If the book hasn’t yet been written, it’s utterly overdue, and just to get the ball rolling let me suggest the title: Surviving Life with a Scarfer.
It seems to be a truism in life that those of us who meticulously watch our food intake pair up with those who consider pizza four nights a week to be a cool perk of adult life, and pack cupboards like they’re settling in for a long Dakota winter.
In desperation, amateur healthies may attempt to upgrade the scarfer by quietly substituting applesauce for oil in cake batter or pureed carrots in mac ‘n’ cheese, but dedicated scarfers merely laugh at these attempts and forage on.
Save your precious energy and use it to create a plan to maintain your smart eating habits while the scarfer continues to vacuum up copious amounts of calories.
Long story, short: I lost 55 lbs. in my early 40s. It’s 17 years later, and I’ve maintained the original loss, and at this moment I’m 58.
The Art of a Win-Win
When you live with a scarfer, the main trick is to take the edge off your hunger 24/7/365 until you form an ironclad habit that’ll keep you on your smart eating path even while he mainlines the junk.
Back when I ate right along with my scarfer – and ballooned because of it – I had to put some serious planning into how to coexist with someone who eats the exact opposite of me.
These days, I eat my healthy food while he goes for the junk food. He could stand to lose a few (and doesn’t care), and I’m hanging at my lowest weight (and care a lot).
Yes, two diabolically opposed people can live happily (enough) together.
Make Peace with Reality
When I finally realized that my scarfer would never – like, ever – join me on my Smart Eating Lifestyle, out of desperation I learned a few tricks:
One: A Wonderful Tool for Smart Eaters
For almost two decades, I’ve kept a spiral pad and paper by my fridge and count everything I eat (I count points, others count calories, but whatever you do: count something. Studies show and so forth).
Two: a 5-Star Habit
Cottage cheese loves us and wants us to be happy.
Every two hours I eat something small but substantial, like an apple or a banana with a teaspoon or two of peanut butter, a half-cup of cottage cheese, whole-wheat English muffins paired with a protein… you get the idea.
Three: Maintain a Smart Kitchen
Keep smart food options that you really like in your kitchen at all times so that you can realistically stay moderately full. On a scale of 1 to 10 – one being horribly stuffed, 10 being “about to pass out from hunger” – don’t let yourself get hungrier than a four. Handling the scarfer’s marshmallow chocolate whatevers is much easier if you don’t allow yourself to get too hungry.
Four: Do You Believe in Magic?
This one is so, so true, but most don’t believe me. When I daydream about junk food, it’s merely a sign that I’m hungry. When I eat something substantial, the junk food cravings disappear.
Would you believe that after 17 years of maintenance, I still re-learn this truism almost on a daily basis?
So, work to embed this valuable skill into your heart, but don’t expect yourself to get it right the first time or the 51st time. Just test what I’m suggesting: the next time you want to go Cookie Monster on snacks or treats, tell yourself that you’re actually just hungry and need real food.
Cravings = hunger. Nothing more, nothing less.
Five: Make Your Demands (But with a Sweet Smile)
First, I should say that while my husband thinks being called “a scarfer” is hilarious, most won’t see the humor, so keep the word “scarfer” locked away in your heart.
If you know your scarfer prefers the word “foodie,” then use the word “foodie.”
Whatever it takes.
Also, this tool only works if used in conjunction with the kindest attitude and your best smile. Gently ask your scarfer to please place all of his “special food” on the highest shelf where it can’t be seen or even reached by you without a step stool. (Good time to say: If you have a step stool in your kitchen, now is the time to put it in the garage behind several big items like bikes and yard equipment).
At least in my case, the more time consuming and hard it is to find something like the step stool, the more likely I am to entirely forget about the food I was trying to reach anyway.
As long as you’re talking to your scarfer, also request that treats be “enjoyed” out of sight too. Your scarfer won’t comply? That’s fine. Just say, “Awesome!! Then let’s eat the treats together!!” The second your scarfer sees that you’re about to paw through his stash, the quicker the treats will be out-of-sight. (Use tool as needed.)
Six: The Beauty of Unappealing Junk Food
Encourage your scarfer to purchase junk food that you don’t like. In my case, I can easily forgo strawberry ice cream, most cookies and candy. I’d be a goner, however, if my scarfer brings home rocky road ice cream.
Seven: Conscious Desserting
These beauties are a tasty dessert and don’t break the calorie-bank.
When all else fails and you long to join your scarfer in a little delicious desserting, go to these options that do way less damage than, say, half of the Tuxedo cake from Costco:
- Three to six colorful macarons. Trader Joe’s carries the lowest calorie macarons that you’ll find in the frozen aisle next to ice cream.
- A large chunk of angel food cake with a light drizzle of chocolate sauce and a squirt of whipped cream.
- No-sugar chocolate pudding with another squirt of whipped cream.
- Slices of fruit dipped in dark chocolate.
- Sugar Free Wafers that come in these flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and several more fun flavors.
In the end, living happily with a scarfer while maintaining your Smart Eating Lifestyle has everything to do with – what the therapy-world calls – “individuation” meaning to consciously step into your life as an individual outside of your partner. You’ve learned to tell yourself: I’m at peace with the idea that my partner and I have entirely different approaches to health, food, and the body.
So, keep telling yourself, we eat differently, and that’s okay. Say this over and over and over to yourself. And one evening, your scarfer will plop on the couch beside you with a bowl packed in chocolate mint chip, and – at un-fun moments like these – you’ve learned to ask yourself this life-altering question:
Would I rather be a size 8 or would I rather eat ice cream?
And boom!! With one little mind-shift the ice cream loses its luster and you’re back in charge.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
Have you found it difficult to live with a partner who loves enormous amounts of food? Has it been your assumption that you partner and you have to agree on eating styles? How does it feel to eat so differently from your partner?