Lowcarbezine! 15 March 2000
Thought For The Week
I have a confession to make: I'm weird about food.
Okay, I'm less weird about food than I used to be. It's been a long
time since I stole money to support my sugar habit, or hid Scooter Pies
under my bed. (And yes, I did both those things as a sugar-addicted
youth, and more.) But I am still very aware of three kinds of
weirdnesses I have about food.
First, I gobble my food. I mean, I really put it down fast.
Practically inhale it. Even if I'm not wildly hungry, I eat like a
starving child when the UNICEF relief truck finally shows up.
Now, I've read for a very long time that one of the best ways of losing
weight is to eat more slowly. I never really gave it much thought until
I spent a week in San Diego recently with my sister and brother-in-law.
You see, my brother-in-law eats more slowly than anyone I've ever
known. I could easily fit down seconds and thirds by the time he's
dawdling to the end of his first helping. And guess what? The guy's so
thin he looks like he could blow away on the next good breeze. Actually
worries about how to keep his weight up. (Yes, this can be a real
problem. Not just cosmetically, either -- if you're substantially
underweight, you're in a much worse position to survive any major
illness. If Jay contracted, say, pneumonia, he could be in some real,
So I started thinking about this habit of wolfing my food. And I read
what some other folks had to say on the subject. The most common thread
was that people found that when they deliberately ate more slowly, they
found themselves feeling full and satisfied on less food -- the problem
with gobbling, you see, is that your mouth is done eating the food
before your stomach has had time to figure out that it's had enough, and
before your blood sugar starts to rise and your brain releases CCK, the
satiety chemical. And I'm willing to admit that it's not uncommon for
me to have seconds, only to realize fifteen minutes later that I'm
feeling a bit overstuffed.
Another food weirdness is this: When I serve up the food for a meal --
and there's only two of us in my house -- I always "know" which
portion is bigger. And I want that portion! Even if they're so close
in size so that my "knowing" which portion is bigger is largely an
illusion. Even if I'm not really terribly hungry. It's automatic!
There is a bigger portion, and I want it to be mine!
This psychological quirk of mine strikes me as odd. I call it a
"scarcity mentality" -- the feeling that there's not going to be enough,
and I have to make sure I get mine! You'd think I grew up deprived,
instead of in an upper middle class American family that never knew a
hungry day. My husband, who was an only child, doesn't have this mind
set, and suspects that it comes from having siblings -- you know, the
old, "His piece is bigger!" fight that all siblings have. Plausible, if
you ask me.
The corollary to this "Gimme the biggest one!" mindset is my need to
have a lot of food in the house. Tons. I could feed an entire
village on the contents of my freezer. I'm uncomfortable simply having
some food in the house. I want to have choices. I want to know
that I can go into the kitchen and come up with at least a half-a-dozen
good things to eat if I try; that I have the ingredients to make all
manner of dishes. It's partly because I like to cook, but it's more
than that, because I actually start to feel nervous if I only have,
say, one kind of meat in my freezer, even if I have plenty of that
Clearly, I have some issues surrounding food! I don't really know where
these issues came from. I suppose I could spend months or years in
therapy trying to uncover their roots, but I don't have the time or the
money, and anyway, I'm not sure what that would change. On the other
hand, I do think that these food attitudes -- particularly the wolfing
of my food -- have at least some affect on how much I eat, and therefore
on my weight. I have no interest in actually going hungry, but this
doesn't have to do with really going hungry. It has to do with a
distorted perception that makes me fear going hungry even though I've
never even come close, except when I did low fat and calorie controlled
diets -- and even then I only felt hungry, I was never at any actual
risk of starvation.
So here's what I plan to do: I'm going to make changing my most basic,
ingrained food behaviors my project for Lent. For those of you in a
church that does not observe Lent, it is the season of preparation for
Easter, and of commemoration of Jesus' 40 days fasting in the desert.
For centuries Lent was marked by some form of fasting. Now it's
traditional to give something up for Lent as a spiritual discipline. I
know quite a few people who give up sweets for Lent, or chocolate (which
is what I used to give up as a kid.) But I don't eat sugar anyway, and
I can't really give up any particular category of food within the low
carb realm if I'm going to continue to develop recipes for you, and for
my cookbook. (Last year I gave up internet newsgroups for Lent. It was
astonishing how much I got done! :-))
Here's the plan: For the next few weeks, until Easter, I am going to
always give my husband the portion I perceive as being larger. Note
that this will be only when we have something we're dividing in half --
it's not like I'm going to give him a 12 ounce portion of steak while I
have a 4 ounce portion, or anything like that. I suspect that quite a
lot of the time when I perceive one portion to be larger, it's by a
matter of a few grams -- or I may even be wrong. It's about my weird,
greedy mindset, not reality.
Also, for the next few weeks, I'll be deliberately putting my fork down
between bites. Further, I will be trying to remember to wait until I
have actually swallowed what is in my mouth before putting another
bite of food in there! So often I'm forking in another mouthful before
I'm even done with the mouthful I'm eating.
In other words, instead of giving up something for Lent, I'm going to
endeavor to become conscious of my most deeply ingrained food habits,
and gently alter them, as a spiritual discipline. I don't know what
will happen, although I suspect that eating slowly may lead me to drop a
few more pounds. I'm quite certain it will teach me something about
myself and my relationship to food.
I'll report in at the end of Lent, and let you know how it goes.
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