Healthy Changes Ahead

Healthy Changes Ahead

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Healthy Changes Ahead

Enough is as good as a feast.

~English Proverb

I’ve always viewed my mother as my mentor. She taught me how to be a woman. She showed me how to be a wife and a mom. She encouraged me to laugh, love, and have faith. Now that I’ve read “The Tiny Waist of the Fifties” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! I realize my mother also taught me something about healthy eating. For years though, I ignored her lessons just as I ignored this book.

I admit it: I didn’t immediately open Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! after I received it. The book sat on my office shelves for months, its pleasant green title reminding me of things I should be doing.

Then came weeks of abdominal problems followed by weeks of medical tests. The tests confirmed my doctor’s guess: my gallbladder wasn’t functioning. I needed to have it removed.

One week later, I was home recuperating from surgery. That’s when I reached for my copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body! I needed some encouraging words.

I had researched my post-surgery diet and lifestyle at various online sites. Though the medical information provided was straightforward and helpful, the comment sections were often filled with horror stories. Well, maybe not horror stories, but definitely bleak predictions of what I would be able to eat in the future. Especially troubling were some predictions that I’d never again be able to eat certain beloved foods or regular-size portions. I would be confined to eating small portions and small meals forever. That was not what I wanted to hear when I was in pain.

Then I found Carole Bell’s list of lessons learned from her mom. Carole’s childhood experiences matched my own. My mother too served portions considered small by today’s standards. We all survived. My mother also filled the plate with simple, unprocessed foods, refusing to let her daughters become picky eaters who wouldn’t touch green vegetables. She encouraged us to enjoy many types of foods, and she never posted a calorie count by our plates.

When I finished reading Carole’s story, I didn’t move on to the next one in the book. Instead I lingered on her question: “What is in my future?” I knew my future habits might need to change, but change could be good. If I needed to eat smaller portions for the sake of my health, I could do it. Like Carole, all I needed to do was remember my mom’s tiny waistline and my childhood dinner table.

Two years ago I volunteered to proofread a graduate student’s research paper on the childhood obesity epidemic. The facts and figures in his review were sobering. I wondered how our country let this happen. When did giant dinner plates, super-sized meals, and endless soda refills win the day? Now I know it happened after the demise of the little belted housedress.

When Carole Bell compared eating and exercise habits in the fifties to those in the twenty-first century, she decided to make changes in her lifestyle. She didn’t resent the need for change. Why should I? Rather than resisting a different way of eating, I could embrace the adjustments thrust upon me.

Today I’m grateful a revised diet and smaller portions are part of my future. I want to offer healthier meals to my family and friends, and I’d like to maintain my lower post-surgery weight. And thanks to Carole, I realize my mother already taught me how to do it.

Yes, my self-discipline might weaken on occasion, but I know what to do when that happens. I simply picture my mom and those tiny waists of the fifties. Then I forge ahead — June Cleaver housedress not required.

~Donna Finlay Savage

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