Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bites and Mouthfuls

"You want in on a martini?" asks Dan.
"Sure, I'll take a little bit." says I.
Half an hour later:
"Want a refill?" queries the man o' my dreams.
"Just a mouthful, thanks." I respond.

The same scenario plays out with different offerings and characters all over the place on any given day or evening.

"Have a piece of (birthday, wedding, baby shower, or former-pastor-farewell) cake." offers the hospitable server.
"Okay. But just a mouthful." says I.
Half an hour later, post sugar letdown sets in:
"Is there any of that cake left?" I query.
"Oh, yes. Let me get you some!" the server responds.
(Already feeling ashamed) "Hmm, yes. But only a bite." I murmur.

Just goes to show how hard-wired we humans are to doing anything and everything for our own comfort, pain avoidance, or whatever it's being called currently. It's a phenomenon also known as "I can rationalize anything if I want it badly enough." I recall being in a fast food eatery years ago with a friend while in the initial phase of the Atkins Diet. As I ate my salad sans dressing and my hamburger sans bun, my friend offered to share her French fries. I self-righteously declined. Moments later, she returned to the counter and then came back to our table munching a giant chocolate chip cookie.

"Here, you want to share?" It really was one damn big cookie.
"No, I guess I'd better not." was my half-hearted reply.
"Yeah. Well, it's not that good anyway. Not worth going off Atkins for, anyway."
And she proceeded to eat the whole damn big cookie, all by herself.
"You didn't want any of that cookie anyway." she concluded.

Which brings me to the point of bites and mouthfuls. I had to pull my driver's license out of my wallet the other day and happened to look at my height and weight. SHOCK. I read there on an official California state document how much more I weigh today than I did when I first got my license 6 years ago. LORD, HAVE MERCY.

The shock came after years of bites of this, mouthfuls of that, and finishing cookies that weren't worth the calories after the first taste or two. In her book, French Women Don't Get Fat, author Mireille Guiliano observes, "...the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites..."so it is totally unnecessary and defeats the purpose of eating clean (which is to enjoy healthy eating)to eat past the point of enjoying the taste and texture.

An obvious strategy to combat the "calorie creep" that comes from extra bites and mouthfuls is to jot down a running list of things eaten over the course of the day to help notice everything that goes into our mouth. Even one almond. Another obvious one is to order dessert to share with your dinner partner. Still another, which I love, is more subtle and again comes from Guiliano: Go ahead and order your dessert while others order theirs. Then, "Take a few bites very slowly, until others are almost done. Then tell a story or talk to your neighbor. While you're talking, others keep eating; meanwhile, discreetly put your utensils in the five o'clock "done" position; when the server comes to collect your plate, everyone will still be listening to your story and won't notice your subtle moderation."

Of course, this last strategy depends on being in a restaurant with decent service. It wouldn't have succeeded at the fast food joint! We have tougher choices there! In the case of my friend in the fast food place, I can well imagine she may have eaten the whole cookie because she didn't want to be wasteful. But we can talk about the "clean plate club" another time.

For now, the next time I'm tempted I'll try to remember just how much it bites to live with the consequences of all my "just a mouthfuls".

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