Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eating Buddies -- Maintaining Your Relationship After the Lap Band

Hey, Let's Go Get Some Ice Cream!

If you have had a weight problem for any length of time then you probably have a few eating buddies. My first eating buddy was in college. Up until then, I was a solitary eater. But in college, I met a girl who liked me, she liked to talk, she liked to hang out, and she liked to eat. We had a relationship made in (hog) heaven. It didn't help that a lot of our eating sessions were preceded by drinking sessions. Nothing will make you want to eat like drinking a bunch of beer.

Our Little Club

We were so happy together. Got a problem? Let's go eat! Got something to celebrate? Let's go eat. Bored, tired, angry, lonely? Let's eat!!! We knew every diner, greasy spoon, joint and cafe in town. We'd lounge over our omelettes, linger over our fried catfish platter, loiter over our po-boy sandwiches. It didn't help that we were from New Orleans, where mayonnaise runs through the veins of the locals, the home of the french fries and gravy Po-Boy.

At this time I really didn't have a weight problem, so there seemed to be no reason not to enjoy the deep South's bounty of delectable food offerings. There was an endless list of places to try. Everything was good. At that time in New Orleans and the surrounding area, if a restaurant wasn't good, it didn't survive. We patronized lots of them and I can tell you, they were great.

Uh-Oh, Spaghetti O's

Toward the end of college, I started to gain weight. It was a real shock! After years of eating what I wanted and then dieting off the excess in a week, I found myself putting on pounds that grew more resistant by the year. What a bummer! I hadn't really examined my eating habits. Most of my food choices were decided by committee, as in, "Who wants to go get ice cream?" My question was, who didn't? It was time to start curbing my eating, but I was ill-prepared and in denial about what a normal meal consisted of. No dessert? I'd had dessert my entire life after every dinner. Cut back on fried foods? No fried shrimp? Are you kidding?

But the big stumbling block were my eating buddies. I had acquired a few more by then. And they were full of ideas of what to eat, where to eat, and when to eat, and they weren't proposing salads. Eating had turned into my hobby, and without it I was going to be short a few friends and a lot of socializing. Let me be clear -- nobody made me eat, and I didn't make them eat. But we encouraged and enabled each other constantly. If one of us decided to try to cut back for a while, invariably the other would start to crave a certain meal and arrange an outing. I always find it very hard to order diet food in a place where I've had some of my best, most fattening meals. Grilled chicken at the fried chicken place? Heresy! A salad at the family style Italian place? Blasphemy! So I'd go along and invariably end up ordering one of my favorites... and so it went, through college and my early professional career.

They're My Kind of People!

I found I just liked people who were big eaters better. They seemed more generous, happier, more inclined to try new things and be adventurous. I liked them! They liked me! We ate Chinese, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Dim Sum, Sushi. We scouted out the best bar-b-que. I learned to cook steak like a pro. We had pot luck dinners. We checked out the Morrocan restaurant and watched the belly dancer. We had crawfish boils and pig roasts, chili cookoffs and picnics. We went to our favorite taco joint every Friday and even had our own table there with a rotating group of about 20 people, all hungry and ready to eat. We had people over to eat and they had us to their house, and through it all we ate and ate. By the time I was 30 I had a weight problem and I knew it was time to turn things around, but I was in pretty deep with the eaters. I just couldn't stand the idea of breaking up with my eating buddies. Our outings comprised so much of what was interesting and fun in my life. It seemed so unfair that I would have to stop participating in something I loved so much and was so very good at.

Going Halvsies

I decided to try going along to the dinners and not eating. That never worked, everyone was uncomfortable that I was abstaining. (Eaters like eaters.) I tried ordering something small and picking away, but people would ask if I was sick, if I was broke, if I was depressed. They offered to buy. They couldn't understand me not eating and they didn't like it.

Spouses and the Band

My first husband was something of an eating buddy, too. My current husband is great about the band, he supports me and encourages me, and he has pretty good eating habits. But husband number one could sit down and eat a whole cake one day and then eat nothing the next. He knew where the oatmeal cakes were kept in convenience stores within a 5 mile radius of our home. He was food obsessed and he liked to share his obession.

I feel for all of you banders out there who are married to an eater. They are not going to want the party to end. They will sabotage, they will enable, they will cook stuff you can't have, and bring home "treats" you don't want. They will deliberately misunderstand the boundaries of your diet, and purposely encourage you to "take a break." And these are the ones that really love you! Eating buddies like to eat and it hurts their feelings when you stop. It makes them feel guilty about eating themselves, and that's no fun. All in all, if you have an important eating buddy in your life, you are going to have to redefine the parameters of your relationship.

Setting Boundaries
  • First off, you have to have a long, heart to heart talk with your buddy. Explain to them why you have to lose weight, and keep it specific to you and you alone.Try not to wander over into you eating buddy's issues.
  • Explain what the lap band is, how it works, and how you will be eating once you have it.
  • Reassure your buddy that you will still hang out, will still be around and will still be fun. You just won't be chewing the entire time.
  • Start making other activities the focus of your get togethers.
  • Ask your buddy to understand and respect your eating limitations, and set up some sort of signal to give them if they start leading you astray, like "you're doing it again!"
  • Buy low fat and bariatric eating cookbooks and start cooking interesting and varied meals. Cook a larger portion for your buddy, and supply them with bread and dessert even though you can't indulge. Think of this as an act of love.
  • Find restaurants where you can order food that works with the band, and stay away from old favorites until your new eating habits are established.
  • Remember, while you adjust your relationship to your new lap banding life, that though your eating buddy may be overweight and in denial, it is not your job to recruit them to your way of doing things. Even if they are your spouse.
Take care of you. Cook good meals. Follow your banding diet. Have a sense of humor about your food limitations. Don't comment on your buddy's meal. Try not to constantly complain about the food you're missing. That just gives them to opportunity to offer you things you shouldn't have.

Don't Give Up

If none of this works and they are still sabotaging you in your efforts, its time for another sit down. Explain that you are not going to give up on making yourself healthier and happier. Be direct. Don't talk around the issue, address it. If you are direct, assertive and sensitive, you should be able to make your buddy understand that though the days of excess are over, you still want a relationship with them. Then prove it by spending time with them doing things that don't involve food.

Above are tons of cool cookbooks to try out. Take a deep breath, check them out, and see if one might work for you and your buddy!
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1 comment:

mamawood said...

i was just thinking about how am i going to deal with all my "lunch buddies" at work. some of the best ideas come from those lunch meetings over huge plates of mexican food.

reminds me of an episode of friends where rachel starts smoking just to be in on big office projects!