Friday, January 11, 2013

My Thoughts on Food and Me So Far

Mindful Eating Wordie
Although this is the second time I've done a detox / cleanse, I've had more time to actually think about it this time around. I remember during last year's cleanse being acutely aware of how habitual it was for me to snack while I was prepping food. A nibble of raw carrots here, a bit of apple slices there. That wasn't a problem when I was only cooking for myself, but when I thought about it as a habit, and realized that in my "normal" life, the nibble of carrots was a spoonful of peanut butter, and the bit of apple was the last bit of mac and cheese from someone else's plate, I became more aware of the unhealthiness of that habit. I vowed to work on that, and have been much better about it in the past year.   

In line with that, a part of the process involves being very intentional about what, when, and how you eat. This is very similar to the Buddhist notion of mindfulness. I have to admit that I am still not very good at this. I have a hard time "just eating," especially when I am by myself. I want to read something, or catch up on Words with Friends, or check Facebook. When I sit down to eat a meal alone, it's not just the food and me. But I'm working on it.  I think it would be easier for me to be in relationship with my food when I sit down to eat if I had not been the one to spend the hour or so preparing it. By the time I sit down to a meal that I have cooked, I am well aware of my hunger, and have been savoring the aromas for some time. I feel very connected to the food, and am aware of its textures and colors. I do pay particular attention to the "presentation" of food, and took great care with tonight's meal to use a green plate (since there was little green in the meal), and to carefully arrange the fish and the vegetables to look most appealing, even placing a thinly sliced lemon atop the salmon (which the boys promptly threw away--definitely got some work to do there about mindful eating for sure...!) But in general, by the time I sit down to eat a meal that I have prepared, I'm sick of the food itself and just want to eat because I'm "starving."

But it's more than just meals. What I've realized quite resoundingly in the past five days is that much of what I enjoy doing includes, even revolves around, eating or drinking. Spending time with a friend is usually done over a meal or coffee. A night out with Joel usually includes a meal and / or dessert and wine or beer. Spending time with the boys typically means we'll go for frozen yogurt or go to a movie, which means popcorn and soda. And even driving in the car for a few hours means a stop for coffee or a latte. Just tonight, I found myself really wanting to have a glass of wine while I spent a few hours cleaning up my studio. And oddly enough, I couldn't really get jazzed about cleaning up with a warm glass of lemon water or even a nice cup of hot tea. It's just not the same for me. Yet. 

Food and / or beverages are like the seasoning for all that I do. They enhance my both my tasks and my relationships in the same way that seasonings enhance a meal. And just like the though of eating a plain baked potato is not very enticing, the thought of going about my life without my "seasoning" seems pretty ho-hum. These past few days, I've found myself unable to get motivated to do anything since the food / drink component is no longer there. When I sit down at my desk, I want a cup of coffee by my side. When I run a few errands that I've procrastinated, I want to reward myself with a trip to Jittery Joe's or a run through Zaxby's. When I am working in my studio, I want coffee by day, and beer or wine by night. When I sit down in the afternoon to tutor, I want a hot chai tea by my side, spiced up with brown sugar and a bit of cream. And when I want to really indulge myself, I'll make some of my friend Whitney's Snickerdoodles (recipe here) and enjoy them with a cup of tea or coffee.  The thought of doing any of these things MINUS the food or drink component just does not sound as appealing, and as a result, my motivation has plummeted.  

I'm so grateful that we were never allowed to watch TV
while we ate a meal when I was growing up.
It's bound to be a hard habit to break! 
One glimmer of hope in all of this is that I don't typically eat when I watch TV, although everyone else in my house does. While they nosh on chips and salsa, cereal, or orange slices, I will catch up on Words with Friends, knit, or sleep, depending on what we're watching. But (almost ;-) all the other pleasure of life involve eating or drinking. So what is the solution? Now that I have realized this, where do I go from here? How to I disentangle the things that I do from the things that I consume by eating or drinking? How do I re-learn how to find satisfaction in date nights, family time, creative time, and productivity for its own sake, without their being tied somehow to food and drink? Or is it okay to tie them to food and drink, and just work towards healthier, more nutritious options? Somehow, though, the thought of substituting a cup of coffee for a cup of herbal tea, or a nice glass of red wine with a glass of warm lemon water just doesn't cut it. 

Thankfully, I've never had a weight problem. I can only imagine how hard this would be if I were seriously in need of losing significant weight to regain my health. It certainly gives me a greater sense of understanding for those who struggle with weight issues. And thankfully, I've never suffered from an eating disorder either. I suspect that in may ways, it is the complete reverse of my food issue, with body image and control issues thrown in as well. But both bring to mind the complex relationship that we have with eating and living, and how the two intertwine. We have to eat to live, but we also need to learn how to live without eating. As I continue on this journey of intentional, mindful consumption, this is what I'll be working on. If you have any tidbits or advice to share, I would be happy to hear them!  

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