Friday, June 6, 2008

The power of suggestion

At home in Kazakhstan, when we sit down to dinner, our dog loves to come over to the dinner table and bat his eyelashes at us, pout a little, sit really close to me and drop his chin into my lap, in hopes that I'll give him a tasty treat from my plate. I really love my dog, but I don't give him treats from the table. Eventually, he goes over to his food bowl and eats his own dinner. He always eats when we eat. I don't know if he's hungry, but always eats when we eat.

The last couple of days, I've really been trying to stay mindful with the state of my actual hunger levels, but when everyone in the family is hungry, or has a case of the munchies, it's so hard to determine if I'm hungry or if I'm being coerced into believing I'm hungry. I'm probably not, because I've gained three pounds in the last two days!

I'm not sure what to do to address this, other than to scrutinze my motivations even more. Why am I eating when I'm not really hungry? Why am I thinking myself into being hungry? Why am I still overeating when I'm eating in the company of others?

I think that one of the reasons I eat when my family is eating is because I want to feel some sort of connection with them. It's another form of emotional eating. I'm a good cook, they like what I cook, we eat together, they show me how much they love my cooking, we're all enjoying it together, we're bonding. Can I eat less and still get the same experience? Yes.

I need to slow the eating down, way down, and to remember to put my fork down and take a sip of water in between bites. I'm still a shoveler, especially if my blood sugar has dropped too much before mealtimes. I can still eat the same foods as everyone else. I'm already cooking lower fat foods and including lots of fresh vegetables and lean meats at every meal. I can control my portions by using a smaller plate.

So, that covers mealtime. What about between-meal snacking. It's not something I'm compelled to do any more, but my family can't seem to stop eating throughout the day. I can be cooking dinner and my husband will come into the kitchen, knowing that dinner is going to be on the table in 20 minutes, and still get a snack. And because I've made a lighter meal, he's got to get dessert or a bowl of cereal afterwards. And our sons follow suit. If we've had breakfast together at 7:30 a.m. then by 11:30, people are foraging in my fridge. I've put fruit out, but no one goes near that stuff. My 16-year-old makes himself a pre-lunch sandwich. My 10-year-old and his dad go for the leftover whole-wheat pancakes with peanut butter. And I'm in the process of cooking Garlic Shrimp Provencal with whole wheat linguini! And so I get a little steamed and eat extra portions at lunch because they're not eating everything that I cooked. Again, managing emotions with food.

I do still forage for muchies in the afternoons, which has always been my peak snacking hours. I think it's because that's when I really want to take a little nap but I have too much to do to take the time to indulge in the nap. So instead, a handful of raw almonds, a Luna bar and a glass of almond milk, a bowl of Fiber One cereal, fruit, or if I'm really sleepy, I just head for slices of toasted sourdough bread with butter. When I'm really sleepy, my resolve seems to go out the door. Perhaps I should just go for the naps and screw the chores.

I'm going to see a therapist in the next couple of weeks about the emotional management. I need to find some new methods that will really work.

Oh, did you want my recipe?

Garlic Shrimp Provencal - serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-1/3 cups red peppers, diced
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and stir around until just soft. Turn up the heat a little and then add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink, but are not cooked through - about a minute. Remove the shrimp from the skillet and set aside. Add the bell peppers, fennel seeds, and thyme. Cook until the peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Then stir in white wine amd tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and simmer until they are cooked and turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. You can serve it over whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

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