Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cake on a Plane

There was an article in the NY Times yesterday about the positive effect of restricted calorie diets - restricted meaning 30% fewer calories than normal - in monkeys. The article was a topic of discussion at a dinner last night.

I was seated across the table from a woman I didn't know, and as the topic turned to the misery of restricted diets - as in, why live longer if you can't eat what you want, she and I looked at each other and both said, "I never eat whatever I want."

Then I said, "That describes my entire life. The only time I eat everything I want is when I fly."

My family lived overseas, so I practically grew up on planes, and was always very blasé about flying until a few years ago. Here's how it started. I was on a plane over the Atlantic, waiting in line for the bathroom. My feet were really cold.

As I stood there waiting, I started thinking. Well, of course my feet are cold! The only thing beneath them is some metal, and then a million miles of air, and then the Atlantic Ocean! And how in the hell do planes stay up anyway? It's a huge, heavy piece of metal, and it makes no sense that it doesn't just fall down.

When I got back to my seat, the flight attendant came by with lunch plus ice cream, which I ate all of. Sometime later they were passing out cookies. Yes, please. Snack box with chips, bread with too much butter and ham and cheese and candy bar? Absolutely. Now I make sure to bring my own snacks.

I had never articulated my issue until a couple years ago when I was visiting Jane's family in South Africa. I had three long flights to get home. Now, I'd spent the entire two weeks eating the way I normally do, which is to say, less than most people. No seconds, rarely dessert. (But wine, definitely!)

On my last night I ate everything. Twice as much of everything. And then I asked if I could have dessert, and would they mind if I took some of that amazing orange bread for the plane?

The family, who I am very close to, all stared at me. The father said, "This is practically as much as you've eaten the entire time you've been here!"

"It's because I'm flying."

"Flying makes you hungry?"

"No, but I might die. I don't want to die not having eaten dessert."

People ask my what I'd do if I flew every week for work, and I realize I'd have to take a different approach. Or Xanax. People also remind me that you're much more likely to die in a car crash, and do I eat a cupcake before I get in the car every time? Whatever.

I didn't say it made sense. I make choices every day - and if it's between cake and skinny, it's so much more worth it to me to be thin. The woman across the table from me at dinner got this. We talked about how most men think they don't know anyone with weight issues, when in fact most of the women they know have them to some degree. People are just more and less candid about it.

This eat-in-case-you-die approach makes total sense to people who come from weight obsessed backgrounds. One friend said she's adopting it enthusiastically. But it sounds really bizarre to people who don't.

Just recently a friend of mine said, "Lis, it's really funny, and I can see where you're coming from, but you do realize it's profoundly twisted, right?"

Well, no, honestly, I hadn't.

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