86. The Power of Oatmeal

86. The Power of Oatmeal

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

The Power of Oatmeal

The most indispensable ingredient of all good home cooking:
love, for those you are cooking for.
 ~Sophia Loren

I don’t want to blame my genes for not fitting into my jeans, but one thing my Italian mother taught me was how to eat. I was a chubby kid. Every day after school, my mother had a treat waiting for me: a slice of cheesecake, almond cookies or a plate of cannolis. I sipped my first cappuccino in third grade and found the taste bitter unless accompanied by a sweet. Then, I discovered the dynamic combination of taking one sip of coffee for every bite of pastry.

Sundays were the best. That’s when we had our big spaghetti dinners, and to this day my mouth waters remembering the bounty of it all. Meatballs, sausages, antipasto, and rigatoni for a pasta backup if we ran out of spaghetti. There were so many people around laughing and talking, it was easy to lose track of how much you were eating. Not that you could get away with enjoying only one plate of food. If you refused a second portion of anything, my mother’s response was, “What’s the matter? You don’t like my cooking?”

I naturally carried this high-calorie diet into adulthood, though I rarely bothered making marinara from scratch. I could never emulate my mother’s sauce. Consuming lots of breads, pasta and desserts never struck me as strange or self-indulgent; it just felt like going home.

It wasn’t until I hit my mid-30s that I realized something had to change. I had little energy and, because my sluggish body didn’t want to do anything, it seemed life was passing me by.

When a friend suggested I start each day with oatmeal for breakfast, I said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” But this friend looked great and possessed boundless enthusiasm so I took her advice.

I’m not exaggerating when I say oatmeal is one of the few dieting choices I’ve made to significantly change the quality of my life. It’s filling without being high in calories or fat.

I used to get so hungry between breakfast and lunch, reaching for yet another cup of coffee and its charming companion, the pastry. Now, I don’t even think about food until lunchtime where I pass on the pasta dishes, knowing I’ll want a nap afterward.

After a year of eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning, seven days a week, I lost over 15 pounds. I have more energy to do things, like take a walk after getting home from work instead of plopping down for a snooze.

My friends and co-workers have noted the positive results of good old-fashioned oatmeal. I will admit this fundamental fiber can get boring. Try sprinkling some raisins or shaved almonds in the pot. Top it off with vanilla-flavored soy milk that’s high in calcium, low in sugar and you’re in for one healthy breakfast treat!

There’s only one person in my life who is wary of this new diet. Every time I visit my mom, she pats me on the cheek and asks, “Honey, are you getting enough to eat?” To put her at ease, I’ll pull a package of biscotti from my purse. As I sit down at a table with her and dunk one of the family favorites, I don’t feel I’m cheating on my diet. Every once in a while, I just need to go home.

~Sandra Stevens

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