“Hello, little miss. Can I tell you a secret?”
Even at the tender age of 12 I knew that whatever this ancient woman with the funny hat had to say would be worth listening too… so I shook my head ‘yes’ and leaned a little closer. Tweaking her nose and giving me a wink, the plaster-of-paris cherries on her hat bobbing playfully with each subtle movement, she looked around as if to protect the information from prying ears and said, “Always eat your dessert before your dinner.”
Frowning at the lack-luster statement I remember wanting to ask why in the world she thought something so silly should be kept a secret. Before I could enquire, she held up her hand to silence me and said, “Just remember, eat your dessert before your dinner, you will be glad you did,” and with that she rose from the park bench we had been sharing and shuffled away.
As an adult, I have thought about that strange encounter on numerous occasions, wondering if she chose me for a reason to share her secret; did she seek me out or did she just see a kindred soul? Whatever the reason, I can say with absolute certainty that her advice was the best thing a slightly pudgy 12 year old with budding body-image issues could have heard. As an ‘early bloomer’ (thanks mom) I was wearing a C-cup before most of my friends grew into their training bras and by the 7th grade my shape could have been best described as a tomato on toothpicks (yes, someone actually called me that)… while the other girls sported a more carrot-like physique. In addition to my ‘early bloomer’ status, I also had an almost insatiable love affair with food… especially sweets.
Each day was a challenge, I tried dozens of diets, starved myself, and even tried to throw up once (wiping the spittle from my mouth after trying to stick my finger down my throat and repeatedly wimping out, I swore off that route immediately). Of course my parents were blissfully unaware of their daughters’ weight battle, I was their ‘little peach’ and they thought I was perfect just as I was. So that fateful day at the park when the lady with cherries on her hat told me her secret, it was at a time I desperately needed to hear it.
Of course, I blew it off at the time; I mean who in their right mind would consider indulging in sweets before their evening meal as a weight management plan? Plus, she was old, what did she know? I forgot all about the advice and the woman for several weeks and continued my silent ‘battle of the bulge’. Then the day of Caylee’s 13th birthday party rolled around. Caylee, a friend from school, was having a cupcake-making party at a local bakery to celebrate her transition into teen-hood. The idea of being surrounded by wall to wall sweets and pastries was enough to strike terror in my poor little 12-year-old heart (I could actually picture myself crammed in the display case, Boston crème and powdered sugar covering my face as I finished off the last cupcake in the place), but even more terrifying was the thought of missing out on something my friends were doing… so I went.
Arriving in front of the bakery, I remember waving goodbye to my mother as she drove away in the family station wagon, and wondering if I would be able to fit back in the car when she came to collect me several hours later. I decided I wouldn’t let my hang-ups about food ruin my fun, and walked through the door and into, heaven. There were so many delectable treats I didn’t know what to ogle first. After ten minutes or so of staring in amazement, a strange thing happened. The sugary aromas, sheer volume and countless possibilities of indulgences actually left me a little turned off. Relieved at this new sensation, I was able to enjoy the party with the rest of my friends and even enjoyed the cupcake I had artfully crafted. Guilt-free.
Arriving home in time for dinner, I was still not feeling the unbearable hunger pangs that typically plagued me and only partook in some green beans and a scoop of rice pilaf before pushing my plate away. That night, as I was lying in bed waiting for sleep to come, the old woman’s words suddenly floated through my head, “Always eat your dessert before your dinner”. Perhaps she was on to something after all? I decided that moment to give it a try. And haven’t looked back since…
I quickly lost my ‘baby fat’ and slimmed down to a weight I’m happy with and that I am still able to maintain, even now in my forties (and after popping out a few kids!). And all I do is follow the advice of the woman with the cherries, each night I indulge in a sweet- a scoop of ice cream, a cookie or two, or my favorite, peach cobbler. Then a few hours later, still being a bit full from my pre-dinner dessert, I eat a small plateful of whatever dinner I’m serving the family that night. After a few bites of each thing on my plate, I simply can’t eat anymore. So, I guess you really can have your cake and eat it too! Sorry, had to say it.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Another dreary day in Orlando, rain, rain and more rain. I arrived home from work and the rainy weather had me itching for some comfort food and a nap. Well, I got one of those things, a heaping pile of left over peach cobbler (warmed up and with a scoop of vanilla, of course). After scarfing down my late afternoon dessert I was all ready to tuck in for a nappy-poo and decided to read my book to lull me into napping mentality. I guess I read too long (no such thing!) because it wasn’t long before Andy was ‘starving’ and we were off to grab some dinner at one of our burger staples, Graffiti Junction. As I’m perusing the menu of giant burgers and yummolicious appetizers and sandwiches something weird happened… I ordered A SALAD. I know, it’s crazy talk. But I just wasn’t all that hungry, the cobbler was still snuggled up in my tummy so I bypassed the burger and went for the spinach salad, and you know what? It was good. I couldn’t even finish that, and ended up boxing more than half of it to transport home. That got the hamster moving and I thought, “what if the secret to me losing the extra pounds I’ve recently packed on was just having a bit of dessert before eating dinner?” How awesome would that be? I could satisfy my sweet tooth AND lose weight! Brilliant! Of course I don’t believe this will actually work, but it is tempting.
TWO: The name Caylee should be self-explanatory, but just in case… today was the sentencing of Casey Marie Anthony, and what I hope will be the end to the most annoying (and sadly, riveting) murder case to overtake Orlando and spin it’s local media personalities into a frenzy for the past 30+ days. I thought I would just pay a small tribute to the girl that seems to be forgotten a little in all the pandemonium and silliness that has distracted the community so easily.
Love & Squirrels.