Heart burnout

All You Can Eat

I used to be the best. No buffet was too big, and nothing had too much chili and cheese on it. Friends would sometimes even be disturbed by the spectacle of me eating. I would moan, sweat, and sigh until well after the food was gone.

Taste and quantity drove my decisions. The more outrageous a dish’s components – six slices of bacon, guacamole, refried beans, cheese, and beef – the more I wanted it. Until a few months ago. Now I still look at the triple-meat burger and appreciate that the cook included a split and grilled hot dog along with chili and bacon. What changed is that I am starting to opt for the Mediterranean salad or the hummus wrap instead.

photo / gregor_y 

A while back, I shunned most processed food because I found it bland. Fresh ingredients simply make a better meal – there’s no way around it. Then I started to be concerned about the quality of the ingredients: where they came from and how. So I made fresh chili with artisan cheeses, grass-fed beef, and local onions. Even my popcorn was homemade with real butter. I could say that my eventual turn towards a more balanced diet followed this taste-driven logic, but that wouldn’t explain my turn away from large quantities of beef and bacon.

I got older, and my body started to retaliate. The first victim was my alcohol tolerance. Then came my chili tolerance, and then I had heartburn for the first time in my life. People get heartburn every day. Not me. Being full no longer offered the same unconditional love of days past. Guilt and regret accompanied it on a regular basis.

So I repented. I feel like my body had wanted this change for quite some time. Tex-Mex after swimming didn’t feel as good as sushi. My general disposition was also affected as my bread, meat, and cheese diet became downright hostile to my digestive system. Vegetables were needed.

People acted disappointed when I would pass up food. This is when I noticed that eating is an event for men. We compete over who can eat the most the quickest. The one-pound burger at Fuddruckers wasn’t created for women on the South Beach Diet. It was made for guys to go head to head and see who can eat it the quickest. Women don’t really do this as much. It seems to be a contest of who can eat the healthiest or the least. I get the impression that girls are either supportive or try to sabotage another girl’s diet. Guys will just make fun of anyone who mutters the word “diet.”

Like an ex-smoker who’s been without a cigarette for a while, others’ opinions don’t really phase me like they did when I first went off my veggie-free diet. I’m not unique in my new direction. Most people my age are following the same path, like when everyone I knew quit smoking within a six-month window. I could say that it has something to do with us all coming to grips with our mortality, but I think it is simpler than that. The human body can only take so much abuse before it starts to fight back.

I don’t feel death creeping in; I feel indigestion and regret. My body must have learned something at Catholic school because guilt works. Physical pain can be ignored but mental anguish eats away at you. You eventually hit rock bottom, and all of your organs hold an intervention.

These days I’m happy passing up whatever greasy concoction my tongue desires and have learned to desire zucchini, asparagus, and greens. As a result, my daily disposition has improved, and the post-lunch coma doesn’t faze me as much. Along the way, food rejoined my team. We’ve met in the middle, and I’m better for it.

All of this is me simply entering a new phase in my life. It’s important to acknowledge this; to not do so is dangerous. The 40-year old still eating a burger every day has a lot in common with the 30-year old who still listens to Metallica. Missing the boat isn’t attractive any way you look at it.

I don’t condemn or sneer at any sort of behavior. Just acknowledge that life has phases; abuse your body while you can, because the time when you can’t will be sooner than you expect; and remember that the next phase usually incorporates growth and is simply more enjoyable.

More from James Bickham


Anonymous's picture

you are so hot

Anonymous's picture

It always seems so hard starting on a healthier phase - you think to yourself ‘there’s no way I can give up this or that’! But then months, maybe years, later you look at yourself and find that it’s been forever since you ate a snack-cake or fast-food dinner, and now you don’t even want to go near them. Once you start treating your body better, it learns the difference between what it really wants and what marketing has been pushing down it’s throat all those years.

kelly corbet's picture

Loved reading your process! So true…As one who used to breakfast on chocolate chip cookie dough, I can confirm your findings…

I tell people in my healthy cooking classes it’s going to happen, and they laugh, or cock their heads, with one eyebrow raised. Then I get calls saying how chocolate-dipped frozen custards now taste like wax, or how a 15 year old boy told his mom, “this chicken tastes terrible” when non-organic chicken got substituted in a pinch…

Congrats on your new path…oh, and if you want a twist on healthy popcorn, try cooking it in unrefined coconut oil (on the stove, not a microwave), pour it in a big bowl, and shake on some cinnamon. Yum!

Happy nutrifying!

Kelly Corbet