Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Choosing food that I like over food that I love

On Friday, I decided to eat food that I like over food that I love. 

The first Friday of every month I attend a team meeting. The meeting is part update and part team-building session. In this meeting, we celebrate team members' birthdays for the upcoming month. Of course, birthdays are celebrated with cake; or like this month, Prairie Girl cupcakes.

I've been struggling with the baked good aspect of this meeting. To have or not to have. I don't really want to have, but I continue to accept the slice of cake/cookie or cupcake. So far the only sure fire way of avoiding these fun, empty calories is by taking a vacation day. But, that isn't practical solution and I'm running out of vacation days.

Last week I discussed this monthly dilemma with my therapist. Again, we talked about the idea of eating foods that I like rather than foods that I love. She acknowledged that many patients have a hard time with the idea of choosing food that they like over food that they love. After all, if you decide to eat something, you want it to be worth it!

For example, I love the taste of baked goods; cake and cupcakes but I like the taste of my typical afternoon snack - fruit-pureed yogurt topped with bran buds. From our discussion of love vs. like came the solution to the birthday cake dilemma: take my afternoon snack to the meeting.

So simple, but it worked. I brought my yogurt to the meeting and ate it mindfully as my colleagues ate their cupcakes. I didn't feel like I was missing out by choosing the yogurt I like to eat over my love of baked goods.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Social Eating Challenge: Family Dinner

Christmas is coming and so are a slew of social outings accompanied by a mountain of food. Appetizers in particular are my downfall, but I certainly don't discount the lure of Christmas baking, mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing.

Last Sunday we went to my parent's house for a family dinner, the first social eating challenge of the holiday season. The four bears bounced around in the basement while the adults chatted in the kitchen with the appetizers: roasted kale, goat cheese with a splash of olive oil and shrimp.

My Mom loves serving appetizers and experimenting with new recipes. I love appetizers, but I find it is so easy to overeat on these bite-sized calorie-bombs that kills my appetite before dinner actually starts.

Going in, I knew I needed a plan. A plan specific to the occasion. I knew if I could get through appetizers I would be OK. So, I decided to bring my own appetizer, a simple salad.

The salad worked well; Mom wasn't offended that I brought a salad for an appetizer and I wasn't interested in the goat cheese and crackers. As a result, I enjoyed the dinner because I wasn't already full.

This Saturday we are going to an open house at a friend's house out in the country. The strategy for this occasion is to:

  • eat dinner before the evening open house
  • if I want to eat, focus on eating fruit and vegetables from the food table
  • choose to eat up to two "hot" appetizers, eat mindfully, savor the taste
  • choose to eat up to two baked goods, eat mindfully, savor the taste
  • stay out of arms' reach from the food table
  • visualize the evening; practice the above strategies

Despite my best efforts, the evening may not go as planned. If I eat more, well, I've eaten more. There is a lot of food around this time of year, so if I maintain a little longer, well, that is just how the cookie crumbles this time of year.

Please share with me your social eating strategies. What are your goals for December? Lose weight, maintain  or to be a mindful eater?

Coming Soon: a post about processed food. What are your thoughts on processed food? Tell me what you think on facebook.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's OK that food doesn't always taste good

Sometimes food just doesn't taste good: dry roast beef; previously frozen salmon, under cooked potatoes, overcooked asparagus, stale bread. A cooked meal doesn't turn out or a new choice at a restaurant doesn't taste as good as imagined.

What do you do when food doesn't taste good?

I can tell you what I do when food didn't taste good. I eat more food; food guaranteed to taste good. Food such as grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, french fries, ice cream, cookies etc. Basically, in order to be satisfied, my taste buds must also be satisfied.

This wasn't odd. I thought it was perfectly reasonable to think that food must taste good. Food is always described in reference to its taste. Food manufacturers wouldn't sell their "product" if their marketing campaign said that "buy this lasagna, it tastes...OK."

Before eating, there is a sense that a certain meal isn't going to cut it. A tell-tale sign of an upcoming disappointing meal is that it is made up of food that I don't like such as scalloped potatoes or pork chops.

On those occasions  I consume the meh meal trying to ignore the feeling that the food is doing absolutely nothing for me. Anxiety begins to rise from the lack of taste and triggers hunger. After dinner, I wait for the hunger to subside, but it doesn't as I continue to obsess over the lack of taste satisfaction.

Like my cat in the morning, impatiently waiting for breakfast, I pace, swiftly moving between the fridge and pantry hunting for my quarry. The one food that will satisfy the need; once found, I devour the food. Satisfaction, finally. The discomfort from the anxiety eases.

Of course, my therapist discovered this when I explained why I was unable to stick to the pre-planned menu. Then she told me something that I had not previously considered. She said:

Food isn't always going to taste good.

That is OK.
Huh? Food isn't always going to taste great and that's OK? Unlike the sentiment of virtually every food commercial, great tasting food isn't owed to me?

Wow. I had never thought of food that way before. I used food to pander to my taste buds.

That is when I realized that the purpose of food is meant to provide nutrition, rather than to satisfy the needs of my taste buds. So when food doesn't taste good, that isn't a reason to eat more food. This must be what Geneen Roth refers to eating what your mind wants rather than what your body wants.

For years, even decades, my food choices were based on satisfying this insatiable need for taste. Of course, I craved foods that are the easiest to covet: sugar, salt, and grease. Dieting or not, I battled the need for taste against the need to stay thin on a daily basis. With time, the need for taste increased and my ability to lose weight decreased.

With awareness and practice, I'm no longer obsessed with the taste of food. The unexpected result of letting go of the need for taste (or at least the lowest common denominator of taste that I craved) is that I changed the food that I want to eat to foods that also happen to be good for my body.

Coming Soon: Let me know on facebook what you think of processed food, I'm working on a new post and I'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you consider to be processed food? Can processed food healthy? To eat or not eat, let me know which side of the processed food fence you are on!