Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates & friends :
EATING BEHAVIOR that is a surefire recipe ( pun intended ) for what are now known as eating disorders were as recently as half a generation ago considered perfectly normal or near-normal in our childhood. I discovered this when I realized how difficult it was to lose weight after confronted with a choice facing many kabatch, brods, kabayan, schoolmates and co-travellers in parallel timelines of life : lose weight or expect to get sick with lifestyle diseases ( sooner ).
By lifestyle disease I’m fairly sure you know whereof I speak : hypertension, cardiovascular ailments ( not the least of which are hardening of the arteries, enlargement of the heart, etc ), arthritis, back problems, gout ( which I already have ), enlarged prostate and related problems, and of course, that big unwieldy family loosely termed cancers, tumors and related stuff.
Given our culture, way of life and physical proclivities, we will earn these merit badges sooner or later. Getting them when you’re otherwise fit and strong ( a contradiction in terms ) in my view is already beating them but I’m veering off the sidewalk.
It’s so hard to lose weight not just because of age, so little free time and so many distractions. The things we’ve been brought up with since childhood, what we’ve been led to believe, our sedentary way of life, and manufactured processed food all conspire to make it so hard to slim down. Here are just a few :
Finish your food / Clean your plate. In the 60s 70s and 80s, I don’t know how many times I was told to finish all the food on my plate, rice, dish and all, never mind that I’ve loaded myself to the brim, my stomach’s distended till Tuesday after next, or that the food doesn’t agree with me.
The mindset of finish-your-food-at-all-costs is a product of the wartime years, the food shortage crises, the ( reasonable ) fear of being deprived and just the social blight of wastage and excess in an otherwise modest household. I don’t know how many variations I’ve heard on this theme/s. “The rice grains you leave (uneaten) on your plate are equivalent to the pockmarks / pimples on your future spouse’s face” ( so un-PC and so hard on the less-than-perfect complexions ); OR do you know how many starving children in Africa / Asia / Mindanao ( just choose your favorite economically depressed area ) would be so grateful for those table scraps you’re so sinfully leaving on your plate?
Years later, I realized that this mentality had unfortunately extended to eating other people’s excess food: scraping off all the tira-tira of your kids; polishing off a seatmates’s smorgasbord platter so you had a companion returning to the eat-all-you-can sushi bar; and finishing off the party buffet for fear of offending the celebrant. Guilty on all charges.
Rice and sugar : Kissing cousins of comfort eating. I’ve heard from a former officemate, Ms Cora V Rosales, that rice is chemically and molecularly identical to sugar, just that you can’t gorge on the white crystal without throwing up. However, you CAN eat yourself to kingdom come on plates and plates of rice, as long as you like the companion dishes and you have a typical Pinoy appetite, which accommodates rice on phenomenal levels.
But Pinoys are not the only guilty parties when it comes to rice ( over ) consumption. Across East Asia, people are known to be a spartan, uncomplaining lot, eating anything from dried fish to mung beans ( mongo ) as long as there is hot, fragrant rice. Take that away, and you have an uprising on your hands.
The trouble is, as people age, and their physical activities decline, their appetites and eating capacities do not, particularly the magnitude of rice eating. Again, on a personal level, I’m facing difficulties in this area on a daily basis, the fortitude demanded from me is formidable.
The fiesta / lauriat mentality. Again, sorry to sound like a skipping CD, but this is related to the previous reason. The extended family system, unexpected visitors dropping by, boarders / students from the province, and all other diners crashing by behoove not only extra provisions available every meal but also the variety and number of items on the menu, all the more to keep everyone happy and avoid alienating the picky eaters.
A typical dinner years ago, when no one cared about diets and health, were three or four dishes for everybody, a fishhead soup from my maternal grandmother when she was alive ( she lived nearer the big market and had better access to seafood ), Chinese takeaway from an eatery an uncle managed, and a dish or two just for my dad, who had less tolerance for spicy cuisine that was standard fare for everybody else.
This didn’t happen all the time, but there they were all of us five hungry omnivorous boys, cousins from all over the Islands, and extended family who also worked in our dad’s printing press and mom’s baked ham business. As long as you were young and active, eating a lot, often and everyday wasn’t going to be a problem. But by then the bad eating habits had left their mark on you, from then till now.
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By this time, you’ve probably gotten a more-or-less clear idea of how hard it is for me to consistently stay on the straight path of reaching my ideal weight. The bargain seems to be in exchange for a moderately healthy next three or four decades, I need to give up three-quarters of all the bad eating habits I’ve picked up from the previous four-and-a-half. It’s simplistic, but reduced to the lowest terms, it’s giving up a bit of Happiness for a little more of Health. Get back to me in 10 years and I’ll tell you how well ( or badly ) I’ve done.
Thanks for reading !
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