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As I’m in California reconstructing my future, I’m lucky enough to have some friends who are willing to let me stay in their spare room for an indefinite period of time. (I told them no more than a few months…). Aside from their remarkable kindness, I’m intrigued by what I’ve learned from staying with them for just a week so far.
Namely, this is the first time I’ve experienced life in a family unit of healthy-weight people who have no apparent food/eating issues. My friends, the mother and father, eat normally, exercise regularly, and have stayed the same weight throughout the two decades of our acquaintance. The children — highschoolers — lead normal, active lives, participate in sports, and have natural-looking, healthy bodies.
One characteristic that seems to explain a lot is that the family food culture is more “European” in its style. Meals are simple affairs made from unprocessed ingredients, shared together, and form an integral part of their life together. It’s not even that the food choices are particularly “healthy” (there are plenty of fatty and highly caloric options), but only a reasonable quantity is eaten, and there seems to be little pressure to eat more or less of it.
What’s shocking to me is that there is no apparent snacking of any kind. To be sure, there are snack foods around, and even some sweets, but they do not form a part of the daily eating of the family. Instead it seems that they’re only brought out when the family is entertaining —when dinners tend to be hours-long affairs.
It seems to reflect a similar approach to alcohol —the house is stocked with all kinds of fancy wines and spirits, and yet they are mostly left untouched. The only time there is much indulgence is when there are guests over. Only when the occasion calls for it does alcohol enter into the equation.
You may well judge me for this, but I don’t generally participate in the family meals. Having eaten my own food on my own schedule for all of my adult life (even while I was married), I would rather have the option to eat what I like when I want to. There is enough change going on in my life right now, without the added pressure of upending my eating habits.
In order not to seem overly anti-social, however, I try to join the family at the table when I can, to chat and participate in their lives in a friendly way. They are wonderful, kind, and fascinating people and it’s a pleasure to be around them —even if I’m just sipping my seltzer water.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a life free of issues around food and weight, and I’m finally getting a glimpse into that. (Although my ex was at a healthy weight during the 12 years we were together, his eating habits were as erratic and eclectic as mine.) I’m glad to see such a lifestyle can exist in this country of fast-food and obesity.
But I definitely feel like I’m visiting from another planet.