Monday, January 16, 2006

The What and The How

I love the Google Banner today. I very much enjoy this MLK holiday as it comes when we all need one and they play those marvelous speeches all day.

I've read two interesting articles on our eating habits recently. One called Fear Factor in the February 06 issue of Yoga Journal and a review called Eat and Run in the January 16th issue of The New Yorker.

The basic premise of both articles I think is that there is too much information and (most of it contradictory) about what we "should" be eating and why.

"We are a notably unhealthy people obsessed with the idea of eating healthily."

Research show that 19 percent of American meals consist of food is eaten in cars.

The U.S. weight loss market was worth $46.3 billion last year.

After a wonderful recap of fat, how it used to be looked on a sign of abundance and good things Steven Shapin in The New Yorker makes the remarkably clear statement about the elephant in the room about fat that "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that fat becomes ugly when the poor become fat."

The elephant is Class.

He goes on to say, "Whatever objections the early moderns had to corpulence were as much moral as they were strictly medical. People who gorged themselves gave a visible sign of poor self-control; what mattered was their flawed character, not their mortality risk. Gluttony was a vice before obesity was a disease."

…"Historical and cultural variability in such things are also facts of the matter, but we are snagged in the ropes of our own culture, and to be told that things once were, and ought to be, otherwise is of little help to fat people living in the here and now."

I love that sentence! Just love it.

He goes on to talk about the fact that many of us eat alone. Certainly this is the heart of the problem for me, and most of the folks I know who struggle with moderation in portion control and grazing.

"The meal defined the when, the what, the how and the how long and the how much. You adjusted your consumption to those who were eating with you. You didn't have exactly what you wanted, exactly when you wanted it, and exactly how much you might want.'"

This is a key for me. The three times I have been on vacation where all the meals are varied, fresh and provided buffet style, but you are required to eat with others, I have made healthy moderate choices and thoroughly enjoyed eating and didn't even think of snacking. I was active of course as they were all three; beach vacations with an abundance of sun and swimming. I lost weight.

I need to learn how to recreate that environment at home. Shapin ends with. "The individualization of eating has done much to cut us free of dietary limits. We eat alone and get fat together."

The idea that growing up, external limits were placed on our consumption and we never actually learned how to moderate our intake and be less judgmental about food makes a great deal of sense to me.

We beat ourselves up, many of us, for not knowing how to do something we've never been taught!

I am going to go this year with the approach called "Enlightened Hedonism" where one eats satisfying food in smaller portions and dispenses with calculations of guilt, sacrifice and indulgence. This is the idea behind Consumed: Why Americans Love, Hate and Fear Food by Michelle Stacey.

That should free up lots of energy I can use for other things like standing on my head and going for long walks with the camera, and encouraging myself eat more meals with others.


Blogger David Matthews said...

There are a number of excellent points here. I really enjoyed it. I eat many meals alone and tend to be okay with that, but a leisurely dinner with a companion or several, good food, good wine, good conversation, is one of life's great pleasures.

5:08 PM  

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