Friday, June 29, 2012

making peace with peanut butter

I  confess: I love peanut butter with a fierce, burning love that should probably be reserved for a soul mate, or, you know, a person (or a pet – you know, something that can love me back). The sweet saltiness, the salty sweetness. Not even its being one of the few foods that can’t be dislodged by the Heimlich maneuver will dissuade me from my faith in its perfection.
I. Love. Peanut Butter.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “Kate, that’s not burning love, that’s food obsession.” But you’re wrong! I mean, it’s not like I stay up every night, dreaming of peanut better. And I don’t bathe in it (much) or talk about it (daily) or carry pictures of it in my wallet (though that’s not a bad idea). I’m not nuts! (heh heh)

It’s just that, up until about six weeks ago, if there was peanut butter in my house, I would consume it. Rapidly. By the spoonful. While standing next to the pantry door. Drooling. (It was not pretty.)

So I never bought peanut butter. Safer to just not have it in the house than to risk the 47,000 calories I was likely to consume in a sitting, like I did whenever visiting my mother, who, surprisingly, doesn’t have the same obsession. (My sister, though, suffers the same compulsion so perhaps it comes from my father’s side...)

I started reading a book called “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that talked about the dieting mentality and how food restriction doesn’t work. “When you rigidly limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat,” they wrote, “it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that very food.” So by not having peanut butter in the house, I was setting myself up for hours of drooling next to the pantry door.

Their advice? Slowly re-introduce any foods you have restricted and teach yourself that you are allowed to have them. Reset your inner calibration so that you can appreciate the food for what it is, and not for all the emotional baggage that saying no to it has meant. For me, the first choice was, of course, peanut butter.

I warily bought a jar of natural (because it’s the most deliciousest kind) and kept it in the cabinet. The first week? It was bad. I ate a lot of peanut butter. And the second week, too. The third week started to taper off a bit, because, let’s be honest, at least half the jar was gone, and the fourth week it dropped off even more. By the fifth and sixth weeks, there were maybe two or three spooonfuls just sitting in the jar, smiling at me.

I call that a success! A jar of peanut butter has never lasted six weeks in my house before!

So what did I learn? That yes, I go to peanut butter for comfort. And I go there because I’m not usually allowed to go there, so it makes me feel special. But once I could have it any time I wanted, some of the comfort left. I started to see it as a fuel. A delicious fuel, don’t get me wrong, but one that was in service of me, not the master of me.

Can I take this experiment to the next level and do it with ice cream? I’m not sure. In truth, it takes a lot of faith, and a willingness to put on a little weight in the service of making peace. And given that it’s hot AND bathing suit season, I may hold off on this experiment until December. But I’ve taken the message to heart – there’s nothing I can’t eat. And when I watch people around me dieting and worrying about what they eat, I wonder if they, too, will sometime soon, find themselves next to the pantry door, overeating in an effort to feel special.

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