Mardy Roux

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Fasting With a Family

In Fasting on June 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

While beginning the first phase of my Mardy Roux Obesity Treatment Project was very exciting with the three day a week fasting process handing me back a great deal of emotional and physical control in my life, I must admit it was not a process free of challenges. To me, far more of a challenge than simply surviving three 500 calorie fasts each week, was getting this new approach of mine to fit in with my family life.

My daughter recently turned 20 and is away at school, and my son is 18 and still living at home. Both my son and my husband enjoy having me prepare the evening meal for them most of the time, which as a working Mum I’ve managed to do all of these years regardless of how tired or stressed out I was. I long ago gave up making breakfasts and lunches, except maybe on a weekend, as my family are old enough to look after themselves, but as a matter of routine, come evening at our house it’s nice if Mum does the cooking. And mostly I agree.

The burden of always knowing what’s for dinner
Without doubt, I am the person in the house who has responsibility for knowing what everyone is going to eat on any given day. It makes me a little cranky sometimes, but it’s the psychological burden women seem to carry. I notice men don’t seem to even consider the “needing to know what everyone is going to eat tonight” issue to even be an issue, but honestly, it is. It’s a weight of responsibility and I wish to heaven my husband shared it, but he doesn’t. His first thought about any given evening meal is early to mid-afternoon of the same day when he asks the fatal question “What are we having for dinner tonight?” Depending on whether I have PMS or not the answer could range from a description of food to a major blowout about why I have to be the one who has to know what everyone is going to eat for every meal!

A few years ago I had an extended stay away for work and my brave daughter started doing the shopping with her father, and she took responsibility for knowing what was going to be eaten every night. When I returned she told me that she finally understood why I occasionally get so cranky about it. She was mentally exhausted! Not from the cooking. Not even from the preparation, but from just having to plan it out and know it all in advance (oh yes, and if you’re dieting and not eating the same foods as everyone else then that’s twice the stress and twice the mental exhaustion!). Of course now she’s away at school she’s a whizz kid at organizing her own week of menus, but back then, it plain old wore her out.

Expect no moral support
So I’ve tried a couple of different tactics here. The first tactic was just to suck it up and prepare food while I was fasting. Well, that didn’t work well. You know, I’m fasting for crying out loud. Do they even make monks prepare meals when they’re fasting, or do they get to meditate in a nice stone room somewhere where there’s not a bit of food to be seen? I’m guessing the latter. So I gave that up for lent. I declared I would no longer prepare meals on my fasting days. It was like having a pair of open-mouthed guppies staring back at me. Whatever could that possibly mean? “OK, she’s not going to prepare food on her fasting days anymore. But she’ll still cook it, right?” No. Wrong. No prep. No cooking. No serving. No walking into the kitchen. I think this is the first time I’ve ever truly stood up to my family over something like this that I was doing for ME. And it didn’t go down well.

It’s fortunate that both my husband and son enjoy a nice hot bowl of Campbell’s Prime Rib Chunky Soup. Because that was their dinner on quite a few evenings throughout January this year. And that soup didn’t get heated up quietly and cheerfully either. Nope. Various mutterings issued forth from the kitchen about how mothers are supposed to feed their children, especially in the evenings, and about how wives go and start doing crazy things like fasting when they know how hard it’s going to be on their families, and so on. Each time I had to swallow back either sad feelings, or feelings of anger or betrayal over all the years I’ve happily cooked and cooked after coming home from work, in spite of my exhaustion, while everyone else in the house relaxed in front of TVs and computers and video games. Oh God, it’s so easy to get bitter.

On a number of occasions, keeping my cool fairly well I thought, I explained to the pair of them that they are both adults, and quite capable of feeding themselves three or four times per week. I also explained that I was going to need their support if I was going to get through this. Each time they felt I was being hostile by throwing the truth at them. Eventually, I learned to ignore the complaints, wait for a gap in the endless, whining, kitchen-eminating monologue and then call out if they’d mind making me a nice cup of tea while they were in the kitchen. With milk, not Half and Half. I knew I had won when my son, stern, betrayed look on face, appeared beside the sofa holding a cup of tea for me.

If possible, abandon your family completely at mealtimes
There’s no question that it’s challenging to have even one day when you are not eating and everyone else is. Especially if that “everyone else” usually relies on you to get their food for them. Three months in and my boys had still not stopped complaining, but they were getting used to having to feed themselves on alternate evenings. Many evenings I would go upstairs and not head back downstairs until after they had prepared and eaten their dinner. I just didn’t want to be around food during the few early evening “hungry hours” that happen on fasting days. I’d join them as soon as they’d finished eating. While I was waiting I’d work on my computer, or watch TV or read a book, or do all three simultaneously. I reorganized the area around my bathtub into a little spa-like space and now I occasionally take a soothing bubble bath if the boys are eating and I’m not. It seems almost other-worldly to me to have a bubble bath instead of being there cooking and serving, but by golly, I’ll just have to get used to it!

When you do cook, shoot for leftovers
As the boys calmed down in their exasperation against the cook’s revolt, I started thinking about how to make it a little easier on them. For the meals I was preparing each week, I tried to make at least one or two meals of something that would make good, easily re-heatable leftovers. So now, at least a couple of times each week they re-heat leftovers, and on the third occasion they might order a pizza, pull out the Campbell’s Prime Rib Chunky Soup, or even, heaven forbid, cook up an entire meal for themselves….from scratch! As I keep saying, my MROTP is not about achieving perfection. I’d be delighted if my son and husband were eating perfectly formed organic foods at every meal and not resorting to Dominoes Pizza and Campbells Chunky Soup quite so regularly. But if I wait until I can achieve perfection I will only truly enjoy being the most perfect person in the cemetery. First I will deal with me. When I have that major issue under control, maybe, just maybe, I’ll see what else in the world I can change.

With small children, you’ll probably need help
The fact is, if you live with other people, you have to work this out a little bit with them. If you have small children, you absolutely have to have the support of your partner. Had my children been small, it would have been a different set of tactics for sure. And if you don’t have anyone to help you feed little ones, then the best thing you can do is prepare meals for leftovers that suit small children, and then reheat them on your fasting day, to save you having to struggle through the cooking process, and then hope you have a will of iron as you do the feeding. My feeling is that the people who have the most ingrained, metabolically resistant form of obesity are generally going to be older and have slightly older children who don’t need quite as much attention. The most important thing is to know that you need to this and insist that for those three or four days a week (four days if you’re doing Alternate Day Fasting which begins in my MROTP Phase 2) that you need to do this for yourself. And have a plan to make it happen that takes into account how you’re going to cope with the needs and wants of the other people in your life.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the most difficult part of beginning the Set Day Fasting in Phase 1 was dealing with the other people in my life. If I lived alone it would have been a breeze. But then again, I strongly suspect that if I lived alone I’d still be thin.

Mardy Roux