The old saying goes, “Talking to yourself is normal—it’s when you start answering yourself that you need to worry. “ To that end, have you ever bought your own lie? For instance, have you ever eaten at a buffet until you were satisfied, but convinced yourself to go back for another round because the food was abundant and you wanted to “get your money’s worth?” It feels like a reasonable justification, but taking more food at the expense of feeling well is certainly not a “win” because it actually results in feeling unwell. Making ourselves feel uncomfortable is the opposite of enjoying food. In fact, you could consider it a self-inflicted hostile act; like guerilla warfare carried out on our home turf. We lie by assigning false value to an inanimate object (such as the Jello ring mold at the salad bar) over the inherent value of our bodies.
Lying to ourselves about food can include any rationalization that overrides our body’s prompts and disconnects us from true pleasure. Pleasure is good. It is part of our design. It helps us feel satisfied and get the message from our bodies to stop eating when we have been sufficiently fueled. Bingeing, on the other hand, is actually a disconnect from pleasure, because during a binge we stop listening to the objections of our bodies in order to eat another helping of mashed potatoes and gravy. We may tell ourselves it is just so good that we needed a second helping, but at some point we disconnected from pleasure and went into escape mode in order to keep shoveling it in. The rub is we actually denied ourselves true pleasure by loading up on more than we needed.
The following is a list of some of the false justifications I employed, at one point or another, that have made me feel bloated, over-stuffed, and out of balance. As you read, please notice if you have ever had any of these internal conversations:
Lie: “I paid a lot for that gourmet package of cookies. I already ate several of them but they were from a special store and I don’t want to waste them. So I’ll finish them off.”
Truth: Food has NO VALUE unless we need it. Period. It doesn’t matter how much we paid for it. If we don’t need it, it has no value. Remember, treats are a valid need when eaten for true pleasure in the correct portion.
Lie: “I only get this during the Holidays. A giant frosted cinnamon roll does not really sound good for breakfast, but I want one because I might not get them again for another year.”
Truth: Fear is a terrible reason for making a decision about what to eat. Life is a never-ending conveyor belt of wonderful food. How often do goodies show up in your week? Opportunities for pleasure are EVERYWHERE! Let go of a white-knuckled grip on food. Assign it value only when you need it instead of falsely assigning it value because of a special event. Food has no feelings. But you do. If you wrap up the cinnamon roll and save it for another day, the pastry will not be offended. You can have all the delights in the world—just not all today. Stay in balance by having food when you need it.
Lie: “I have to eat it or her feelings will be hurt. My daughter baked this huge lasagna for dinner. I really want a pile of salad, but if I only have a small taste of the lasagna it will discourage her from cooking. She won’t feel I appreciated her effort. She will feel slighted.”
Truth: There are on very rare occasions, real food obligations, but in most cases the people that share food with us only want us to be well—not out of balance. Besides, we are not under the microscope as much as we might think. Most people won’t notice what we eat or how much.
Lie: “If my kids won’t eat their meals then I will because I worked really hard to make this dinner.”
Truth: Eating your portion and then cleaning off other people’s plates makes you out of balance. It does not validate your efforts, skill, or sacrifice as a cook. Don’t be a martyr at your own expense.
Lie: “I’m full surprisingly early in the meal, but this is a special dinner and I want to keep [celebrating] with everybody else. If I stop eating I will be the only one not enjoying the food.”
Truth: Being present to enjoy true pleasure also means we are present in the moment. Conversation is part of being present in a social setting. Be aware when you eat as a means to escape from having to interact. Eating gives us something to do so we don’t need to engage. But in order to notice when we are satisfied we need to be present.
Lie: “Tonight I will eat my piece of pie because if I wait until I am ready (tomorrow) it will be gone.”
Truth: Eating food when you don’t need it can never give you pleasure—so you never need to sacrifice. Let it go. There will always be more treats along the buffet-trail of life.
Lie: “A small salad will probably be enough but I am going to order the half-chicken dinner because I won’t get to eat again for another six hours.”
Truth: Don’t be afraid of hunger. Preemptive eating generally just gets us out of balance. Design your life so you have whole foods on hand in case you get hungry. Nobody gets a gold star on their forehead for being hungry. Hunger is a healthy message telling you to re-fuel. Keep your purse or backpack stocked with a small package of almonds, an apple, hard-boiled egg, bag of granola, peanut-butter sandwich, whole-grain pretzels, or squares of high-quality chocolate to keep the gnawing hungries at bay. Always honor the needs of your body at the time you eat. If a salad is enough, have a salad.
Cranberry Applesauce with Honey
Makes about 4 ½ cups
This applesauce tastes moderately sweet; use it as a jam or fruit compote. Apart from the sweetened dried cranberries, this applesauce contains only natural sugars and honey. Omit the dried cranberries if you prefer no added sugar. Feel free to use instead dried apricots, dates, currents, cherries, or any other fruit.
3 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored, cut into ¾- inch pieces
1 ½ cups cran-apple juice
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup dried cranberries (I use orange-scented dried cranberries)
½ heaping cup honey
Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; simmer covered until apples are very tender and beginning to fall apart, about 25 minutes. Uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking to thicken applesauce. Allow some water to remain—it should not be dry. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.) If you like chunkier applesauce reduce cooking time by half.
Serve with Pan-Seared Roasted Chicken (from Daily Fuel a new cook book by Tres Hatch) or spread on toast with cream cheese or butter.