On Giants' Shoulders

Monday, December 11, 2006

Not So Mindless Eating

There's a new book out there, which Danielle Bean reviewed on her site, called Mindless Eating. It apparently discusses some of the reasons why we as a society are having problems with weight. Now this is a subject close to my heart this year. The author apparently gives suggestions for how people can lose weight without even really thinking about it simply by changing a few things (like the size of the plates they use). Well, while I agree that some of those things may help make a start on the project, my experience tells me that there also has to be some degree of conscious change as well. If you aren't aware that the portion sizes listed on packages are sometimes pretty inflated, that restaurants nearly always serve way too much, that two tablespoons of peanut butter have over 200 calories in them. Just think about that! Along with the bread a simple little peanut butter sandwich is over 300 calories or one fifth of what the average American woman - not pregnant or lactating needs in a day. That's without the glass of milk and piece of fruit that would make a fairly balanced meal. Throw those in and you've come close to a third of your daily calorie need, yet many people would think of that as a fairly light lunch and would expect a bigger dinner, a similar breakfast and a couple of snacks as well. Cut that peanut butter down by a tablespoon and you've cut a whole 100 calories out of the mix and believe me you can make a decent sandwich with just 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter (I typically make mine with 1/2 a tablespoon these days), no matter what they say on the Jiff jar.

It's really little things like that that have helped me in this whole weight loss thing. I really haven't given up eating things I like. I had things like creamed onions and stuffing at Thanksgiving. I ate dark meat as well as white. I had pie on Thanksgiving and birthday cake a few days later. I ate St. Nicholas Day cookies just like everyone else... well sort of. I didn't eat as many and I balanced out the rest of what I ate and I got some exercise as well.

Sometimes this year it's felt like all I think about is how much I'm supposed to eat and how to balance it out with exercise. I took this weight loss thing on with the determination I would have put into a serious project, and somehow so far I've managed to see it through. In the process I've learned a whole bunch. I've figured out just how small a portion of a lot of things is actually satisfying. I've begun eating a whole lot healthier (at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day instead of perhaps 2). I've learned to really LOVE apples. I've also learned that I'm not quite as allergic to exercise as I thought I was. The lighter I get the more fun the exercise actually becomes. I should have guessed that because the heavier I got the harder it was to climb in and out of lambing pens. I guess maybe the reverse will be true as well.

Anyway, while I think that some of the suggestions in Mindless Eating will probably help in raising your children, or in keeping yourself from gaining weight in the first place, if you've got a lot to lose it's going to take some intelligent eating and some intelligent exercising to get there. I heartily recommend, strength training, swimming, walking, and a stationary bike. Dancing and hula-hooping are actually pretty enjoyable too. Of course until I lost the first 25 pounds hula-hooping was a pretty lost cause. It hardly seems fair, but the lighter I get the easier it is to hula-hoop. My goal is to get back to being able to do it for a long time without dropping the hoop. So far, well lets just say I now get more than 4 revolutions before it slips. Sometimes even as many as 10 or 15 and that's a far cry from the max of 3 it used to be. I've even been wondering whether I should ask for snowshoes for Christmas...that might be pushing it just a little too far.

I'm more than halfway to my goal as of this morning, but I didn't get this far by just using a smaller plate. I'd been doing that for years and it didn't really help all that much. As a matter of fact the whole family has been using smaller plates and 3 out of the 4 of us just got bigger. The only one who didn't is an exercise fiend who also eats mindfully.

Actually, as I suggested to my students last week, I think we should really eat as the Church year encourages. We should eat normally, and using healthy guidelines during Ordinary time, we should fast intelligently during penitential seasons, and we should feast on feasts rather than every day. When every day becomes, in essence, what feast days should be, feast days turn into days of major overindulgence. I'm not in favor of throwing out the cookies, cakes and pizza. I'm simply in favor of paying attention to how and how much we eat them. If food is a gift from God to be enjoyed it seems appropriate to savor it and also be mindful of the fact that there are others who don't have enough of it. We also appreciate a feast so much more after a fast.

Mindless Eating may be a good beginning, just like mindless exercise (parking your car further away, taking the stairs rather than the elevator) is a way to get started towards fitness. However, for most of us who really struggle with overweight, a more mindful effort is probably required.


At 5:43 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

I went to college with that guy! The name looked so familiar -- I looked at his website, and sure enough, that's someone I vaguely remember. Have no idea if he would remember me ....

The book looks interesting.


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