Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I can't believe I ate the whoooleee thiiingggg....

I only took one psychology course in college. True to form, all of the craziest people I knew were psych majors. I'm thinking of one particularly brilliant girl who often locked herself in her room, listened to the Violent Fems, never changed her clothes for four years, and cut her own hair. Given my unstable mental state until age twenty-six, trust me when I say that my decision to concentrate in Religion and English was a good thing. However, I do know a fair amount about psych, from independent reading, and I've always been fascinated by Piaget's experiments with children in the conservation of matter.

Basically, what the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget said was that until children's brains develop to a certain point, they cannot perceive, for example, that a squat glass filled with water and a skinny glass filled with water have the same amount of liquid, even if they are shown that a pitcher has poured a certain volume into the glasses.

Supposedly, we eventually achieve a more rational understanding about spatial relations--but if that is the case, then why, for example, when I am served a huge portion of food at a restaurant, and do not eat everything, I am often told "I don't eat." However, if someone cleans his or her plate, somehow they have eaten?

For example, I've never seen my father leave food on his plate--he's quite proud of that fact--even when dining at a diner. If you've ever been to a New Jersey diner, you know what a feat finishing a full-course entree entails, especially if accompanied by a salad with generous lashings of olive oil (sometimes, no joke, half the bottle). After all, if they wouldn't serve it all if you weren't meant to eat it all, right? Ditto for several appetizers and a full pizza at Pizzeria Uno.
I've seen my stepmother cook up a whole platter of chicken souvlaki, and without irony, say because literally one tiny, tiny piece of breast was left, that they really 'ate healthy' that night.

And I'm embarrassed to get into my own perceptions of peanut butter. I look at a two tablespoon serving size and it just. can't. be. true. that something that tiny is 190 calories. Time to even out the jar of Crazy Richard's.

But there is another strange misperception about calories regarding the quality of the food itself, which irritates me even more. That is when someone who is thin eats a burger or a cookie and someone descends upon them saying "how do you eat that and stay thin?" A friend's skinny boyfriend (well, friend-with-benefits, but that is another story) in high school was a beanpole, and she'd always complain 'he eats nothing but McDonald's and is a rail." Now, I had observed Alex and noticed that 1. yes he ate nothing but junk food but 2. he was the sort of boy who would only eat if food he liked was literally placed underneath his nose. So that meant he ate a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries, and a vanilla milkshake one day, but nothing else, and then didn't eat at all the following day, ate three slices of sausage and cheese pizza the next day, and so forth. Clearly, the calories 'balanced out' in his favor, but the idea was that simply eating one 'bad food'=fatness. But then, there was a great deal my friend didn't notice about Alex and the way he felt about many things, not just food.

Growing up, incidentally, no one ate Big Macs, only Quarter Pounders. I never understood mayo on burgers. I guess it is a regional thing.

This is something you often see in the blog-o-sphere when individuals publish tasty treats. People look at the user pics of said poster and there are a million comments that don't say "oh, that looks good," but "OHHHH...how are you soooo skinnny and eat all of thaaat." Which makes me feel bad for the person who cooked, because frankly, it probably makes them feel guilty, and when they bake a whole cake, they probably aren't thinking 'hey, this is a single serving.' I don't know why we Americans have the idea that simply eating sugar of any kind will make them fat. Again, the missing link about 'portion control' in the brain.

Not that Greeks like my dad don't seem to have this problem as well, given how my father will still, after all these years, hover at the dessert table 'round Thanksgiving and say, I kid you now "caaalories, caaalories" after eating pastitio, turkey, spinach pie, and so forth. Pastitio btw, is basically a brick of Greek baked cheese with a few bits of pasta thrown in for fiber, and ground lamb. Nope, no calories in that lasagna at all. But a slice of pumpkin pie, that is automatic admission to Weight Watchers...

I hope I don't sound too superior with my little 'Piaget' analysis of portion control and the way sugar is viewed as a ticket to fatness. Yes, I know, blah blah, it's supposed to make you hungry and turn you into a raving lunatic. But truthfully, only on my fad 'all sugar diets/ calories are all that matters' did I really get those types of insane glucose cravings...

But I still struggle with balance, because as I said, sugar is all that I like, and desserts, in my warped brain, always look too tiny, just as main courses always look too large.

And don't get me started about eyeballing fits in Home Depo when I need to make repairs...

Here is a picture of me, briefly skinny before I really er, porked out again in high school. I felt strong resisting all that Halloween candy. However, being thin was definitely transitory for me until my mid 20s, given my warped very un-Piaget brain development regarding portion size, conservation, and mass and sugar.

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