Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Eating Habits

Lucky me, I managed to find a highspeed connection here in Nagoya, my hometown and first destination. I'd quickly put together tomorrow's Sugar High Friday post before I left, but I may be able to find time tomorrow AM to proof-read it... But then again, I might not... I definitely won't get around to it tonight, since I am SOOOO very tired... All I've got energy to do is to paste this post I wrote during my 10 hr flight today... Good night, everyone!

My relationship with food has changed quite drastically over the past year. I never really thought I'd have an unhealthy relationship with food, but it appears that I needed a reassessment of the situation before heading into true middle-age. As I became closer to 30 than to 20, my waistline didn't have the same elasticity I once expected and my skirts from college felt too tight for comfort. In response, I've been experimenting with my eating habits and taking notes on how I felt about food and eating for the last four months. This blog is actually a part of the story, since I first began writing about food by jotting down what I was eating as part of a food diary of some sort. Unlike traditional diet-inspired food diaries, mine focused more on how things tasted over what I ate. I found that paying careful attention to the food slowed my pace down, helped me enjoy each bite more, and generally added more pleasure to my dining experience.

Along the way, I've learned a few things about pleasurable dining without the constant fear of weight-gain buzzing in my ear. At least I think I've acquired some tools to help me deal with the fear and terror of a creeping scale. I've lost 8 lbs in four months at a steady 2 lbs per month rate, so I hope I am doing something right. This isn't really diet tips, but more like Alice's in-flight ramblings on eating habits on my way to Japan, but here are the things I've learned for what it's worth:

1. Meals are meant to be enjoyed.
The 200-300 calorie meals 4-6 times a day business that is often suggested in diet manuals and exercise magazines does not work for me. I tried the small meal thing for a day and decided it wasn't for me. I'm the kind of girl who brings three to four 'courses' to work for lunch and eat for almost an hour - I suppose I could've spread my courses throughout the day, eating each one of my 'courses' on the hour or so, but what fun is that? I like my traditional meals that go on the lunch duration. I feel deprived and frustrated with the small meal option. Even though I may never be hungry, it really makes me feel like I am on a diet. This then leads me to 'rebel' against myself subconsciously, resulting in my unusual craving and consumption of ice cream. Besides, I immensely enjoy sitting at the dinner table at the end of the day, sharing stories with friends. What would I do on Friday nights if I couldn't have Anne over for dinner after our gym date?

I also don't think that the small meal thing is not a lifestyle that can be maintained. I mean, really, if I have a work-related meal, am I supposed to tell them, "feel free to eat while I sit here and watch you"?

2. Equations to live by #1: Pleasure + Calories = Net Worth.
This is the formula I live by. Is that mediocre factory-made cookie in the vending machine able to provide me enough pleasure to counter balance the calories for a positive net worth? Probably not. Will Luka's fries with that yummy smoky paprika catsup provide me with enough pleasure for a positive net worth? Sometimes, especially on days when old bosses send mean emails over the weekend. But on other days, it might not. I constantly reassess the situation, asking myself whether the pleasure I would get out of the food is worth the calories it packs. This also applies to desserts - some days, the pleasure makes it worth the calories, other days it's not. I never eat out of habit. A life of deprivation is not for me, but I must keep my debaucherizing in check too. A life of extremes will only cause trouble...

3. Equations to live by #2: Aging = fat or less food, Aging + Exercise = good food
The only way to eat the same amount of the same things as we age is to exercise. It's a fact of life - our metabolisms slow down as we get older. It is unavoidable. So, if I want to eat the same amount of the same foods, I better increase the burn! I also stop before I order/eat and do a quick assessment - is this dish worth my workout? Am I willing to trade the hard work I put in to stay in shape (exercise credits) for the pleasure this food can give me? You see, the difference between what I ask myself and what conventional diet manuals tell you is that mine is not a compensatory mentality. I don't force myself to exercise more just because I've had a plate of fries, but I question whether the plate of fries I am eating was good enough to be a reward for my commitment to exercise. My commitment to exercise is serious, and only very good food is worthy of being a reward. I won't eat high calorie junk because it's not worthy enough to be my reward. If I felt like I had to increase my exercise quota every time I ate dessert, I'd feel really stressed out. I exercise enough, and I will eat to reward myself instead of driving myself into a guilt-ridden gym workout, since that takes the pleasure out of my exercise experience too. I enjoy my exercise routine with my many workout buddies, and I don't want that to be polluted by guilt in any way.

4. It's OK to not finish what's on my plate.
I'm actually still struggling with this one. I wish American restaurant portions weren't so damn big. The pleasure points of most foods decrease exponentially, and it is really only the first few bites that a really high calorie treat is worth its calories. And it's OK to say "No, I've had enough" once the net worth goes down to a point where it's no longer worth the exercise credits. With that said, I grew up with a solid foundation to not waste food, and I struggle constantly with myself on this one. No matter how many times I tell myself it's OK, I get hit with a strong case of guilt if I don't finish what's on my plate, so much so that I often force my dining mates to finish it for me.

Well, there we have it - the four principles of weight-control that work for me. It's all about pleasure, really. After all, if I had to live a life of deprivation, what would I call this blog?

No comments: