Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Experience

Something hit me while I was eating my salad tonight. But first, the background.

I have not been very hungry at all the past few days. It's amazing how once the sugar and junk get out of my system, I don't really crave anything or feel hungry except for at certain times of the month. It's nice. I look at the clock, go "oh I should eat," and sort of shrug and grab whatever is easiest, a shake, a bar, whatever. But I do really look forward to dinner every night.

Today I went shopping because I wanted to have lots of crisp, fresh, tasty salad ingredients on hand for meals. I got all the delicious-looking veggies I wanted, and a chunk of roasted turkey breast to slice on top. I even got a new salad dressing that looked good.

I was so happy chopping up my baby cucumbers, ripe red tomatoes, and firm button mushrooms. I was almost humming as I measured out a cup of mixed greens and a cup of tender arugula and tossed them into a mixing bowl. I popped a small yellow tomato into my mouth as I placed a few on my beautiful, colorful salad, and my mouth was watering as I weighed out and sliced my moist cold turkey breast. I opened the dressing and measured my 2 Tbsp onto the salad. I licked the spoon, and boy was it good! I poured a tall glass of ice water and sat down to enjoy my feast.

Only, it didn't seem like a feast, I couldn't figure out what was going on in my head for the first few minutes. It tasted fresh and good. The greens were wonderful and the tomatoes sweet. Everything was just fine. Except, I felt almost like I didn't want to eat it. Oh I was hungry by then, but I just had this blah experience with the salad, and then I had a moment of clarity.

It was not "satisfying" in the same way, say, a plate of fried chicken and mashed potatoes is satisfying. Of course I feel so much better after eating a salad than I do after eating a fatty crappy meal, but still, something is missing in the mouthfeel and experience of a salad. It has something to do with the way a carby fatty super-salty meal makes me feel indulged and happy and almost high. I sort of go into a stupor when I eat something like fried chicken. It puts me into this state of OMG YUM that I just can't seem to get with a salad unless I add a lot of extras like cheese, more dressing, bacon, and some kind of sugar/carb load like croutons or dried fruits. Then, yeah. Yum. But when I eat a simple veg-and-protein salad with moderate dressing, it tastes good, but it is not an *experience.* I don't even know if this makes sense to you.

It is similar when I eat a protein bar or a "sugar free fat free" treat. It might taste good but it is not the experience. A slice of plain wheat bread can taste great but somehow it is not the same as eating half a loaf of hot white bread with butter. You know?

And the other part of it is the texture. I could never get into the texture of raw vegetables and salads. As an adult I learned to enjoy them, but as a kid I dumped on so much dressing and cheese that the texture was hidden, and as a morbidly obese adult I did the same, plus I ate several soft white buttered rolls with any salad I ate. Then it could become an experience. I strongly prefer creamy stuff (as in fatty) and crispy stuff (as in deep fried, not as in celery!)

As I got halfway through my salad I felt a bit of resentment. I thought about how "other people" get to eat fast food, and fried stuff, and pizza whenever they want. (I know that's not really true, but I think it sometimes). I thought about how even though the salad tasted good, I would gladly trade it for a burger and fries right then. And I got a bit annoyed because sometimes, this whole thing just stops making sense and I drive home from errands after seeing 90% of people in the store buying chips and ice cream and then seeing the long lines of people at fast food drive thrus, and I think, dammit, this sucks! Why isn't EVERYONE fat? Why can't I just go back to when I used to be one of them, buying and eating what I pleased?

And then I remember being so morbidly obese I could barely walk. I remember how I could not go down to enjoy the beach with my family the month before I started this blog... how my husband had to drop me off at the handicapped access point and then drive back to the regular parking area with the kids and walk to meet me. I remember being in pain and tired and, frankly, miserable. And how that greasy fried chicken was becoming my only source of pleasure in life.

I have so many more sources of pleasure in life now. I can walk and move and play and work. I am free. I don't need "the experience" of FOOD in order to have pleasure in my life. And I so do not want to ever, ever go back to that place I was four years ago. Not for all the fried chicken in the world.

So I eat my salads, I enjoy them just fine, they taste good. And then I get my real pleasure... my "experience"... in LIFE.


Princess Dieter said...

Well, it's true. Certain hyperpalatable foods make me positively euphoric. It might as well be some really amazing drug injected right into my system.

But I have salads almost every day, like my chicken fajita one today, with some avocado, and it did feel very satisfying and happy-making. For me, I need a lot of spice/flavoring--be it lemon, onions, garlic, etc--and then I get the happies.

Bland food, not so much.

I tend to overspice now, since I have to cut back on calories/fat and I ony allow myself maybe 1 starch a day (some days none). I like having a manageable appetite, some days almost no appetite, and that requires keeping the carbs at or under 100.

Fat, salt, sugar = tasty. Since I cut the sugar and try to reduce salt (can't control restaurant added salt, at home, yeah), fat with lotsa spices is my only default (EVOO, coconut oil, butter, avocado are my fats of choice).

We have to do what works. If eating stuff that doesn't make us euphoric for 30 minutes but makes us morbidly obese is weighed against stuff that makes us just okay to somewhat happy to occasionally very happy keeps us healthy...easy choice.

And the longer I eat this way, the more I enjoy it. Maybe taste buds adapt? I dunno. I could easily revert to pizza, lasagna, fries, etc...and 300 lbs, if I decide I want the euphoria of the pig-out, just like junkies relapse. I pray every day not to. I wanna stay "clean and sober". :D

Happy on-planning, Lyn!

Marilyn said...

What you're doing now is HARD WORK, Lyn! I also find it impossible to get "the experience" from a salad, whereas with baked goods, it was pretty much a "given"! If you consider how many years I abused food - types AND amounts - it's no wonder that it's still a struggle to choose healthier alternatives! And I'm still resisting moderating the AMOUNTS... I'm finding as I continue to shed weight (I'm down 95 pounds since May 2010) that I need to feel FULL every day in order to continue changing my relationship with food. Thank you for your blog - I always get something of value from reading it! XO - M

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

Your post is well-timed!

I aspire to be a "salad" person - one of those people who automatically chooses salads and likes living the healthy life.

I agree with you - the experience of eating salad for me is not like the experience of eating macaroni and cheese. But I don't feel as good after eating the mac and cheese...

I used to get mad about other people eating whatever they want and not getting fat. Then Dr. Phil's words (from way back when he used to come on the Oprah show) would echo in my mind, "Well that's not YOU". It doesn't matter what other people can or can't eat, whether or not it's fair. I can't binge AND be at a healthy weight. Period.

So this is the "summer of the salad" for me. I will do what I can to make sure salad lands on my plate most days of the week. Not macaroni salad, either!

I'd rather have the salads and embrace my life as the true experience, too!

Anonymous said...

Lyn, almost everyone *is* fat, and the majority of the remainder are heading in that direction. I'm sure you are familiar with a statistic that is a few years old, which calculated that 67% of adult Americans are overweight...half termed simply 'overweight;' the other half is obese. You know as well as anyone all you have to do is visit a mall or any school from elementary to senior high, and you will see 11-year old girls who look five months pregnant and nine year old boys with jiggling B-cup breasts. Do not envy these people. KEEP MOVING FORWARD with the knowledge YOU discovered: FOOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. FOOD IS NOT YOUR ENEMY. FOOD IS NOT ENTERTAINMENT, REWARD OR PUNISHMENT. FOOD IS FUEL TO MAKE THE ONE BODY YOU ARE GIVEN FOR LIFE ON EARTH RUN AS WELL AS POSSIBLE. People who mindlessly shovel huge portions of unhealthy foods into their mouths with no regard for their health, appearance or their children are committing a slow suicide. YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE! Remind youself as often as needed of the commitment you have made to yourself and your kids and all of us who read you every day. Whatever it takes. What works for me? This isn't going to taste as good as a smaller pair of jeans will feel. Vain? Yes. Does it work? Yes. Find what works for you.

timothy said...

sugar was never my obsession i'm a carb addict from the get go. i missed crunchy stuff, like chips and pretzels desperately. thank goodness for pork cracklins (not skins/rinds, cracklins actually have attached fat too) they got me through some rough patches! i too miss that horrible overstuffed disgusting satisfaction a binge can bring! lolol sad/sick but true lord knows a pound of ground turkey will "stuff" you but not the way a large pizza can. but i'm learning to live with the knowledge that missing a temporary "high" for a lifetime high is worth the sacrifice! thanks hon great post! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Lyn on food combining and textures. I had a euphoric experience with red swiss chard last Friday. I never tried it raw. Oh my. Bitter, salty, and crisp. So delicious.

I had a fail on salad one evening thsi week. Hubby and I ate a big salad with chicken and it was yummy but not what I craved. Later in the evening I ate potato chips and cup o'noodles.

Lynna said...

Last sentence of post... cold chills.

Maude said...

I've been reading some paleo blogs lately, and one of them is doing an entire series on "food reward" which is actually a physiological term about how the brain picks up on high caloric intake and then basically encourages us to eat those things again and again (being as we NEEDED more calories until very recently). It sounds EXACTLY like your description.

Anonymous said...

Your posts just get better and better!!! I LOVED this one and TOTALLY got it, I realized I feel the same exact way but didnt realize it until I read what you wrote...Again Lyn THANK YOU for your honesty and are such a blessing
Keep going are winning!!!!
peace and blessings
Sylmar Ca

Kathi said...

I have come a cross an interesting book that you might thinking about getting form the library it has truly opened my eyes about the effect of dairy, sugar and chocolate on the body. "Breaking the Food Seduction" By Neal Barnard. If you read it I would love to hear your thoughts about it.

Anonymous said...

This post is awesome and inspiring. The wonderful part is that you don't revert to those old eating habits. You processed the thought and then expanded on your feelings - that is healthy. Many people (me included at times), still drown out any feelings with a triple thick shake and some fries. You have stopped existing and started LIVING! Nothing is worth that, enjoy the salads with their freshness and crunch and all the health benefits that come with it. You are amazing!

tessler said...

This post totally resonated with me. I had a very similar experience at Waffle House one day that I posted about on my website. Here is a bit from that entry:

"I've been resenting the fact that I have to track/weigh/measure every bite I eat and account for it. I have to make healthier choices and limit my portion sizes. I can't eat what I want when I want; I have to plan for special treats. That just pisses off my inner two year old who wants to faceplant into a sheet cake and eat all the frosting followed by the cake with a chaser of double chocolate ice cream smothered in hot fudge."

My resentment totally dissolved in tears a few minutes later when I noticed that there was a huge gap between the edge of the booth table and my stomach. That was the same booth that I had to wedge myself into and couldn't breathe because the table was cutting into my stomach just a year or two before.

More from my website: "And now I'm not quite so resentful that I have to make the healthier choices, that I can't allow myself to faceplant into a sheet cake, or eat a pint of ice cream every night like I used to, or eat half a cheesecake in one sitting like I have been known to do. There is a reason that I weigh and measure my food and control my portion sizes. Yeah, it's hard. Yeah, it's frustrating. Yeah, I get tired of doing it every day. But the alternative is unthinkable. I've been there once, have the t-shirt, and I never want to go back there again."


Simply Sidney said...

Love this post!! It made me smile and cry at the frustrations I have with my food lovies (i.e. salty and fried). I too have had those days where I want to yell b/c I'm not getting to eat the foods I love and I see others indulging. Then I remember: if they are not over weight now, they are on their way...or maybe today was their splurge day. I'm just a couple months into my journey and your pictures are very inspiring!!

Theresa said...

I'm experiencing a bit of extra "girth" around my middle from having a few too many food experiences of my own. It is the price to be paid isn't it? We are just made this way.
Your post was very timely. I was deciding if today would be on plan or "moderately good". I choose the experience of well fitting clothes instead of the burger n' fries today. Thanks for helping me see it.

Splurgie said...

Love this post! Eating sensibly 99% of the time does get boring. But I try to remember that many pounds ago, I had 2 pairs of slacks in my closet that fit and they were getting snug. Now I can pretty much wear anything in my closet. Would trade that for a bag of donuts!

Anonymous said...

I doubt a full 90% of people you see are buying copious amounts of junk food, or maybe I just haven't been in the US for too long. Secondly, if you see those people being thin, chances are they know when to stop. As long as you don't know when to stop, you should try to stay away. Anyhow, I personally believe healthy foods - including fat like olive oil - is really satisfying and I am sure you can get there, too.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more about enjoying a salad but it not being an "experience" unless I have the sugary/carby dressing *I* want, the chese, the dried fruit, the candied nuts, the bacon AND the croutons on it. I faithfully eat my L&G of lean protein and non-starchy, low-carb veggies. I look forward to it because it is my one "real meal" of the day. But I'm not having the food experience and I miss it. I honestly miss it.

Hang tough!

Bunpoh said...

Lyn, you are rocking it! Your turn around is amazing, and I love your clarity.

I so feel you here. I continue to struggle with cycles of food as reward vs. life as reward. Right now, food as reward is dominant, which sucks. I don't know why I switch back and forth like this. It is not hormonal, not following that pattern. BUT, like you, I am drawing a line in the sand. I may be eating a little too much, a little high calorie, but I am NOT eating processed junk, grains, sugar/hfc syrup, etc. Life as an EX-obese person is just too good to give up for THAT.

We've had a CRAPPY spring and summer in Seattle, cloudy, rainy, cold. I am hoping that as it warms up, I feel that energy and motivation, the will to move, be in love with life and not food. That has happened during sunny periods for me (I take HUGE amounts of vitamin D, 10K IU a day, under doctor's care, so it's not that, I don't think.) I may need to move to Hawaii or something to be healthy. But when the physical motivation isn't there, I need the mental motivation of remembering that life is better, that I am so much happier and healthier if I do the right thing. Thanks for this post.

Erika said...

I totally know what you mean, Lynn. I feel so much better during and after the salad, but it is not "comforting" the way a dense, starchy carb thing is. All about moderation I suppose.

Anonymous said...

small question -- I've been archive-diving, and I wondered if you are STILL getting all the MF product for free. Would you still keep with it if you had to pay like mere mortals?

(I just placed my first order last night, awaiting it now. I'm 5'2, 175, I haven't seen 150 in ages, and I'd love to get to 125.)


April said...

Wow... great. While I have always loved vegetables and salads, my go to foods when I am nothing thinking or expressly going for something bad is the fried, the crispy, the creamy etc. Tasting life is way more interesting. Awesome post.

Diana said...

I absolutely love what you said about experiencing joy in other ways. How you had gotten to the point where the fatty sugary tasty foods were your only joy, but now there's so much more. I really needed to be reminded of that.

Lyn said...

Anonymous (argyle)~

Yes, as you can read in the disclaimer in my last post, I do get my Medifast meals for free. However, if you added up all the time and effort I have put into this blog, it doesn't seem so free anymore. Three years, almost, of daily posting before I got the Mf offer! But I am definitely grateful for the opportunity to have it without purchasing it.

Would I still use it if I had to purchase it? I dunno. Probably, knowing what I know now about how it works for me. I admit I would not have STARTED it had I never been offered it for free. I thought it was just another crazy diet program. But it has been so amazing to see how this way of eating has helped me with my binge issue. So yeah, I would probably keep using it, because the biggest benefit for me aside from weight loss is the freedom from food obsession I get when I stay on plan.

Anonymous said...

I so identify with this post. One of my favorite binges was the salad bar at Sizzler. A little bit of lettuce piled with corn, cheese, onion rings (I used to get SO ANNOYED if they didn't have onion rings on the salad bar!), beets, beans, and tons of dressing - and lots of cheese bread on the side. And then the dessert bar at the end. I didn't even try to pretend I was eating properly.

Marie said...

Secretly, I really don't like veggies. Give me carbs dripping in sauce any day! But I am learning ways to fix salads without adding high calorie dressings and toppings that still offer a little "experience".

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how many times I have had the exact thoughts and feelings in this post. it often leads me to go off my diet. I think recognizing it for what it is and having the opposite argument of having a life outside that one pleasure is really helpful. it is very easy to lose perspective.

Purva Brown said...

You do know you're absolutely right, right?
It reminds me of how when I decided I was going to be healthy once and for all, I decided no binges on the weekends. So now when we eat healthy even on Fridays and Saturdays, there is a part (not of me any more!) that says, "Where's the FUN?" I'm learning now to have fun in other ways than food and it's hard, but it's worth it.
Keep up the great work!

Cyndi said...

You should read The End of Overeating if you have not already? ( The author discusses something very similar; we crave textures/mouthfeels and the experiences associated with eating sweets/carbs/fats, not the actual sweets/carbs/fats themselves. If we just craved sugar, then most people with a sweet tooth would just eat packets of sugar; instead, we want brownies, cakes, cookies, etc.