I used to be jealous, but not in the way you might think.
Years ago, I used to covet whatever anyone else was eating. Even if it was a food I didn't like, if someone else had it, I got a strange desire to have it, too.
I wonder if it goes back to those times when my mother would sit in her recliner at home, eating from her 1- or 2-pound box of assorted chocolates or her chip bag, and I'd watch her for a bit, then ask if I could have some. She'd always give me this look like she thought I had a lot of nerve to ask her for some of *her* special food. Sometimes she'd give me a piece; whether she did or not, I always left feeling guilty and selfish for having asked.
I wonder if it goes back to being in college and only having a few dollars a week for food, drinking watered-down Cream of Wheat from a cup for breakfast every morning and eating Ramen for dinner most nights. I'd watch the other kids whose parents were paying for their college and sending them money, and I'd feel a bit of envy when they ordered a pizza or baked cookies or even actually cooked a meal in the kitchen.
I wonder if it goes back to those days when my small children and I ate only whatever the food bank had to offer, mainly days-old bakery items like sheet cakes and stale cookies and dry muffins. I was grateful for the dry beans and rice and cans of soup, but when I went to the store for a gallon of milk, I'd always stare at the mountains of food on the belt in the checkout line that the person in front of me was buying. I'd look at all that stuff I couldn't dream of having like cheese spreads and crackers and ice cream and meat, and I'd wonder if I would ever be able to afford to buy what I wanted to buy.
I think there is an underlying insecurity that maybe, just maybe it could happen again. Maybe 'tomorrow' I won't have the funds to buy a pizza or the ingredients for homemade macaroni and cheese, so I should do it now, while I can. Maybe 'tomorrow' restaurants will be off the table so I better enjoy it now. I think there is an underlying feeling of not wanting to once again be the one watching everyone else enjoy something yummy while I can't.
I don't like corn chips. Never have. I never understood how people can *like* Fritos. I hate the smell, the taste, the breath it gives you. Just yuck. Oh, I used to eat nachos sometimes. Anything tastes good with a pound of cheese and globs of guacamole and sour cream on them. But as a rule, corn chips never appealed to me. Then one day, I was chatting with a friend of mine. We were talking about what kinds of things we like as snacks. She said, "Oh, I love this certain brand of corn chips! They are sooo good! They are my guilty pleasure! I sit and have a bowl of them at night when the kids are asleep and they are such an indulgence!" And suddenly, strangely, I wanted those corn chips. For days afterwards I thought about them. I really just HAD to try them. I went to the store, found this special brand, bought them, and promptly ate half the bag myself. Of plain, ordinary corn chips.
Because I was jealous. I had emotions without words, but if I had to translate them they would say:
Why should SHE get a guilty pleasure and I don't?
I want them if they are so good!
I deserve to have the best!
I want a guilty pleasure too!
I want to sit and enjoy those super yummy chips too!
I have to have them!
In the following years, I would sometimes find myself buying those stupid chips again, and thinking about how someone else thought they were so great and awesome so they must be great and awesome. And I'd eat them, almost willing myself to love them. But I don't really like corn chips.
I went to a friend's house once years back. We were chatting and our kids were playing. She poured us some coffee and she and our other friend started doling spoonfuls of sugar and hefty amounts of cream into their mugs. Her husband came home for lunch, and she gave him a three-layer sandwich on thick, homemade white bread slathered with mayonnaise and loaded with sliced cheese and ham. She casually placed some potato chips on his plate and handed him a Coke. Later, the kids were hungry and she pulled out some homemade cinnamon rolls covered in shiny frosting for their snack. And as I was leaving, she took some homemade cookie dough out of the fridge, plopping down spoonfuls on a cookie sheet to bake some fresh, hot chocolate chip cookies for after dinner. She licked the dough off the spoon and smiled.
WHY do 'other people' get to eat like this?
It isn't fair. She is thin, our other friend is thin, her husband is thin, and they appear not to have a care about food or diets or any of that. They just make what sounds good and have it. They don't agonize over the sugar in a cookie or wonder whether that Coke is going to make them gain a pound. They don't stress about the cookies or feel pressed to eat the whole batch. They just have their food... indulgent, delicious food... and it is just another simple pleasure in their lives. Not something to agonize over. Not something to worry about.
And because I had those thoughts, I immediately came home and baked 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies and ate 6 or 7 in a row and then planned my sandwich and Coke and chips for lunch the next day.
I used to be jealous, because I wanted what other people seem to have.
I still want the foods sometimes, but I have become aware of the senseless desire to "have what she's having" simply because, well, I don't want to miss out.
I have realized that I am not missing out because I had spaghetti squash and chicken instead of pizza. I am not missing out because I played a game with my daughter instead of eating half a bowl of cookie dough. I am not missing out because I did NOT eat everything I wanted, but instead, found the discipline to lose and keep of this 80 pounds and turn my life from a prison into a dance of joy.
I have my rough days, I have my down days. But when I stop and look at what has happened to me in the past four years, I am amazed. That morbidly obese woman who could not walk to the park, play on the playground, walk down the beach, take the stairs to kiss her kids goodnight, sleep lying flat, sit on a lawn chair, fit in a booth, or take a walk down the block would *never* have dreamed that she could change her life like this. She would never have imagined a life of walking her child to school, taking the stairs multiple times a day without thought, raking the yard, playing with her children, getting up and down off the floor easily, being active in dog sports, and being physically able to participate in life so fully. I am a whole new person! I have been given a second chance at life. I went from lying on a steel table in the ER with an oxygen mask and heart monitor on, surrounded by chaos and nurses and doctors and thinking I might be dying, to THIS LIFE where I can do just about anything any other person can do, where I am no longer trapped by my morbid obesity.
I used to be jealous, but now, I am just so grateful for what I have done, and all the rich life that lies ahead of me. I am not jealous anymore.
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