Thursday, 25 September 2014

Who's hungry for...a cookie?

I once had a friend who had a sign that said "Who's hungry?" on her fridge.  I didn't understand the sign at that time, but we are exploring this very question in my online mindful eating course.  Now I get it.

The question "Who's hungry in there?" is a way to assess the "8 hungers".  We recently did this as an exercise for my course.  Before eating something, we do a little check-in to see which of the 8 hungers is compelling us to eat.

I shall use the perennial T!m H0rt0n's* Smile Cookie to demonstrate.  Every September, I am delighted to discover that grody ol' Timmy's has launched its smile cookie fund-raising campaign.  The staff wear smiley cookie T-shirts, and there are big smile cookie decals on all the store windows.  Even though I don't usually go to Tim's I can't miss this very special week, since Tim's is omnipresent.

Here we go then - the 8 Hungers and How They Convinced Me To Buy a Smile Cookie

Eye hunger:  This actually doesn't even look very good.  It looks like all the food from Tim's - pre-fab.  I can almost see the signature bitter chemical aftertaste.  Plus they make these things smaller and smaller each year and that bugs me.  But the sticker on the take-out bag is quite attractive.

Nose hunger:  While Timmy's smells somewhat alluring when I bike by each day on my way to work, this item reeks of food-like substance

Ear hunger:  Nothing.  Different story if we were talking about a handful of M&M's that you crack between your back teeth, one by one, snapping the candy coating off in big chunks...

Mouth hunger:  As always, the mouth is "an insatiable cavern of desire" (Jan Chozen Bays' words, not mine, but so so true), and can't wait to enjoy that perfect combination of chewiness and subtle crispiness.  Better living through chemistry is right - I've baked a thousand cookies in my lifetime and I've never replicated those textures consistently.

Stomach hunger:  I just had lunch not so long ago.  I actually don't need any food.  My belly is quite content as is.

Cellular hunger: I could use some caffeine to get me through the afternoon.  Sugar is not required.  (Luckily cookies go so very well with coffee).

Heart hunger:  I feel happy when I see the smile cookie propaganda because it happens every September and I love September.  I also recollect that the first year I got hooked on these I was spending a lot of time at one of my favourite places.

Mind hunger:  I don't need this.  It's OK that I have this because this is my tradition.  I'm going to have one smile cookie each day this week and then they're gone until next year.  I will not have 2 smile cookies a day like I have in previous years.  What am I doing?  I'm taking a mindful eating course so buying a smile cookie is a good practice.  I'm kidding myself.  I don't care. I want a smile cookie!


What do you know?  Miracle of miracles!  After doing this exercise, I lost all interest in the smile cookie.  I finally realized that they USED to be delicious when they first came out over a decade ago.  Back in those glorious days they were enormous, and tasted like a human may have been involved in their manufacture.  Those days are gone, gone, gone, and I was just eating them out of a craving habit.

I tried this exercise before eating a small, beautiful supper with produce from my garden one night.  It wasn't so illuminating that time.  Basically I was hungry and it was a nice meal that also looked pretty and made me feel righteous.  The power of this exercise is doing it when you're eating something you know is somewhat iffy.

The most fascinating part of this exercise, aside from realizing that smile cookies actually are kinda gross (you were right, RT), is that so many of my fellow course participants noticed that their stomachs were full before their eyes, mouth, or heart was.  And, most of us discovered that it took much less food than we thought to make us full.  

Only cellular and stomach hunger need to be nourished by food.  The rest can be nourished in other ways (as in Die Augen Essen Mit).  If you want to feel content in life and eat an appropriate amount of food, learn to distinguish the 8 hungers and act accordingly.  Simple?  Nope, not at all.

*Names of implicated fast food chains have been changed to avoid litigation.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

You know where it's easy to eat mindfully? France.

The scent wafting from this picturesque
bakery each morning was truly satisfying.

And that's because when one is in France one is on holiday (not in front of a computer or in a car), one does not have access to one's own kitchen, one is happy and well-rested, and one is surrounded by a cornucopia of beauty for the eyes, ears, nose, AND mouth.

Beautiful AND delicious.
I seriously did eat somewhat mindfully on my trip to Provence and Paris this summer.  I told myself before the trip that I wasn't going to limit myself or worry about gaining weight or avoiding sugar or caffeine or anything - no rules.  As Dr. Jan Chozen Bays says in my online mindful eating course, in North America we try to solve problems by attacking or incarcerating them.  I didn't want to take any of that North American messed up nonsense on my trip of a lifetime.  I wanted to experience the French paradox fully.  In France they don't do coffee to go.  In Canada, our biggest cultural icon is a chain that has taken over the country and people's common sense with its bitter, scalding coffee to go.  Vive la difference.

Now, I did clean my plate and even have seconds at most meals, but I savoured every single bite thoroughly.  I ate slowly and enjoyed the smell of the food, its presentation, the wonderful combinations of flavours and textures, and the company I was with.

My most interesting observation during my trip: I had NO afternoon chocolate cravings (despite what you might assume based on the accompanying photo), or sugar cravings for that matter, at all.  Every guide to Paris goes on and on about chocolate and macaroons.  Neither called to me, as I was not interested in eating between meals.  I even got sick of cheese, meat, and bread by the end.  I did not get sick of the wine.

I felt pretty pleased with my approach when listening to the ladies I was travelling with talk about food and eating.  Many of these ladies were a decade or more older than me, and vibrant and healthy, and yet they were STILL concerned about their waistlines. Do I need to say that they did not clean their plates?  They even mentioned the c-word - calories.  My god, I thought, I DO NOT want to be running that same old tiresome soundtrack through my brain 5 years from now, let alone 15 or 25 years from now.  I figured I would never eat food this delicious again for a long time, and it was prepared with great care, so I should just enjoy eating it (all of it).

After. I alone cleaned my plate,
and I don't regret it!
Of course, continuing to eat when I'm quite full is not the epitome of mindful eating.  But at least it was a choice I made consciously (I hope our chef appreciated it!).  I did not let all my hang-ups about food follow me to France.  I ate a lot, but I didn't do it out of compulsion, or boredom, or tiredness, or any of the other reasons that I usually have for eating when not hungry at home.  

Vive la liberation?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Memories of...100 cookies

Whether or not chocolate is the boss of me is debatable.  Chocolate chip COOKIES, however, are undoubtedly the boss of me.  They are my kryptonite.  Therefore, I have avoided them almost completely for the past year.

On the eve of launching into my mindful eating online course, I had a chocolate chip cookie disaster.  My last chocolate chip cookie disaster is known as The Time I Ate 100 Cookies.  It was a few years ago now, but was so epic that my sweetheart and I still refer to it when I am teetering on the brink of a mindless eating maelstrom.  My most recent CCCD (chocolate chip cookie disaster) was almost as grisly. I think that sharing it may help me process and move past it.

There happened to be a bag of President's Choice "The Decadent" Chocolate Chip cookies in our office this week.  If you live in Canada, you know these cookies well - President's Choice brand's flagship product. The brilliant, sinister marketers at PC brand use them to advertise insurance and mortgages, for the love of pete.  I don't even like packaged cookies, but I love these.  I have never bought a bag of them for myself as an adult because I know I can't control myself.  It is rather suspicious, don't you think, that they have not disclosed the narcotic substances that the cookies must be laced with in the list of ingredients?

So anyway, I thought maybe I'd just have 2 as a mid-morning snack, while I continued working on the computer.  Poof.  Gone. Surprise!  OK, maybe just one more.  Wait, where did that go?

I continued like this for a few hours, with furtive trips into the common area where the bag of cookies lurked, before a brilliant insight came to me: 

No matter how many of these cookies I eat, I will never feel satisfied, so I might as well stop now.

How righteous I felt!  I made it through the rest of the day, triumphant at 4:45.  I think a sympathetic colleague hid them, just to be safe.  One of the first mindless eating episodes that's cemented in my memory is a bag of these same damn cookies in our family pantry, and me tiptoeing down the hallway instead of concentrating on algebra homework in my bedroom.  25 years later and I may have actually tamed this salty, slightly chewy, and maximally chocolatey beast.

The next morning at home I consciously acknowledged that the bag of cookies would be at work when I arrived there, and that I had a choice.  I decided that I would not eat any of the cookies, since I had had so many the day before and was not that satisfied by them.

At 10 am I revised my decision based on new information (I was hungry and had packed a disappointing lunch).  I decided that 2 cookies, eaten very consciously with my cup of tea for maximum appreciation and satisfaction, was acceptable and prudent.

Let's skip past the graphic and disturbing details that followed.  An hour later the bag of cookies was empty and I felt really gross.  The end. 
A disturbing scene.