Just returned from Niagara Falls and am so happy to return to the land of normal portion sizes at restaurants, at least the ones I tend to frequent. Today we had lunch at Rain Forest Cafe and my mom and I shared a wrapped and a salad. I was stuffed. My daughter finished half of her kids' plate and I don't make her finish more when she says she's full.
At the end of winter when people tend to be a little heavier, we stayed at a water park hotel. Pasty white people with extra weight on them around me for two days has got me thinking about our views on gluttony. I felt a little disheartened by the fact that is was rare to see people at a healthy body weight. The norm was people who were either overweight or obese. Where are we going with this?
In one camp we've got the emotional eating argument, that people are driven to overeat to stuff emotions or as another form of addiction or OCD.
"Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us." Peter De Vries
In the other camp we've got people who believe our drive to eat is based on genetic programming. Given that during human history, there's has generally been scarce rather than abundant food, we are driven to eat as much as possible when it is available. "Gluttony is a gift of evolution. In the struggle for survival with other animals, human beings have always had two severe disadvantages: feeble bodies and simple digestions. These restrict our cycle of energy production by limiting the range of food sources we can absorb. Big meals are a form of natural compensation, stoking our energy generators with ample fuel. That is why we evolved ways of exciting appetite: ours is the only species which dresses food to make it more appealing to the palate. Our bodies, moreover, are designed to make the most of our excesses by storing the benefits as fat. On average, the body of a normal, healthy person in the developed world contains relatively more fat tissue than that of a penguin or a polar bear."
"Physical appetites are an analogy of our ability to control ourselves. If we are unable to control our eating habits, we are probably also unable to control other habits, such as those of the mind (lust, covetousness, anger) and unable to keep our mouths from gossip or strife. We are not to let our appetites control us, but we are to have control over our appetites"
Regardless where our universal drive towards gluttony comes from, the solution is essentially the same. Mindfulness.
"Let’s take that example of eating and look at it a bit further. When we are purposefully aware of eating, we are consciously being aware of the process of eating. We’re deliberately noticing the sensations and our responses to those sensations. We’re noticing the mind wandering, and when it does wander we purposefully bring our attention back.
When we’re eating unmindfully we may in theory be aware of what we’re doing, but we’re probably thinking about a hundred and one other things at the same time, and we may also be watching TV, talking, or reading — or even all three! So a very small part of our awareness is absorbed with eating, and we may be only barely aware of the physical sensations and even less aware of our thoughts and emotions."
For me, mindfulness isn't something that we can selectively apply to parts of our lives. Mindfulness in my life is a goal or a constant 'working towards' kind of thing. It applies to eating, the way we move and what we choose to do for exercise, the way we parent, the types of relationships we choose or even the way we drive. Obviously, some areas of our lives are easier to be mindful in then others. But mindfulness in life is almost like a core value.
That's why I'm not going to give you a bunch of eating advice in this post or a top 10 list. After this weekend, I can see even more strongly that it is highly likely that we are going to evolve in a positive way as a species without sheer necessity and the risk of survival. The way we are eating isn't sustainable and the amount of food that goes to waste is upsetting. But hopefully some of us will be able evolve without the threat of extinction.
Tonight I will be watching Food Inc. so that I can be more mindful about how my choices are impacting my world.