Your Relationship with Food-Engage Your Head (And a Little Exercise at the End)

At age 19, Mireille Guiliano, author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, lived for a year in America as an exchange student.  She loved her experience and would later marry an American and live in New York.  However, she did not love the more than fifteen pounds she gained that year and the ten more or so that she gained in Paris afterward, as she continued her newly adopted “American way” of eating.

Through the guidance of a doctor back home she became newly acquainted with her French eating heritage and was able to contrast it to the habits adopted while she was in America.  Some of those adopted habits were eating while standing up, not making her own food, living off whatever was available and generally eating in excess.  In her own words, “Like an addict’s, my body came to expect too much of what had once been blissfully intoxicating in small doses.”  (p. 22)

At the beginning of her treatment “Dr. Miracle” as she calls him, gave her a simple description of the human struggle: 

 “There are two selves in each of us: the one who wants to be slim and healthy and the one who wants something else….The key was not to conquer the second, but to broker a rapprochement: make friends of your two selves and be the master of both your willpower and your pleasures.  That was the French way.” (p. 23)

Dr. Miracle continued the conversation by stating that there are many body weights out there: the insurance company body weight (based on height), the “fashion weight” (no explanation needed there), and then there’s the “well-being weight” in which a person feels comfortable in her own skin.  That is the goal.

“Teaching me to find and maintain my personal equilibrium, to live bien dans ma peau (comfortable in one’s own skin), that was our mission.” (p.23)

Dr. Miracle continued to explain that balance is achieved more with the mind than the stomach.  “Once you realize that changing one’s habits, like being a French woman, is mostly a state of mind, you will see why the only truly effective approach is the one that engages your head.” (p. 24)

When I reread this quote while reading on the elliptical the other day I wanted to shout,  “Yes! Exactly!  Did anybody hear that?  Engage your head and you are on the road to victory!”

(But of course no one was reading the book with me so I would have gotten a couple weird looks.)

So, let’s begin engaging our minds, shall we?

I have a homework assignment for you:  I want you to choose a meal, a dessert, a snack…an eating experience in which you can take some time to do the following:

1) take a moment to smell your food and register what you are smelling: What are the scents you are smelling?  Sweet, spicy, vanilla, cinnamon, thyme…

2) take a small bite

3) let the food sit on your tongue

4) roll the food around in your mouth

5) think about the texture, the flavor, even the temperature

6) chew, chew, chew (again, take your time)

7) swallow and put your fork down for a minute and think about what you just tasted

8) do this a couple of times and then stop and think, “Am I really still hungry, or could I walk away satisfied by what I already ate?  Did I actually like this meal or was it just okay?”

Michael and I attended a coffee tasting at Starbucks a couple of months back and some of the steps above were the very directions given to us as we tasted various blends of coffee.  I didn’t realize how complex the flavor of coffee could be until I paid attention and was guided by someone who “knew”. 

 I had no idea that certain food items like a cranberry scone or a bite of lemon pound cake could compliment a coffee…until I paid attention.  I gained a deeper appreciation as to why I enjoy dark roasts over medium roasts.  I learned I like coffees from certain countries rather than other countries.  Soil and climate mattered.  (The same applies to wine.)

I share all this to say that food is not just fuel but a “sense experience” if you allow it to be.  When you engage the senses, engage the mind, food is much more satisfying and you usually don’t need as much of it to be satisfied.

In summary, engage your mind as you eat today and the rest of this week.  See what happens.  You may be surprised at what does and does not appeal to you.

Please share your experience.  We’d love to hear about it!


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christy on November 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    People can use the question: “Did I actually like this meal or was it just okay?” do wean themselves off of fast food too. I started paying attention to how fast food tasted versus some of my meals from home and learned that fast food didn’t really taste good. Now when I am tempted to get fast food, I ask myself, “Do you realllly want to waste 500-1000 calories on something that doesn’t even taste good?” Use your head and eat the things you like – but in small doses. 🙂


  2. Posted by Karen on November 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    this is so true about truly savoring the moment/bite and being present in the moment in all that we do instead of getting lost in the multi-taskness of life we seem to slip into and not remembering what we just consumed/did. i saw a show once where the woman had people eating a hershey choc kiss in several bites over many minutes. it was a novel concept at the time to me. lol. but now something i try to practice in many areas. 🙂


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