Written on October 26, 2008What does restricting food mean to you?
Does it mean eating less of something you really like?
Avoiding it altogether?
Or does "restriction" mean eliminating whole categories of food from your diet (e.g. dairy products, meat, white flour, sugar, caffeine) without ever hoping to eat them again, whether for health or other reasons?
As I think about this, I am amazed by the sheer number of ways that we have to restrict what we put in our mouths. Indeed, the more choice exists out there, the more choices we have about what to eat and, consequently, about what not to eat.
Try it: instead of saying what you will eat today, say what you won't.
For example: Today I won't eat Twizzlers. Today I won't eat beef Wellington, or strawberry ice cream, or pork potstickers. Today I won't drink orange juice or champagne, I won't nibble on plantain chips or peanuts, and I certainly won't consume baked Alaska.
The list could go on and on because, to tell the truth, on any given day I eat far fewer foods than those which are actually available to me; every meal is a lesson in choosing what and how to eat; every meal an opportunity to say "no" more than "yes".
So what am I saying "yes" to today, and what does this have to do with restriction?
- Breakfast this morning was a couple of sweet potatoes, baked yesterday afternoon and let to mellow, with a slice of Cowgirl Creamery cheese and a mug of milky coffee.
- Lunch will probably be a bean sprout salad with dried figs and pumpkin seeds, followed by a bowl of yellow split pea soup, if I can manage to pull this all together by noon.
- I am meeting a friend at the Hungarian Pastry Shop to study this afternoon, and I'm planning to eat a piece of their apple cake, and try to figure out what it consists of so that I can make it myself with all of the fresh apples that abound in the farmer's markets these days.
- Dinner? A bowl of fresh cheese ravioli that I brought home from the Bronx's own Little Italy, Arther Avenue, accompanied by sauteed kale.
But my point is this: I can only eat so much in a single day, so there is necessarily some limitation to what I am eating today. The variety comes in the breadth of what I eat: my day's menu includes milk, red meat, cheese, white flour, and dessert -- as well as plenty of vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Over time, too, there will be variety, as tomorrow's menu will surely be different from today's. Breakfast will be yogurt, not sweet potatoes; lunch may be rice and beans, not soup; and so on and so forth. Every day I restrict in some ways, because I cannot eat everything that I would like at once (bye-bye, bulimia!), but every day is somewhat different from the day before, and I feel that it all rounds out in the end. Some days may have more desserts than others, some more vegetables, others more milk and popcorn.
To not restrict my diet is to also not beat up on myself when I eat more of a certain food on any day than I normally would like to. Not restricting means acknowledging that there will be those days when I eat more, and others when I will eat less. I have learned to trust that the "more" days will be balanced out by the "less" days, but of their own accord, without my having to do much to push them in one way or another. And though this sounds complicated and calculating, it works for me!
Have you experienced anything similar recently? How do you feel about the restrictions that you may have put in place for yourself? How do you respond to other people's restrictions (a topic for a future post)?