Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Elephants never forget either...Coincidence?

I have this theory that 90% of being smart is simply having a really, really good memory. Intelligence is essentially the ability to retain information, be able to recall it at a moment’s notice, and then to see how it relates to all the other things you know. It’s being able to connect those random facts into meaningful chains of information and then relaying those connections to the world that makes someone sound so gosh darn smart.

Now, I’m not the smartest girl on earth but judging by my “smart=keen memory” theory alone, I just might be smarter than your average bear (and for proof, I offer our shared affinity for all things that come in pick-a-nick baskets!). Genetics blessed me with a brain that stores copious amounts of information away for future reference. Those same genetics did not, however, provide me with a particularly reliable system for cataloging and classifying that data. It seems to me that the space in my noggin that stores to the lyrics to every song I’ve ever heard, the position on the page of pivotal sections of various novels and textbooks, and every line uttered in Monty Python movies might be put to better use for things that are potentially lucrative. Like, say, physics equations or blackjack card counting. Or where my car keys are.

So it should not come as a surprise that there is a substantial percentage of my brain that is devoted to foods gone by. I went out for lunch the other day with a friend and she hesitated while placing her order, unable to remember what ingredient it was that she wished them to leave off her pizza. At her pause, I chimed in “She’d like you to hold the mushrooms, and bring her a side of ranch dressing too, please.” When the waiter left she laughed about how I knew how she liked her pizza better than she did, and wondered how I remembered that. Easy, I told her. It involved FOOD, and I never forget a meal. She shook her head at what she recognized as another manifestation of what I call my “food-crazy”, and told me that she couldn’t think of a single pivotal moment in her life that she associated with the food she’d eaten that day. I told her that my food memories could fill volumes.

I don’t recall anything specific of a childhood trip to Baltimore other than it was the first time I had freshly steamed shell-on shrimp at a stand by the harbor. I don’t remember a thing about the Phillies game we took in one summer other than that the hot dogs came pre-dressed with mustard and were a soggy-bunned disappointment. I assume that New York’s Grand Central Station was an impressive sight to behold, but I was too busy enjoying the bagel & cream cheese I’d gotten on the way in to notice. The reason for a business trip to Chicago years back escapes me, but I do remember that I had the best Caesar Salad I’ve ever eaten. The meal I had at an Alabama truck stop in college remains the standard by which I’ve measured every other Chicken Fried Steak since, and I could rank from memory the cake at every wedding I’ve ever attended from best to worst (or just “not best” because, come on, there’s no such thing as bad cake). And once, I ordered a baked crab pasta dish at a restaurant in New England that my 13 year old self turned her nose up at when it arrived, and I fervently wish that I could have that moment back as an adult because I just KNOW I’d love every bite of it now. I vividly remember the first time I consciously overate, and I clearly remember countless times I’ve fought NOT to eat whatever was in front of me. I could fill scrapbooks with anecdotes about what I ate, when I ate it, and how I’d like to (or not to) eat it again.

This leads me to believe that there’s an extraordinary amount of my grey matter that’s sole purpose is remembering what I’ve put in my mouth over the years. Extraordinary in the most literal sense of the word: More than is ordinary. My brain, it would seem, is hard wired toward a food obsession that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. And this could be a pretty depressing revelation for me. Except that it isn’t.

I believe that fighting the good fight against the fat each day is a noble and never ending pursuit. But I also believe that there is a lot of power in the concept of surrendering to the forces that drive my food issues as well. If I accept that, on some level, my relationship with food is inherently a little on the crazy side, then I can also accept that it will probably always be that way. And that means I can stop wishing it wasn’t that way, and start learning how to work toward being healthier and slimmer with the full knowledge that my brain will never be “normal”. If it is what it is, then I am what I am, and I don’t have to hate myself for it, for being ME.

I’m learning that accepting the nature of my relationship with food doesn’t mean that I have to accept the obesity fostered by it. I can work against my nature on a daily basis, and I can also work with it. I can channel my laser focus on all things food toward my weight loss goals, try new strategies for shifting that obsessive energy away from behaviors that keep me fat and into new habits that honor my body and spirit.

So that’s what I’m going to keep doing. One day at a time, one meal at a time. I’m meeting a friend for conversation with a side order of my all time favorite tuna salad sandwich today for lunch. And if you ask me later how it went, I’ll be able to tell you ALL about it…well, all about the sandwich anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment