23 November 2007

Att banta

When I was learning to speak Swedish, various things confused me as a non-native speaker. It made me appreciate how incredibly difficult learning English must be. I can never remember which is which, but homophones, homographs...you know, words that sound alike but are spelled different, or are spelled the same but pronounced different...how confusing that must be for someone to try to figure out. Then there are words that mean the same or similar things, like red and crimson. I can't remember what those are called. Homonyms, maybe?

One of the things that I love about English is its richness of vocabulary, the fact that there are hundreds upon thousands of words, the many descriptors available for your use, for free!

Yes, I admit it. I'm a grammar geek. I love all this stuff. No apologies for it either.

Swedish has these little quirks too. The words for ugly and drunk are both ful, but I can barely hear the difference between the two. (Context...so important!) In order to avoid having to say ugly, I would use the word horrible, so that I didn't mispronounce it. Again. Then there are the words for ice cream, glass (like in a window) and glasses (for vision correction), which all sound like the English word glass, but they're spelled differently. I think. I can speak it much, much better than I can read and write it.

Words that had similar meanings threw me from time to time as well. To diet in Swedish is att diet; but then there's this other word, banta, that seems to mean the same thing. My host father explained it to me like this; diet was the word you would use for what you were doing when you were trying to lose weight, but to banta was to just hold back. As best I can figure, banta-ing is somewhere in between leaving something on the plate so you don't feel gorged and starving yourself. Kidding!! OK, so not starving yourself, but not eating all that you want to, either.

Recently, I've officially reached a big number in my weight loss quest. 40. I am 40 pounds lighter than I was a year ago at this time. I had been at a plateau with the losing weight since about May or June. It seems after the death of my Auntie H in October that the scale has been showing smaller numbers, finally, and very slowly. We're talking initial changes in ounces. I've finally invested in a decent scale at home instead of relying on the gym's. I have no earthly idea what to attribute this resumption of weight loss to; I haven't changed anything that I've been doing for the last year in the last few weeks. It is a huge relief to see those numbers going down again.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and yes, even atheist-leaning agnostics celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. My Auntie G cooks twice a year; Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is an event not to be missed. Her stuffing? To die for. Better than your granny's or your mother's, I promise. Since I only have the opportunity to eat it twice a year, I tend to overload my plate with it.

Thanksgiving is a carb festival, isn't it? At least, it is for my family. In addition to the stuffing, which is bread-based, there's mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, corn...all starch-y, not good to overindulge in. Plus this is the Slovak side of the family, so noodles and butter with gravy are also on the table. Like haluski, without the cabbage. Don't ask why we do this, I couldn't explain it to you if my life depended on it. But trust me, it is good. Gooooood!

When people ask me how I've lost the weight, my answer is always the same: "The really, really hard way." Sweating my ass off (quite literally, hahahaha) at the gym, cutting my portion sizes, paying lots more attention to food labels, both for the nutritional value and for the actual ingredients, trying not to eat pre-packaged food, staying away from fried anything. Banta-ing, essentially.

I did not take the opportunity to overindulge yesterday. My attitude about food and relationship with food have changed so much in the past year. It isn't that I no longer derive pleasure from good food, it is that I don't need quite so much of it to be satisfied. One of my cousins, for hours after dinner, moaned about how overstuffed she felt, and I couldn't help but think to myself, "Why the hell did you eat that much, then? No one was forcing you to."

Did I eat the stuffing? You bet. Wouldn't miss it for the world. But there were more carrots from the veggie tray than there was stuffing on my plate. I even ate a little bit of the noodles. I passed on the mashed potatoes. If I eat those these days, it is going to be my own recipe that includes sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, and butter. But was my plate so full yesterday that I had to make a separate trip for a roll? Nope. Didn't eat one of those, either. The fat content and other icky preservatives that are in them aren't worth the taste to me anymore. (They were those rolls that come in the can, that you shape into little quarter-moons.)

Overall, I think my relationship with food and my attitude about it are so much more healthy now than they've ever been. Even when I was a size-0-wearing skinny little bit of a thing. I think about the word banta often. I ask myself all the time; Do you really need that much of that? I turn things over and check out the label, and if it has corn syrup (evil, evil, evil) or tHBQ (dude, two words...PETROLEUM DERIVATIVE!!!) in it, I put it back on the shelf. There's some magic number of fat grams that I won't go over on a single serving of anything. I don't really know exactly what that number is, but impulse buying of a candy bar isn't something that I do much these days. Not worth the calories and fat, and if I'm going to eat chocolate, it is going to be chocolate that has a list of ingredients that I can actually pronounce.

I don't suppose that I can go around answering the question "How'd ya lose the weight?" by saying "I banta-ed," and not just because the Swe-Eng nonsensical word won't make sense to people. I've changed my philosophy, my daily routine, my grocery-shopping habits, my cholesterol levels, my blood sugar, my number of asthma attacks, everything, to get where I am. Much easier to say 'the really, really hard way.' But my favorite upside of it all? Not the fact that I'm stronger and healthier, not the fact that my asthma is under control. Nope. As vain and shallow as it is, my favorite benefit is that in addition to the laundry list I've made of changes, I've changed my dress size, too.


Dawna said...

This was an awesome blog. I feel so good for you! I really do. It is an awesome feeling to have lost that amount of weight, and with your philosophy of food and health- there is hardly a doubt in my mind that you'll be able to keep the weight off.

Now if only I could avoid my cravings for Heavenly Hash ice cream...

Lucy Arin said...


Thank you so much! I write to sort things out in my own head, and it is an added huge bonus when other people enjoy it.

I still crave all kinds of things, especially french fries with ranch dressing; but just like when Dr. H asked me if I was OK with continuing to feel as miserable as I have when we were tinkering with my dosage of meds, and I wasn't, I'm also not OK with being overweight for the rest of my life.

Sweets are still a problem for me. It is a daily process. Do I like holding back? No. But it makes the occasional indulgences all that much sweeter.