I ran out in the driveway the other night waving a bag of cold spareribs and shouting to one of my grown kids, "Put this in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes and eat a green salad with it."

He threw it in his glove compartment and sped away.Heaven forgive me, I have turned into my own mother. She fed me at birth and never stopped. She lived in fear that I would have 15 minutes of spare time and nothing to eat. I'm the same way. I fed my children when they got up in the morning, when they came home, when they watched television, and when they were bored and had nothing to do. I force-fed them when they were sick, fed them to keep them quiet in the car and fed them when I was hungry. I'm still feeding them. I can't let them leave the house when they visit without putting a leftover in their hands.

Why do we do this? Because the entire country is consumed with eating, that's why. I read a comment once on a group of Japanese who were visiting our country and they observed Americans were friendly, but fat. They said we had food on every street corner.

It's true. Not only is food on every street corner, but eating is all we do all day long. We eat in the car on the way to work. At the office the first thing we do is get another cup of coffee and a doughnut. We eat at sports events and at the movies. The first thing we do when we board an airplane is put our tray tables in position. When you're served a meal in a hospital, a menu is on the tray so you can choose your next meal.

Feed a cold! Starve a fever! I never starved anything. Eating constantly is one of those lifelong habits that is hard to break. I blame it all on my grandmother who never let people leave her house without sending home a leftover with them. When she baked bread, you'd have thought she was feeding the 32nd Airborne Division. All of the children and the grandchildren went home with a loaf of her homemade bread.

My mother carried on the tradition. I went home with old bones for soup, leftover chicken for chicken salad, half a pie, cookies for lunches, and mystery packages that "your father wouldn't eat." Our car wasn't out of the driveway before she was preparing leftovers to send home for the next visit.

As I told my husband, "All this eating has to stop. Food is a false god. You are looking at a woman born again. I'm going on a diet and stop thinking about food."

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Planning my diet menus for the next week."