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Food Is Love

The recent weather that socked the Northeast (and many other places) with snowstorms messed up our baby shower. My parents decided they would not drive down from Buffalo as their nine-hour drive was looking like a nineteen-hour drive.

“We’re not coming down,” my mother announced. “Should we order more food?”

And that, in a nutshell, is the dominant math in my family – food=love. The worst thing you can say in my family after a large meal is, “Wow. I really did not get enough to eat.” That will send panic through everyone as they march off to the kitchen to make even more appetizers and roast another whole turkey. While I share much of the blame for my 300-pound figure, I certainly wasn’t denied any of the treats kids love to eat. Almost every day was a special day that we could splurge on a special treat. My friends, who love to travel up to Buffalo to hang out with my parents, plan to gain a pound a day during their visit, with the restaurant lunches, the restaurant dinners and the huge brunches on weekends. It’s a fact: the McDonalds are foodies. (Note: We are not the foodie McDonalds of the fast food hamburger chain. There is no relation.)

So for the baby shower, which was at a lovely place in the neighborhood, The Old Stone House, a reconstruction of an 18th Century house occupied by the Americans during the Battle of Brooklyn. We ordered food for 50 people. At the time we placed the order we had 44 guests, so food for 50 didn’t seem like too much. But then the weather happened, our guest list dwindled, and 28 showed up.

We used Bagel Delight as our caterer, and they have really good food, and it’s cheap for New York City. But even I was unprepared for the non-stop parade of baskets of bagels, bread, rolls, Danish, muffins, four different side salads, juice, soda, fruit, and more. Everything but coffee and tea. We had planned to use the available coffee maker to heat water for tea and instant coffee, but apparently the electricity in the Old Stone House was actually installed by Ben Franklin in 1776, so the CD player and the lights blew the fuses, and the coffee pot was declared dead on arrival. So in the middle of winter, we were going to have a party without lights, music, or heat. That’s okay; we had food.

So, after encouraging my brother to consume mass quantities of lox and bagels, and reminding everyone that they could take food home, and leaving a sizeable donation of food to the Old Stone House, my friends set out in their car to Christian Help in Park Slope (CHiPS) CHiPS is a local food bank. I had called earlier in the week and was warmly greeted by the Sisters to make a donation before they closed at 2 PM.

Unfortunately my friends were greeted as if they were from Mars, and as if food banks don’t need donations. The sisters hadn’t told anyone we were coming, and they said, if forced, they would take the food, but they would just throw it out on Monday, because they really, really didn’t want to deal with this. So, thankfully, my friend knew of a women’s shelter that didn’t know we were coming, and were ecstatic to get $250 worth of breakfast foods.

All of this concern about not throwing out food (and we did chuck a small amount of food out, mostly a few slices of dried out bread that had been sitting out for three hours) got me thinking about feeding my upcoming baby.

I hate to mention Anna Nicole Smith, because she’s dead, and before being dead, she was infected with celebrity insanity, which makes people both crave and loathe media attention. I feel like I’m part of the media when I mention someone I’ve never met and don’t really know and comment on her life. But since we’re not talking about the horrible things happening in Darfur, China, or Iraq, we can talk about her nanny’s claims that Smith ordered that the newborn should be underfed, so the baby looked skinny. Clearly between TrimSpa and drug abuse Smith was worried about her weight, and if her nanny’s claims are true, Smith was on her way to passing her weight obsessions onto her baby.

As a fat man, it’s easier for me to not worry about weight, but I do have to go to the doctor. Despite a lack of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other negative indicator, the doctor continues to tell me that I’m one egg salad sandwich away from having ten years to live. When you’re single tyou shrug it off with a live-fast die-young hubris, but get married and have a kid and suddenly I’m exercising, eating green salad every day and trying to lose weight.

I’ve made a mental note to not do two things my parents did to me: steal food off my plate, which made me eat faster, and requiring me to eat everything on my plate. I also have really bad problems with portion control, but that’s probably mostly my fault, but I’m going to try to teach Ronan about portion control anyway. Also, when I’m upset or tired or overworked, I eat lots of food that tastes good to make myself feel better. In other words, I eat comfort food for fun, instead of for nutrition.

I don’t think underfeeding a newborn is a good way to learn portion control, in fact, while I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, underfeeding a newborn sounds like a really bad idea. It could lead to a condition known as failure to thrive, where a baby doesn’t gain weight or actually loses weight. I’m not sure what Anna Nichole Smith was thinking on that one, because, again, I didn’t know her, and you can’t really comment on people you don’t really know. I’m planning on feeding my baby just the right amount of food, but I’m also not going to step out of my house and have ten million paparazzi taking pictures of Ronan, unless I start making out with Cameron Diaz. (Note to Terry: I do not plan on making out with Cameron Diaz. I don’t even know Cameron Diaz.)

Let’s talk about another celebrity, pretty much diametrically opposed to Anna Nicole Smith, Roy Walford. He’s not as famous as Smith, but he developed a diet where you eat less calories than is currently recommended – under 1500 calories per day for women and under 1900 calories per day for men – but you focus those calories into really high density nutritional value. He believed he could live to be 125 years old by eating this diet. He’s dead now, at age 79, of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is not ironic in the least. Walford developed the diet while living for months in Biosphere 2. When they ran out of enough food for the crew and they had to cut rations, he found that the crew’s health improved and they had more energy. His later experiments showed that mice that ate less were more active and lived longer lives. Continuing his work is his daughter, Lisa, who has trimmed her calories to 1300 per day, and looks really, really healthy in a scary way, and not at all like she’s about to eat your brains. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; since I don’t know Lisa Walford, she might actually look alive in real life. Perhaps it’s the lighting in the photo that makes her look like an extra from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

So this is why the pioneers were so thin and short, they worked out like fiends and ate nothing. Since I don’t want to look like a walking corpse, and I really like butter, ice cream, and other foods that you can’t eat on a calorie reduction diet, and I want bond with Ronan over a bowl of ice cream, I have to find some way of balancing the food-is-love diet of my parents with healthy eating, without resorting to drug use to just forget the whole thing and leave it to the nanny I can’t afford to hire.

I’ve pretty much given up on talking to my parents about spoiling Ronan, as any discussion of limits with grandparents is probably doomed to failure. (Hi, Dad! How are you enjoying the blog so far?) So the kid will gorge on food the two or three weeks a year he’s with the grandparents. And while I’m a great candidate for calorie reduction, I’m not sure that it’s a good idea for children. So, I’m searching for a middle ground.

As a parent, you also have to consider the forbidden fruit factor. If you ban junk food and sweets, your kid will eat them like they were about to die of starvation. If you don’t restrict sweets, they won’t crave them. However, you have to find a balance and not let them have too many sweets. Michael Lewis over at slate.com blogged about eating dessert in front of his misbehaving children (who had been grounded and denied sweets) and enjoying it because he was tired of dealing with them. So sometimes you have to be human and fail to set a good example just to keep your sanity.

The whole question I have is, how can I, as a very fat man (on the side of jolly old elf, I hope) set a positive example for my son? Hopefully the realization before he’s born that I have a lot of work to do on myself will help me to show him the way. Terry, who excels at all things, will be my partner in this and will probably kick my ass if I don’t control my appetite and show Ronan a healthy approach to food. Plus, I’ve got a few years before he discovers I’m fat, and he’ll probably find it extremely funny in the way toddlers realize that their parents are flawed.

By the way, Terry and I won the “Best Karma Couple” category from the Old Stone House’s employees for not throwing a fit when the house lost electricity. I was in a carbohydrate coma at the time, so I kind of cheated. There are upsides to enjoying eating.


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