Tag Archives: Dinner

Guilt. So much Guilt.

Oh dear… the guilt! I worried if this day would come, and it has.

A while ago, my host mom told me that if I ever felt like the food they eat at dinner time is too heavy or bad for my cholesterol, that I’m free to eat anything else. I was so relieved to hear this, as dinner time (as you may know if you’ve been following) is often the biggest struggle for me, since the meals are outside of my control and often cooked decadently and always with lots of love, and cheese. Saying no to my host moms meal often feels like I’m rejecting her love and appreciation for my work, so I ate what everyone else ate, and swallowed my guilt in the process. So when she showed some concern for my cholesterol and gave me the green light for a little bit of freedom during dinner time, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude. I still remained hesitant to take her up on this offer, but one day I asked if she would mind if I ate some quinoa and vegetables instead, and she was totally okay with it. Since then, I’ve managed to more often than not, eat my own food for dinner (usually I pre-make it during the day), thus being able to stay about 99% vegan for the past 2+ weeks.

But tonight, like the past few nights, I did the same – opted out of the croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich with butter on white bread) and ate my quinoa and veggies instead, and in the middle of dinner, my host mom jokingly, but kind of not, made a sad face and said, “C doesn’t eat my food anymore…” (C is me, obv) and she jokingly continued to pout, and I said, “Aww, that’s not true!” and two of the girls chimed in to help me out, one saying, “She ate some of your tabouleh tonight!” and the other eventually looked at her mom very seriously and said, “Mom, stop.”

And it was done.

The girls know, somewhat, that I’ve mostly stopped eating meat and dairy because last Wednesday when I made them their lunch, I made myself a salad and they asked why and I explained. But I haven’t had the heart to be straight forward with my host mom to tell her I’ve essentially stopped eating all the staples of her cooking and of the French diet in general, because I know how important food is to her. Food is her way of showing love, and holy Jesus, woman can COOK. Seriously I don’t know any better chef than her. So refusing her food is taken deeply personally, and I really don’t want to offend anyone.

I’m stuck in a strange place. I want to keep with my vegan streak, but more importantly I want to keep with my developing healthier lifestyle, but the relationships I build here are also important to me, and for better or worse, food is one way to build those relationships. I don’t want my host mom to think I don’t like her cooking (though I’ve complimented her many, many times) or that I think I’m above their food, because none of that is true. But expressing my desires to get healthier (and yes, lets face it, to lose a pound or two. Okay maybe 10 or 15) are beyond my abilities in this situation, or at least so it seems. I don’t want to bombard them with all of my nutritional research, so all I can do is just request to eat my own thing, and while I thought that was going well enough, apparently its not. It seems like opting for my health means hurting someones feelings, and that puts me in a sticky situation.

So, what to do? Do I try to eat more of her home-cooked dinners instead of my own, likely sacrificing quite a bit (and dealing with intestinal adventures the rest of the night), in order to keep a happy relationship with my host mom? Do I try to explain to her my food goals and hope that she understands without being offended? Do I continue doing what I’m doing and not let tonight bother me? Do I have any other options? On the “bright” side, I’m leaving in 6 weeks, back to healthy California, where this bizarre issue will be behind me. But until then, what do I do?

Thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I feel at a loss no matter what.

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Overcoming the Dinner Hurdle

I may have touched on this a bit before, but since I’m an au pair and I live with a host family who provides my food for me, I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available or made for me as my only option for food. My host mom is an amazing cook (she always says she would have loved to be a chef/restaurant owner in another life) and I am lucky to be surrounded by such tasty meals all the time. The thing is, as is the case with most gourmet eating, the emphasis is mostly on flavor and not so much on nutrition or health, and this is especially true in France, where people eat for pleasure above all else. Typical French cuisine consists of copious amounts of red meat, butter, creme fraiche, cheese, bread, and wine and I’m really starting to understand why people are so constantly blown away by this so called “French Paradox”… despite this insanely unhealthy diet, French people are not generally overweight! Now, I don’t know the stats on heart health in this country, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the numbers are not so pretty. French people insist that they are healthy, but I just think thats bullshit, to be perfectly honest. I think they smoke enough cigarettes to keep their appetites at bay and they probably walk enough in a day to reduce the obvious effects of the food they put into their bodies, but still, their diets are pleasure and flavor based, and thats it. I mean, they do know how to enjoy “the finer things in life”, thats for sure.

Anyway, tangent. My host mom is an amazing cook, and in general her cooking is healthy enough (and incredibly tasty), but considering my “dietary needs” (cholesterol, which she knows about) and my general desire to lose a few of the pounds I’ve gained since coming here, I feel like things could be quite a bit healthier. Its tough, though, to make special requests in a culture and in a family that values food in such a sensory and emotional way, so I’m just trying to find my balance… allowing myself to enjoy and partake in meal times like any other member of the family, while mentally setting limits for myself and making small efforts here and there to improve my meal in a way that works best for me. It’s really not easy, and I struggle with it every single night. But every dinner time, I hope it will be a little easier than the night before.

Tonight was one of these typical struggles for me, and I am proud of myself for being strong enough tonight to set a few small, but symbolic limits for myself. Dinner was homemade pizza tonight (thin flaky crust, pasta sauce, cheese, sausage, chorizo, ham, tomato), which is incredibly hard to resist, of course, because its pizza and who the hell doesn’t love pizza? I had one slice (about the size of two small slices) and I filled up the rest of my plate (and my stomach) with green beans and lots of water. When I was offered a second slice, I immediately felt the guilt I always feel in refusing food from my host mom, so I initially said “yes, but just a small one”, and as she was cutting the pizza, I sat there and momentarily thought about why I was accepting another slice, I asked myself if it was worth it for my body and my heart to eat that, and I wondered if I would be strong enough to change my mind and eat more greens instead. To be honest, I thought about this blog a lot, and of those small handful of followers I already have, and of the promise I made a few posts back to be honest with myself and with you, and I knew I wouldn’t want to come here defeated. So I politely said I had changed my mind because I realized I had eaten enough, and alas, I said no to more pizza, and that, my friends, is a miracle.

For the second course (since there is always a second, and often third or fourth course here in France), I had a plain yogurt along with the girls (they added sugar or preserves to theirs but I opted out and I’m proud of that!), and I again said no to dessert! Another miracle.

Maybe the pizza was not the best thing in the world for me, but I think I handled it as well as I could by filling up on fiber-full greens (fiber helps keep you full!) and getting some decent protein and calcium from the plain yogurt as my “dessert”.

This is the type of hurdle I have to learn to overcome, and every day is an opportunity for me to learn just a little bit more, about my own ability to assert some type of control over my health, even when it is mostly outside of my control. As I said before… “If it is important to you, you’ll find a way…”

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This Always Happens

Try as I might, something always seems to throw me off. I had been doing pretty well with my nutrition today, making good choices (albeit, I admit, ignoring portion control to an extent) and sticking to my planned meals without cheating in between, and even during dinner time with my host family, I was able to make decent enough choices (as in, not going for seconds on that delicious quiche lorraine my host mom made), but alas, I am in France and I can’t escape the temptations, even on the best of days.

My host mom, being the amazing, caring, considerate woman that she is, bought me some delicious butter/sugar cookies from the town they went to over the weekend, and offered it to me tonight after dinner and insisted that I try one. She knows how much I love sweets and I love her for always being thoughtful. I really am a lucky au pair. I excitedly opened the box to try a cookie, while mentally telling myself that I would only have one.

Guess what? I had 3.

Oops…

We were all just talking, munching on cookies, and I almost felt rude not eating more than one, so I allowed myself another, and another, and now I’m sitting in my room with a small belly ache and a big load of guilt over my head. I had a great workout this afternoon and I ate clean all day long before dinner, but as is always the case, dinner time comes around and I fall into the trap of feeling like a guest in the home of some very gourmet French people, who eat for the sake of pleasure, not for the sake of health. This is the case pretty much every night, and I’m struggling to balance myself within this environment. I lack motivation and courage to say “no” and I easily give in when I’m offered seconds, or dessert, or cheese. I have spent over 5 months battling this same issue, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever really be strong enough to do what is right for me and my body.

Ugh.

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