Being a lightweight female, you are the lowest of the low – not only in terms of status, prestige, funding, and international recognition, but also in terms of caloric intake. As the kilos have been forced off (often with great difficulty and far slower than anyone would like) the obsession with food has only grown.
You’d think that as a group of friends, supporting each other in our training and weight loss goals, we’d avoid the subject of food. You’d think the topic would become too painful to discuss, that in order to reduce the amount of food we eat, we’d reduce how much we allowed food to enter our conversations or even our thoughts. In fact, I imagine few people would be surprised if I said that we had a crew ban on all food-related topics.
Well, we don’t. In fact, besides rowing, erging, weight lifting, weight loss, and how far behind we all are on our work, food and eating dominates conversation. We talk about food all the time. We create lists of what we want to eat after the Boat Race, we revise our choices for the food we want to have waiting for us at the finish line (mine is oreos and peanut butter – separate or mixed together, I’m not fussy), we speak longingly of cakes and biscuits we’ve seen in shop windows or at the grocery store, we list what we did and didn’t eat at our college dinners the night before, we confess when we’ve been naughty and eaten things we shouldn’t have, we announce with quiet satisfaction when we’ve been good and eaten exactly what we needed and no more, we share the pictures of food we’ve seen online or in magazines, we complain about well-meaning family members and friends who keep trying to feed us, and so on. We can, and do, talk about food all day long. I spend a good deal of my time reading recipes online and making lists of meals I want to make after the Boat Race. The images make me salivate and experience sudden overwhelming cravings. I often think to myself that perhaps tempting myself with meals I can’t eat is counterproductive – then I go back to searching for beautiful pictures of food.
If a stranger joined the group who had no idea what was going on, she’d probably think we were some sort of Food Anonymous chapter, exorcising our obvious addiction to eating through constant dialogue. Perhaps in a way we are. At a lightweight lunch (an outing where we look at the food, look at the menu, try to work out the calories and fat content of each dish, then all order the same thing, all the while trying not to look at the dishes and puddings we’d kill to eat), someone mentioned that there were studies concluding that if you visualized eating a meal before actually eating it, you’d be less hungry and therefore eat less. We all scoffed at the notion. The idea that thinking about food could make any one of us any less hungry seemed ridiculous – surely the opposite would happen and we’d end up eating far more than our carefully calculated calorie deficits needed! Yet, why is it that talking about and thinking about food takes up so much of our time and energy if it only makes us hungrier!?
Personally, I think a large part of our behavior springs from the fact that such conversations do help us. They remind us that we’re all losing weight – some more than others, and some with more difficulty than others – and that we’re all committed athletes who love rowing in the lightweight boat and want it to be the best it can be. In summation, our conversations about food could be expressed as, “Are you hungry? You are? That’s ok, I’m hungry too; we’re all hungry.” It’s our way of saying, “I’m there for you; I support you in your endeavors as you support me in mine, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure our victory in the Boat Race.”