Monday, May 12, 2008

The French Paradox

At brunch on Sunday, I helped myself to waffles with strawberries and whip cream among other things (and it was unbelievably delicious!). My partner and I shared a second helping of them as well, and we split a dessert from the dessert buffet. I did not over-eat, but I did indulge- it was my treat meal for the week. But one person made the comment that I was "certainly enjoying my food now" that I am off my competition meal plan. That triggered something inside me that had been lurking since the competition- my discomfort with people seeing me eat something other than chicken and veggies. Inevitably, they will comment, it is so different from what I was doing; but in my mind it was construed to mean I was eating too much, people were noticing me eating so much and they were noticing how much fatter I am now that I am not competition weight. I believe that I can't eat in front of people unless it's totally 100% clean and 'diet' food now. That's a struggle because I will not go back to eating that restricted- it's not healthy. I have to admit, I began hiding from people when I eat because I am afraid of comments like that, even if I am eating chicken and carrots, but with brown rice thrown in because I can eat carbs now.
And then I read Scott Abel's Blog again. He discusses the French Paradox in his April 2008 post. The French paradox is that although the French indulge in high-fat and high-calorie food, they remain slim. What struck me was that in a study on attitudes towards food, Americans were shown a piece of chocolate cake and asked what word they associated with it. "Guilt" was the American response. The same study was done in France, and what word did they associate with the cake? "Celebrate". Celebrate! That's right. My Aunt (and yoga guru) made a comment this weekend at my yoga class; she said "it's about how you eat, if you eat while you are rushed, upset, or without thought it's different than if you eat with gratitude and awareness. If you eat with awareness, and without guilt, even eating a chocolate bar won't affect you negatively." How profound.
Scott further notes that there is an inverse relationship between health and well-being and the amount of time spent thinking about the nutritional value of your food. In other words, the more you obsess about the nutrition of your food, the less healthy you can be.
No, I am not advocating that we stop thinking about the nutrition we put in our bodies, and that we 'celebrate' Monday by having a piece of cake. Instead, like my guru and Scott Abel comment, eat differently. Pay attention to how you are eating and how you are feeling about it. Your body and mind will let you know if you should be putting it into your system or not; I guarantee your body will tell you it likes healthy, whole foods more than the occasional waffle with whip cream. But have the waffle anyway- celebrate! But make it a worthwhile, and meaningful celebration and in moderation.
Sunday's brunch was a celebration for me, a celebration of another week completed on a healthy meal plan, another week sticking to a fitness schedule that makes me feel vital and strong, another week of planning and prep to stick to those habits. It was also a celebration of the caregivers in our lives: labeled as Mothers Day, it really is about all persons who give selflessly to the care of others. I have had so many in my life, and I thank them all truly and sincerely.
So, where do I go from here? I have to find strength when I am alone, to not binge on fudge when my partner turns his back. I have to stop the negative thought process around comments about food so I feel comfortable eating, both healthy and treat meals, infront of others. Awareness and gratitude towards food and the process of eating is how I will overcome this new challenge.

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