Friday, December 23, 2011
I have been reading a couple of books about people's tendency to be overly optimistic about their abilities to do something, and about the world in general. No one ever thinks the house will burn, or the hurricane will hit THEIR home, and tend to underinsure. People always assume they will pay all bills on time, never overdraw their accounts, never lose their jobs, so never read the fine print in their documents. Then when something DOES happen it's someone else's fault for not explaining consequences carefully enough.
Alas, things DO happen. I always plan for the possible negatives. I give myself "cookie insurance" during the holidays: I keep them away from me, then give them all away. I eat very carefully and during this season I write EVERYTHING down. This is all in anticipation of the possibility that I may not live up to my own expectations without a LOT of careful planning.
Many people consider it "negative thinking" to even consider a less than perfect outcome, but I am old enough to know that I can "positive think" myself into a corner. I am aware of my weaknesses, and know all too well that I can put myself in an uncomfortable position where inner strength won't be enough. I know that sometimes I can't rely on "motivation" any more than I can rely on the weather or the guy driving the other car.
So I always carry insurance. I carry it on my life, my cars, my home, and my eating.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I just finished a great book by Stuart Vyse called "Going Broke". It is an economic and sociological discussion about why we spend, but also discusses why we succumb to any temptation. He talks about what we want in the immediate future vs what we want long term: the car now vs comfortable retirement, the drink now vs sobriety, or the food now vs long term weight loss. He says that surveys about why we do what we do don't work because you are talking to people when they aren't immediately confronted by temptation. Some people either inherently have or have developed not so much self control, but a desire for a long term goal that exceeds the pull of immediate temptation. There are some who want to ban credit cards or fast food outlets so that they are never confronted with temptation, and there are people who create temptation free zones: they don't have credit cards, they never keep snack foods in the house. Americans value total freedom of choice, but in the end are confounded by it, and allow themselves to partake simply because it's there.
I, for one, tend to allow myself to think that I am giving up so much for one long term goal that I should be able to postpone the realities of achieving another long term goal. It isn't so much self-control (I still don't know what that actually IS) but I have developed mantras and methods to keep my eyes focused on my long term goals, trying not to confuse one goal with another. I mean one order of french fries won't impact my savings, but it WILL impact another goal. Over the years and decades, they are ALL important to me. I just need to make sure they are important at that one brief moment of choice.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
I notice that Spark's Recipe of the Day each day so far in December has been cookies. The serving sizes are one or at most two cookies.
ONE OR TWO COOKIES??? What world are they living in??? If I could eat one cookie, I'd never have gained weight. The only time I can eat one is if it's the last one and I brush my teeth immediately afterward, and the only time I'm there for the last cookie is if I've eaten the ones before it and the attitude is "what the heck might as well eat it".
Cookies, even homemade "lower calorie" cookies are finger food: no plate or cutlery necessary, only requires one hand. Very dangerous for me. Christmas is the toughest season for me because of the cookies my family expects. I make them the day before Christmas and send the leftovers home with everyone else. I'll let THEM deal with the sugar. I have decades of experience in not being able to control them, I'm not going to find the "secret" now.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
One of Spark's news articles today was about how you shouldn't "deny" yourself trigger foods. Problem is, by definition if they are "trigger foods" they will pull the trigger on a full on binge. I had to find out what those triggers were and avoid them entirely. I have a couple: Reeses, Cheetos and Chex Mix. I cannot have even one or I will finish whatever is in sight, and crave more. Then I have to deal with that overwhelming craving. Not something I can "just be strong" about. And why? There is no essential nutrient found in only those foods (if only there were!), just the instant gratification found only in that wonderful combination of fat, salt and crunch, or fat and sugar. Only when I decided not to eat those things One Day At A Time was I able to leave that awful craving behind as a residual memory. It's a memory that can be resurrected in one bite, though. It may be hard to turn my back, walk away, but it's a lot easier than dealing with that craving. We are talking about a few seconds of NO rather than weeks of denial.
I am eternally grateful that I lost weight back when we had to cut out a lot of food rather than allow ourselves "just a taste every now and then". I had to learn to find the closest substitute for me: crunchy salad, salty olives, sweet fruit, rearranged into the infinite possibilities that are available. I don't need to pull that trigger.
Sometimes what seems like unreasonable denial can be the key to moving on.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
My father was a chemist, and some of my best memories of growing up were after dinner, when we'd push the dishes aside and he'd start explaining something and writing equations all over the napkins. An hour would disappear into his stories. Alton Brown picked up with food chemistry, but with puppets and models rather than equations. I read Shirley Corriher's book "Cookwise" (which, I think, was his model) when it first came out, and I was thrilled to see someone else who was as entranced by her approach to cooking as I was.
From Alton's "Final Thoughts" at the end of his last book:
"I do know that we have some pretty big problems in this country, and I think that at least a few of them could be solved if we concentrated as much on cooking as we do on eating. Food is fabulous stuff, to be sure, but cooking can also be its own reward. Cooking is an action, and it's time for more action and a little less consumption."
Truer words were never said. In our land of plenty, with microwaves and frozen and packaged food, consumption has been separated from creation. No wonder we are in such thrall to the food marketers! When we prepare our own meals, we have TWO joys: creation as well as consumption.
Alton ends with "And it wouldn't hurt us to be a little thankful every now and then."
I am far more aware of the bounty of today when I assemble my own meal than if I just stopped by the drive-in window. And awareness leads to gratitude.
All 3 of Alton Brown's books are fun and informative, and I only wish my father could have lived to enjoy them. And the food that resulted.
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