I have an interesting relationship with food. Not only do I consume it, but sometimes it consumes me. When I finish my coffee in the morning, I think, “I can’t wait til my afternoon cup of coffee.” If I have dessert, I think, “Just one more bite, and then I’ll be satisfied. Just one last cookie, and then I’ll be set.” If I have a plate of good food, I sometimes finish the whole plate of food, even if my belly was full after only half a plate. I love to talk about food. It’s a safe subject that most people are interested in. I read recipes like a book. I stockpile dessert recipes because I want to eat the finished products.
My late twenties brought about my food renaissance. I learned about real food, bought locally, and memorized the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists for organic produce. I signed up for my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and nearly turned vegetarian overnight in order to not let any veggies go to waste. I helped establish a farm in my neighborhood. I ate less meat because the good stuff was too expensive to buy regularly. Reading these last few sentences, I wonder what happened to the girl in college who thought free/cheap food was the most important factor.
I also got into baking. Weekly baking, which produced lovely muffins, bread, cake, cookies. It didn’t make a difference on my I’m-still-in-my-twenties body. I exercised regularly, and figured anything extra would just burn off. Then I turned thirty. And had a baby. Even on my awesome 40-60 minutes a day workout plan, I cannot just eat whatever I want anymore, and especially not in whatever quantity I want. Ah, thirties.
It also got me to thinking that eating beyond the feeling of fullness is simply a waste. A waste in my body, a waste in dollars, and a waste in food production. I got used to food having power over me. “That is a cookie. You love cookies. Eat that cookie.” Even if I had already eaten three cookies. It’s so stupid! I am trying to take back the power by changing my thinking about food. I truly delight in eating good food, but when I give food too much power, it consumes me, and I feel guilty. By changing my thinking, I eat more balanced, and I enjoy it so much more.
This has not come about suddenly. I have been pondering these things for a couple of years. When I start to feel like I’m spinning out of control, I ask myself, “Why do I want to keep eating? What will it accomplish? What void am I trying to fill?” Usually I can identify something that is pushing me to want to snack or keep eating when not hungry. It is often stress or anxiety. Or tiredness.
In light of all of these food thoughts, I typed some one-liners into my phone to refer to when I feel the need. I’d like to share them with you. I showed Justin, too, and he was amused, because he does not have such a complicated relationship with food. Here goes:
My goal is today. Not tomorrow, not next week. Today.
It is so easy to say, “Tomorrow I will get back on track. Next week will be different.” But I was saying that for months. My “just one day” was lasting too many days.
Today, I will pay attention to what I eat. I will eat clean.
It is much easier for me to fulfill a goal if I declare it. Especially out loud. Sometimes I declare it to my toddler, and she solemnly looks at me with her brown eyes.
Savor every sip and every bite.
If I rush through a meal or snack without paying attention to the flavors and textures, I will still want more, even when full. By fully savoring every sip and bite, my mind is more in tune with my belly. And, I am less likely to settle for low quality food.
Taste buds are only part of the equation. Eat mostly food that my body wants, and only the amount that it needs.
A diet of baked goods and coffee makes me sluggish and moody. A diet of veggies, fruits, grains, protein, and tea is energizing and tasty.
Justin laughed when he read this one. He joked about the “energizing and tasty” line. But it’s true. I haven’t given up coffee, and don’t plan to, but having more than one cup a day (for me, at least) is not good. Afternoon tea is a much better option for my mood. And when I have something bread-y and sweet for breakfast, and then again for a mid-morning snack, I have noticed that my eating habits the rest of the day are poor. When I incorporate fruits and veggies in my diet early in the day, I make wiser choices.
Count to 60 before I give in to a craving.
This has mostly worked. It has at least helped me to eat less of a craving that I would have otherwise.
I have no obligation to finish my young daughter’s food. I do not need to snack if someone I’m with is snacking, unless I’m actually hungry.
This is a big one. I caught myself doing this too many times. Now Evelyn’s leftovers get saved for later or they go to the chickens. I only finish them if I am truly hungry. And when Justin gets home from work and has a snack, I do not have one. Dinner is usually an hour away, and if I have a snack I will not be as hungry for dinner, but will still eat it.
I hope this spoke to you in some way. Food is so precious, and I feel that in respecting it more, and respecting myself enough to strike a balance with it, I have more energy and joy in eating.
Top notch list of personal food rules. It reminds me a bit of Michael Pollan's little book "Food Rules" (michaelpollan.com/books/food-rules/), though more personalized and less about nutrition science or ecology. I like your list!