Butter is Back

March 26, 2014

At least that’s what Mark Bittman says. His op-ed piece in the New York Times today isn’t the most coherent, but he makes lots of good points. It’s definitely worth a read. It also makes me think of the people in the class that I teach who are so afraid of adding salt to their food. Granted many of them have high blood pressure, but they don’t get that it’s all of the salt in all of the processed foods that is really bad for them, not the sprinkling we add to the food we cook.

That said, I had a pretty heartbreaking experience yesterday in class. Sandra is overweight, I’d guess maybe three hundred pounds. She has blond hair with bangs, walks with a cane, and often wears brightly colored tee shirts. She said sometimes she gets pains that shoot down her arms. When she speaks, or laughs, she usually stops to let out a raspy cough after a few minutes.

One of the lessons of the class yesterday was about mindful eating. All of the participants had to eat a piece of orange extremely slowly and pay attention to how they felt while they were doing it. Everyone nodded as the doctor explained how eating more slowly gives your stomach time to tell your brain that you’re full. Sandra nodded, and raised her hand and started explaining.

“Sometimes you have to eat for comfort though. Yesterday I went over to my friend’s house to help her clean out her son’s room. She gave me some money at the end to go to the convenience store and I went and bought two diet sodas, two candy bars, and two cans of Pringles and we just sat there and ate those Pringles. I needed it. It felt like the old days. Things have changed now and people don’t trust each other no more. Our relationship isn’t the same as it used to be. And Pringles remind me of my mom, she passed away last year. She liked Pringles. And I guess I wasn’t loved that much as a kid. Food was always there, though. It was like a hug.”

Through this, Sandra got choked up thinking about what her relationship with her friend used to be like. The loneliness was so palpable. The doctor asked, gently, if there was anyone who could give her hugs in her life, that maybe sometimes when she felt like eating a can of Pringles she could go for a hug instead. It made me feel so, so incredibly, unbelievably lucky. It sounds embarrassingly cheesy and saccharine, but how many people really just need more hugs in their life? More of that kind of support? I know that people crave connection and meaningful relationships, there are so many studies that articulate that relationships are the most correlated with happiness and well-being. How do real personal relationships fit into this world of virtual pseudo connection? (Or maybe virtual relationships a la “Her” are real, I’m not sure I’m qualified to say). Through the lens of devoured Pringles, their must be a way to curb loneliness and improve people’s overall well-being.

Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be such an ernest rant, it just kind of went there. More levity tomorrow, promise.



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