Sunday, April 18, 2010

Choosing Satisfying Foods

It's been a while since I revisited the 50 Tips for becoming a "normal" eater. This next section is one near and dear to me as it's something I actually figured out on my own and it has changed my life and started me on the path to having a normal relationship with food.

It's really all about eating what satisfies you and not what society thinks is satisfying or you think you "should" be eating. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about it once talking about my "worth it" scale of food choice.

Anyway, the tips are:

Don’t get hung up on what other people are eating, but ask yourself what you would like to eat.

Never eat without stopping to consider what you want first. Spend time making a satisfying choice.

These two are really important when you are faced with food that is supposed to be a treat, but maybe you don't like that much. This is assuming you are even in touch with what you truly like to eat. I think many of us get into this weird state from years of dieting where we no longer know what food truly satisfies us. We go out with friends and everyone is getting cream cheese pie for desert and we just have to have some even though, if we stopped and thought about it, we'd realize that we don't even like cream cheese pie!

I actually have a lot of foods like that -- things that lots of other people think are yummy, but I don't really. Things like bacon and donuts. Neither are my cup of tea. I don't necessarily hate them; I can take or leave them. Yet, it's like I'm programmed to salivate over them and to eat them whenever they are presented to me as a choice in spite of my general meh-ness towards them.

Remind yourself that foods fall on a nutritional continuum (high value/low value), not on a moral continuum (good/bad).

This is also one of my hobby horses. Food isn't good or bad. It has a nutritional value that makes choosing it fall on a continuum from good to bad but where it falls on that continuum varies over time and depends on context.

Don’t eat foods you don’t find satisfying because they’ll remind you of being on a diet.

I would put it slightly differently. Don't eat foods that don't satisfy you because you are on a diet lifestyle change and you think those are the foods that you are supposed to be eating.

For me that would include things like fat-free cheese (gross!) and fat free whipped cream (only 10 calories less than regular but no where near as satisfying). But low fat cream cheese is fine. I eat it because I can't tell the difference, probably because cream cheese isn't a food that I love, love, love.

The flip side to this is when there is something you are craving, but you think you shouldn't have it for some reason. So you eat something else. Sometimes that something else is a good enough substitute but sometimes it's not and you keep moving from unsatisfying to unsatisfying food sometimes ending up eating even more poorly than if you'd just eaten the original food that would have satisfied you.

Sometimes it's better to eat the food you are craving, but sometimes that food can be a slippery slope and you have good reasons to not eat it. Then it's hard to know what to do.

My feeling is, it's okay to try the substitute food and see if that works, but if it doesn't, go for the one you really want and deal with the consequences later. That's what I try to do. I just make sure I'm honest about it. I log it and I deal with any fall out.

Sometimes that fallout isn't much of anything. The fear of what will happen if I eat the food is all out of proportion to the reality. On the other hand, sometimes it's a re-affirmation of why I avoid that food -- such as a stomach ache from lactose intolerance or a few days of less than optimal eating as the food triggers me to eat more and more of whatever. That sucks, of course. But it's always temporary -- as long as I'm honest about it and don't pretend that I am not eating whatever it is that I'm eating.

Which reminds me- I have to go log the fact that I ate some Stax -- which I don't even like that much -- because I really wanted some Pop-chips, but felt like I couldn't eat them because they had "too many carbs and I was low on protein" for the day. Sigh.
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