Monday, March 3, 2014

How Do I Make It NOT About the Food?

Today as I sat here planning a four-day trip for myself and my daughter in April, I started thinking about a couple of things I've been mulling over. These thoughts were precipitated by 1) a comment someone made on a recent post about my trips/travel possibly sparking the desire to indulge or the trips being about the food, and 2) a comment on a forum I read, where the individual is travelling to Paris and is taking Medifast meals to eat there because the trip is not about the food. Well, I'll admit it. When I read that someone is going to Paris, but "not for the food", I thought, um... it IS about the food! You can bet 9 million dollars that if I ever went to Paris is would definitely be about the food! No, the food would not be the highlight of my trip... there are so many places to go and things to see and experience in a new place! But to me, the once-in-a-lifetime chance to eat French food in Paris, to enjoy the food as part of the culture, to taste French pastries... would definitely be a highlight.

And then I thought, hey. I tend to think of every food that way. When we go to a new city, I always look up the best restaurants online and go over the menu ahead of time, whether I am on a certain weight loss plan or not. I enjoy eating at different, new places and trying unique cuisines. When I was a child, my father took us out to eat every week... sometimes several times per week. While my mother hauled me around between McDonald's and Hardee's, my father took me to fancy, expensive restaurants as well as diners where the home cooking was amazing. I grew up eating at restaurants frequently, and when I was divorced and single with small kids, that all came to a screeching halt. For years I ate the cheapest stuff we could find and prepare at home, and while some of it was delicious, I still missed the restaurant experience. Now, I really enjoy stopping at the deli with my child for homemade soup and conversation. I look forward to eating at new places when we travel. And for me, pretty much every trip has the possibility of becoming *about the food.*

I have 'fixed' this in the past. I've learned to travel with a little cooler, to bring healthy meals and snacks with us and that has been successful at times. I have gone on long trips where 80% of what I ate was Medifast meals. And I know how to eat well when we *do* go to a restaurant; I've become adept at choosing lean protein, having the cook omit the fat, and asking for double veggies and no starch. And that works, and tastes good, and gives me the experience I want without blowing it.

But yeah, if I went back east it would be about the pizza, bagels, and cheese steaks. If I went south it would be about the barbecue, beans, cornbread, and chili. And if I went to Paris, it would be about the food. Most definitely. It would be about other things, too, but how do you make it not about the food? You have to make it about something else... a substitute.

In home life, I make it not about the food by staying busy. I keep my focus on other projects, people, things I enjoy, things that I am getting accomplished.

In my travel, I make it not about the food by making it about the people I am travelling with or who I am going to visit, and about the the activities I am going to do.

But you know what? What I have found most helpful is to sort of 'fence off' or set aside a specific time when it IS about the food, and that time is when I am cooking, or ordering, or eating. I make that the time I enjoy my food. Not a month beforehand, reading menus online and imagining all the things I could eat. Not 3 hours before mealtime, when I am obsessing about what I will have. Not the night before, when I am thinking about all the yummy stuff that might be on the breakfast buffet. I make it about the food when the food is in front of me, and once it is eaten, that is it.

That might sound SO lame and elementary to some people. But when you have struggled with disordered eating, such a simple thing becomes a life raft. Such a simple shift in thought patterns can be the difference between a built-up, obsessive, crazed binge and a calm, regular, enjoyable meal. Such a change is so, so important to getting away from the binge mindset.

So I practice this, by NOT looking for restaurants and menus and what is going to be on the buffet a month ahead of time. I practice it by letting go of those food thoughts and, in their place, thinking of the important things when I travel: the relationships, the experiences, the emotions. And if I ever go to Paris, I will eat some things I wouldn't normally eat here. But the food will stay in its place as food, and not as a companion or a cure or an obsession. That is my wish for myself and for everyone struggling with food obsession. Because it's never really about the food.

12 comments:

Cathy Yonek said...

Lyn, I found that staying "busy" was always just a way to postpone my issues with food, not resolve them. I know you said that you did the emotional work to uncover why you have disordered eating. But understanding the past is just the first step. Do you believe you can be that person whose life is not all about food? I ask you this because I am asking myself the same. I have lost and kept off 40 pounds, so I am now overweight, not obese. I have a good understanding of how I got to where I was. But can I become the person I want to be? Can I leave behind that girl from long ago? I hope the answer is "yes" but I am not there yet. Until I let go of my old, tired (yet safe) identity, I will always misuse food, with slightly stricter boundaries than I had before. I know this is a rather meandering post, but it is a thought that has been on my mind lately. Because if you are always thinking about how to not think about food, it is still always about the food.
Cathy
http://42magicnumber.blogspot.com/

p.s., if in Paris I would eat a lot of pastry

Lyn said...

Cathy~

good points. I do believe I can be, but it is on a continuum of 'how obsessed' at the moment. At my worst I was 100% obsessed. At my best, when I am off sugar and carby junk, I get flashes of wanting it. I get the occasional craving for old foods. But I don't "use." Meaning, use it as a drug, crutch, etc. I still *want* potato chips because I like how they taste, but to me that is a different thing than wanting potato chips because I am angry. Best for me to stay completely away from potato chips, though, because having one serving brings the obsession level way, way up. I would say right now I am about 60 or 70% there. I think we have to take time to heal things, you know? I got a lot of things healed over the past 5 years, which is why I am not 300+ pounds right now. But obviously I still have a bit of work to do. I do believe we can get to where we want to be, long term, and I don't just mean physically... I mean emotionally/mentally as well.

Deb Willbefree said...

IMHO going to Paris and planning NOT to eat anything except for Medifast meals is a sign of disordered thinking r/t food.

Any food-normal person would go to Paris to experience the people, the culture, the sights...and appropriate amounts of French food as they go thru their days in Paris.

The eating disordered, not so much. For the disordered, it would be all about the food--either avoidance or over-consumption. Obsession, either way.

LHA said...

If I went to Paris (or any new fabulous destination) and ate prepackaged diet food I would not only be miserable on the trip but I would go on a binge when I returned home. I had to learn this the hard way. Too much deprivation, especially in a special situation, leads to a bad binge every time. Also, I agree with Deb that carrying diet food to Paris is a sign of seriously disordered eating!

I will add, Lyn, that when I travel I do have trouble keeping eating in a healthy manner. For one thing, when I am driving long distances, I am tempted for some reason to snack as I drive. I also can easily develop "vacation mentality" where I think I can just eat junk because I am out of town. That is my own seriously disordered eating showing! I haven't found a solution totally but have made some improvements. One of the things I do is just what you are talking about in not obsessing about food in the planning phase and enjoy what I do eat while gone, but keep it healthy and not overeat. Still a work in progress. Good luck to you!

Karen said...

It's not about the food. It's about the power of the choice.

I stay food sober. I stay on my food template at home and traveling. I can find food that tastes great. No problem there.

Food sober for me = enjoying life

Food addicted = staying stuck

I really feel great when I'm food sober, so I make sure I choose foods that keep me that way. My choice. I lived one way for 40 years, next 40 years I live a different way.

Take it one meal and one day at a time. Keep your goals in mind and take them with you. When/if you go to Paris, you'll be in a different time and place. You'll know what to do.

The freedom of personal choice is an awesome gift. Use your gift to either meet your goals or delay.

PS, my pants fit when I return from trips and I don't binge eat or feel deprived. Your mileage may differ...

timothy said...

when I'm at my most successful food is very low key and repetitive. I make it not about the food at all in the midst of my 80 pound loss I went to provincetown mass which is all about charming resturants and delicious local food. I ate chicken ceasar salads for lunch and dinner and scrambled eggs with a side if bacon for breakfast every day for a week and I LOVED it. my friends were mystified but it worked I enjoyed the food immensely but without those new tatse "spikes" that trigger binges for me.

Cathy Yonek said...

I went on a cruise recently and gained about 2 pounds. I enjoyed the food, but worked out a lot, and kept my eating to mealtime and to things I REALLY enjoy. Eating is not a recreational activity, although I used to treat it as such. I had a general plan, and stuck to it. If I traveled a lot, I would have to have a more detailed plan. On the other hand, I used to treat a trip to the dentist as a reason to stop for Dunkin Donuts bagel afterwards. That seems to dumb to me now!

MargieAnne said...

We love to travel and food is always part of the experience whether at 'home' or on our 'not frequent enough' trips overseas.

We continue to draw the line at No Wheat. Sometimes this is a hassle and I do remember pancakes for breakfast when we were starving and the pancake restaurant was all we could find. Then there was the time when we shared a 12 inch sub when money was extra tight.

The one thing I know to avoid is anything that is likely to boost blood sugars so we are careful about sweets and also artificial sweeteners as found in zero coke. But we continue to make a few exceptions for special treats. The other thing I avoid like the plague is anything fried. I don't trust restaurant fats/oils.

We love the restaurant experience and when travelling away one of the great pleasures is discovering places with the right ambiance and food.

It's hard to binge if you go for a quality experience rather than all you can eat.

One thing I am lucky with is I never over eat in public. Triggers my shame so it's easy to stay with well balanced healthy food.

It's all about the experience and food is a part of. We just take more care with our choices.

Sugar is the one thing that will trigger us away from our general plan an cause weight gain.

Enjoy your next trip guilt free.

Blessings

NewMe said...

Going to Paris and bringing Medifast meals is beyond sad. It's tragic.

Food is a great pleasure in life. You can enjoy food without having to gorge.

I was in Paris last summer and enjoyed the food without going bananas. In the 8 days I was there, I ate a fair bit of baguette, a few croissants, didn't feel the need to eat any pastries at all, had some amazing salads and came back a pound lighter.

screaming fatgirl said...

If you travel and you don't enjoy the food as a part of it, you are actually making it more about food. In fact, you are isolating that aspect and making it of such paramount importance that you are working around it.

One of the great difficulties of weight loss is that you often become more obsessed with and dysfunctional as a result of trying to correct your relationship with food. Moving your distorted perceptions from having no balance in one direction to having no balance in the other doesn't solve the problem. The seesaw is just now on the other side. The answer is in having a balanced relationship and part of that is seeing food as joy, not as an enemy you have to fight off or it will overwhelm you.

Being obsessed will destroy a person every time. There is nothing good about obsession. It'll get you there and keep you there for awhile, but, in the long run, unless you make a career of dieting and weight loss, it cannot be sustained. I know that is not a popular view among the weight loss crowd, but the number of people who regain is so high because they can't keep it up.

I don't know you, Lyn, but everything you struggle with screams that you use food as a mechanism to deal with psychological issues. Eating poorly (binging, especially) for some people (including me, and I'm suspecting you as well) is an act of self-destructiveness akin to cutting. It numbs, it immobilizes, it rewards (especially carbs, which release serotonin), and it soothes. Maybe you can't keep a commitment going because you aren't dealing head on with what food is bringing you psychologically and you need a substitute or alternative before food can be decentralized for you.

As long as you need it for emotional survival, you will not overcome your issues because you are starving your emotional self and it will drive you back to food every time.

Michelle Himes said...

Funny thing, Lyn, I just came back from a vacation at a resort where every meal was a buffet. I did really well the first few days, and then I started wanting things that I knew I shouldn't have. That was when I wrote in big letters on my Weight Watcher journal "You didn't come here for the food". I managed to make it through without a gain by keeping that in mind, but I wish I had read your post before I went.

Vicki Adams said...

This is the first of your posts i have read and wow! I have never thought about I have made food a main event in my travels. I have been working out for almost a month with no pounds lost. I feel better mostly, but you couldn't tell by looking at me that I've been working out. So I'm starting medifast.

One of my biggest Concerns has been about traveling and food. I am so going to make traveling about family, friends and experiences, and only about food it is in front of me.

Best advice I've heard about this new journey