Some people are stress eaters; others eat when they're bored. Some reward themselves with food; others punish themselves by eating a rice cake when there is chocolate cake to be enjoyed. Personally, I eat when I'm feeling hungry, tired, happy, bored, sad, vaguely irritated, irrationally ecstatic, sluggish, manic, and/or completely satiated. Yup, I'm an eater.
Who do I blame for this? Who do you think? Of course it's my mother's fault, and she will indignantly tell you that it's her mother's fault, and she's probably right. I remember going on trips with Grandma during which she took pictures of waiters, buffet tables, dessert trays, and deli platters. Never mind that we were at the Grand Canyon; it was the sparkling glaze on the honey ham that attracted Grandma's eye. And, I'll admit, I found this not completely insane, but kind of endearing. Thus, a lifelong weight battle was born.
In our family, we defined our vacations by what we ate on the trip. In California, Mom and I found a fabulous candy shop hidden midway through the wax museum. (Plymouth, Massachusetts and Orlando, Florida also have some lovely candy stores.) There were sugar cookies in Maine, cinnamon sticks in Virginia, and sticky buns in Pennsylvania that all still bring back fond memories. Not all of these trips were winners, though. My mother and I remember a vegetable lasagna on one trip to D.C. that still brings about a shudder when it's mentioned (in hushed, somber tones).
Having someone else in the family who understands what it's like to get a stomach bug and still gain four pounds is nice, particularly since my father and sister have no such woes. It's a Longo gene or something, because I also have a cousin on my father's side, Tina, who eats whatever she likes and never gains an ounce. My father and sister only eat when they're hungry, simply eat until they're full, and get on with their day. It's like my mother and I lived in a house with two aliens. I remember how bizarre lunchtime always was in our house. Dad would eat a sandwich, and then shake his head when Mom would gesture towards him with an open bag of Doritos®. "Nope, I'm full. I think I'll go chop several hundred cords of wood now," Dad would say, waving off the chips. (Apparently, in another life, my father was Abraham Lincoln.) Mom would look across the table towards me, eyes filled with puzzlement. I'd smile, and, looking at the Dorito® crumb stuck to her cheek, ask her if she was going to eat that. Hey, it's not my fault she married a weirdo.
This is no doubt why all of the women on my mother's side of the family (except, of course, my sister Kim, who doesn't even own a scale) are experienced dieters. For every diet out there, someone in my maternal line has tried it. Atkins, South Beach, the Cabbage Soup Diet, eDiets, the Carbohydrates Addict's Diet, Scarsdale, the Grapefruit Diet, Jenny Craig, the 3-Hour Diet, the Blood Type Diet . . . you get the picture. A family portrait of my mom's side will reveal no less than eighteen Weight Watchers lifetime members (of which I am one). The same picture will show all of us beaming as we stand around a perfectly glazed honey ham, with a side of rice pilaf to add texture to the portrait. I'm going to chalk it up to genetics.
You know how they say that you should never judge a person until you've walked in their shoes? In our family, you'll inevitably find those shoes are hiking it to the Hickory Farms kiosk, where free samples are known to abound.