those who didn’t have to be strict for a long time. It’s a balance of the scales in life. I’ve find it easy now but did have to start a bit earlier than others. Good luck Kristine 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      I was thinking the same thing! I think not having to face the consequences of anything I eat makes it harder now. But, I do feel for those who have had to struggle throughout their life. This is not much fun :-(.

  15. What’s up with the thyroid?

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s decided that it doesn’t want to work the way it used to :-). Which means that my metabolism, which was always super fast, has come to almost a grinding halt. And working on revving that back up. Cutting out gluten, dairy, etc.

  16. ~M says:

    I can very much relate to this. I never had a problem with my weight, until I ended up with a thyroid disease. Now I just look at a cupcake and gain 2 lbs! So frustrating! All the best to you! 😉

  17. Thank you also for pointing out how difficult it must be for those who have struggled with weight issues all their life. With my recent similar experience, I’m now beginning to be more compassionate towards them and can better appreciate their frustration!

    1. candidkay says:

      Right?! I think we all could be a little more compassionate in that area. Particularly with all the fat shaming it goes on and what are young girls are learning about how they are “supposed” to look.

  18. Oh, I hear you, sister! I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your weight and metabolism. I, too, have just started to come back to eating healthily again and keeping fit after the stress and emotional eating. It certainly makes it even more frustrating — distressing — when we decide to make healthier choices only to face the challenge of our physical bodies not responding and re-adjusting as fast. 😉 Oh yes, why couldn’t we have done the emotional eating when our metabolism was much faster, eh? But back then, though, in my younger days, I turned to alcohol. So I justify it now by telling myself that stress eating is ‘better’ and ‘healthier’ than drinking excessively! I know. It sItill doesn’t make it less unwise. Such is life. Such are our lessons.

    And I can relate to the compulsion and addiction of your friend. I, too, went through a similar phase — to a much lesser degree, though. As with everything, we must aim for balance.

    Cheering you on and sending you much L ❤ ve, Kristine! Blessed be.

    Now, where's that carrot — cupcake and otherwise…. 😉

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for being so honest and sharing your experience. I so appreciate the women who are willing to do so. The ones you keep it all under wraps deprive themselves of a lot of support!

  19. I hear you, sister. What a pain it all is. Somewhere between your nutritionist friend’s habits, and yours and mine, lie the real answers.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree! I think I am just shocked to never have realized how lucky I was to have a naturally fast metabolism. I can’t imagine having to struggle with this throughout life. I don’t know how people do it.

  20. Judy says:

    On the days when the life makes choices for us, food is usually the one thing over which we have complete control, what and how much. I have a friend who eats what he wants and stays in shape; he doesn’t eat the whole half-gallon of ice cream, only a spoonful and done. I haven’t learned that kind of control, yet. Working on it. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      The weird part is-I didn’t do emotional eating when my metabolism was fast. But now that I know I can’t have certain things, I think it makes me feel deprived. Here’s to learning the balance!

      1. Judy says:

        I think eating is used as a “filler” for a lot of people who feel deprived, one way or another. I’ll binge on foods I don’t really care for if what I want isn’t available: feeling deprived. I’m also working on learning the new skill of not using food as a way to make up for feeling deprived, using it as a substitute for whatever it is I want and don’t have.

      2. candidkay says:

        Bingo. And it doesn’t fill the void, does it?

      3. Judy says:

        Not even close.

  21. That must be why the film ‘That Sugar Film’ is making the rounds right now Kristine, our awareness is listening.
    It is a manipulation in our stressful world that the manufacturers are aware of. It’s very simple…because almost everyone likes sweet things, the sugar (in everything) turns off the ‘I’m full’ signal in the body, we then never feel ‘sated’ by anything, and we just simply overeat.
    May your carrots and you find the ‘full’ signal naturally, and the ‘pounds’ will leave of their own accord 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Mark, if only it were that simple. I watched the sugar film when it first came out, with my son. My issue is mainly thyroid–if it’s not firing, neither is metabolism. And mine was always high. Now that it’s almost non-existent, I’m seeing how tough it has been for my friends who have struggled with weight most of their lives. Sigh. I think if I can get that fixed–and keep eating healthy–all will be well . . .

      1. My apologies Kristine, I meant it was ‘simple’ for the sugar’s signal to the body, ensnaring us all. And in your case, triply damned. It isn’t easy under normal circumstances, without it being compounded by many other conditions that make the journey quite difficult. And then you get buried in the guilt trips all around to top it off.
        You’re doing your journey for you, that can only be the beginning of a bright new healthy future 😀

  22. Pasta pairs well with Good Wife. Duh! Because a good wife would rather shag her husband than slave over a meal. Or, as in my case, a good wife is just one that makes a meal. Same/same.
    I am sorry you are struggling with your thyroid. We’ll be here to support you while you work through it. Just stop asking your insane friend for advice when you can ask internet crazies instead. We understand the need for the cake in all forms.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that kind of insane:). The kind that likes cake. That’s the best kind of insane. And The Good Wife–excellent suggestion! But I’ve seen them all:). Keep ’em comin’.

  23. Bernadette says:

    Why don’t you post this at the Senior Salon tomorrow. I think a lot of people would like to read it.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Bernadette. That’s a great suggestion, but I’m not familiar with senior salon. Can you clue me in? Thanks!

      1. Bernadette says:

        Senior Salon is a regular feature I run on Wednesdays. You just link your post to the Salon for others to read. You don’t have to change your post or put any mention of Haddon Musings in your post. I look forward to seeing you there.

  24. Bernadette says:

    From one emotional eater to another, I her your pain. Also from one hypothyroid to another, I say let’s put the scale in the scrap heap😏

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen to throwing away the scale! I am just trying to get fit and healthy again :-).

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