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If It’s Not Delicious, Spit It Out

Mindful eating – Consider this essay as “Garbage Disposal Behavior, Part Deux.”  In that essay, I cautioned against eating those last few leftovers rather than throwing them away or putting them away.  Now I want to shift the question– rather than “Should I take this last bite?” I want you to ask yourself, “Should I take this first bite?”

If you are a fully grown adult in reasonably good health, and you are not currently training for a marathon or attempting to build muscle mass for another athletic endeavor, your nutritional needs are pretty limited, especially when it comes to protein.  Once you have covered some minimal metabolic levels of essential amino acids and electrolytes, your body is just looking for energy, and for that it wants carbohydrates and fats.  Consider that people are sometimes kept alive for years on intravenous feeding, and the typical “recipe” for that diet is a portion of amino acids, an equal or larger portion of fats, and a triple portion (or more) of sugar.  (If you’re interested in this topic, search for “parenteral nutrition,” but if you don’t have a science background, your eyes are going to glaze over pretty fast.)

Does this mean I’m advocating a diet of 100% ice cream sundaes?  Of course not.  If you even think you could eat nothing but ice cream, try it.  I’m betting you don’t make it 48 hours before you’re craving a salad like you never have before.  Your body, and even your taste buds, are smarter than you think.  But beyond our basic metabolic needs, there isn’t really inherently good food and bad food.  There’s just food.  So maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with that food.

Many health professionals would like to get us to think about eating only to fuel our bodies, but they’re going to have about as much success as trying to get people to think about having sex only to make babies.  The truth is that we eat for pleasure.  Unfortunately, a lot of us are doing both, eating what we think we should eat AND eating what we want to eat.  You just don’t have the calories to spare for both.  Eating a spinach salad does not cancel out the Snickers bar, it just adds on (and if you had the hard-cooked eggs and bacon dressing on the salad, you were better off with the Snickers bar).  Are you eating soggy cereal because you’ve bought that whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” malarkey?  If it’s so important, why aren’t you eating something you’d enjoy?

Before the first bite goes in your mouth, ask yourself why you are eating it.  If the answer is something like, “I’m supposed to,” “It’s good for me,” or “It’s lunch time,” just stop.  (The exception here is water, water, water.  Nothing in your body runs properly without enough water.  Even if you don’t want it, drink it.)  If the answer is “I want it,” take a bite.  If it isn’t as good as you thought it would be, stop.  If it’s fabulous, take another bite. […]

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