Friday, 1 August 2008

August Challenge: Discretionary Eating

Today I say goodbye to the No Graze Days challenge and to the Quit Now challenge. I had combined these two challenges in an effort decrease the amount of time I eat without taking the time to sit down and be mindful of the food I am privileged to have to eat.

July was a really busy month for me, but even if it hadn't been I don't think I would have made much headway in these challenges. It has become so ingrained in me over the last 30+ years to eat while watching TV or reading a book, that it's going to take some kind of mental dynamite to break the connection these two things have in my head. Especially since the way I often reward myself is to sit down with cup of tea and some kind of snack and read a good book. This is the ultimate in relaxation for me. On Sunday mornings I do it in bed, even. Starting the day off this way sets such an easy tone for the rest of the day, and helps me feel recuperated for the work week ahead. So I've decided to give this whole idea a rest for the time being, and try and focus on some other ways to be more mindful and to get better at eating my fair share. Chile seems to have read my mind somehow, and has come up with the Discretionary Eating Challenge. Chile has defined discretionary eating along the same lines as you would define discretionary spending, but referring to food instead of money:

"Discretionary eating is the amount of an individual's food consumption that is eaten after basic caloric and nutritional needs have been met."

I have noticed over the past few months that the only way I seem to be able to avoid eating more than I need to satisfy my hunger is to think about the food I have in relation to the food other people have, and in relation to the amount of resources, time and energy it has taken to grow the food and get it to my plate. Trying to eat more mindfully has certainly helped me to take more note of the latter.

My thoughts on the former are related to my increasing consciousness about the interconnection of all things and how what I eat, buy and do has consequences for other beings in the world. I have always been a person who is bothered by the unfairness of things, and my eating gobs of food when others have none is just not fair. It's sort of like when kids get told to "eat, the people in China are starving." The smart remark afterwards was always that we could just send the leftover broccoli or other disliked food item to China.

That's not practical of course, but what I didn't get (and developmentally couldn't get) as a child was that if people have so much food over here that we're throwing it away for reasons of food preference or being 'too full', maybe we have too much food and waste too much food. And maybe having 'too much' of something means there's some unfairness somewhere, that needs to be addressed either personally or systemically, or both. And maybe too, that society reinforces greed and excess, and makes us into good little money-spending consumers. That is too much stuff for a little kid to think about, but stuff that I regularly think about now as I try to remake myself into more of a conserver and less of a consumer.

So, I'm going to give Chile's new challenge a good try. She's made it very flexible, with varying levels of commitment to choose from. The one I'm going to go for at the 100% level is to have "seconds only when hungry" (SOW for short!). I've signed up to reduce my current consumption in the other categories by 50% - these include things like eating out, eating refined foods, using sweeteners (sugar, honey) or stimulants (caffeine - even in chocolate form!- and alcohol). Mainly I just want to make sure I stop eating when I stop feeling hungry. To be content with enough, and to remember to be grateful that I have more than enough.

Not surprisingly, the Tao Te Ching has some lovely things to say about contentment and moderation. Here are a few excerpts:

From Chapter 9

Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short

From Chapter 15

One who holds this Tao does not wish to be overfilled
Because one is not overfilled
Therefore one can preserve and not create anew

From Chapter 46

There is no crime greater than greed
No disaster greater than discontentment
No fault greater than avarice
Thus the satisfaction of contentment
is the lasting satisfaction


Chile said...

Very well said, Theresa. I think it's going to be an interesting month.

Theresa said...

It sure is, Chile. Today's going pretty well so far for me on the SOW front! I want to do up a baseline on the other things so I can keep better track in those categories --I see another spreadsheet in my future....

Beany said...

I too had combined the no graze challenge with Chile's Quit Now challenge, and I found the task of being mindful when eating to be very difficult. Not having a book or a companion when eating just bothers (and depresses me). And this realization further annoyed me. Glad I wasn't the only person who found the challenges challenging. :)

Theresa said...

Ya, Beany, I found it sort of depressing too. Sometimes I was really enjoying the food, but sometimes I was just pining for the chance to complete the pleasure with some book reading. So I decided it was time to stop worrying about it so much. There are other things to worry about that are more important ;)

Simply Authentic said...

Theresa, Your thoughts on the comparisons of our society to others in the world are some that hit me too. When I remember to keep that at the forefront, I'm apt to be much more satisfied with everything I do have instead of wanting more. We do have some much, we waste so much, when others are without. It's sad. Best of luck in your challenge this month! You'll do great if you continue to keep that comparison in the forefront.

Theresa said...

That will indeed be part of the challenge - keeping that foremost in my mind. It's also been good so far to just stop and check to see if I'm hungry before eating. If I'm not, then I try to be grateful for that and delay eating. I don't always take the time for this, but it is starting to happen more often :)

CindyW said...

Discretionary eating is very difficult in the summer months when the abundance of berries, melons, stone fruits are calling my name every day (or is it every hour).

I will join the discretionary eating in the winter season :) Yeah, I am a chicken.

Theresa said...

It is more difficult in summer, that's for certain. It's hard to pass by one of our saskatoon or raspberry bushes without popping a couple or ten in my mouth!

Chile said...

This challenge does not mean avoiding grazing. Grazing is fine. Sampling fresh garden produce is perfectly okay, unless you are totally stuffed and not the slightest bit peckish.

Stuffing your face with berries until you are bursting at the seams, though, would be gluttonous. ;-)

Theresa said...

Oh, well that's good then. I definitely haven't been full when I've been eating off my saskatoon bushes - thanks Chile!