Monday, June 1, 2015

Loving Food vs Loving to Eat

Michael: June 1, 2015: 287 Pounds

The pounds are flying off. This has happened before when I have started seriously focusing on losing weight. One of the advantages of being morbidly obese is that you can fairly quickly get down to just extremely obese.

This time, though, I've had help. Lots of it, in the form of major dental work. Friday I went in to my dentist's office with a cracked tooth, which he promptly extracted and replaced with a bridge. For three days, all I have been able to eat has been yogurt and Malt-O-Meal, both fine things, but the combination of no functioning mouth and excruciating pain has enforced just the regimen I have needed.

I am back to solid foods now, but, for the next five weeks, I am effectively without front teeth. The temporary acrylic bridge is cosmetic only. It can't handle the chewing and tearing that front teeth are supposed to do. This means that I can eat anything I want, but only if I cut it into small pieces and eat it slowly.

Realize that, for me, this is a completely different eating experience than I am used to. I am always the first to finish meals and (usually) go back for more. I rarely savor the delicate flavors of the food I am eating. Often, I do not even know what the delicate flavors are. I have always been a quantity guy.

So, at lunch today, I had a sort of forced encounter with the taste of food. It was not an especially aesthetic meal--a smothered steak burrito from Taco Bell with two packets of their new "Diablo" hotter-than-hot sauce (670 calories if you are interested, and yes, I budgeted for it). I have had the smothered burrito before, but only as one of three or four menu items that I polished off in about five minutes. This time, it was just me and the burrito.

All I really felt at the time was impatient. It took me about 15 minutes to eat this thing that I would barely have even bothered to chew twice if all of my teeth had been in working order. Mainly I chewed slowly and played with my phone. And, right at the burrito's halfway marker, something hit me--something big, I think, though we will have to wait to see if it takes root. What hit me was this:

I don't actually love food. I love to eat, which is a completely different thing.

Thinking back, I can't even remember the last time that I ate something and paid complete attention to it. I am ALWAYS doing something else when I am eating. Often I am driving, even more often I am reading a newspaper or book or doing e-mail or Facebook on my phone. If I am with somebody else, I am paying much more attention to them then to the food.

Eating is different. Eating is a matter of assimilation--of making the food part of me. This is what I love because it gives me a sense of peace and security. Feeling full is so much better to me than feeling empty. I love to eat, but I don't love food. I hardly even know food.

So my significant accomplishment today was to eat half a burrito without doing anything else--no phone, no e-mail, no nothing. I can't say that I loved the burrito (does anybody actually love food from Taco Bell), but I can say that I tasted it and that I can actually, one hour later, remember the actual experience of the food. This probably sounds normal to you, but, to me it was something like a revelation.

And this is my new goal for every meal. It is not an eating goal, but a food goal: actually experience the food. Taste it. Concentrate on it. Don't read, drive, write, or otherwise distract myself from the actual food on the table. It seems kind of counter-intuitive, but I am willing to be that, if I can switch my allegiance from the act of eating to the food itself, I can find ways to be satisfied with amounts somewhat on the good side of "obscene."