Dieting stress paradox and Little Debbies
Special to Stars and Stripes September 29, 2023
“I need to lose weight, ASAP,” I texted my best friend, Patti, while in the doctor’s examining room last week, “which makes me want a hoagie.” If the eight-page patient information novella I’d just penned wasn’t enough torture, I’d been weighed and had my blood pressure taken. Both numbers were too high.
I could escape blame by claiming that I’d been abducted by aliens that force-fed me corn dogs and Little Debbies, but I knew the real culprit. I’d stopped exercising, was eating too much, and, as evidenced by hot flashes, my hormones were in the throes of death. To make matters worse, when hormones die, they drag one’s metabolism down with them. It’s just not fair.
My best friend and I had been complaining about our weight to each other since we met in 9th grade. As teens, we’d fallen prey to the kind of unhealthy thinking common among adolescent girls — we thought were were overweight, but we weren’t. We were healthy and competed in varsity sports year-round. Even in the 1980s, without 24/7 exposure to the internet’s deceiving algorithms and ultra-competitive social media, our self-images were skewed.
After high school, Patti and I went to colleges in different states, started careers, got married and raised families. My Navy family moved a lot, and Patti’s civilian family settled in Pittsburgh, but we always kept in touch. As mature adults, we could finally see how ridiculous we’d been when we were teenagers. We’d learned that a woman’s weight fluctuates throughout her life, and there was no reason to stress about it.
However, the weight on my doctor’s scale that morning had been alarming — a record-breaking number for me, and my blood pressure reading told me that it was worth worrying about.
During a recent catch-up call, Patti and I had discussed our efforts to lose excess middle-aged weight. Patti had been somewhat successful, but I’d failed miserably. Ironically, the stress of needing to diet made me want to eat more and my urges were negatively influencing Patti.
“A hoagie sounds really good. I’m starving!” Patti texted in reply.
“Hoagies ... with kettle cooked chips on the side ... and loads of mayo,” I texted, and my mouth watered.
“Yaaasssss,” Patti replied. I had to pull us both out of the abyss before I derailed Patti’s diet.
“For real,” I texted, “I’m not having a hoagie, but when I think of dieting, I immediately crave what I shouldn’t have.”
Later at home, I wondered if dieting-anxiety-induced eating was a thing, so I googled it. Apparently, it is not. However, general “stress eating” is widely recognized in articles such as “11 Foods to Eat When You’re Totally Stressed,” and “7 Foods You Should Actually Stress Eat,” and “11 Foods You Should Never Eat When You’re Stressed (and 11 others to go ahead and indulge in).” I’m not sure why the topic warranted so many elevens, but clearly, it’s common for people to eat when anxious.
Unfortunately for me, raw cookie dough, french fries, ice cream, nachos, alcoholic beverages and hoagies slathered in mayo with a side of kettle cooked potato chips are definitely NOT advised. Rather, experts recommend grabbing edamame with a squeeze of lemon, greek yogurt with berries, green tea, oatmeal with chia or grilled asparagus when anxious.
Seriously? Who does that? When stressed, I’d grab a handful of stiff mini marshmallows from the back of the pantry before any vegetable. The only yogurt I’d crave would be frozen, and topped with a diced king-sized Snickers Bar. Before I’d even sniff edamame, I’d search under the couch cushions for a few stray peanuts.
That night, I texted Patti a photo of two pieces of pizza and a pumpkin cupcake piled with cream cheese frosting, along with, “My dinner. There’s no hope …”
“My day wasn’t much better,” she texted back, and we made each other feel better by exchanging personal failures as we’d done for the past 43 years.
“Maybe I’ll get salmonella and lose weight fast,” I wrote, while looking at an expired carton of egg whites in my fridge.
“There ya go!” my best friend replied, never forgetting to offer words of encouragement.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org