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Monday, May 5, 2014

My drinking problem

Back before Earth Day -- when recycling meant giving your old bike to your kid brother  --  my father would carry a battered wooden crate of  a dozen glass quart bottles to our local bottler on Saturday mornings  and we would come home with a rainbow of filled, fizzy bottles we called "pop."
At Visniak's (pronounced Veesh-nock) these wooden crates were stacked twice as high as my first-grade self in a room I now realize was no bigger than my living room.  The first eight refill slots were a given: two root beer, two birch beer , two ginger ale and two cream soda, then the negotiations began for the remaining four. In a good week I'd get one cherry, in a really good week there would be two. Orange, grapefruit, cola and grape filled out the random remaining rotation. There were no diet versions, each bottle was fully leaded. If Mr. Visniak was there, I'd get a 7 oz. bottle of cherry of my very own.  My eyes started scanning the place for him the minute we opened the door. 
My family had pop with every meal we ate at home and usually when we ate out. Around junior high, I started paying attention to the advertisements and realized that if I ever wanted to wear a bikini and surf with really cool guys, diet soda was the way to go. Recognizing my natural level of activity was similar to that of a gerbil on an exercise reel on speed, I jumped on the caffeine-free bandwagon as soon as it was available. Eventually I discovered iced teas, herbal teas, and that  most everyone else calls the fizzy stuff soda rather than pop. 
I had a solid decade of diet soda behind me when I started gaining weight. Most diets encouraged you to drink plenty of low calorie liquids to keep that "full feeling." Fast food restaurants package meals with a soda included--  your choice is only which kind and how large. From my school cafeteria (cartons of milk) to the finest dining ( a perfect vintage) food and drink has been obviously and permanently paired. 
But not anymore.  At least not for me.
Tens of thousands of people worldwide make a good living just by telling people which drink will go best with their food, but for me it's time for food and drink to have conscious decoupling.
There is no chance for a reconciliation, at least where I'm concerned.
Every medical professional I've encountered on this topic has been clear from the start -- no drinking anything for a half hour before you eat and especially for a half an hour afterwards. This demo  makes the reasoning clear.
Two months after my surgery and I'm still struggling with dry eating. I do it. But I don't like it.
If you don't order a beverage in most restaurants various servers will repeatedly come back to make sure someone got your drink order, so I order a glass of water and move it as far away from my plate to prevent unconscious drinking.  Should I get involved in a conversation or even a book I am reading at the table, my hand knows how to find the drink before my mind can say no.
I did a small survey of those I found online who are struggling with regaining weight after surgery. Eleven of 12 said they started drinking with their meals within six months of the surgery.
Rationally, food and drink together are for me a near toxic combination. Emotionally, we've been such good friends for so long.  The balance between yearning and learning is not there yet.
But I'll get to that (parched, arid, desiccated) place eventually.
I was in the waiting area of a medical office this afternoon when my phone chimed. At the cue, I reached into my purse for a bottle of zero calorie, non-carbonated beverage and took a small satisfying slug one-half-hour from my last snack.
The sweet, older lady next to me reminded me that I didn't take a pill, only a drink.  I told her that a  drink was all I needed.
I hope she took that the right way.

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