The Hungry Caterpillar
"On Monday he ate through one apple....on Tuesday he ate his way through 2 pears.... On Saturday he through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he had a stomachache! On Sunday he went back to eating a leaf and felt much better!"
As I was reading through this story with both of my kids this past weekend I couldn't help but chuckle at the actions of the caterpillar. If you haven't read Eric Carle's book, The Hungry Caterpillar, you should because it's an adorable story. Does it have another meaning to it other than going over counting with young readers? Can people feel like the caterpillar at times as they switch habits in the week when heading into the weekend?
During the week schedules seem set, procedures in place, and structure tends to drive our days. We are busy, stressed, working, and meeting deadlines to complete our tasks. Whether you are a stay at home mom or out in the workforce, I bet you are juggling quite a lot. Some of us meal plan for the week so that when we are hitting those crazy moments, we have an idea in place as to what we are going to eat. We are careful not to get too hungry so that we start counter surfing, staring in the fridge, or eating snacks right out of the pantry. Meals might be created or prepped for cooking so that when we get home they are set for the oven. Everything is set up for success! Why? To take the guess work and panic out of mealtime.
What happens on the weekends? Social gatherings (or at least partly), wanting to take a break and cut loose, ordering out, "cheat days," and sometimes more drinking and staying up later. We know that we have "been good" all week, so why not sit back and relax a bit?
I know this feeling well and in no way am I pointing fingers or saying we shouldn't relax on weekends. We deserve that! After a hard week, nonstop prep, and staying with a schedule, it is important to take a break and sometimes that means not cooking and ordering out. What I do want to point out is when we have eaten that lollipop, piece of pie, sausage bite, etc it can sometimes lead to overload. When I got to the page that said, "On Sunday he went back to eating 1 leaf and he felt much better..." I screamed, "that's me!" As a family we will usually order in on Friday or Saturday so that Mama gets a bit of a break in the kitchen (mostly for clean up purposes) and sometimes that spirals into eating more than usual for breakfast the next day or ordering again over the weekend because our taste buds got a taste of something they haven't had in a while. As I sat back and looked at Carle's book and thought about the progress I've been making, it really hit me that it's easy to slip back into a dieter's mindset where you have days to be "on plan" and the good old "cheat days." Personally, that didn't work out so well for me. I stayed at the same weight, didn't gain more energy, and felt down because I just couldn't quite get why this particular diet wasn't working.
Listening to Mr. Caterpillar, it dawned on me how important it is to listen to our body. Our body truly is an amazing machine that knows what it needs and will send signals out to let you know when it's happy and when it's uncomfortable. The weekend we had guests over and I had a few chips, a few mini samosas, some wine, white rice at lunch, and a slice of carrot cake (because it's not everyday we have these people over) I felt like the six-legged critter I was reading about. Of course when Sunday rolled around, Sonia went back to steamed veggies with a protein because her gut couldn't take it anymore. Literally I felt like I was starting a cramp from my menstrual cycle because my gut went into orbit and didn't know what to do with all this food I hadn't had in a while.
What can we do to keep our taste buds and gut happy at the same time? Enjoying the foods we love in moderation, keeping in mind what foods might set off triggers in our body. By trigger I mean foods that are hard to stop eating and need to be pre-portioned or not brought into the house, or foods that might actually be causing you inflammation due to sensitivities. So instead of waiting for Friday night to roll around to have a glass of wine, have a glass with dinner on Wednesday. If you are wanting something cold and creamy, enjoy an ice cream cone with your kiddo and savor that 1 treat (if dairy doesn't bother you.) Wanting take out mid week? Go ahead and order something more plant-based so that you have less dishes (don't forget to get paper plates.) It can be done and I bet it will help with those weekend party feelings. It's not about just the amount of food we are eating and calories in, calories out....it's about so much more. It's about the kinds of foods we are eating as well. How is it enjoyable to eat a bunch one day and the next still have a tummy-ache? It ruins your weekend!
When this weekend rolls around again, try making a plan for it. Are you going to eat out and what food are you craving? Is there something you can have that will give you those tastes, but won't cause excess bloat or less comfort? When you do plan to eat out, watch the foods you have the rest of the day so that your gut doesn't go into shock and get right back to your normal eating right after. It's all about 90/10 because birthdays are going to happen and your toddler is going to want to share that cake with you. You are setting up your family to be happy eaters by demonstrating how we can have a sweet treat, without feeling yucky later on. Get out of that dieter's mindset so that you don't turn into a hungry caterpillar.