As you may have noticed, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. When I’m not thinking about it, I’m cooking it, eating it or cleaning up after doing both. And friends always ask me, how do you stay thin?
Well, I’m not thin, I’m usually five to ten pounds over what I’d like to be, but I aspire to thinness, and I exercise a lot. There is a mentality I’ve developed though, which it turns out, is very French!
This week, I’m reading a book called, What French Women Know by Debra Ollivier. My friend, Zoe, gave it to me because I was telling her I have no clue how to flirt, never did, and I’m convinced there is a secret sign language that people are using to flirt, which I don’t understand. (But, that’s a subject for another blog.) Here are a couple lines from the book:
“We might not have all the love and sex we want in our lives — in fact, we might be desperately lonely or miserably horny — but we can always find solace in a dark chocolate eclair, a sugar glazed fruit tart, or, what the hell, a bag of chips. And that’s because hunger and eating are often sublimated experiences of erotic, sensual, or emotional intensity missing in life.”
I think this means I’m only able to flirt with pastries. Not an encouraging sign. The author then suggests that American obesity is happening partly because we are sensuality starved. This explains my nose dive into that bag of Lays Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips yesterday. (I did stop at 12, but it wasn’t easy.)
OK, so if I am sensuality starved, then dammit, the one sensual pleasure I enjoy, I am really going to enjoy, even if it does take me a year to lose five pounds. The other day, I was dying to have a piece of the crunchy, tangy-sweet blackberry peanut butter crisp I’d made for my kids the night before. It turned out great and was crumbly, peanut-buttery, blackberry heaven. But I kept telling myself no because I still have five pounds to lose.
Then I decided, screw that, and had a piece. It was small, but man it was good! I sat there in the kitchen and savored every decadent bite. I even, almost shamelessly, licked the plate, but did sneak into the corner to do it, in case the neighbor was looking. (I don’t recommend this barbaric behavior, but for honesty’s sake, I had to include it.)
After that, I was OK. One small piece was enough to let me taste it without going insane. By the way – not to ruin the book for you, but that’s what French women know – how to live each day to its fullest, and enjoy every pleasure, because life is short and nothing is certain, especially French men. It makes a lot of sense.
I remember when I was younger, I’d eat way too much because I am my mother’s daughter, then get angry and deprive myself of what I really wanted. Then, because I was depriving myself, I’d try to find a reasonably healthy alternative to the piece of candy I was desperate to have. I’d eat 20 things instead of the one thing I craved, and was never as thin as I wanted to be.
I finally figured out that if I’d just had the one stinking piece of candy, I’d have been happy, had what I really pined for and stopped. So, I started eating when I was hungry, having what I wanted, savoring my food — and lost weight.
Because one piece of candy may have 80 or even 110 calories, but the half slice of bread, three dried figs, apple and bowl of popcorn I was substituting, are way more calories than that, and never left me as happy as that one fabulous chocolate did.
So, dammit, every once in a while, eat the candy, have one drink, have the SMALL piece of dessert, or the 12 potato chips, but really savor it. Sit there and really enjoy it, let it melt in your mouth and taste the flavor, the texture, the chocolate, vanilla, or sour cream of it, and know why you love it so much.
You will have to stop at one (or 12 chips) but it won’t be as hard because you enjoyed it so much. (I have a rule of only eating the folded chips, which really cuts down on the number of chips you can safely eat. Unless you make the mistake of buying Kettle Chips, which, I discovered, are all folded. That was an unfortunate night.)
Most of the rest of the time you will have to make smart food choices because you are what you do/eat, every day. So, eat the salad, but taste the dessert.
As I’ve said before, the French really do know something about food.
Note: (Sadly, the book didn’t teach me how to flirt with an actual man, but it’s comforting to know I could easily pick up a blackberry crisp if I wanted to.)