Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes My Food Makes Me REALLY Happy

Sometimes my food makes me really happy.  I know this might sound weird coming from a health coach.  Food is not supposed to make you "happy", it is supposed to be good for you.  "Happy" and food that is "good for you" don't go together in the minds of most people.  They are polar opposites.  Right?

Recently, I had someone tell me that the reason I was "healthier" than they were was because I had a lot more self-control than they did.  After mulling that over for a while, I realized that the reason I eat what I eat has very little, if anything, to do with enjoying suffering.  It has very little, if anything, to do with forcing myself to eat gross stuff.  It even has very little, if anything, to do with deprivation.  I eat what I eat because I choose to eat foods that make me feel good - and that's easy.  Sometimes feeling good even includes feeling really happy about what I'm eating.

A little over a month ago, I was on a mission to find some red soup mugs.  In the fall and winter, we LOVE to make soup in my kitchen.  For one thing, creating an entire meal in one pot that can be eaten in one dish is super-easy and a HUGE time-saver.  For another, there is something extremely satisfying about something so warm and soothing as a nice savory bowl of soup that I begin to feel deprived if I've gone more than a few days during the winter without it.  I wanted these soup mugs because I love the feel of a warm bowl in my hands and I just knew that having a mug would make it all the more enjoyable.

There's something to be said for employing all of your senses when eating.  The Japanese do a great job of that:  bright contrasting colors look appealing, various textures feel pleasing in your mouth, tastes that span from salty to spicy to sweet to savory taste satisfying.  We often prefer to ignore many, if not all of our senses when eating - that's why we are so good at "multi-tasking" even at the dining table (sometimes known as the car...).  Seriously look at the foods you most commonly eat.  The ones designed to be eaten "fast" look pretty gross (have you opened up and looked at a fast food hamburger or the insides of a chicken nugget lately???).

I encourage my clients to practice mindful eating to see if they can determine what it is that they find so appealing about particular nutrient-empty foods/beverages they feel they simply can't give up and see if they can replicate the special "things" about those foods or beverages that are so pleasing with healthier options:  LOVE the soda you sip on throughout your afternoon at work?  Is it the feel of the can in your hands, the coldness of the ice in the cup or the texture and weight of the glass that draws you?  Does the mid-morning coffee seem like a staple?  Is the appeal more from getting up from your desk and heading to the break room for a change of scenery or is it the comfort of the feeling of a warm mug in your chilly hands?  The sleek packaging from those boxes of frozen Lean Cuisine's made me feel as if I was really eating something classy and sophisticated back in the day, but the food itself often left me wanting something more substantial.  Sometimes we eat out just because we want to get away from the chaos of our homes.

I found my red soup mugs at a home decor store a few weeks before Christmas and I was so excited to have them we made chili that very night.  Cradling that smooth warm mug in my hands while I ate my chili looking out the windows of my condo at the glowing downtown city lights made my meal a really satisfying experience.  Weird, but true.

A few mornings later, I had my steel-cut oats in a red soup mug.  Layering the oats, some diced tart apple, plump organic raisins and some freshly ground flaxseed meal into my mug, I felt a really strong sense of what I can only describe as happiness.

How does your food make you feel?

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