Monday, April 5, 2010

Don't Eat Too Much.

So the whole message of Food Rules in a nutshells is this: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. In the first two posts about the book, I mentioned that finding real food and eating leaves were incredibly difficult. I suppose they were, but the third section was by far the hardest for me. It turns out I eat a lot, and my body didn't like it when I tried to stop. Most of these rules basically say the same thing, so I'm grouping a lot of them together.

Rule #44- Pay more, eat less.

The American food system has for many years devoted its energies to increasing quantity and reducing price rather than to improving quality. There's no escaping the fact that better food- measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often corresond)- costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care...

As the cost of food in America has declined, in terms of both price and the effort required to put it on the table, we have been eating much more (and spending more on health care). If you spend more for better food, you'll probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care. And if that higher-quality food tastes better, you will need less of it to feel satisfied. Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories. Or as grandmothers used to say, "Better to pay the grocer than the doctor."

Rule #45- ...Eat less.

"Calorie restriction" has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention.

So essentially, I was being told what I had already suspected. Paying an extra $2.50 for eggs is worth the money. And I know that doesn't seem like much, but switching to organic options in grocery stores or (even better) shopping at farmer's markets really does add up. I found it interesting that Americans pay less than any other nation for the cost of food, less than 10 percent of their income. I know my budget is certainly stretched tight, but if I can make time and find money for everything else I do, I can do it for food, especially since food is so important.

I've never really dieted before. I have closely watched my calories for a few months here and there, but I can't say it really stopped much. I knew having a cookie every day was bad for me, and I didn't need to see it written down to make it any more obvious. Regardless, I knew I needed to work on restricting something simply because I didn't like my stomach swelling when I stuffed it with whatever delicious food dish I decided I just had to have at that moment.

Rule #46- Stop eating before you're full.

Rule #47- Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.

Rule #49- Eat slowly.

Of course these are all common sense rules. Of course I shouldn't eat when I'm not hungry. But I did. It was a problem.

Most cultures don't eat until they're full. I've always heard that you shouldn't eat a ton, something about giving your stomach time to catch up with your eyes. But I didn't listen. Reading this section really confused me. The Japanese stop eating when they're 80% full; Indians eat until they are 75% full. For the Chinese it's 70%, and Mohammad said it was best to have 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid, and 1/3 air. I prefer the French mindset the best: Instead of stopping when they are full, they stop when they are no longer hungry. I began asking myself when I was over halfway through any meal, "Do I have any hunger?" Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't, and sometimes I couldn't tell.

That was the most confusing part: figuring out when to stop. And if I was 70% or 80% full, I wasn't sure how long that would last. Would I get hungry again in another hour or two? Sometimes the answer was yes.

But actually, my biggest problem was getting my mind to get over the urge to eat. At lunch and at dinner, I would stop eating long before I normally would. I wasn't hungry anymore. But I still wanted to eat. I wanted something to chew on, something to taste. It was really hard not to give in and eat the rest of my meal. Sometimes I did, and I tried not to beat myself up over it.

When I was sitting at work, 2:30pm would roll around, and I was so bored. I didn't want to work, and walking around talking to people wasn't always an option. At my office, the only place to really go was the bathroom or the kitchen. Of course I chose the kitchen as the place I wanted to hang out. Eating a treat or making myself hot chocolate always perked me up. But I wasn't hungry. I didn't need those calories. I was bored. I had to stop, and I did. But just like cutting my meals down, it was really hard.

Eating my food slowly really helped me cut my meals down. Before I would scarf my food down, and I could easily finish a full meal in 15 minutes. I thought it tasted good, but I clearly couldn't get the full flavor and extent of ingredients by doing that. Plus, eating food so quickly allowed me to eat even more because my food hadn't properly digested.

My secret to making my meals last longer? I had to take a bite, and then slowly chew until the food almost liquefied. It's almost theatrical, but it was the only way I could get myself to slow down. I also put my fork back on the plate after I took a bite, and I couldn't pick it up again until I had swallowed everything in my mouth. I know it sounds silly, but this actually helped me.

Rule #52- Buy smaller plates and glasses.

The bigger the portion, the more we will eat- upward of 30 percent more. One researcher found that simply switching from a twelve-inch to a ten-inch dinner plate caused people to reduce their consumption by 22 percent.

Rule #56- Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods.

Rule #60- Treat treats as treats.

Rule #63- Cook.

One of the only things I would allow myself to snack on was dried cranberries and walnuts. I made a little bag and mixed them together, and then I made myself eat them very, very slowly. I would take one dried cranberry, and chew it very thoroughly before swallowing, and before having another. The result was that instead of eating the whole bag, I had about 4-6 cranberries and 2 walnuts. Sure cranberries and walnuts are healthy, but eating them in large quantities isn't. That bag lasted for a very long time, and I found myself having to reach for it less and less.

I like Rule #60. It's important for me not to always be so strict on myself. If I want a piece of dessert or something unhealthy, I'll have it. I'm afraid if I deny myself something, I'll just end up craving it for awhile before I eventually binge on it. However, I do know that if I have a meal at Taco Bell, I need to compensate by having something extra healthy at dinner or by talking a long walk afterward.

And finally: cooking. I've never cooked. I've always been very opposed to cooking, especially since someone else has already made it and it's waiting for me at a grocery store or restaurant. But after reading this, I knew the only way for me to take control of my life, was to begin cooking.

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