By Catherine Hedge
My sisters work hard at being fit. They recently invited me to join them on a 17-day diet. One sister has already had terrific success. My first reaction to her description of the diet was to gag. That’s because a main ingredient for the first few days is yogurt. Yes, I know it’s healthful, loved by many, and accessible. But why do I have such an unreasonable aversion? Because it is missing a key element I must have to survive…The Crunch Factor.
I have a bad habit known to few except my former students and my dentist. I am an incessant chewer. I don’t know the origins of my affliction. Perhaps it’s because I spent my first month in the hospital as a premature baby. My mom barged in the nursery and rescued me when she saw they had propped a bottle in my mouth and left me alone. I didn’t have a swallowing instinct yet. She was a nurse at the hospital and no one dared stop this Momma Bear! (Thanks, Mom!) So, is my habit because I wasn’t breast-fed or that I’d already grown addicted to the rubber nipple chew toy?
When I was five, I remember my parents putting some nasty tasting stuff on my little finger because I always had it stuck in my mouth. Grade school offered a whole new buffet… rubber erasers, wooden rulers, and #2 pencils. I’d run these back and forth in my mouth like corncobs, leaving little bite marks the length of the tools. I can close my eyes and remember exactly how that orange-yellow paint tastes. It probably had lead at the time. Even worse, my friends and I used to follow the road crews on our block. We’d steal little chunks of sealing tar and chew them all day.
As I matured, I switched to Bic pens. They had nice soft sides and dandy little plugs you could pop out with your front teeth. When I was in the middle of a really difficult term paper, I could go through three or four pens. I swallowed several end plugs. Sometimes, a pen leaked in my mouth, but did that stop me? No, it was just time for a new package.
I have tried to curb my habit. For a while, I just used fountain pens. The pens had hard cases, often metal. Soon, however, I could only find pens with refill tubes…tasty, malleable plastic. Toothpaste doesn’t get black ink rings out of the corner of your mouth, I discovered.
I am particular rabid when I am stressed. The harder a paper is to grade or a scene to write, the faster I chew. If I’m listening to intense music, the pen waves back and forth like a conductor’s baton. I’ve tried keeping jars of jawbreakers, especially Atomic Fireballs, on my desk. Bad idea. After a long night of portfolio grading, I emptied 15 cellophane wrappers and my tongue was raw with cinnamon. Back to the pens.
There are some advantages. People don’t steal your stuff so often. I once had a student ask to borrow a pencil. I offered him the only one I had. The paint was chewed half-way down. The student, a perfect child, gasped and blurted, “What are you? A beaver?” He apologized, I laughed, and he borrowed a pencil from someone else.
So…What about the diet? In solidarity, I’ve forced down three cups of yogurt. A record for me. Otherwise, I am following a program by the American Diabetes Association. I choose from different food groups and carefully monitor carbohydrate levels. I limit meals to 45 carbs and snacks to 15. I’ve discovered that if I choose certain foods, like apples, baby carrots, and peanut butter celery, I am satisfied. I have met my Crunch Factor.
For example, I monitored my intake today of CF:
Breakfast: ½ sliced apple
Snack: 16 stick pretzels
Lunch: ½ c baby carrots
Snack : 3 stalks barely steamed asparagus.
Dinner: more carrots, ½ apple
Dessert: 1 pen