Friday, June 06, 2008

Food (food?) and food anxiety.

A few weeks ago, I spied this article on and it perked my interest. At about the same time, as happens, other health bloggers started piping up about Michael Pollan and his new book 'In Defense of Food', which I can't wait to get my hands on. In case you have missed it, his food creed is practically the warcry of healthy eating right now -and that is:

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants"

Personally, I love the simplicity of the statement and the way that it makes healthy eating sound so very.... achievable. Easy. Uncomplicated. It has an 'I can do that' feel about it.

Brad Pilon, author of Eat-Stop-Eat, has a similar manifesto, which I swiped from his latest newsletter. He gets a bit more wordy:

"Eat less but enjoy the foods you eat. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and lots of herbs and spices. And maybe most importantly, spend less time stressing over the types of food you are eating."

This is exactly in tune with what I am thinking about food and eating. Just relax. Eat lots of veges, don't stress it. I think the suggestion to 'eat food' is interesting and, sadly, very relevant. What is food? If a food manufacturer puts together a pile of starch, sugar, fat, flavourings and stabilisers, then adds some heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, does the obvious health claim mean that this processed product is now real food, as good as some salmon and an apple? Michael Pollan thinks that food is something your Grandma would have eaten on a regular basis and I agree, although I'm sure my Grandma does not have any ideas about chickpeas and kidney beans.

I thought a bit more about this 'what my Grandparents ate' angle. It's not just to do with what they ate, but how much, how often and .. just 'how' they ate. My Grandparents ate, and still eat mostly fruit and veges, because they grow them. They lived through some economically hard times and so habitually eat little meat. They eat brown bread. All good. My Great Grandmother (my Grandfathers mother) owned a cake shop and her and my Grandmother made sure the cake tins were always full. Both women maintained their figures into old age in spite of daily indulgences and I know why. A slice of cake at Grandmas comes on a little flowery plate, accompanied by a cup of tea and it's about 1/6 the size of a cake that you buy in any cake shop. The size of Grandmas cakes has remained unchanged since the beginning of time, which means that the cakes in my Great Grandmothers shop would have been similar. Also, the ritual is to sit and talk. Not stuff it and run, or simultaneously stuff and run so that you hardly know what you are eating. Lots to think about as I develop my new eating style. It's not just what I eat, but how, and how much, and why I'm eating it.

Today was a mini-fast day as per Eat-Stop-Eat and I was not hungry because last night I cooked a fabulous Tagine recipe and ate quite a bit of it. I can't really call it a 'Tagine' because that needs to be in the proper conical dish. Mine was slow cooked in my crock-pot, using the Morroccan essentials (cumin, cinnamon, coriander, prunes) . I woke up just not hungry. Mid-afternoon, we went out for a late lunch and I got the lean beef lasagne with a salad, which looked nice, not swimming in grease. Of course, after lunch I had an attack of food anxiety, which hits predictably whenever I eat something that is traditionally not considered a 'diet friendly' food. I'm learning to ride the waves of it now and I'm understanding more about why a small 'cheat' can often become a binge. Last Thursday I was caught out and ate a chicken roll for lunch (OMG.. bread, wheat, all those carbs, possible ingredients of dubious caloric content... arrrgh!) and noticed the same mental effect of my mind going into a spin as it tries to settle on whether lunch was an acceptable choice or a disaster. At 3.30pm on Thursday I realised I was still obsessing over what I'd eaten for lunch and, what's more, I was feeling a distinct urge to race to the bakery and continue the carb consumption. Essentially I was feeling some nervous anxiety and my brain still thinks that eating is the cure for this. Today, after lunch, the same thing but I decided that it's time to start killing off that eating anxiety program. It may take weeks, or months, but I'm not putting up with it any more. After lunch we went shopping and I could not concentrate because I was still too preoccupied with thinking about the lasagne I just ate and the chocolate brownie I wanted to eat next. Bah! At that point we walked past a display of massage chairs and I plonked myself into one and started the demo program, which lasts 20 minutes. The assistant was too busy to try and sell me one and I got to sit down and get fully relaxed. This was a really good chair too, it doesn't just vibrate, but has ball-like rollers that quite accurately simulate the hands of a masseur. I used to work as a massage therapist and I know a good massage from an ineffective one. This was very nice. Probably the best you can get while in a sitting position. As I lost my physical tension, my mind settled down and I realised that I wasn't hungry. I was just stressed out. I was stressed out about lunch and this was making me want to eat more and it wasn't a matter of what I'd eaten. Say I had instead eaten the salad only, or the quiche, which looked pretty innocent, then I would probably have been stressing out because I was still hungry and should have eaten the lasagne that I really wanted. I'm just all stressy when it comes to food and need to just chill the hell out about it all, just like Brad P says. Once I tuned into not being hungry, I was unhungry for five hours. I went to Salsa class and forgot about food until my stomach said 'grrr'. One warning about trying out massage beds and chairs. It doesn't take very long to feel relaxed enough to seriously consider dropping $2000 and taking one home. I only refrained because I'm holding out for this. I tried one at Filex a few years ago and could never love another the same. It wants me.


  1. You tried out THAT at Filex...and you never pointed me in the direction of the stall?

    For shame....

  2. Thanks Sara, I enjoyed that post. I can identify with some of those thoughts.


I love to hear from you! Tell me what's in your brain, your heart or your dinner plate :D.