“Thin behavior” has fascinated me for years. I just don’t get it. I don’t mean the kind of behavior where skinny kids squeezed through fence slats in the alley, or where my teen-aged friends stretched thin, nubile bodies on the beach at Shady Oak Lake as I huddled on my towel.
I mean the eating kind of thin behaviors:
- Behaviors like choosing a bowl of vegetable soup over clam chowder.
- Behaviors like preferring a chef’s salad over a burger and fries, or grilled fish rather than steak.
- Behaviors like leaving food on your plate (not just the onions you’ve picked out of your salad).
- Behaviors like nibbling one Rice Krispy bar for a half hour (I actually witnessed this).
- Behaviors like choosing small portions of only three things at a potluck. (I take small portions, but I end up with twenty heaped on my plate.)
I’m thin-behavior challenged. Why me?
It all began in my youth. I grew up in the fifties when one of my favorite TV programs was the “Ding-Dong School” which featured the “Do-Bee” song: “Do be a plate cleaner. Don’t be a food shirker.” I took it to heart.
Another influence that pushed me to eat was Mom’s admonition when I left food on my plate. “Think of the hungry children in China.” Like any self-respecting child, I knew better than to say they were welcome to it, although I would have happily wrapped my Swedish meatballs and shipped them to those unfortunates.
Another obstacle to thin behavior was “No dessert until you eat up.” The logic in that escapes me. Eat a lot, then you can eat more. I learned it well, though. I eat a lot, then I have more.
The main reason I’m thin-behavior challenged, though, is that I love food. Lots of it. I love snickerdoodle cookies—hard to stop before twelve. I have a good friend who is aghast if she indulges in a third cookie. I’m sure she’s never eaten a whole bag. That’s why I don’t bake.
One slice of pizza is just a teaser, and I’m nearly certain that heaven is lined with camembert and brie.
So what can you do?
I used to go on crash diets and fast for days, neither of which was wise or healthy. Finally, in desperation, I joined Weight Watchers, which educated me about changing my attitudes and behaviors rather than starving myself. It changed my life. I went from a binge eater to a sensible one. I revere thin behaviors. I must admit they don’t come naturally, but I’m doing better all the time. These are some of the behaviors that help me:
- I guzzle a glass of water every time I migrate to the kitchen. (It fills me up and deters me from mindless snacking.) That water glass is the first thing I see, waiting by the sink. I try to down least six glasses of water in each day.
- I avoid red-light foods (foods I can’t resist), which for me are cheese and crackers, especially in the late afternoon. I know some people can’t resist sweets.
- I plant myself far from the appetizer table at gatherings once I’ve tasted a few items.
- I avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Morning works best for me.
- I use rewards. I don’t allow myself a cup of morning coffee until I’ve done 20 minutes of stretches and exercises.
- I exercise with friends daily, and when that’s not possible, I listen to audio books while I walk, bike, or hike.
- Sometimes I treat myself to a long bath when I’m feeling out of control (late afternoon for me). Food doesn’t go in the bathroom, at least not at my house.
- When I’m hankering for a treat it helps to go brush my teeth. It quells my appetite. Dill pickles and candied ginger work, too.
- I’m trying to eat five servings of fruit and veggies every day, which continues to be a challenge.
I still love food, and I still lose control sometimes, but these basic behavior changes have made it much easier for me to control my eating, and that helps me feel more in control of every other aspect of my life.
This article first appeared on Sixty and Me: