Sunday, January 2, 2011

Making Changes

I've been living on my own at school for the last three and a half years, and with my own kitchen for two and a half, and it's made a big difference in some of the ways I eat.

The most significant thing that happened was I became free to keep my kitchen and desk drawers stocked with candy and cookies and sweets. If I crave baked goods, I can go get a few oreos or a brownie. If I want a chocolate, I can have a chocolate. Most days, one or two candies or a similar small serving is enough to feed the craving. And then - here's the important part - I can put the rest away, and know that any other time I have the craving, I can go feed it again.

Sometimes, I do get into a mood when I want more, and I do still try to curb myself before eating what feels like too much. Sometimes an assortment of different sweets makes it better - a couple different flavors of cookie, a mint chocolate and a milk chocolate. Sometimes all I really want is to chew, and I keep plenty of gum on hand - some days it really just is about having a lot of stuff in my mouth (minds out of the gutter, please) and two or three pieces of gum makes me really happy. Sometimes a nice sweet tea will give me something sweet to taste if I'm full up and still want flavor.

These are all okay, as is, if all else fails, a few more cookies or chocolates.

One thing I've learned to do is to try not to eat desserts or sweets when I'm actively hungry. I certainly don't want to say this is what everyone should do, but it works for me. If I'm legitimately hungry, I try to go for something a little more substantial. Peanut-butter and pretzels, can of tuna fish, a serving of pasta, depending on what I'm up for actually making. The first thing this does for me is help me enjoy my sweets more, since I'm not hungry enough to eat too fast to taste. The second is, I feel it helps me fill up faster. It takes an awful lot of chocolates to feel full on.

Another thing I've gotten better at is saving leftovers. Tonight, for example, my dinner portion was pretty huge, and more than I felt like eating all in one sitting. It wasn't necessarily too much food for the night, though. And I realized, as I packed up the last third of dinner and put it in the fridge, what a little, obvious thing it is that took me so long. It stems from the same source, though: the idea that there will be more later. I can eat as much as I'm hungry for now, and know that when I'm hungry again in an hour, two hours, three, or the next day, I can go get the rest. There's no obligation to fill up at any one meal as though there won't be chances to eat again.

When I lived at home, there were stricter rules about what was allowed to be eaten at what time of day. True hunger after dinner time had to be addressed with snacks, rice cakes, fruit, general small servings. As illustrated by The Potato Incident, an attempt to fill up on a meal-sized portion of food would not be met well. But since childhood, "last snacks" were when my brothers and I were allowed to have our sweets for the day. We would get one, and only one, dessert opportunity, and it was before going to bed. So I got used to eating my sweets late in the day, when it was the most filling thing I was allowed to eat. 

That's all gone now. Part of the reason I was so angry about the potato thing was how long it took me to get used to the idea that substantial food is okay to eat after dinner time, especially when I don't wake up early enough to eat breakfast. It's okay to eat when I'm hungry. And for that matter, it's okay to eat for pleasure when I'm NOT hungry. I don't have to wait until I feel hungry again to allow myself a piece of chocolate. I'm allowed to just eat it and enjoy.

A lot of people are making diet resolutions right now, and I don't think I'm going to post about it directly. But these are some of the ways I've changed my own habits for the better.

1 comment:

  1. OH, the eat everything on your plate guilt trip! I didn't grow up with that - but one of my aunts enforced it, so I was always on a self imposed diet when I visited, I would deliberately take small portions to ensure it didn't happen.
    And then I was held up to be a paragon of healthy eating to her daughter!
    It's much healthier to be able to simply stop when you are full.