Thoughts on “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted”
Have you ever had a day where you ate whatever you wanted, no matter how indulgent it seemed? Or at least dreamed about such a day?
That’s the premise of the title story in the short story collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg. For some reason, I’d thought the whole book was on that theme, but the story alone was enough to get me thinking.
What to eat?
First, I was very curious to see what the main character in the story would choose to eat. After all, if you go with eating anything you want, that’s a wide-open field.
She started with a sampling of donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. Lunch was a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate malted shake. Her mid-afternoon snack was an ice cream sundae and a small bag of Cheetos. And finally, dinner was steak and mushrooms, a loaded baked potato, Caesar salad, apple crisp, and crumb-topped cherry pie.
It was interesting noticing my reaction when I read through her foods – and the story itself has lots of commentary, including observations about Weight Watchers that gave me flashbacks.
But one of my first thoughts was how uncomfortable I’d feel if I ate all that, even if I went for a walk after lunch. Unless it was a very long walk.
Then it also got me thinking about my favorite foods, and how on most days I do eat whatever I want. It’s just that what I want has changed, as well as how much of it.
Some of my tastes are the same. I’ve always liked fruits and quite a few vegetables, for example, and I’ve always had a sweet tooth. But I can only handle so much sugar now before feeling sick to my stomach and wanting to switch to something else.
In public or in secret?
I also couldn’t help paying attention to where the main character ate.
For the donuts, she ate in her car, but not until after she’d looked around to make sure no one could see her. This reminded me of all the times in my past when I ate in secret, never a particularly fun feeling.
I was fascinated reading about her quandary for where to go for lunch. She debated about Wendy’s or KFC or getting hot dogs someplace (she was in Chicago, so red hots are a big deal). But finally: “I decided I’d go for lunch to this café I know where the butter is real and the syrup is real and the waitresses do not in any way judge what you order.” (p. 8)
This got me thinking about how often our food choices are determined not only by what we want, but by what we want other people to see. Back when I was dating, if we went out for a meal, I was always hyper-conscious of what and how much food I ordered, sometimes even going home hungry because I felt embarrassed about eating much in front of my date.
And finally, her dinner was at home because she wanted to make it, which I can appreciate. So it wasn’t exactly in secret, but it certainly wasn’t in public.
Finally, I was very curious to see what would happen after she finished her food. Would she feel guilty or ashamed? Would she decide to eat like that more often?
First, after dinner: “I took a mallet and I beat the shit out of my scale.” (pp. 11-12)
That made me laugh. I suppose that’s one way to stop weighing yourself!
But it didn’t last. She went back to Weight Watchers the next day and bought another scale and started counting and weighing again.
She said: “I would like to end this by saying that it felt really good to cheat all day, to eat whatever I wanted. But it didn’t. All that happened was that I felt hollow-eyed.” (p. 12)
That struck me as sad but not surprising. I remember from my days of being in Weight Watchers that it was impossible to feel good about eating the things I really wanted. I’d feel lots of shame and guilt, and I hated stepping on the scale and feeling the silent judgment from others as the numbers crept up.
And it made me glad all over again that I’m not stuck in that mentality anymore.
Eating whatever you want can happen every day
Eating whatever you want may sound a bit radical, but it doesn’t have to be. You can eat whatever you want, every day.
You don’t have to go to quite the extremes that the story character did, though. When you’re being mindful, you’ll likely eat less of what you want, and you might make different choices. And after you’ve eaten, you won’t feel hollow-eyed, just satisfied and ready to live your life.