How do you decide what to eat?
Can you conjure up the memory of a favorite childhood food? How do you feel when you catch a whiff of one of your family’s traditional holiday dishes? Do you smile when you think about the best meal you’ve ever had?
Most of us would agree that food leaves a powerful imprint. A woman in one of my workshops once said, “Food is the background music to my life.” But what about your experiences with dieting? Are you aware of how they’ve affected your thoughts about eating?
Although I haven’t dieted for over 12 years, I recently had an experience that made me realize how deep the grooves really are. I had an early board meeting and arrived to find a continental breakfast. As I ate the top of a banana nut muffin I felt disappointed. I prefer my own homemade Banana Nut Muffins (pictured here) unless the top is fabulous (brown sugar, nuts, etc.). I could tell by looking at it that this one wasn’t going to be. As you know, I believe in eating what I love-and I wasn’t loving this. So why did I choose it?
I looked back over the options and saw bananas. That would have been a safer choice. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t take one because past dieting taught me that a whole banana counted as two fruits. I had stopped eating bananas because I never wanted to eat half of something.
As I’ve worked with yo-yo dieters over the last decade, I’ve heard many stories about how guilt, fear, and misinformation have led to feelings of deprivation, bingeing, and even irrational choices. While some of the stories were about decadent desserts, chips, and fast food, others were about grapes (“you can only have 12 so why bother”), carrots (“they are high glycemic”), nuts and avocados (“fat is bad”).
Pay close attention to old food rules that may be affecting your decisions, actions, and enjoyment now. Mindful eating not only helps you more fully experience your food, it teaches you to approach eating (and living) with awareness and curiosity.
For help with increasing your awareness, read or reread Fearless Eating (chapter 5) from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.