Summer School: French Style

Happy belated Bastile Day! We had a lovely simple repast of crudites with a dip made from arugula (from the farmer’s market), olive oil and salt pureed in the food processor, plus…
…crusty baguette (also from the farmers market) sandwiches with brie and French ham (from Whole Foods) and dandelion greens (from my Full Circle box) with a Dijon-mustardy vinaigrette. For dessert, we had…
…macaroons (also from Whole Foods). These weren’t authentically French, but close enough. I was craving coconut. The evening soundtrack consisted of Putumayo’s “French Cafe” compilation, the “Amelie” soundtrack, “The Triplets of Belleville” soundtrack and Pearl Django’s “Le Jazz Hot.”
Eating things like baguettes, brie and macaroons can occasionally cause me angst, but I’ve been working on adjusting that mindset this summer, since I started reading The Slow Down Diet. This week’s chapter was about “The Metabolic Power of Thought,” and even though I didn’t think I engaged in that much negative self-talk, I realized that I was doing exactly that more often than I realized.
It’s well-established scientifically that when you’re stressed (and releasing the stress hormone cortisol) your body stores more energy as fat (especially around your abdomen, where it is most dangerous). In addition, when you’re stressed, you don’t experience any pleasure. So when you eat while stressed, you’re not getting any pleasure from your food (which could make you want to eat more later), and you could be packing away more of those calories you’re eating as belly fat.
Guess what? Negative self-talk is stressful. You could be eating the most wonderful dessert in the world, but if you feel guilty about eating it and keep thinking “I shouldn’t be eating this,” then that dessert is going to be even worse for your body than you think it is, and you won’t really be enjoying it in the first place.
In this chapter of the book, Marc David points out that there are no good foods and no bad foods, in the moral sense. Yes, some foods are healthier than others, but eating an unhealthy food does not make you a bad person. And yet, when people beat themselves up about how closely they are following a “diet,” their negative thoughts are often framed exactly that way. It’s either, “I stuck to my diet today, so I’m a good, virtuous person,” or “I totally shouldn’t have eaten that, I’m such a worthless loser.”
I don’t eat cheese often. I love it, but in years past we would have it in the house all the time (generally in big blocks from Costco), and we often snacked on it. That resulted in a lot of calories spent on snacks, and a lot of excess pounds on my frame. I’m really happy having it less often, and having better cheese when I do have it. (We do keep crumbled feta and blue cheese in the house for salads and scrambles, but we don’t go through it very fast.) I enjoyed every bite of that brie-on-baguette, and also felt good that it was balanced with a lot of delicious veggies. And the macaroon was to die for. (I came closer to the 80 percent full goal…the macaroon took me right up to the “full” mark, but not over it.)
Another bit from this chapter of the book that caught my attention was how we either motivate ourselves by fear, or by love. Fear-based motivation would make you exercise because you hate disease. Love-based motivation would make you exercise because you love health. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I can really see how too much fear-based motivation has the power to drag you down, especially if you are having trouble reaching your goals and start in with the “I’m a failure” talk. 
[Note: I really had to think about the example above on a personal level, because one reason I am so committed to living healthfully is that I don’t want to have any of the “lifestyle-based” chronic diseases when I’m older. After much pondering, I realized that I carry around a clear picture in my mind of living an active, engaged life even when I’m 95, or whatever age. So for me, I think my motivation comes from loving health.]
Here’s an exercise for you: Write down everything that motivates you to eat right or exercise. Once you have your list, note next to each item whether it is motivation from fear or love. If you find that fear is driving you, you would benefit from reframing things so you are acting out of love and respect for your health and your body. Remember, you are where you are. You can’t change the past…you can only move forward. Make healthy changes because you’re worth it. And you are worth it!