Sunday, February 26, 2012
DDORN comments that it's impossible to "overdo" savouring life: and yeah, that's right! But: he got me thinking (thanks, Don).
Because it's very possible to overdo savouring food. And it seems to me that when we overdo savouring food, we impede our ability to savour all the other aspects of life that our sense perceptions make available to us.
Sight, sound, scent, touch, taste: all huge potential sources of pleasure.
Given that excess indulgence in food causes fat, however, it's amazing to consider that taste itself appears to be one of the least developed of our senses. Really. We've got just five basic elements of taste: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and the most recently identified "umami" or "meatiness" or "savouriness" itself. We don't even crave sour or bitter all that much; in our course of human evolution, many sour or bitter reactions seem to have signalled that the "food" tried was not good for us . . . potentially poisonous. To be spat out.
So if taste is so relatively simple, even crude in comparison to our other sense capacities, why do food cravings cause us so much trouble? Maybe because pleasure in eating also involves all of the other four senses.
The sight of food: that cheesy "pull" in a pizza commercial, for example. Or how often do we have this kind of experience: I've decided not to have dessert, I'm not even hungry after the first course until I see the . . . . cupcakes with their swirls of icing and the cherry on top on the buffet. And then I put one in my mouth anyhow. Plus . . . yeah, the cheesecake looks good too, why not?? We are bombarded with actual food options and visual representations of a huge huge range of foods. All the time. And it's not trays of crudites or pictures of carrots and turnips which cause us problems.
Then there's the sound of food. We can experience such a huge range of sounds. How many irresistible snacks are all about crunchiness? Potato chips, pretzels . . . Or slurpiness? Gravy on chips, hot fudge sauce on a sundae . . . . All those sounds heard intimately inside our heads. With every bite and every smack and every slurp. (Listening to other people eat? Not so pleasurable, somehow!! So maybe I'll crawl off and eat all of this stuff by myself. In secret. No one will ever know, right?)
And the scent of food: deeply linked to memory and to emotion. When you're selling a house, you're advised to have just had bread baking in the oven prior to "show time" because the smell of fresh bread means "home". Proust knew how important scent was to the enjoyment of food; his famous madeleines! We have some 368 olfactory sensors, apparently . . . many fewer than our dogs of course!. People who have lost their ability to smell generally lose a lot of their ability to taste as well. But I have not. My nose works just great. Bet yours does too. And so the smell of chocolate cookies; the smell of BBQ wings: yeah. Gotta avoid these. (Interesting, however, that no one has developed a perfume based on BBQ wings or even baking bread!! Not yet!)
And then there's the touch of food, and this one is really complex. So complex that it's almost impossible to articulate.
Most obviously there is the texture of food: smoothness, or crispness, an infinite array of textures, all picked up by the pressure sensors in your mouth and throat.
There's the temperature of food: icy cold icecream, hot comforting stew. And the other kind of temperature: namely, food's relative spiciness (cayenne) or coolness (mint).
We experience through touch the "gulp" or acceleration of food down the gullet: that glug glug glug of an extra large Coke. We continue to experience food's touch through the "kinesthetic sense" of where the food is located in your body after you've decided to eat it: the mouth, throat, stomach (that craving to be "full", even "overfull"),
And yeah . . . . down the rest of the path. Not generally contemplated while in the moment of eating, actually!! Not contemplated either: the kinesthetic experience of overeating several hours later, even tomorrow. When there will be all the internal body sensations relating, I suppose, to "balance" -- not so much the teetering on one foot kind of balance but chemical balance. Or imbalance. We know when we ate too much salt yesterday and feel totally bloated from water retention. Or too much sugar so our teeth are still aching . . . Or too much fat, so that our guts are clenching. Food hangovers.
And after weeks and months and years of excessive indulgence in food, we know all too well the gross bodily discomfort -- touch again -- of the obesity which inevitably results. Of bellies hanging over waistbands, red-ridged at the end of the day. Of too-tight collars.
With obesity triggered by excess indulgence of taste, urged on by all the other senses (sight, sound, scent, touch) we're right back to integrated sense experience again. And not in a good way.
No need to glance in the mirror to know that overweight doesn't look good. And even if you manage to avoid the mirror, there's no avoiding the condemnatory gaze all around a fat person. Yup, the snide glances of loved ones and even strangers confirm it. . . Undisciplined indulgence of taste has visually unappealing results.
Obesity is not very appealing to the ears either. Thighs chafing together: we can hear 'em, can everyone else hear 'em too? Buttons popping. Seams splitting.
Obesity is not very appealing to the nose. We apply the deodorant, whoosh on the after-bath powders, spray the perfumes: and still worry excess weight might not smell good. We fear offending others with those whiffs from those body folds . . . .
Above all, obesity is not appealing to the touch. Since our bodies don't feel good to us, we're pretty sure our bodies won't feel good if someone else wants to touch 'em either . . . and of course resign ourselves to the reality that this is increasingly unlikely to occur anyhow.
So I'm thinking that for me, the best method of savouring life is to savour hunger. Some hunger. The hunger that signals I'm really going to enjoy my next meal, and that I'm not overeating.
When I savour hunger I put food in its place. I isolate taste, giving taste its fair due. Enjoy every bite when it's time to eat. But taste will get no more than its fair due. I won't eat too much because it looks good, sounds good, smells good and feels good. I will stop when it's time to stop.
And instead, I will savour sight, sound, scent and touch in all their non-food contexts. Of which life offers infinite possibilities.
Sight. Light on snow. No calories.
Sound. Chickadees in the cedars. No calories.
Scent. The perfume of my white freesias. No calories.
Touch. Touching. Being touched. The kinesthetic pleasure of a fit body in motion.
Hey, motion. That would actually be burning calories. Right??
Life is to be savoured. And I'm going to overdo the savouring of all life's savourable moments. All of 'em. As much as possible!
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Nancy_ wrote on my "links to a lynx" blog:
"You have been blessed with the ability to savour life."
What a compliment. I thanked her. And I've been thinking about that. Because although I don't always savour life . . . it's something I aspire to do. At my best, choose to do.
If I permit it, I'm scared a lot of the time. A person of "mental toughness", that attitude that Steve Siebold recommends on fatloser.com? I'm thinking, not so much. Or at any rate, could certainly use lots more of it.
If I permit it, I'm full of regret for the past. What I didn't do and should have done. What I did do and shouldn't have done.
If I permit it, I worry about what is going to happen next. Whether I'll be able to cope. Or not.
The last year has been one of the most difficult periods in my life. Yup, there are other serious contenders for first place in that category . . . but still, one of the most difficult.
So no. I don't have "The Answer". Or the answers. Not at all.
What helps the most? Focusing my attention on the moment. Right now. Today. The Present.
My cross country ski. It was sunny and sparkly and blowing so hard that it almost blew me off my feet. I laughed out loud. It was late in the day, and the track was mostly blown in. Deep blue shadows. The snow was sculpted into delicate reliefs, alternating smooth and textured, like a damask tablecloth.
Then the gym: upper body workout. Three sets. Grinding out two more reps in each final set. Yeah. As I left, all done, someone held the door open for me, grinning at me with recognition of my pleasure in moving my body, my pleasure in feeling strong.
As I pulled into the driveway, I saw icicles hanging from the eavestrough, ice in the garden gate below, illuminated with the setting sun.
White freesia on the table, and branches of pussywillow I've been enjoying for several weeks, now sending out roots and leaves. I wonder if I'll be able to keep them going long enough to plant in the garden. I've tried it before, I've never been successful at it! Just no spot wet enough, I guess. But sure, I'm going to try it again.
Stripped off my soaking wet clothes. Took a hot hot bath. With a cup of black coffee. And a new bar of soap that smells good.
Now I'm looking forward to my bowl of freshly-made chicken barley mushroom soup. I'm hungry. And I'm savouring that hunger, waiting for DH's roast beef to be ready so we can sit down together. Hunger is not an emergency. It's a reliable signal that I'm not eating too much, and a promise that I'm going to taste every spoonful of my supper.
Savouring hunger? It's for me a key aspect of savouring life. I'm increasingly sure of that.
If I focus solely on savouring food, there's so much else that I shut myself off from savouring fully. (I've been thinking about that more and more.)
Savouring life? I'm working at it. And it's working for me. Thanks, NANCY_, for bringing it to my attention.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Yesterday I looked out my back window and saw, in the park behind my house, a lynx!!
It was loping along the fence line down the hill through the woods, warm in its lush taupe fur. Furry tail almost as long as its body and as thick as one of its legs. Silhouetted profile displaying the lynx'scharacteristic dark tufted ears, so expressive.
I opened the door onto our third floor deck so that I could see it better and it stopped, looked up at me, made eye contact for a few seconds, and then continued on unconcerned. It knew, I'm sure, that I meant it no harm. That I was full of awe and admiration. I didn't have a camera handy (I'm no good at taking pictures anyhow) but it looked just like this one.
I've only seen a lynx once before in my entire life -- never in the wild -- and the last time was perhaps 18 years ago, also in our back yard. Swarming up the side of our children's playhouse, a wild thing more than twice the size of the biggest housecat, that had never learned the use of domestic stairs! I've never forgotten it.
They have a life span of up to 20 years. Do you suppose it was the same one?
My lynx moved with grace and power, alert. Do you suppose it was out for a little prowl, confident of locating a rabbit, savouring its hunger? Anticipating its next meal?
Thursday, February 23, 2012
It was OK: I'd planned for it.
Evening dinner meeting . . . had one glass of wine with a very light dinner chosen from the buffet (asparagus, carrots, roasted beets, a little chopped salad, a small serving of chicken): skipped the rolls, butter, potatoes, roast beef, lasagna, huge array of desserts; just had two cups of black coffee.
Fresh berries and yogourt when I got home instead.
And: sure, experienced some hunger while waiting for dinner, plus did not find the dinner choices I was prepared to eat totally satisfying.
But: I enjoyed networking and socializing, felt awake and alert through the business portion of the meeting, and was very glad that I hadn't eaten more!!
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Here's a link to an article in today's Toronto Globe and Mail about a new on-line tool called the Body Weigh Simulator which helps predict how people lose weight on a diet.
The standard weight-loss diet approach tells us: since there are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat, to lose 1 pound you have to eat 3500 fewer calories or burn off 3,500 more calories with exercise. That's 500 calories a day for seven days to lose 1 pound a week.
But we know that weight loss doesn't happen consistently. Initial weight loss on a diet does tend to follow that pattern. But then weight loss tends to slow. Or plateau. Even if you keep up the 500 a day calorie "deficit".
And that's because metabolism slows with weight loss so that the body burns fewer calories "at rest".
This new Body Weight Simulator tool is pretty interesting because you input age, gender, body weight, height, activity level, weight goal and your time line for reaching that weight goal: and then the tool simulates what diet and exercise changes will be necessary to reach your goal weight. But even more important, what changes will be necessary to MAINTAIN that goal weight over time.
We know, maintenance is the tough part as metabolism slows.
I had lots of fun playing around with this tool. Here's the link to the Body Weight Simulator:
What do I think? The simulator seems to me to overestimate by quite a significant margin the number of calories I can eat a day while still maintaining my current weight. Spark People also overestimates the number of calories I can actually eat.
However, what this simulator makes absolutely clear . . . is that although losing weight requires significant calorie reduction during the "diet" phase, it also requires permanent calorie reduction during the "maintenance" phase.
If I want to weight less permanently, I have to eat less. Yeah. Permanently.
I'm thinking that eating less permanently is also going to mean I'll need to savour hunger. Permanently. Is that OK with me? Yes it is.
As Steve Siebold told me on day three of fatloser.com, "Fat people give in to cravings, fit people prepare for cravings".
Cravings can't be eliminated. Not if I want to be slim.
But if I cultivate an attitude of mental toughness about cravings, the cravings don't last long. Twenty minutes, tops.
The slimness, on the other hand, lasts: 24/7. And the slimness, increased energy, general feeling of alertness and self-control? No question. It's worth it.
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