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
OMG!! You are brilliant and sooooo funny!! Cathy.. you had Lindsey and I in stitches reading your fabulous story!! Good for you!!!
Thanks, Sis! I had to explain myself to my two charming compatriots! Give that woman a hug from me! Love, Cathy
Wait! I was going to say this was brilliant. Dang, skunked again. I had the good old laugh-out-loud moment at the end. Terrific!
Thanks, Sis! Does this mean I don’t have to eat any more yogurt? Love, Cathy
I love this! And it explains those fountain pens you liked to use.
Ha! Thanks, Marie. I’m working for something with Sac. State and have at hand…8 pretzels, three crunchy peppers, and a yogurt cup full of baby carrots (an EMPTY yogurt cup!)