News Column

How to Eat in 2013 and Beyond

Jan 2, 2013

Cindy Sutter

Food.

When it comes to New Year's resolution time, what we eat often moves to the top of the list. While there are plenty of sensible resolutions to make about what to put on our plates and in our mouths, perhaps it's better to make our pledges about how we eat.

In short, the conversation should begin like this:

Food, it's not you, it's me.

Problem is, unlike some terrible boyfriend, you can't just change your cell phone number and block food on Facebook when you realize things aren't working. So time to make this till-death-do-us-part relationship work better.

Like any good relationship, it should be sustaining, surprising, fun, comfortable and pleasurable. It should also bring contentment.

Here are some ways to get there in 2013.

Tone down the naughty-nice thing. Your diet shouldn't be a choice between "50 Shades of Grey" and "Pride and Prejudice." You're a complex person; you can embrace both, if you like. Just don't internalize the drama. You are not bad when you eat chocolate cake and good when you eat kale. You are a grown person, who might enjoy some chocolate or bacon now and then. Also, as a grown person, you realize you feel terrible if you eat nothing but sugar and fat. Plus, maybe you'd like to live to a decent age. On the other hand, you don't want that long life to be boring. Work to find the right balance for your physical and emotional health. Some experts put that balance in calories at about 20 percent chocolate cake and 80 percent kale. Find out what you can live with.

Strive to enjoy all your food. That means love the chocolate, but realize that the 10th bite really isn't as good as the first. Also, love the kale. Make it into a delicious salad or braise. Don't take it like medicine or view it as punishment.

Don't eat in your car, at your desk or while reading your iPad. Your significant other deserves something better. Food has historically been the basis of great cultural rituals. It's more than fuel. Take some time and treat eating with respect.

Appreciate it. You can call this being present, mindful or intentional in your eating. Eat good food and let yourself be aware how good it is. Even if you have no training in Buddhism, you understand the phrase "mindless eating." Try to do a lot less of that.

When possible, eat in community. While it's a lot less obvious in the Internet age than it was when the meal came together through hunting and gathering, producing food is a communal effort. It's best enjoyed in the company of others.

Realize that finding a balance is hard. When it comes to keeping the chocolate/bacon part of you in check, evolution and makers of processed food are working against you. Humans became human in an era of caloric scarcity. To survive, we had to really want stuff that packs a caloric punch. The people who make soft drinks and potato chips know this, and they've tweaked their products to light up the reward centers in your brain. You can't change your neural circuitry, but you can avoid the junk food aisle in the grocery store.

Don't expect food to do all the work. It can't fill you up if you feel empty emotionally. Nor can it alleviate stress, anger or pain. But you may have discovered it's a pretty good temporary boost. Look a little deeper to find out what you're really craving.

Depriving yourself isn't the solution. Undereating gives food an outsize role in your life, just as overeating does. In both cases, you don't respect food or yourself. You deserve much better.

Accept that you're human. You're not perfect, but you can keep trying. And, try to relax in the trying. After all, it is just food, which you've been hanging with all your life.

The most universal pairing: Laughter pairs well with any kind of food. Try it.



Source: (c)2013 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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