Tuesday, January 27, 2009

0 Nutritional Tip #12: "The Politics of Eating, The Politics of ...Ooooh, Feeling Good...."


For some of you, the phrasing of this post's title will most likely conjure memories of the Re-Flex song from the 80's, "The Politics of Dancing." And for those of you who have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, here's the music video reference, for your own edification:

But of course, that is an entirely unrelated topic, brought about by free-association. Or is it? ;-)

Aside from food's functional purposes -- i.e., to fulfill basic survival & to (hopefully) nourish the body, there is no doubt that, for a large majority, food also nourishes the mind & soul.

If you've ever read Laura Esquivel's wonderful book of magic realism, "Like Water For Chocolate" (or perhaps have also seen the movie), you'll know what I'm talking about. Even if you haven't, maybe you still know what I'm talking about here.

There is no doubt that most of us have an emotional connection to food. Some of these connections, (or dare I say in some cases, these connections have turned into full-blown "relationships"!), are more positive than others. A lot of how we think & feel about food often has to do with our past experiences, family dynamics, & a whole host of other factors. Don't worry, this is not going to turn into a discourse on "emotional eating" or "food abuse."

For the moment, let's assume that you eat "like a normal person." In other words, that is, you eat when you are hungry, & stop eating when you are full.

Now as no one's perfect, sometimes this doesn't always happen. Sometimes we forget ourselves & our stomachs, & keep eating. Or sometimes we aren't hungry at all but eat because we are craving the taste of a particular food. Or sometimes we are hungry & eat something we don't really want to eat because it's "good for us," which then makes us reach for what we really wanted to eat in the first place. :)

Heck, I know I've certainly done all of the above from time to time.

So what can we do about it? Here's a suggestion: If you need some "eating strategies," this topics is something I've already written about extensively on this blog. Just check the archives, looking under the categories of "nutrition," "body image," &/or "tips."

Of course, underlying all of these strategies is how we deal with our attitudes towards eating & food.

So, I'd like to propose a different way to view food.

Let's face it: Aside from the obvious basics, most of us eat for pleasure. Frankly, we would prefer to eat something yummy. Of course, that can mean different things to different people.

But let me ask you something: If we eat something because it makes us feel good, is it making us feel good in an immediate sense, as in a quick burst of energy (& the dopamine released in our brains) which we might get from refined sugar or caffeine, or is what we're eating making us feel good in the long run, as in we feel healthy & energetic & our blood-sugar levels are being balanced & sustained throughout the day?

Now I'm no hypocrite, & so, am not here to sit up on high shaking my finger at all of you like I'm some kind of holier-than-thou "food saint." There will be no guilt-inducing lecture sessions. In most cases, people who put themselves through the ringer like that don't need me to trigger those types of responses in themselves. :) They can do a perfectly good job of that all on their own. ;-) However, that guilt response really isn't helping either. So this time, let's be gentle with ourselves & just not go there this time, OK?

What I will do, however, is challenge you to read the latest health & nutrition articles & think about what you are putting in your body & how it's making you feel, in terms of how your mind & body are functioning throughout your day, and throughout the week, the month, and the year.

Because if you could choose to feel good all day long in the physical sense, as a direct result of your food choices, wouldn't you rather take the long view instead of the short one (i.e., instant gratification)? It's not a matter of being perfect & always picking the former choice, as it's important to have "special treats" from time to time, but what is important is that you truly feel good on the whole about the food choices you are making, & that these food choices also generally make you feel physically healthy.

On that note, I believe it's possible to satisfy both our need for eating yummy foods & our nutritional needs. How exactly you do that is up to you. Most of you don't need to be told like little children what's good for you or what tastes good. :)

Certainly, I could make recommendations, & you could pick & choose the types of foods you like from the list. Of course, the list isn't meant to be all inclusive, just a selection of healthy food suggestions. Also, I'd be happy to share what works for me, & you can pick & choose from the ideas, or do your own thing.

If we eat for nutrients and for pleasure, & discard the notion that these two things are contradictory, there might just be a way that you can "eat your cake & have it too."

OK, horrible pun, I know, but you get the point. In the next post, I will go into the specifics, & offer a list of healthy food choices, which can be used as a starting point, & will also talk about what I personally do.

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