Monday, December 29, 2008

Barney Stinson and Food Choices

I'm a big fan of the TV show "How I met your Mother" and I think Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson is one of the best characterizations on tv. What does this have to do with weight loss surgery? Well, aside from the fact that (I assume) Barney doesn't "do" fat chicks, a lot.

But first, some background. The other day I was reading a post online somewhere where a person said something to the effect of "I used to be one of those people who lied to themselves -- I'd have a Diet Coke and a Cheeseburger."

Perhaps this isn't how she meant it, but the implication I got is that if you have a cheeseburger, you should have a regular Coke and anything else is just "fooling yourself" about your food choices.

I've seen this attitude a lot and, quite frankly, it gets on my nerves. It's based on the premise that food is either Good or Bad and so are people.

So Diet Coke is Good and if you drink one, you are Good. But Cheeseburgers are Bad and if you eat one, you are Bad. So if you are going to be Bad, you need to be 100% Bad or you are just lying to yourself.

See how ridiculous that is?

The reality is that food is just fuel. Some choices are better than others and some days we make better choices than others. It has nothing to do with Good or Bad and it's definitely not all or nothing.

Which gets me back to Barney.

Next week on HIMYM is a repeat of the Crazy Girl episode where Barney unveils his Crazy Girl scale of deciding if a woman is "worth it" to date. Seeing the Crazy Girl scale was an 'aha' moment for me, because it articulates an approach to food that I have been working into my life for some time. Only now it has a name and cool graphics - whee!

The Crazy Girl scale works something like this: Plot how crazy the woman you are dating is against the X axis. Then move up the Y axis based on how good-looking she is. The crazier she is, the better looking she has to be in order for dating her to be "worth it."

I imagine Barney's scale looks something like this:

With possibly a little shoutout to The Bro Code worked in there somehow.

So now let's apply this to food. Okay, food isn't exactly the same as a dating partner. It won't slash your tires when you dump it, for example. But it does have a calories/nutritional value and it does have an enjoyment factor (usually measured by taste) and you can plot one against the other.

So how do you decide if a particular food is worth eating?

Plot the calories against the X axis and taste against the Y axis. The higher in calories a food is, the better it has to taste to be worth it. Take a lesson from Barney and never date eat women food, that isn't "worth it".

My own personal Tasty Food scale looks something like this:

Since I've adopted this approach to food, I enjoy it more. I'm not beating myself up about eating "bad" food because there is no such thing. I also don't eat junk that I don't really enjoy that much just because the rest of the world thinks of it as a big "treat." When I do have a "treat", it's something I really enjoy and when I stop enjoying it (usually after a bite or two), I stop eating it because it's fallen below the line.

But the best thing about this approach is that food has less power over me because I'm not casting it in the role of moral arbitrator. It's no longer a measure of my own worth, but just something I put in my body to fuel it in an enjoyable way.

Or at least that's goal.
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