Healthy Thinking

Oh, groan.  Sassy's going to go all "New Year's Resolution" on us!

Not so much.  But since we all tend to turn out thoughts toward new things at the flip of the calendar page, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how I think about food, and maybe encourage just one person to change his or her thinking about food, health, and pleasure.  Yes, I said pleasure.

Many of us have twisted relationships with food and our bodies.  Ranging from mildly obsessive to downright dangerous, eating issues plague so many American women in particular.  It's part media culture, part pace of life, and part disgusting products disguising themselves as food in our lives.  We all want to be supermodels, or at least look like them, but then we are faced with boxed and canned and packaged and processed stuff at restaurants and grocery stores that whisper to us to buy, consume, feel horrid, lather, rinse, repeat.

Some years ago, I had to change my body and health.  I was 80 pounds overweight and completely obsessed with food.  Either what I was or was not going to eat!  I dieted all the time, gaining and losing, feeling bad and guilty about what the scale said and what I put into my mouth.  To me, pleasure was all about quantity and comfort.  I enjoyed cooking and trying recipes, but my favorite thing for comfort was a large bowl of orange macaroni and cheese and a coke.  Yep.

It took me plenty of time to lose the weight - I kept having babies!  2006 was the year I finally got to my goal.  Then I had another baby in 2007 and had to lose some baby weight.  For the most part, over the last 4 years, I've stayed within 5-10 pounds of my ideal weight. 

You all know I eat butter, cream, bread, cheese, meat, sugar and all the other diet no-no foods.  How can that be?  How can you either lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight (and relationship with food) and eat such luxurious things?

No one has expressed it better than a woman named Mireille Guiliano, in her lovely book "French Women Don't Get Fat."  I'd heard about this book years before I read it for the first time last year.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend that every woman in America read this book, men might as well, too!  Her follow-up book "French Women for All Seasons" is excellent, too, and I've now seen there's a cookbook.  That's fun.

Anyway, it's all about "The Secret of Eating for Pleasure."  Doesn't that sound nice?  And doesn't it contradict our silly way of thinking about food and dieting?  We torture ourselves with eating 'rabbit food' as I call it, exercising ourselves to death, and wonder why we can't maintain the weight loss, or why we feel so awful in the process!

You gotta love a woman who tells us to eat butter on our bread.  Even eating bread seems evil in our low-carb minds.  But Mireille maintains that we can eat bread if we change how we think about it!  Sounds simple - and it is!  Eating bread is not eating half a loaf.  It is taking a reasonable slice, putting a bit of butter on it, putting that bread on a plate, and sitting down to EAT IT.

Sit down!  Now there's an epiphany.  Put your food on a plate, take a knife and fork, sit down and eat it.  No computer, no tv, no book, no yelling at your kids.  Taste the food, enjoy the flavors and textures.  Eat slowly.  Use a pretty napkin.  Make sure you table is pleasant, not all cluttered with papers and laundry.  I guarantee you that this one, simple step alone might change how much you eat in the course of a meal.

You just need to get this book and read it.  The library is a good start, because you can read it and then fall in love with it and go buy it.  Might as well get all three of her books while you're at it!
My challenge to you, and to myself again, in 2011, is to eat for pleasure.  No big plates full of food.  No mindless snacking.  No empty calories of stupid convenience foods.  Buy and prepare the highest quality ingredients you can afford.  Try new recipes and learn new techniques, concentrating on flavor.  French women are really on to something with their purposeful eating and enjoyment.

Move our bodies!  If you enjoy the torture of the fitness center, go for it.  My own preference is walking.  I am blessed to live a half mile from town, and I can walk to Target, the bank, library, grocery store, and a multitude of other errands.  I love to get my kids settled for their nap or rest time, put on my backpack and my iPod and head to town.  I can do some light errands, and make a two-mile loop in the process.  The walk home is always more of a workout as my backpack is full of library books or groceries, along with a bag in each hand.  Often, the kids will come with me on bikes and scooters, and there's an extra benefit for me.  I have to walk faster AND they can all wear backpacks to spread out our return load :)

Learn all you can about healthy food and healthy eating and healthy living.  You might have some issues with your mother, a broken heart, a stressful job, or a husband that doesn't understand you.  I wish I could help you with those things, but I can't.  For me, I had to remove my list of excuses as to why I couldn't be healthy.  It all came down to me and the control I had over what and how much went into my mouth.  I had to learn about real food and real portions.

(Confession:  right now I'm in the 10-over idea range.  Oops, too many cookies.  I'm planning to re-read "French Women Don't Get Fat" over the next couple of days and renew my thinking once again!)

Here's to a healthy and tasty and SASSY 2011!