I am tragically American.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being American. But let’s face it. Some of our habits suck. Like the way we view and treat food. Completely oblivious or hyper-analytical. Quantity instead of quality. Distraction versus pleasure.
Generally speaking, I think we’re lacking in food culture. Americans are always in a rush and on the go, and the way we eat is a reflection of that. Our food is fast and easy. And because we’re so hurried and overloaded with stimulation, we don’t truly savor our meals. You can argue that you really, REALLY liked those 5 slices of pepperoni pizza that you ate. Or that Big Mac. I’m sure it gave you an oral orgasm. But that’s probably because it’s what you’re used to eating; your taste buds have adjusted to greasy, processed food. And how long did it take you to eat it? Or rather, how fast did you eat it? And how did you feel afterward? Honestly, I don’t consider the cheap thrill you get from inhaling extremely processed food to be the same as finding real pleasure in a healthy meal.
Other countries place a lot of importance on food, and they don’t have the same health problems we do. Take France and Italy. Part of their food culture is to serve lots of courses. They pay meticulous attention to detail when they cook. Fresh produce and herbs are the crux of their recipes. And they enjoy long meals with loved ones. They embrace food. We fry it or douse it in sugar. When they eat, the food is their focus. In America, food has become another distraction, something to do when you have nothing else to do.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any American eating traditions. We used to sit down with our families for dinner. But that seems to be dissipating with every decade (I never had dinner with my family growing up.) Fast, easy food is the American way. And if a TV is involved, even better.
Even though I’m pretty health conscious, I’m still guilty of rushing through my meals. I eat fast, and I tend to eat the same things every day because it’s easy. I noticed that when I eat I’m hardly paying attention to the food. My mind is somewhere else. Sure, the taste and how agreeable it is registers with me on a primitive level. But the way I rush through eating can leave me feeling pretty unsatisfied sometimes.
And then there’s the paranoia. The Puritanical guilt our country was founded on has somehow trickled its way down the centuries and into the beliefs I hold about food: It is merely sustenance. Not a pleasure. Like it too much and you’ll fall into a downward spiral of uncontrollable eating and obesity. In short, CALORIES BAD!
It’s strange how I’m indifferent to what I eat and hyper-aware of it at the same time.
This indifference to food has a rather ironic effect on me. If I were so indifferent to food, wouldn’t I eat less of it since it’s not important? Not so. I will eat just about anything, and I can eat large amounts. And that’s probably because I’m not enjoying it to it’s fullest. I’m just stuffing myself with fodder. And I think I’m not the only one.
The solution? Well, it’s going to take some work. Even as I was sitting here writing this, I got up to eat a snack: plain Greek yogurt with a little bit of brown sugar and Ezekiel bread. That shit was not satisfying at all. I’m wondering why the hell I even bothered finishing it. Obviously I’m going to need to get serious about taking my own advice.
So my plan is to become more of an intuitive eater.
Step 1: If I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. The reason I just finished my bowl of ‘meh’ was because I felt bad wasting food. Next time I’ll just put it away to mix with something else later.
Step 2: Putting the fork DOWN between bites. As simple as it sounds, this is going to be a challenge for me. I get so frenzied when I eat that forcing myself to go through my meal slowly gives me anxiety. Obviously I am a psycho.
Step 2.5: Chewing. A lot. Concentrating on the texture and flavor of the food.
Step 3: Reading this book:
I don’t need to lose any weight, but the reason I want to read this is to see if I can calm my anxiety (which I think is the reason I rush eat) about food through meditation. Cheesy, but I think there’s some truth behind the idea that eating can be like a form of meditation, where you’re intensely focused on what’s going on inside your piehole. I think it’s similar to wine tasting. Actually, I took a wine tasting seminar a few months back and it made an impression on me. I was like, damn, I need to do this with food. Let each molecule dance over my taste buds and bring my senses out of their coma. Man, who ever thought that pleasure would be something you have to learn?
So anyway, here’s to being more in touch with what you eat. I’ll let you know how my journey goes. But in the meantime, does anyone else out there feel where I’m coming from? I’m interested in hearing opinions about YOUR relationship with food!