Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Morris The Cat Meets Mikey

My eating habits often were compared to two television commercial icons decades ago because, well, the comparisons of my picky eating habits just could not be denied. Morris the Cat was an orange tabby who only ate “Nine Lives” cat food, turning his nose up at any other brand. While I have never tried cat food, I have had to smell it once the can was opened, and they all smelled the same, and looked just as awful. But somehow we were to believe that this housecat knew the difference between one brand and another. According to the commercial, the cat could do just that. Then there was the little kid in the high chair at the breakfast table with his siblings. His name was Mikey, and he did not like anything. Mom obviously did not buy sugar-loaded cereal and the siblings had the bright idea that the best way to deal with the situation, and not eat the cereal their mother bought for them was to “give it Mikey”. Which to their surprise, “he liked it, Mikey liked it”, Life cereal.

Yes, two finicky icons. Those two had nothing on me. My diet was simple… meat and potatoes. I would occasionally sneak in some corn and carrots, apples, bananas, oranges, and watermelon. No seafood. I was easy to cook for. Meat and potatoes. I did not even have to try the food to know that I did not like it. If it was green, I was not even going to spell the name of the food being served to me. Seafood? I did not “see food” go onto my plate if it did not walk on dry land.

This presented a unique challenge because having two small children, I knew that my diet was not a healthy one, and I definitely did not want my children to learn to eat like I did. And that is just it, my food lifestyle was a learned habit. The problem is, it was a forty year education of “no, I don’t want that.” I am fortunate that both daughters ate well right from the beginning. If there was any food that garnered a response “I don’t want that” or “I don’t like that” especially not having tried that, it was met with a “please take a ‘no thank you’ bite.” With that, my oldest daughter eats everything green except for the lawn, but I suspect given the opportunity, and a good recipe, she would find a way. With my youngest daughter, she alone could be responsible for the extinction of the lobster.

So what happens when my daughters diet clashes with my diet especially when my daughters know my health issues and know that I should be eating better? Guilt, lots of guilt and pressure to eat what they place on my plate. The funny thing is, I did whatever I could to change the flavor and the consistency of the food I would rather have turned my nose up. Which usually meant that I smothered everything in ketchup. Even garlic could not alter the food enough for me to eat it. But ketchup? Yep, did the trick. The only thing was, I eventually began to hate ketchup because I was eating so much of it. So it was easier for me to go back to my finicky ways.

Strangely, not until I filed for my divorce, I made another attempt to eat right, eat smart, eat healthy. I have no intention of ever going vegetarian (and I am by no means ridiculing anyone who chooses to eat vegetarian) I love meat way too much. But I am eating smarter. I am working with a dietician who is trying to undo 40 years of bad habits as well as to educate me on “why” I need to eat better, and how.

In between my visits, I would actually take pictures of my plates with all the different colors and email them to her. She could not believe with her own eyes and actually wanted video of me eating the food. I gave her one video, but from there on, she just gave me encouragement. And because I was getting a lot of emotional support from friends in the form of meals, the peer pressure I felt from friends trying to do something nice, I stopped turning my nose up at foods. I am now eating greens, other fruits, and even seafood. I still have the occasional red meat. But I do feel a lot better about how I am eating. And when my daughters visit me, I know that they will be pleased that they can sit down with me for a meal, and not see me drown my food in ketchup.

Of course, this only happens when there are eyes on me. I need to get to the next level to actually order or buy the food when I am on my own. One step at a time.

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