How ‘Normal People’ Eat: How Elaine’s habits help

After 14 interviews, I’ve finally found a thin person who really does eat whatever she wants, whenever she feels like it, without ever bothering to step on a scale or worry about her jeans getting too tight.

My friend Elaine Davis Pratt drinks a lot of Pepsi. She eats a candy bar nearly every day. She’s even been known to eat three pieces of cheesecake when she couldn’t decide which one she wanted to try most.

Yet over the years her weight — when she’s bothered to check it, which isn’t often — has always stayed within the same five-pound range as the actress Andie MacDowell, who’s about the same height and age.

That being said, Elaine has a lot of built-in habits that contribute to maintaining rather than accumulating weight:

  • She’s a slow eater, always the last one finished.
  • Like a lot of “normal people” I’ve interviewed, she really hates feeling full.
  • She loves food and special meals but never eats out of boredom or frustration. Her off switch stays off until she flips it on again.
  • Finally, though she doesn’t exercise, Elaine stays active.

Currently Elaine and her boyfriend, Larry, are gutting a home they plan to “flip.” We’re not just talking new carpet and a coat of paint. When I stopped in to see how it was going the other day, she showed me how they’d moved walls, closets and bathrooms. I’d just finished a 2.5 mile run on the adjoining Ossian trail, but I think Elaine may have been more sweaty than I was.

Here’s what else Elaine had to say about her eating habits:

Q. Do you eat breakfast?

A. No. I’ll have a pop and a Little Debbie nutty bar or a candy bar around 11. Maybe a bagel or doughnut on the weekend. A lot of times he (Larry) will make breakfast on the weekends. I used to eat with him, but it makes me feel too bloated. I just don’t do breakfast.

I don’t snack. Sometimes I’ll have a sandwich (around lunchtime.) But we always have a pretty decent supper.

And then in the evening, I might have some chocolate covered raisins. Or some of that dried tropical fruit mix. I keep those by my chair.

Q. So it bothers  you to feel “stuffed” or overly full?

A. Yes! I hate overeating. When we were at the Pickle (in Markle) the other night, I left food on my plate, I felt so stuffed. … I hate buffets because I don’t get my money’s worth (because she doesn’t like to overdo it.)

Q. Does that mean you never pig out?

A. What do you mean by “pig out?” I’m not an overindulger. But if it’s getting late and I haven’t eaten all day, I might eat too fast and then wind up eating more than I really want.

Q. What’s your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant?

A. Prime Rib at the Outback, with salad and steamed vegetables. Or double-crust pizza at Oley’s — we’ll drive 20 miles for that. Two slices. That’s one thing where we’ll eat the leftovers. We get a large and it’s gone in two days.

But we don’t eat out much, don’t do much fast food. I like to cook everything  myself. Not because it’s healthier, but because I’m cheap. I just think it tastes better, too. My favorite meal I make at home is probably my lasagna.

Q. You’re on death row. Final meal. The last thing you’ll ever eat. What do you ask for?

A. Fresh, home-grown sliced tomatoes. With salt and pepper. Tomatoes have always been my most favorite food.

Q. What’s your biggest weakness, food-wise? How do you control it?

A. Pop. Caffeine-free Pepsi. I probably have 4-6 glasses a day. I know it’s bad for me. I’ve been trying to drink more water. But I really have to push myself to drink water instead of pop.

Q. Was there anything about eating or mealtime that annoyed you as a child?

A. Not really, other than having to try things. I was a picky eater.

Q. You like to cook. Do you nibble while you’re cooking? What about when you’re putting food away afterward?

A. If I just got done eating, why would I nibble? I’ve never done that. … Not when I’m cooking, either. I even make him (Larry) taste the sauce.

Q. When you go to a restaurant and the waiter is pushing a decadent new dessert or some other new dish, are you tempted? In other words, are you curious about trying new foods or do you prefer to stick with familiar favorites?

A. I’m more likely to try something new as a recipe. A few years ago I was making something new from Rachel Ray once a week. … I might try something at a restaurant or a party if it looked good. But I’m also the type of person who gets stuck on favorites. Like at Outback, I order one of two meals. I just hate spending money on food and then have it turn out to not be good, or something I don’t like.

Q. How often do you think about food other than when you’re hungry or planning a meal?

A.I love food. I really do. I like good food. But I don’t really think about food unless it’s getting close to 11 and I’m starting to feel hungry. Or if I’m planning what to have for supper. I don’t have a lot of cravings — or guilt. If I want something, I have it. If I want to eat three pieces of cake …. well, I rarely, rarely do that.

Q. Do you think you’d be more prone to snacking if you didn’t smoke?

A. I don’t know. That’s a good question. But I don’t think so. I wasn’t a snacker before I started smoking. I’m not a hugely impulsive person. And I don’t seek comfort in food. When I don’t feel good, I don’t eat.

Q. Do you exercise?

A. No. I used to ride (a bike) or run, just to do it. But I don’t anymore.

I did exercise at one point, when I gained a little weight — got a little bit of a pooch — from some medication I was taking. But I don’t really like to, and I’ve never really had to.

Q. Anything you’d like to add, or wish I would’ve asked?

A. I feel extremely lucky, I really do. I realize I’m not the norm. I’m very lucky that I’ve never had to diet.

An interior shot of the home in Ossian Elaine and Larry are remodeling before putting it up for resale.

One thing I love about the house they're fixiing up, at 103 Bunn St., is that you can literally walk out the door and onto the Ossian Trail within about 10 seconds.

This entry was posted in How "Normal People" eat, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How ‘Normal People’ Eat: How Elaine’s habits help

  1. Kate McKenna says:

    what a cool interview. can’t believe she smokes! that was a surprise ending.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Kate, I should probably have included the smoking factor higher up, but I wanted to avoid lumping that together with other traits that might be considered positive.

  2. Smoking speeds your metabolism, so there’s that. But as I suspected, she eats anything she wants because she doesn’t want much.

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