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Food: it's not just fuel

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I am always wary when I see people trying to take the "food is fuel" approach, because it tries to lock down all the family, cultural, and celebratory associations with food and usually leads to an emotional crisis, binge eating, and disaster. Yes, we tend to be very food-centric in our celebrations, but that's not something that is unique to this country or this time period. Food is part of celebrations throughout the world and important part of the rituals of our lives.

Food IS magic. It transports us to different experiences, connects us to friends and relatives, evokes memory. The making of it can be an important ritual, as can be the sharing of it. Treating food as nothing but fuel is an attempt to completely deny the pleasure of one of our senses, taste, and to deny some of the pleasures of our other senses. It's like amputating part of our experience.

This is not the same as saying, "hey, it's Thanksgiving, let's PIG OUT!" That's not truly experiencing and enjoying food; that's just mindless gluttony. Mindful eating means taking enjoyment from the rituals, the sharing, all the senses, without just falling into automatic eating.

It is possible to love food, enjoy food, and eat in moderation. It's called Mindful Eating. This year, using this approach, I ate and enjoyed all the rituals of celebration at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and lost weight during both holidays. I did most of my eating with my eyes, my nose, and my mind, and focused on sharing with family and the experience, rather than the food itself. I partook of everything, but mindfully: I took only small helpings, and paid attention to my hunger. When I wasn't hungry anymore, I stopped eating.

If food was only fuel to us, we wouldn't be tempted by it. Trying to convince ourselves that it is nothing but fuel is one more way to set ourselves up for failure--maybe not this week or this month. Maybe not even this year. But eventually an approach that is all about taking away pleasure is doomed. Remember that the long-term success rate for weightloss is in the single digits. We are already trying to beat long odds. We shouldn't make this task extra-difficult for ourselves by treating our daily sustenance as an enemy.

Instead of treating it like the enemy, I say to treat it with the respect and sanctity it deserves. Our strong cultural associations with food come from a time when it was considered precious and abundance was seasonal. People came together to celebrate the harvest, and in leaner times to share among the many. Now, our food is so abundant that we allow big companies to strip it of its nutrition and transform it into junk. That's a terrible abuse of a precious resource. Don't support it. Buy real food, cook it with care, and share it with love.

It's how we were meant to eat.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HILLRUNNER 6/14/2013 2:52PM

    Food IS fuel to me. I am continually working on making me an even better finely tuned machine. My "machine" is my body and it deserves the best "fuel" to keep it running.
I do enjoy GOOD fuel, and fuel that keeps my body strong.
Yes food is part of celebrations and enjoyment and I "fuel" my body at those times with good and healthy choices.
I think the concern is as you mentioned...mindful eating, and not emotional. To not let food become more than it is....not give it "power" but yes to respect it for what it is, that which keeps our bodies functioning.

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DOTTIEJANE1 4/20/2012 10:28AM

    Great blog. Food is not just fuel , if that was the case none of us would be obese or overweight .

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NINJA_SMOO 4/18/2012 12:18PM

  I don't like the 'food is fuel' idea either. Love your blog :)

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BLUESKIES139 4/18/2012 8:47AM

    Very well written blog!!

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HONBAD 4/17/2012 8:29PM

    Great blog! I agree! Food and my enjoyment of it is very important in my life. It's one of my main forms of entertainment. I know that is frowned upon, but I don't care because I was successful in meeting my goals even while not changing that. I know I would never be able to change that! I just approach it more mindfully like you mentioned. That and I follow my "if I don't love it, don't eat it!" rule.

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YDAVIS23 4/17/2012 2:29PM

    I think you're right that the problem is that we do treat it too much as fuel - I mean america runs on dunkins, right? I love your approach and will be thinking of you as I spend my week preparing food for company, my family, and myself, pouring in the love and intention with each recipe.

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RICHILA 4/17/2012 1:25PM

    It isn't just fuel or it wouldn't be so wonderful to wake up to fresh ground coffee in the morning.
Spark On! We Got This!

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OPTIMIST1948 4/17/2012 1:01PM

    Mmindful eating. Mindful writing. Truely something to mull over. Thank you for the mental food.

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    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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NATPLUMMER 4/17/2012 12:16PM

    Food isn't just fuel to me, either. It's not meant to be or we wouldn't get the satisfaction we do from it.

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Self-loathing: not just for the fat!

Monday, April 16, 2012

I am amazed when I hear people I consider to be attractive, interesting, and "together" just spew forth with gouts of self-loathing. If they are curvy, they think they're fat. If they are thin, they point out every tiny, perceived flaw. Everyone seems to go around wishing that they were something other than what they are.

I think it's sad that we are all spending so much of our precious time hating ourselves. Each one of us is a unique, wonderful person who probably has an interesting story to tell, and each one of us deserves respect and consideration. Particularly from ourselves.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HONBAD 4/17/2012 1:05PM

    During one of the first times I ever did yoga, the yoga instructor talked about "being gentle on yourself" during the meditation portion. It really struck a cord with me. I stop negative thinking about myself as soon as possible by telling myself that. And I know I am a happier, nicer person because of it! Great blog!

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NATPLUMMER 4/17/2012 11:37AM

    Women especially seem to be hypercritical of themselves.

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CASEYTALK 4/16/2012 11:16PM

    Laughing! I was all set to come here and tell you, "Now see HERE missy! Don't you start holding yourself to standards you'd hold no one else to! Don't you go finding only fault in yourself!" Then I read the blog and learned that you're not speaking of yourself.

It's a good point you make. Also, I agree with ApplesBananas. When someone pays you a compliment, you say, "Thank you." Even if you don't agree, it was a nice thing for the other person to say and the least you can do is thank them for saying it. It's polite. When I give someone a compliment and their immediate answer is to negate it, what are they saying? That I don't know what I'm talking about? That I have no taste if I like their things? That I'm a fool? That's not a nice thing to do to someone who has just said something nice about you. As she said, it's really simple -- "Thank you." So, good blog post Miss G!


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BJUMPINGFORJOY 4/16/2012 11:06PM

    Well said and so right.

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APPLESBANANAS 4/16/2012 10:13PM

    Great blog! I remember reading somewhere to always say "thank you" if someone offers you a compliment, instead of pointing out your own flaws. Not only is it polite, but it also helps you take a second to realize the compliment that is being given.

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DWHARLOW 4/16/2012 8:13PM

  I think that you are right. We should give ourselves a break. We all deserve love and respect from ourselves. Have a GREAT DAY!!!!

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CAKEMAKERMOM 4/16/2012 7:56PM

    We're taught it young. There's a reason the beauty industry makes so much money. If only we could all go around makeupless and not care about our looks, I'd bet the world would be a nicer place to live in.

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Burning 5000+ cardio calories a week

Saturday, April 14, 2012

At least according to Spark People. The long bike ride did the bulk of it, of course.

This is two weeks in a row that I've burned over 5,000 calories. I hope I can keep it up through the summer months. It's a bit harder in the winter, since the long bike rides are what really do it. I would like to be at least 20 pounds lighter by the time Pedal to the Point rolls around at the beginning of August. The less of me there is to haul over all those miles, the better! I've been averaging 7 pounds lost per month, so that's not an unrealistic goal. Slow and steady wins the race!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NATPLUMMER 4/15/2012 8:59AM


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DOTTIEJANE1 4/14/2012 8:22PM

    emoticon emoticon

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KARENDEE4 4/14/2012 6:27PM

    Good for you!!

I love bike rides too! I might have to do one Sunday

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CAKEMAKERMOM 4/14/2012 5:50PM

    You're really working your butt off!

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    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
thats so awesome

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HONBAD 4/14/2012 4:22PM

    Wow, that's impressive!!! Good for you! Sounds like you are well on your way to meeting that goal. There is no stopping you! I'm glad the weather has cooperated this early in the year for you to get a head start.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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27 miles, and ready for bed

Friday, April 13, 2012

I went for my first truly long ride today--27 miles. I'm working to strengthen my knees, so I rode in lower gears and kept my pedalling "soft." It helped my knees get through a 2 hour and 16 minute ride without complaint.

But, oh, my patootie! Even with padded bike shorts, I was definitely feeling the strain on my "back 40." I know that, just like the rest of my body, it will get acclimated to the longer rides. Right now, though, it is not the happiest place on earth, not by a long stretch.

I have three and a half months to train for the Pedal to the Point ride. I will be mixing up short, fast rides with long rides in order to build my stamina and increase my pace. I'm currently riding at an average of 12 mph, which I'd like to see if I can push to 14. It may not seem like much, but it would made the ride an hour shorter.

And I hope to lose at least another 20 pounds. The less of me there is to haul around, the easier it will be!

But for now? I'm pleased with what I accomplished but oh my heavens am I tired!!! My father-in-law is visiting, and we went to a late lunch today. I had a grilled chicken spinach salad that was delicious, but eating it wore me out!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CYCLEGIRL5 4/14/2012 12:20AM

    I did the pedal to the Point for 10 years. It is a great ride. emoticon

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NATPLUMMER 4/13/2012 6:25PM

    WOW!! I can't ride more than 40 or so minutes before my butt calls it a day.

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Doing better today

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spreading out my food seems to be effective. I was down 3 pounds today. No one thing will ever work forever, but I'm shaking it loose for now. Woot!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CORNERKICK 4/13/2012 4:47PM

  I'm hoping that spreading out my food/calories throughout the day will help me lose those last 5 (OK, maybe 10) pounds

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BLUE42DOWN 4/13/2012 4:04PM


I definitely like the many small meals approach. I've seen studies that show it doesn't change our metabolism, BUT it just feels better to be regularly fueling my body so it doesn't need to store excess blood sugar as fat in the first place.

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NATPLUMMER 4/13/2012 1:31PM


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    glad its working for ya hun

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MISSG180 4/12/2012 10:17PM

    My auntie Flo isn't due for another week and a half, but I'm sure it was mostly water weight. Still, nice to be moving again!

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OPTIMIST1948 4/12/2012 9:46PM

    Good for you! Although 3 lbs in just a few days is alot. Perhaps just water weight? Any "friends" coming to visit?

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