One big change for me since giving up diets in 2009 is that I’m beginning to relax more and consider how the food actually tastes while I’m eating. This last sentence made me smile because I always said the main reason I wanted more-more-more was because the food was sooooo good. On top of that, I’m a social eater whose attention is usually on the conversation and laughter of those around the table.
When people ignore their God-given hunger signals, as I did for many years as a Yo-yo Dieter, we forget how to enjoy food, or at least I did. Over the years, I fell into habits that disguised and diluted the eating experience.
For example, if I ate potato chips, I munched a bunch because I wanted more of that salty flavor and crunchy texture. At times, I ate in front of the TV or while reading, so my mind wasn’t even on the food! We’ve heard that the first bite gives us the most intense flavor, and after that, the effect on the taste buds diminishes with each repetition during that meal, but when I went for chips, I never consciously analyzed the taste or paid attention to my stomach unless I was stuffed.
Diets never say, “Be sure to get at least one helping of potato chips per day!” When counting calories or fat grams or carbs, I craved chips and went for them as soon as the diet ended or I gave up, whichever came first. In time, the List of Forbidden Foods included chips.
Today, in contrast, because I’m not worried about future deprivation, I enjoy food more—not more food. When we eat Mexican food, which is quite often, I used to make a meal of the tortilla chips and salsa before the pièce de résistance ever arrived, but now I enjoy a few, not because I have to limit myself (I’ve done away with the List of Forbidden Foods!) but because that first bite of a warm, crispy chip is amazing and I want to savor it as well as the fresh cilantro in the salsa. Plus, I know that a Chili Relleno or another delight will be served shortly.
I’ve had similar experiences with starchy foods. Breads, biscuits, pancakes, cornbread—anything with flour and sugar calls to me. While I used to eat six or eight chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, I’ve discovered that one (or two) hot out of the oven is all it takes to satisfy my taste buds and my stomach.
Today my eating goal is to eat when I’m hungry, thanking God for everything on the table, to enjoy the food to the max as well as the companionship, and to stop eating when I’m full. While it’s not easy to remember to check my hunger level while I’m actually eating, the food tastes better than ever.
What makes a meal enjoyable for you?