Ahem… Am. NOT. Eating. This.
(photo credit to my husband who saw this on the grocery store shelf and snapped the photo with his camera phone)
“Mom,” my six year old son said to me, “I think there should be rules against showing some kind of stuff on television. Those shows you were watching, they should not be allowed to have that on television, don’t you think?”
And I had to think back. What was I watching? Prison Break? Nope, we don’t have HBO. The Sopranos? Nope, again, no HBO and besides, I think that’s over and done with. Plus, this kid watches Star Wars, full of explosions and chases and The Force that kills. But then I remember. I was watching episode after episode of a show about an obesity treatment center in New York. Brookhaven something or other. It was New Year’s Day and I turned on the TV as I stepped onto the treadmill. I was curious as to why an obesity treatment center would let its patients have access to phones and the front door so they could call and order a large pizza with extra toppings, or Kung Pao Chicken with a side of pupu platter. Some of the patients have lived at this place for 2 years, even 4, without losing any weight at all. It wasn’t hard to see why, given the contraband food that was coming in and being consumed in the dark of night, but it was hard to fathom that the insurance companies paying for the treatment hadn’t questioned the fact that 800 pound Mary was still weighing in at 800 pounds after 3 years of “treatment”.
So I left the television on and watched with a sick fascination as I ran on the treadmill and I didn’t think much of it when my son wandered downstairs and sat quietly on the sofa. I guess at some point I noticed that he was staring, somewhat transfixed at the television, at the 700 pound man with the elephantitis of his leg, but then again, so was I. In hindsight, I should have turned the TV off.
It’s a new year, and people are making resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, and although this show didn’t offer the same kind of motivation as say, the season finale of The Biggest Loser, where you think if they can do it I can too, it had I thought, some motivational aspect to it. The negative reinforcement that makes you run just a little bit faster or a little bit farther as you think to yourself “No way would I let myself get like that. Certainly I’d give up the chocolate ice cream the moment I realized that I wasn’t able to squeeze through my front door anymore…”
After the treatment center show ended came episodes of Big Medicine, where they showed patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery and full body lifts to remove excess skin that remained after such profound weight loss. And still I watched, hoping to use the negative reinforcement as motivation to keep me on the treadmill for just another mile, or maybe even two.
Later that evening I tucked my son in bed and left his room. I had only taken about three steps beyond his bedroom door when he called me back, “Mommy,” he cried, “I need you.” So I turned back, opened his door. “What is it sweetheart? What do you need?”
“I’m worried,” he cried, as tears started to roll down his face. “I am afraid I am going to be like those people when I grow up.”
“What people, sweetheart? Who are you talking about?”
“Those people on TV, the ones with the tumors…” he sniffed.
And again I had to think back, those people on TV with the tumors? Then it hit me, the obesity clinic show… The man with elephantitis, the woman with the lipomas…
“Oh sweetheart!” I said. “Come here,” I said, and hugged him. “You won’t grow up to be like that I promise.”
“I won’t? How do you know?” he cried, his face now wet from a river of tears.
“Because,” I said, “Those people, they just didn’t take very good care of themselves, they didn’t eat enough healthy food or get enough exercise. And some of it’s genetics…”
“What’s genetics?” he asked.
“Genetics… genetics are like a secret code that comes from your parents to make you who you are. I have brown eyes and you have brown eyes and daddy had brown eyes,” I explained, “that’s genetics.” “And besides,” I went on, “Daddy and I aren’t like those people on TV, are we?”
“No,” he admitted.
“So” I said, “It’s not in your genetics to be like that. And even if it was I wouldn’t let you get like that. I would not let you eat too much junk food. I would make you eat healthy food. You play outside, you ride your bike, you get lots of exercise. And you eat carrots and other healthy food… Plus, you know what? With your food allergies you can’t eat a lot of junk food anyway. You can’t get a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonalds or Burger King. We cook mostly healthy food at home,” I said. “And besides,” I went on, desperate to convince him, “Some of those people probably eat bowls of potato chips for breakfast, and you don’t do that, you eat cereal.”
“Yeah,” he said, starting to brighten a little, “and cereal is healthy, right?”
It took about 30 minutes to convince him that he would be okay, that he wouldn’t end up like the people on television, so obese that they were confined to a hospital bed and unable to walk more than a few short steps, so obese that they suffered a host of related conditions such as cellulitis and elephantitis and seven pound tumors composed of fat and growing off the side of their thighs. I felt sad for these patients. I was curious about the ones who wanted help yet cheated on their diets nightly by ordering pizzas and breadsticks to eat as a snack after the evening meal had already been served. I was bothered that the patients could remain at the clinic for years without making any progress, away from their families who missed their presence at home. I was irritated that the show didn’t have follow-ups or success stories to share, no “It’s been 2 years since Mary left the clinic and she’s maintained her 500 pound weight loss despite all odds…” But mostly, I was saddened that the show had frightened my child to the point that it took 30 minutes to dry his tears and calm his fears.
I was nervous the next evening at dinner. Would my son refuse to eat? Would a plate of food remind him of that television show? But everything was fine. He announced that we should have a rule to eat healthy foods and then he cleaned his plate and asked for a banana split for dessert. “Bananas,” he told me, “are a healthy food! So we can eat banana splits! But you know what, Mom?” he continued, “Do you know why I don’t like salad? Because it doesn’t have any taste. Or it has taste but it also doesn’t have taste? So not having any taste gives it an X. And the taste it does have gets an X. So that’s a double X. And a double X is bad. But actually… well, I just hate salad. And I still think we need some rules about what shows we can watch on TV in this house. That show you were watching, that shouldn’t be allowed to be watched anymore, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed. “I’m sorry that show scared you. We won’t watch that anymore,” I said, as I turned to prepare his “healthy” banana split, complete with half a banana, a spoonful of soy ice cream, colorful sprinkles, and a sour cherry ball on top. Health food, indeed.
Yes, I did in fact eat a hunk of cheese, two pepperoni sticks (think Slim Jims) and a triple scoop of chocolate ice cream for dinner.
Horrified? Me, too. But don’t worry. That’s NOT what I fed my kid. He had leftover fish, some rice, and green beans with a healthy dose of ketchup (it counts as a second vegetable – so said Ronald Reagan).
Actually, maybe Snags only had the aroma of dinner for his dinner. It looks as if he hardly ate anything, perhaps a bite of ketchup, before he declared that he was “full” and wandered off to play the Star Wars Lego game on XBox.
My husband, having finished all of the rotten steak he cooked a while back, ate leftover spaghetti and ratatouille before wandering off to a physical therapy appointment for his bum knee. An appointment that he had canceled last night and rescheduled for tonight because last night he needed to go to the chiropractor for his bum back. He wondered whether the PT exercises for his knee had caused the back pain, but his Chiropractor and I both voted no. The sudden back pain was more likely tied to the hours spent with his body curled into the shape of a poorly written letter, perhaps a C or a U, or maybe an S, as he played one too many games of XBox over the past week with Snags.
So all this left me with cabinets full of healthy healthy food everywhere, but not a drop to eat. Or something like that. And I was too lazy to cook anything and too lazy to reheat anything, so I took the easy way out. Besides, if I didn’t binge on this junk tonight, it would still be around here tomorrow, and I’d end up eating it then instead of starting to eat healthier, like I’d planned. And also, I deserved this junk (that’s a lie I tell myself; don’t call me on it).
After all, the day just started off bad. As I was about to step into the shower this morning the power went out! Which meant that after my shower I couldn’t dry or style my hair. And I couldn’t iron my clothes for work. So I had to let my hair air dry and hope for the best which didn’t turn out very best looking. And then I had to find something to wear that looked like I’d only slept in it half the night.
I had to use the emergency release to open the garage door so I could back the car out rather than it drive through the door itself. Then I had to park the car and get out again to close the garage door and lock it, by hand. Because, folks, the door won’t respond to the remote when the power’s out! Also, closing a garage door by hand isn’t that easy when you are kind of short and have to resort to jumping to reach the door handle over your head. See what technology has done to us? We love it when it works but oh how it makes
us me bitter when it doesn’t.
Next came the battle of the traffic as stop lights near and far were also out and drivers suddenly forgot how to drive when the lights weren’t working. Here’s a hint: treat the intersections as you would a four-way stop. Got it? Thanks.
Then… THEN, I arrived downtown to find the anime convention had arrived. Really, I have nothing against those that want to “celebrate all anime, manga, and all facets of Asian pop culture!” But OH! How that convention MAKES MY BLOOD BOIL. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the conventioneers dress up as their favorite cartoon or video game character then parade around town crossing against lights and stopping in the middle of the street to adjust their fish net stockings, or their wig, or pick up the sword or the dungeons and dragons cards they’ve just dropped. Many of them have wire antennae on their heads, or devil horns, or tinfoil eyeglasses, or bunny tails fastened to their back sides and I guess I just don’t understand any of it.
Every year I moan and wail and complain to my friends and co-workers about this convention and every year I swear to myself that NEXT YEAR I will be forewarned and take a vacation day the day the convention comes to town so I won’t have to witness any of this and spare myself the agony of watching geeky teens and young adults dress up in ridiculous costumes and think they are suddenly cool. But then here I am fuming again because nobody warned me this was coming to town today and I got stuck in the freak show.
Mostly I think I get so irritated because the costumed, uh, people take up all the parking spots in the garage where I pay $150 a month to park and at that price I really expect to find a parking spot without having to resort to creating my own in a fire lane.
A friend suggested we should eat lunch at an outdoor café and laugh at those in costume, but I declined because watching all of this on purpose would surely sour my mood even more. And you see, I want to be in a good mood this evening because I am going to the midnight release party for the final Harry Potter book tonight!
Okay yes, I realize that sounds like the pot calling the kettle black, me whining on about the anime fans gathering together, all the while planning to attend a fan event myself. HOWEVER, I am not dressing up for the Potter release. In fact, I am only going because if I don’t, some 8 year old will, and then he or she will be interviewed on the TV news tomorrow morning and will spoil the entire book for me. So I have to get the book first thing tonight then take it home where I shall lock myself in the house and not turn on the TV or radio until I’ve finished reading it!
To make matters worse, I had a long day on a conference call where the speaker on the phone kept cutting out and the people on the other end couldn’t hear me. So I spent most of my day asking “Can you hear me now? How about now?” and feeling like the star of a Verizon Wireless commercial (albeit one harboring much anger from a power failure and an anime convention). Which reminds me, I ought to call and tell Verizon how I acted out their commercial for hours on end. Because if they get sudden new business tonight or tomorrow from folks who mention a long, bad conference call, then I think they owe me a referral fee or at least a free month on my cell phone service.
So all that stress, you see, led me to eat the junk in the first place. And now as I sit here stuffed, I feel like I’m one of the actresses in a Lean Cuisine commercial, the one where various women are describing what they had for dinner – a bowl of popcorn, a freezer burned popsicle, or in my case, two pepperoni sticks, a hunk of cheese and some ice cream – only to hear Miss “I Ate Healthy” spout off about how she ate the chicken with roasted vegetables and penne pasta with ginger sauce. But oh! It was a Lean Cuisine!
So I’m left kicking myself and thinking I might have to unbutton these pants and how I need to go running only it’s still 90 degrees out and I’d get all sweaty and have to take another shower and get dressed again so I can head over to the local Barnes & Noble to get my copy of Harry Potter. Or maybe I ought to put it all off until tomorrow because I think if you exercise on the day you start over with healthy eating and a good book in hand, that’s doubles or maybe triples the points you earn. Collect enough points and you can eat more pepperoni sticks.