JUST BECAUSE IT’S “FOOD,” DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU SHOULD EAT IT

Years ago, I could eat and drink almost anything. That’s not to say there weren’t consequences, but those consequences seemed to take place over a long period of time, so there was no immediate realization of “Oh, crap! I probably shouldn’t have eaten that.” By the time I realized I shouldn’t have eaten that, I’d already put on ten or twenty pounds. Too late now!

Then, more recently, it got to the point where I might eat something for dinner—or, more precisely, eat too much for dinner—and then, when I’d crawl into bed, my stomach was not so good, and in the middle of the night I’d wake up with heartburn, and have to take Tums, or something like that.

I learned a lot from those experiences, and stopped eating too much at night, especially too much of the wrong kinds of foods. In fact, lately, I’ve been pretty good about not really eating “the wrong kinds of foods” at any time. Every once in a while, I get off track, and there are consequences, so almost immediately, I get right back on track.

It’s good that consequences happen so swiftly now. It helps keep me honest. But every now and then “my eyes are bigger than my stomach,” and despite the fact that I should “know better,” I go off on a binge, suffer consequences, and swear never to do that again. Of course, I probably will, at some point in the future, but on the plus side, I’m feeling better and better lately about my ability to make good food choices. Most of the time.

I want to detail a recent experience that makes this point (the point that even though I know better, I still go off track). It’s flu season, and since Russ and I both work on campus and free flu shots are offered, we make a point of going together every year to get our flu shots. Yea, us! Doing the right thing, right?

But along with the right thing, this year we also added into the trip something that was not so right. Turns out the flu shots were being given in a building that also houses an all-you-can eat cafeteria. We’d been there before on a few occasions, when they had something called “Five Dollar Fridays”—all the food you can eat for five dollars! It’s been a few years since we’ve done that, and this wasn’t on a Friday, but we decided to do it anyway.

Bad choice.

First of all, who knew that those “Five Dollar Fridays” were such a good deal? I thought maybe the price would go up a couple of dollars, maybe $7 or $7.50, but no! We each paid over $9.00 for this “all you can eat”! Of course, that’s not a bad price for an “all you can eat,” but for lunch, we really didn’t have the time or the inclination to eat excessively. In fact, I’d say that as I get older, the inclination to stuff my face is growing significantly less pronounced.

But we paid our $20 + and entered the cafeteria and proceeded to collect our food and chow down. Now, here’s my main impression of the food the University is feeding its students: SALT. Really now! Is it entirely necessary for everything to be so freaking salty?? You know what they say: anyone can make any food taste good if they add enough butter, sugar or salt. But that’s actually not true, because there comes a time when too much is simply too much.

This is one of the things that makes me feel like I’m getting old. Sigh… Or maybe it’s just that, since I’ve been eating more natural “single ingredient” foods these last couple of years, I’m that much more sensitive to how horrible over-processed, over-salted foods can taste. I feel like those cooks aren’t even trying. And why should they? It’s just a bunch of college kids, and for the large part, Mommy and Daddy are paying for their meal tickets, and as long as they don’t have to cook it, I guess most of them are willing to eat just about anything.

Which is a horrible commentary on the state of our youth. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if most kids today, having eaten in school cafeterias all their lives, and overconsuming junk food, don’t think that super-salty food is perfectly natural.

Now, granted, there was a salad bar. That was not salty…but the salad dressing was! I guess I could have gone with oil and vinegar, and maybe next time I will. But I’m not really sure there will be a “next time.” I hope I’ve learned my lesson.

Of course, I know I haven’t. I’ll remember this experience for a while, but in a little while after that, I’ll be seduced by the thought of “all I can eat,” especially if it’s offered at the low low price of $5.00 — which has actually now gone up to $5.50, but hey! Still a good deal for “all you can eat.” But wait. Not really. Not if the food is rendered INEDIBLE by the addition of entirely too much SALT!!

As I become more selective about what I’m willing to eat, eating out becomes more and more of a challenge. I’ve developed some strategies for restaurant eating, but not all of them can be applied all the time. Still, I try to do the best I can, most of the time, and I try to learn from my experiences. But I don’t always.

Russ and I go out to eat every Friday night. Every other night we eat at home, where I can control the quality of the food. This Thursday binge at the cafeteria was an exception to our rule. Which makes me remember why we even HAVE rules in the first place. And no, it’s not so that they can be broken.

Okay, that’s enough whining for now. I just wanted to set this down in writing so maybe next time, I can be a little more discriminating about what I consider edible “food.”

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