A life in addictions : food

You know, overtime I have gained a lot of addictions. In fact, there are a few I might not even be aware of. There are addictions to smoking, to alcohol, to food, to salt, to coffee, to negativism, to: the list can easily be extended indefinitely. I use the term addiction in a loose sense. Meaning anything that you crave on a regular basis or feel the need to partake of regularly. I hesitate using the word addiction though. Perhaps the word urge would better define this need, because hard core addictions are often hard to get rid of and are accompanied with anguish and suffering. In my idea some addictions can also be beneficial, although anything overdone might eventually turn out bad. For example: the need to write(and don’t forget to go to the toilet once in awhile.)

So it is addictions. And after decades of gaining them, I try to get rid of some of them or bring them under control. One of those addictions is the need to eat or actually: to eat too much.

Let me give a short history of where I think this addiction comes from. I don’t mean in a general sense, but in a more personal sense.

My eating habits have been defined by my parents, as their eating habits have been defined by their parents. I have not the ability go as far back as the days of my grand parents, so I will start with my parents.

My parents were born at the start of the Second World War. Their earliest childhood experience was that of the war years and they must have suffered hunger, because towards the end of it, in 1944, food was so scarce that the period is still called the hungerwinter. In addition my grandfather on father’s side was a train conductor and Dutch train personnel had gone on strike at the end of 1944 to support the Allied advance into the Netherlands. It meant he had to go into hiding, thus the family was thrown on the mercy of others.

After the war things changed for the better and as far as prosperity goes, it went from better to even better. It took some time to take off but like almost in every western country the economy blossomed and with it people got more money and access to more and more luxury products. For instance: television was introduced on a large scale, cars became commodity and the washing machine replaced hand washing. One of the effects of this prosperity was the availability of food. Not only in quantities, but also in kind.

However this part truly took off in the seventies.  By that time my parents had met and married. My father was a plumber. He was one of those people who directly benefited from the increased prosperity. In the older days a plumber was little more than a worker working for a boss against a fixed wage that wasn’t spectacular. My father however soon became a self employed plumber with an electronic background.  Due to the way of working (tax evasion was and probably is still rife in the building world and has evil and dire side effects of which I will write another time).

My father like many of his generation started to become middle class. They earned enough to buy houses, cars, electronic and electrical equipment and go on holiday.. We had for instance one of the first CD-players; a massive philips thing that could not even shuffle the song. I think it was probably like a five hundred dollars, compare that  to a DVD-player we bought five years ago: it was around forty dollars.

With this abundance of money people could  buy food that was up till then too expensive. And for my parents and grandparents the prime luxury food was meat. Meat and fish have always been expensive  products that you bought perhaps once a week for a special day. Now they could buy it every day of the week. The food served was arranged around meat. This was especially true for us, because my mother was at best a lackluster cook. Her idea of cooking is to cook until the food is in a state that it can be mashed to a pulp and shoved inside by the spoonful. But that did not matter. Meat was the heart of the dinner. Meat prices must have steadily dropped over those years. With it became the need to add sauces and salt.

This fascination with food, and especially meat, reached their peak in meat fondue which consisted mostly of meats of various kinds and sauces. If possible there would be some frites added(that is french fries for people in the US, in Holland it is called patat and in Belgium friet or fritten). And salt on everything.

This orgy of meat eating is something I still remember of my parents. I never eat with my parents nowadays.. My father has been dead for almost two decades and my mother is still an indifferent cook. She can’t eat much, but she still suffers a lot for her eating habits. My mother is a typical example of someone who continuously combats with food. She is overweight and ought to lose weight. She tries to slim down, which works for a short while, then she gets back into her old habits and she gains weight again. Our family has a history of sugar related diseases. She takes many medicines for various illnesses caused by overeating, overdrinking and no exercising.  She can’t ride the bicycle because she has no sense of balance anymore.

I am ambivalent about food nowadays. Actually I rather eat less and less of it and most of my food problems stem from eating snacks. My problems with food started a few years ago when during a company sponsored routine check my sugar levels were high. Which meant I had to take care with eating. This was a sign that time was catching up with me and it was time to get rid of some addictions.

One of those addictions is food. Food is easy – for me that is – I know many people struggle with it. The thing is to make sure you just don’t eat that much and I don’t like to eat anyway. Most food, especially in restaurants, are heavily salted and too much salt makes everything taste of salt.The problem is with the non-food items. Snacks, drinks and those sweet tasty things that are easy to eat and gone in no time and add calories like no other.

One way to deal with that is of course.. not to eat. You and me know that is not feasible. If it was that easy, everyone would do it. The best we can achieve is gain control. The  way I found to be handy is using a web site that gives an indication of how much you have eaten. There are websites who help with that. I am currently using one that I found by accident that is called my fatsecret, I bet there are others out there.

These website help you to keep a kind of record of what you eat. It’s not always easy to find the proper food, but I usually give it a kind of value, usually taking the worst ingredient and calculate how much it would roughly be and add something to it.

My idea is that if I generally try to stay on or below the line I will probably reach a good equilibrium.

But the most important aspect of this is how to deal with hunger and urges. This is my first priority. Inevitably you will find yourself hungry and wanting to eat. It are those moments that you have to decided what to do and how. It is these moments I am looking for.

When I know how to deal with these it will probably be easier to deal with food altogether.

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