Jane’s post has me thinking. On the one hand, we know that food (and the simple act of eating) is a very pleasurable thing. On the other hand, those of us who’ve had experience being overweight know that food (and the simple act of eating) can carry huge hidden costs. Further, we know our emotions can play a major role in affecting our decision whether to eat, what to eat, and how much.
I’m guessing that the ingredients which tend to give us the most excitement and pleasure are probably those things which were rarest in the ecosystem of early human evolution (fat, sugar, salt). So when we seek to maximize our enjoyment of food, its understandable that we turn to those special hard-to-find-in-nature snacks. Perhaps its Mother Nature’s way to give us the drive to go out and find and store things for the future.
Fortunately, I’m not a hunter-gatherer (just a marketing communications specialist) so I don’t have to wander the plains or search the forests for my food. But when I instead wander the aisles of the grocery, or the convenience store, or the restaurant buffet, my eyes and nose are bombarded by the sights and smells of those ‘rare’ ingredients. As a result, I don’t ‘blame’ myself for overeating in the past, and I don’t think of myself as a ‘bad’ person for loving chocolate, cookies, and ice cream.
What I do know is that either I was born without a functioning hunger-response mechanism or perhaps it disappeared over time. So when I ‘hunt’ and ‘gather’ pastries, and candy and sweets, I don’t have a natural physiological brake to slow me down.
The upshot for me (since I’m not a proponent of food abstinence) is that there are a variety of foods which I need to avoid hunting and gathering and storing. Perhaps if I come across them at the right time and in the right place, I might try a bit, but for me this does not mean going to the candy store or the drug store or the ice cream parlor.
I don’t have a magic answer for how to make this work, and I don’t have a set of concrete guidelines that I can share about how to decide if today is the day to have a piece of pie. I’m guessing that it involves slowing down, breathing, listening to my body’s satiety signals, and calming my mind. And if a craving ever gets hold of me that’s too strong to brush off, the answer has somehow got to involve the phrase “single serving.”
Foods rich in fat, sugar and salt are mighty, wondrous and alluring. I never want that to go away. I just want them to be a smaller part of the overall picture of my life.