Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The joy of half a cookie

Our society is obsessed with food, but also with dieting.  Most of us wrestle with temptation and our body shape.  There are all sorts of diets, but we humans find it difficult to stick it out for very long.  There is a lot of commercial interests probing our psyches to tempt us to eat unhealthy (but profitable) foods.  There are countless books dealing with this situation and the best ones deal with the psychology.  The problem is not what you decide to eat, but how you approach this most natural activity.  You really need to integrate a life style.

Jean Kristeller suggests both inner wisdom and outer wisdom should be cultivated.  There are three types of signals that your inner wisdom can learn that you have eaten enough.  The first is taste and this leads to one of the critical strategies.  If you taste your food mindfully you will enjoy it more and also notice that the taste you enjoy starts to fade.  The second signal is fullness which might escape you if you are not paying attention, especially if you eat fast.  You can learn to feel your stomach distending.  The third signal is satiety which refers to blood sugar telling you your body has taken enough nourishment.

Outer wisdom  is compiled as you learn about food values such as calories.  Complex foods take longer to digest, releasing energy over a greater period of time.

She draws upon research for both mindless eating and mindful eating.  Awhile back I read two books back to back and I notice Kristeller has encompassed much of their points.  Read my earlier views at
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2011/09/mindless-eating-cf-mindful-eating.html  covering books by Brian Wansink and Jan Chozen-Bays.  We have been studied and corporations have figured out how to get us to eat more without thinking about it.  Jean takes a simple test I had read and expand it.  One strategy suggested in an earlier book was to put down your knife and fork between bites to slow down.  She thinks that is unnecessary and perhaps too obsessive.  Personally I found it one way I could slow down my own gulping mindlessly.  Nonetheless Jean has widened my view.

One of the strengths of her book is that it is not too rigid.  Jean freely admits that most of us will sooner or later have a small transgression and then rationalize that "I've blown it" and go back to our old habits.  She wants us to focus on becoming more mindful over time and discusses many common difficulties such as buffets, family, friends, fast food, emotions and distractions.

A personal problem I have not uncovered in the book, but have read about elsewhere is the effect of tiredness (from lack of sleep).  It is easy for me to mistake the feeling of tiredness for that of hunger and I tend to eat for a quick pick up.  Ironically it seems I eat too much late in the evening and that aggravates my sleeping which in turn assures that I will feel weak the next day.  I can appreciate how the concepts of mindfulness and meditation can help break the cycle.

"What will I regret more?  Will I regret not having this splurge/treats/special time?  Or will I regret feeling uncomfortably full for a few hours?"  Every one's answer is different, but you should ask the question more often.  You can read more at:  http://www.mb-eat.com

An earlier book I think would be helpful (as outer wisdom) is "Vb6" and you can read about it here: http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/11/vb6-vegan-before-6.html  The author, Mark Bittman also acknowledges that rigid rules usually undermine efforts to change eating habits. " Vb6" translates to Vegan before 6, but please don't let that scare you--it is very practical and motivating.

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