Sunday, 28 June 2015

Strawberry gluttony... my only explanation for picking 30 L of strawberries this week.  That's 70 bucks worth.  Or almost 50 pounds.

The gluttony started on the wagon ride into the picking fields.  The sight of so many ripe berries triggered ancient urges deep in my primate brain.  I very much wanted to pick every last strawberry on the entire farm. So they wouldn't be wasted?  To ensure I wouldn't starve this winter?  Because their juicy redness signaled their mother lode of sugars and nutrients? So I could spend my entire weekend processing them?  There's no rational reason for this urge, but it was powerful and it prevailed.

What was I thinking?  I wasn't.
There was a moment, several hours and dozens of strawberry mouthfuls into processing them, that I remembered my mindful eating practice.  In the face of such abundance, I tried to put myself in the mindspace of a state of strawberry lack.  I imagined enjoying a single, perfect, lusciously ripe and fresh strawberry in the dead of a Canadian winter, or in the middle of a camping trip, or while trapped in a processed food wasteland like a roadside service station.  How would I eat a single strawberry then?

I've been going deeper into my own mindful eating practice for the month of June (and I've been gardening and enjoying the outdoors and generally avoiding computers and not blogging).  There are many things that make this practice a challenge, and the biggest may be the wealth of food we are constantly immersed in.  I am surrounded by delicious, affordable, healthy food.  My home never lacks of food.  Just as familiarity breeds contempt, abundance breeds antipathy.  And mindless eating.

During my strawberry-picking frenzy I overheard one dad encouraging his kids to keep picking.  I love what he said: "You know what I think about when I'm strawberry picking?  I think about a day in January when I'm going to appreciate having these delicious berries."  Exactly!  I hope his January strawberry treat evokes a warm June day filled with sun and birdsong and a refreshing lake breeze.  Happy mindful eating, patient strawberry-picking dad!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mindless eating issues come in a variety of packages

Cigarettes and chocolate milk - these are just a couple of my cravings....If I should buy jellybeans, have to eat them all in just one sitting.  Everything it seems I like's just a little bit sweeter, a little bit fatter, a little bit harmful for me.

You may recognize these as lines from a Rufus Wainwright* song, and not an excerpt from my mindful eating journal.  I guess I could have written them, except I've never smoked. Rufus is a skinny guy.  But just like you or me, he's clearly got some mindless eating issues. 

Why can't I stop eating jellybeans?
There are 2 kinds of people out there: those who like Rufus Wainwright, and those who don't.  Joke.  The 2 kinds are actually intuitive and controlled eaters.  I've previously referred to these as "eat to live" vs. "live to eat" people.  If you're reading this blog, you're either in the second camp, or you are my sweetheart.  People in the second camp are much more likely to have food issues.  To learn more about this concept, check out this fantastic TED talk.

I know 2 different people who are food-hoarders.  So much so that it makes them socially awkward in certain settings (although I don't think they realize that, so I hope they're not reading this!)  I'm trying to figure out why they're like that.  They are both very fit people.  They both come from well-to-do homes.  They both make enough money to feed themselves.  What's up with them?  Obviously it's something deep down that they're probably not even aware of.   Kind of like most mindless eating issues.  So, are they in the first camp, or the second?  I haven't a clue.

Despite being a pretty intuitive eater for a lab, my dog M displayed a bit of this mindless food-hoarding behaviour today.  I'm looking after a passive, almost pathetic dog, named B.  To try to perk them both up, I gave each a very special cookie. (You can blame your parents for your food issues if they did this with you.  Another joke. Do you actually know a parent who hasn't done this?)  

Why do I eat my cookies so fast?
Anyway, B just let his cookie loll out of his mouth as he continued to melt into my floor in a hairy heap.  M, on the other hand, chowed into his with gusto.  While still chewing half of his, dropping the other half on the floor, he went after B's cookie too.  No mystery as to what's up there.

It's none of my business why my 2 pals are food-hoarders.  I'm mostly curious.  And, as practitioners of mindful eating, we can be equally curious about our own idiosyncratic eating habits.  What's up with them?  You probably won't write a beautiful song about them like Rufus did, but you might be illuminated.

*If you don't know Rufus Wainwright, or even if you do and you're in the first camp, you really should check out his version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.  Not as good as kd lang's, but way up there.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Gone Girl

Last month I saw the movie, read the book reviews on Good Reads, bought the book despite the reviews, and read the book in less than 24 hours.  I seriously read about 2/3 of it in one single sitting.  As in I sat in a chair and didn't get up for hours.  I finished the rest after a break to eat.

The behaviour pattern that took place with Gone Girl was eerily similar to the most recent time I ate 100 cookies.  I didn't WANT to read most of the book in one sitting.  I knew I'd feel better if I saved it and enjoyed it slowly.  There were other things I would have liked to have been doing with that time. And yet, I just couldn't stop myself.  I felt guilty.  I told myself I deserved to do it because it was holiday time.  Once I got within a centimetre of the end I figured I might as well finish it off and then it would be done.  My rational brain shut right down and something else took over.

This woman knows how to eat mindlessly.  Check out
the scene where she's watching the talk show with her
creepy ex-boyfriend.
This is not even an excellent book.  According to the haters on Good Reads you'd think it's the worst piece of schlock ever hammered out, but they were overly harsh.  It was a pizza from Domino's.  I fancy myself to be more of a wood-fired oven, thin-crust with prosciutto and bocconcini kind of person, but once in a while a greasy slice from a take-out joint is really satisfying.

I've known for a while that I just shouldn't bring page-turner novels into my home.  I cannot control myself with them.  The same goes for some foods, although these have changed as my mindful eating practice evolves.  Large high quality dark chocolate bar?  No problem - sits in my cupboard for weeks as I enjoy the occasional nibble when the mood strikes.  Bag of maple-bacon flavoured popcorn?  Forget it - must devour whole bag.  In mindful eating, we recognize what these trigger foods (or "food-like items") are and we choose not to have them around because we know their pull on us is more powerful than our mindful eating practice.

I thought my mindful eating practice was progressing nicely, but something in Gone Girl triggered an alarming realization.  No, not that I'm deranged and manipulative.  In the novel one of the main characters (we can't call them protagonists) says his wife is always thinking, thinking, thinking - her brain is constantly churning.  That's me.

I thought one of my biggest mindful eating achievements was my new habit of NOT multi-tasking when I eat alone.  I used to always read while eating, but through mindful eating learned that I should just sit and enjoy my food.  I thought I was doing that and I was proud of myself.  Alas, I'm often just as "gone" when I'm eating as I used to be.  Instead of reading, I'm thinking, thinking, thinking.  I'm so lost in my thoughts I'm not present in the room with the food I'm eating - I'm eating mindlessly.

The excellent thing about mindful eating is once you're aware of something, you have the power to change it.  Not like the characters in Gone Girl...they know they've got problems, and they choose to stay mired in them.  Fine for a cheap novel, but not for a real life.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

You eat like an animal

Everybody does.  Because we ARE animals.  

Most animals spend a lot of their daily energy foraging (that's biologist talk for looking for food).  The ability to get good food is a major selective pressure (more biologist talk for the situation whereby if you don't eat, you don't have kids, and you therefore don't pass on your crummy inability to find food genes to any future generations).

Of course, most of us in North America don't live like the other animals anymore.  We are bombarded by an obscene excess of food options.  Most of the providers of those options are driven by capitalism.  So, now the pressure is on the food providers to make sure their food items get picked by us.  Instead of all us humans out there on the savannah competing for scraps of berries and meat, the various forms of froot and chik'n are competing for us.  

Food companies lure us in through marketing, and through engineering food to make it hyper-palatable: easy to eat, salty, fatty, and sugary, and strangely unsatisfying.  These foods are designed  to over-ride your animal brain and to leave you wanting more.  As I've mentioned before, some foods are really really hard to eat mindfully, and that's because they're made to be that way.

I've been thinking about this lately because of various books I've been reading about industrial food.  Mindful eating is supposed to be about HOW you eat, not WHAT you eat.  But I'm starting to realize that some food-like items make it almost impossible to eat mindfully.  A truly mindful eating practice would be careful with those foods.  

Eat this.
I am inspired by the carrot.  Specifically, the tiny carrots currently available from a local friendly farm, Patchwork Gardens.  Now, these are real carrots.  Lumpy, a little dirty, and packed with so much flavour that you only need to eat a few to feel blissfully happy. I LOVE them. 

Contrast this with those bags of creepy, soggy little carrot cone-clones.  I've often mindlessly eaten dozens of these things, without deriving much satisfaction or enjoyment.  Don't try to tell me you haven't done this.  These are industrial carrots.  They've gone through a lot of steps before they've gotten to you, and they've lost most of their vitality along the way.  You could eat worse things, but why not eat better things?  The real carrots I've been eating satisfy eye, nose, mouth, heart, and cellular hunger.  Mini-carrots are just cold wet crunchers with a bit of sweetness.  How impoverished.
Not this.

I don't like to tell people what to eat, or to push my food ethics on others, but I do want to encourage people to consider eating more real food.  We are so lucky in Kingston - with a little effort, we can find local food for sale in grocery stores and delis 365 days a year!  Hard to believe during a winter like this. 

 And, I'm very happy to discover that there is a blog that pulls information together: Eat Local, Kingston.  There's a Facebook page too.  Check it out and help this community grow!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Eat what YOU want

And by YOU, I mean your body, thinking mind, unconscious mind, the spark of light that is your life-force - all of it!

What part of "you" makes most of your food choices?  Our bodies sends us the signal that it's hungry, but then our analytic brains get all up in our face and take the fun out of eating.  Or, the conditioning and habits that are the realm of the unconscious mind cast their spell and make choices we later regret.  If you're eating something "healthy", but not delicious, chances are it's the poor brainwashed and bombarded thinking mind doing all the choosing.  If you're buying a triple-thick Harvey's milkshake to suck back in the car, you could be following the commands of your shadow-side, to your body's chagrin (or perhaps delight!).

What about tuning in to what the body desires, or what will truly satisfy your soul?  How about making food choices that have balanced input from all aspects of yourself, instead of letting one facet dominate the rest?  Mindful eating is like a democratic revolution of your self!  Don't most grass-roots revolutions start in the kitchen, or at least involve pots and pans? 

This post was inspired by several things that have happened in the past few days.  I heard this fascinating interview with Nina Teicholz, the author of "Big Fat Surprise". I had a great discussion with a good friend about a cleansing diet she did, how she felt, and how she wants to integrate what she learned into her life.  I've been reading "French Women Don't Get Fat" (more on that another time), which is really a manifesto of the French approach to mindful eating, with some weight loss tips thrown in.   And I read this excellent blog post from a woman advocating size acceptance (as opposed to judging fat people).

Remember grade school biology?  The definition of a living being is something that eats, digests, breathes, and reproduces (basically). I'm so done with the miasma of information and mis-information that has turned one of our most elemental functions into yet another plaything of capitalism, politics, scientific debate.  

I've been researching and considering my food choices to ensure that they are healthy, ethical, and environmentally sustainable for over 20 years.  There's just one piece of advice that I bother trying to follow anymore: