What you eat matters. Especially when you’re bingeing. Bingeing means a lot of food is going into you mouth really fast. If you can’t stop it, you are better off bingeing on carrots than on tortilla chips.
Besides, who finishes a bagful of carrots?
Even baby carrots.
A big bag of tortilla chips? (Or Original Ruffles with ridges?)
“I take another handful… Two more… Three more – make it an even five… A couple more can’t hurt… One more…. Okay, two… I wonder how many will fill up my hand?... Two more… Okay, three, and one of them’s broken… Look at that. Bag’s almost empty. Might as well finish them up.”
And then your pants don’t fit.
I know I am “small potatoes” compared to people with serious eating challenges, but I have a “minor league” sense of what’s involved. It’s a tough battle, because, unlike alcohol, you cannot go “cold turkey” on food consumption. That’s “Ghandi Territory”, minus “I want to free India.”
This isn’t even really about eating. It’s about “mindful noticing”, which could apply to anything. A cranial-sacral specialist once alerted me to the negative consequences of crossing my legs. (I have forgotten what they are.) I am now paying “mindful attention” to crossing my legs. (I just uncrossed them, just now.)
It’s not easy, unlearning a lifelong habit. There is no support group, “I’m Earl. (“Hi, Earl.”) I’m a chronic leg crosser.” You have to face it alone.
It’s like a “Duh!” that what you eat matters. But it doesn’t really seem to sink in. People are scrupulously careful about what they feed to their goldfish. While we’re, like, “I’ll eat anything!” (Especially on those Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives-type shows. Why aren’t those hosts all dead? And why is Anthony Bourdain so skinny?)
Healthy eating suggestions are readily available. (Although good luck finding two nutritionists who totally agree.) My humble advisory here is to just pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. If you would not feed it to your gerbil, don’t eat it.
Moving on to…
I try eating my meals at regular hours. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. Friends call.
“Dinner at eight? Sure.”
When I normally eat dinner at six.
A “tide-me-over” snack? Makes sense. I’ll snack at six.
My conditioned eating apparatus thinks it’s dinner. Why shouldn’t it? – It’s six. The unfortunate result? My “Snacking at six” morphs into “Dinner at Six”, and my “Dinner at Eight” becomes “I just ate two dinners!”
I try not to snack at all. I don’t want to start anything. Snacking’s like you opened the door to get the paper and the dog thinks you’re taking them out.
“I’m just getting the paper.”
“Don’t blame me. You triggered the ‘Opened the door’ response.”
I eat three meals a day. That’s it. Snacks? It’s not even a word. Probably invented by people who sell snacks.
At Rancho La Puerta, they serve everything on small plates. The salad arrives in a “finger bowl.” What they’re doing is playing a trick on the mind, regulating “portion control.” Your plate’s amply laden – it’s enough. (And as Mattie Ross says in True Grit: “Enough is a banquet.”)
The diametrical opposite are the servings at restaurants? Who decided on those portions? “What would Andre The Giant eat?” Our childhood instruction was “Finish your food.” You do that at restaurants, don’t be surprised if you are unable to get up. It’s like, “If we give them more, we can charge them more.” It’s too late to go back now. Diners would go, “What happened? I can see the plate.”
And finally – and, to me, most significantly…
“Eating” is for a reason. Without getting too “doctor-y” about it, it keeps you alive. But I have noticed I eat sometimes when, if I asked myself, “Are you really hungry?”, I wouldn’t.
This is another kind of eating entirely. If we had kept it, we would not find it included in the Official Eater’s Manual.
It goes like this.
Somebody hurt my feelings.
I pig out on crackers.
The game’s tensely exciting.
I eat an entire wedge of cheese. (Much of it sitting on crackers.)
"Double-up" on the pie, just to "get it out of the house.”
This is not eating. It is inhalation of food. For which there are detectable signals:
I eat one bite, while thinking about the next bite.
I eat the main course, while thinking about dessert.
I finish my meal – often in less than ten minutes – and, for the life of me, I
cannot remember what I just had.
I know it looks like eating, but I truly believe it’s something else. The Yiddish word for this behavior is fressing. Which kind of sounds like what it is.
(A psycho-maxim to consider in this regard: “It’s not what you eat. It’s what eats you.”)
Sometimes, it’s the contextual environment.
I’ve been invited to a “home-cooked” meal. It’s not delicious, but how do I not eat it? (And even more of it than if it was good.)
I’m at a reception, gorging on flavorless “Tortellini-on-a-Toothpick”?
I have just had wine. And no one’s talking to me at the reception.
I’m in a bakery buying bread, which is already “Look out.” I spot a muesli cookie. Which I, by the accepted standards of “Hungriness” – the preeminent one being I just ate – I do not need.
But I have never had a muesli cookie before. And they’ve come “straight from the oven.” And they are by the bread and the guy’s standing there, brandishing his “pick-up” tongs.
So I buy it.
And I consume it in twelve seconds.
I have no idea what that’s about, but my guess is it has nothing to do with a muesli cookie.
These are some of the things I’ve noticed, trying to get a “mindful” handle on my everyday eating. As I said yesterday, “noticing” does not necessarily mean following up.
Still, being a natural noticer,
I just figured I’d give it a try.