Before the Feast

12 11 2009

Following our Fall Feast to start the season, another holiday is upon us. Despite what the retailers would have you believe, it is not Christmas. It is Thanksgiving. A time for all of us with deep gustatory desires to allow ourselves some permitted indiscretion. Next week we will work through a sample Thanksgiving menu and prep so that when Thanksgiving week rolls around you can execute a well studied battle plan. For now, let’s look at the time before the Feast. Like the preparation before any battle, or the clean underwear before the operation (I can vouch that most people have gotten slack on that when they show up for the office visit. You know who you are and your Mother would be ashamed) the time before G-Day (Day of Gluttony) is important.

That’s because if you use this time correctly, I believe it can help you eat more responsibly the rest of the year. The only certainties, they say, is Death and Taxes. We must eat to live, and living is a prerequisite to be involved in the former certainty. If we pay taxes then we must also work, a prerequisite to the latter certainty. Having a guilt free fun Feast is like a dietary holiday. Multiple studies have shown that to be the best worker, one needs some vacation:

Taking time off work, however short, is necessary in maintaining the stress levels of work and home life. Workers who are under extreme stress experience headaches, irritability, eyestrain, digestive disorders, and panic attacks, which all directly lead to less productivity.

Employees who work 10-12 hours per day are significantly less productive and efficient than employees who work 6-6.5 hours a day, according to a long term study done by the Organizational Psychology Program at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. The most effective executives (a high stress and high demand position) take mini breaks throughout the day to give their brains a rest. This is not to say those who work less or take multiple breaks throughout the day are lazier than their counterparts, but that the human brain and mind become tired and less efficient while focusing for an extended period of time. To be more efficient, workers should take time to stare out the window, take a walk, or even make a phone call to a friend.

Taking time away from work does not just improve productivity; it also improves a person’s health. People who take vacations are more positive and healthier, as many studies show.[1]

Treat the upcoming poultry party as you would a planned vacation. Use that time to “work” on basic dietary fundamentals. You will have then earned a guilt free opportunity to see exactly how far spandex can stretch while sitting at the dinner table. These basic dietary fundamentals, or as we label such things in the Martial Arts I practice, are the hon waza for healthy eating. It is a simple Sanshin, or three pronged approach.

  1. Time: We’re talking about some simple time related concepts. Take time to taste your food. Sounds simple enough, but watch a few people chow a Super sized double stuffed extra bacon McMortem sometime and you’ll realize that to consume that volume in that time frame they actually created a miniature black hole within the space of their pie hole literally sucking the tasteless matter, and all available light, into that maw. No way you tasted anything; if you did you wouldn’t inhale the stuff in the first place. It is interesting to note that in some forms of meditative practice they actually address this issue. They tell their practioners to chew the food slowly, savoring and acknowledging the taste by chewing at least between 18 and 36 times for each bite. Try it sometime; it’s like a spike strip to your belly. Next, consider some time between courses. It takes at least 15-25 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. Just think of your stomach as the friend who still calls you on your landline because they don’t text or have email. They don’t even have a cell phone. The time you allow from a first course to the main course helps you to develop some feeling of satiety before the main course. Which permits me flawless segue….
  2. Portions: Using time correctly as you dine, as outlined above allows you to portion control. I believe this is one of the biggest, under-rated contributors to dietary related issues out there. We Americans super size everything; we act like we’re the international Texas where everything has to be bigger and more. For Christ’s sake, I’m even using super size as a freakin’ verb now, as in super size me. And you all know what I mean. That about says it all.  We live in a world constructed of space-time; so slow down the chow time and leave some space on your plate.
  3. Menu items: Perhaps the most talked about of the three. To me, people focus greatly about what we put on the plate. To a large degree, I can see that it is justified. Slowly eating candy bars all day long is not a great long term choice. This is where the choice of fresh healthy food and learning the techniques to make it delicious apply. Large events often turn on small, almost insignificant occurrences. Knowledge to recognize these opportunities is what we cover a lot in the space of this blog.

So with that in mind, let’s look over the coming week to some delicious healthy things to try taking time in our moderation. It’s like the stuff you have to get done before vacation. Do a job well done and you enjoy a guilt free respite for a day, your “Foodie Holiday.”

[1] (Knowles, 2009)




2 responses

12 11 2009

Hi Mike,

I love the “mindfulness” idea from meditation and three suggestions that are so basic, yet so important (and are a good organizing scheme for the book). Yes to mindfulness, awareness of portion size, and healthy food!

12 11 2009

Thanks Jill!

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