Monday, June 8, 2009

Food: It's Just Not That Into You

Warning: I am going to get up on my soapbox today. And I tried really hard to not make this sound like a holier-than-thou lecture. I just need to get this off of my chest and since my good friend E. is probably sick of me telling her over and over (and preaching to the choir), now I am going to tell you. So you'd better listen up because I am only going to repeat myself about 50 gazillion times.

Very often, people talk to me about their nutrition. In fact, that seems to be one of the only things people talk to me about these days, which is just fine and dandy with me because it is one of my favorite things to talk about. Most of these conversations begin with a sheepish confession on their part of something they like to eat that they think I won't approve of, and end with me standing on a table in an empty room shaking my fist in the air and preaching about how misguided Americans are about the purpose and role of food in our lives. I realize I am a little fanatical about food. And yes, I realize that I have gotten "worse" over the past few years.

But I truly believe 100% that most of our national obesity problem has more to do with the one-sided relationship we have created with food than with calories in versus calories out.

'cause here's the thing - food is just not that into you.

How many times have you convinced yourself that you "deserve" dessert because you worked out that day? Or that you are going to "treat yourself" to something decadent to soothe a bad day at work? How many gatherings with friends have been centered around what "bad foods" you're going to eat or how you're going to "cheat" on your diet? How many times have you eaten the last muffin because it was there, or had a slice of cake because someone made it especially for you? How often do you feel like you should indulge in something because you won't get another opportunity to eat this "special" food for a while?

I've done all of that. I've given everything to food, I've loved it, cradled it, and given in to it when it promised to make me happy or solve my problems. But it never did. Every single time, it had its way with me and hung me out to dry. I ate healthfully, but I knew I was eating for the wrong reasons. I didn't know how to live in that place between enjoying food and being in an abusive relationship with it.

And then I woke up and doesn't give a shit whether I eat it or not. Food literally could not care less whether I have a bite or leave it alone. As far as food was concerned, there was absolutely no difference between me acting like its BFF and completely ignoring it. And from that point forward (okay, it took a few wake up calls before I really got it) I was on completely different terms with food.

At first I was annoyed. After all, I had put a lot of time into our relationship. I had made special time for food, I had my "favorites," and I had always made sure that food was a priority. Then I got mad. I decided two could play at that game, and resolved to treat food the same way it had treated me: with indifference.

And for the first time, the junior-high model of conflict resolution worked for me.

I started to live by the favorite edict of a friend of mine: eat to live, don't live to eat. And I've turned into a total pain about it, too. I try to remember each day that food is fuel, and the only reason for ingesting it is to fuel my body for physical and mental operation. Things like taste are secondary to the physiological reaction that food will have in my body. Enjoying the flavor of a food that also happens to be good for me is a nice side-benefit, but I have to admit that when I see people worshiping food or getting all excited about eating something they consider decadent or "bad," I get frustrated and have to bite my tongue. That's not to say I never fall victim to it myself; I do. But it's not under the guise of having deserved it.

We don't deserve food. We use it. Food is not recreational. It is functional. I took the scenic route to figure this out, and it's taken more than just a happy wake-up call to get there. But if I can help someone take a short-cut and save themselves any more time expecting food to be anything other than science, then my journey has not been in vain!

If you're overweight, ask yourself whether you're making the same mistake I did. And if you are, come sit next to me. I'll be glad to add you to the choir.


EDP said...

I like it! And it's true. Our love affair with food is pretty one-sided, and unless you're one of the genetically gifted who can eat as much (and whatever) you want, the payoff is an elastic waist. I skipped lunch on Saturday to have a piece of "special" red velvet cake. What did I get out of it? A headache and an energy crash.

Nicole C. said...

I have learned a bit about food from these blogs and the responses of people who read them. I wouldn’t say that I’m the kind of person who eats whatever she wants and stays slim. It’s close. I do eat whatever I want. I always have. But, I adjust how much of the foods I eat depending on what’s in my near future – bathing-suit shopping, a rather small Halloween costume or worse my big brother (whose favorite pastime is grabbing whatever he can get a hold of around my waste, jiggling it and asking loudly, “What’s this, extra?,” is on his way for a visit.

I do occasionally hit the chocolate after a hard day, but I wouldn’t say I eat obsessively. I know what I need and when I’m done, I’m done. It really doesn’t take that much, a handful of cookies, a couple of bowls of ice cream. I would say I eat something with chocolate in it everyday, some days I eat it after every meal.

It’s not all junk. My staples are fruit, soy protein, beans, beans and more beans with cheese and light sour cream, please. I always thought because I could easily control my size by being conscious of the portions of whatever I was consuming, that my diet was fine. I have lots of energy. I go to the gym almost every day.

But since reading these blogs, I have found myself thinking at the end of the day, “What exactly did I feed my body today?,” “Did I take my vitamins?, “I wonder if they make that bread in whole wheat?” I know now that it’s not all about the size of my jeans or how I look in a bikini.

I don’t think I’ll ever give up chocolate or foods drenched in cheese (A girls gotta get her calcium.) or chips and salty, salty dips. But, I am much more conscious of actually eating foods before and after that have some sort of helpful nutritional content. And, I have noticed a direct correlation between having cake for dinner and my performance at the gym the next day.

So keep them coming. I’m guessing I have just a little bit more to learn.

P.S. I know it’s not about looks for you, but I still say you have the most kick-ass legs ever. If I had them, I’d wear twirly skirts every day.