Friday, May 16, 2008

Food and habit

This is my total favorite thing that I've read lately, a post on Cranky Fitness about entitlement. An absolute must-read if you're thinking about the whys of weight loss... as in why did I do this stupid thing that wasn't really good for me? Which everybody does. And which is either the first step on the road to a lot more bad choices, or it's just one of those things, and you shrug and try to make your next choice better.

It partly just makes me think about how much my eating habits have really changed... most of the time anyway... because for me, that first slip into the "wrong" food meant, ok, you screwed up today, that means that you have to start over again tomorrow... but hey, since today is already a writeoff, let's have more pizza and chocolate. It is amazing how many calories you can pack in on this line of logic. Even more if you say, I've screwed up this week... I don't need to restart until Monday. And of course, before Monday, it's time for a big Farewell to Food because after Monday I'll be perfect forever, so I'd better buy all the things I love to eat Sunday... and my eyes were bigger than my stomach even then, so they would be leftovers on Monday... and, yeah, you know this story, right?

Which in turn makes me think about how much of eating is about habit and familiarity. There's an appallingly bad UK show (which you can see on BBC America) called You Are What You Eat. The very irritating host goes into to the home of the unfortunate fat person, humiliates them for a while (including putting everything they eat for a week on a table), gives a lot of advice that will make you cringe if you eat low-carb (although she does push whole foods), and examines their poop like an ancient Greek reading chicken entrails. Then she puts them on a diet of things that look revolting, badgers them into exercise, and in 8 weeks, wow, they're perfect! Well, actually, they're not, but they do in fact look a lot healthier for leaving off the chips and eating whole foods and so on. But the thing that is actually interesting and kind of amazing is that these people invariably start out as "we never eat fruit and veg because we don't like it/can't be bothered/don't know how to cook it." And then they spend eight weeks bitching and moaning about how horrible it is to have to (1) actually prepare things in the kitchen, and (2) eat something that they're not used to. But at the end, two miraculous things happen... they learn that when you prep stuff in the kitchen all the time, you get good at it, and that you can acclimate yourself to just about any kind of diet and learn to like it. But you have to put in the legwork to do it, and changing habits takes time.

I have so many thoughts about this that I don't know how to wrap this post into something neat, and one of the things that I wanted to talk about is the ways in which people are different when it comes to dealing with food... and how useless it is to try to impose your way on someone else. But to try to keep to a theme, let's just think habits. And practice. Over the last two+ years, I've gone from cooking very little most of the time to cooking 2-3 meals per day. And, wow, am I fast. I can whip up a meal that looks like you spent hours on it in about 30 minutes tops. That's practice. But what I fight with more than anything is habit, particularly the notion that there should be three things on my plate... you know, meat, starch, veg. That's been the hardest thing for me with low carb, and the related thing to that is portion size. After all these years, my eyes are still bigger than my stomach, and I still think that I "need" more food than I really do. I am working on this. But it's a hard, hard habit to break.

On today's agenda... try to get ourself back on the exercise that we skipped for the last two days. And a delightful trip to the dentist (sigh), which will also give me a chance to run to the grocery store that's farther away a stock up on cheaper meat.

What's for dinner? Probably steak with an apricot-soy glaze, and cauliflower mash with sauteed leeks.

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