One area I’m going to focus on is meal time. There are far too many days when I cram food down my throat as fast as I can so I can get to the next item on the To-Do list. My average breakfast lasts about three minutes, gulped as quickly as possible so I can get out the door to work. Lunch is an all-too-short hour packed with exercise and errands in addition to eating – that is when I’m able to take a lunch break. By the time dinner comes around, I’m often too tired to cook, not because I’ve been worked to the bone, but because my job is hectic and disjointed. So I mindlessly microwave something and eat in front of the tube, before starting the end-of-the-day ritual of getting ready for the next day, preparing the next breakfast and lunch that I will very nearly inhale. It’s an incredibly unsatisfying way to eat. Is it any wonder that I find myself struggling with chocolate cravings in the evening?
We are told that a calorie is a calorie and that weight maintenance is nothing more than the management of calories in/calories out. If you buy this, then a Lean Cuisine lunch at your desk is no different than soup and a sandwich with a friend at a sidewalk café. But they are worlds apart. The first is a matter of utility; the second is enjoying life.
I find myself longing for the experience of a leisurely meal, sitting across a table from another person, nibbling between breaks in the conversation. I fantasize about hours spent gabbing, having friendly arguments over politics, listening to tales of everyday triumph and tragedy, all the while crunching on a salad between sips of iced tea, or savoring a biscotti with a cup of coffee. In this way of being, large quantities of food are not required. What is required is quality, and not so much the quality of the food as the quality of the experience and the relationship. This seems a more civilized way to eat, something far removed from mere nutrition.
We often talk about our bodies as if they were machines and food the fuel, to be monitored and measured and optimized. In that paradigm, you get lectured by your doctor for eating the “wrong” things, right before he gives you a prescription for the latest appetite suppressant. But what if the body is not a machine at all? What if it is a gift to be lovingly nurtured? In that paradigm, you eat foods that bring health and energy, in an enjoyable atmosphere with people you care about. In that scenario, the only prescription you need is permission to take your time.