To say that Tangletown is a family-oriented neighborhood would be an understatement; it seems as though offspring are a prerequisite for signing a lease around there. So needless to say on a Saturday afternoon when we showed up the place was teeming with adorable tots. As we sat and enjoyed our pastries we also had the pleasure of being entertained by the sugar-fueled antics of said tots.
I was struck by the pure expressions of joy that occur when a child encounters a food that they love. I work with so many adults who struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety when it comes to indulging in rich foods. I hear a lot of “I was so bad…” or “I felt so guilty…” from adults when they are describing a decadent food that they ate. It was refreshing to see these little humans show true excitement and unabashed satisfaction with their donut experience. They were totally wrapped up in the experience and in no hurry whatsoever; they were truly savoring the moment.
I saw one kid who had his head down, mouth clamped onto the donut he was cradling in both hands, who was clearly fully involved in his eating experience. He was almost nuzzling his donut, kind of swaying his head from side to side as if to say “Yes, this totally rules.” I saw a toddler in a high chair who had a cake donut with chocolate icing. She was working her way around the whole circumference of the donut, only taking bites out of the iced portion, smiling wide with a chocolate-stained face. These kids were enjoying their donut rapture, they were playing and interacting with each other in their donut wonderland, and it was awesome.
We could all take a cue from these kids when it comes to appreciating rich foods. The holidays are a time where we encounter all sorts of foods that perhaps aren’t the healthiest nutritionally-speaking. However health is a multi-faceted subject, and mental health is a large, perhaps the largest, piece of that healthy pie (mmm… pie).
The building blocks of a nourishing diet are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. High-sugar or high-saturated fat foods (think cakes, cookies, bacon cheeseburgers, and the like) are what I like to call “sometimes foods.” They are fine to enjoy sometimes, but you don’t want to base your diet around them.
When “sometimes” occasions arise: birthdays, anniversaries, parties and the like, make sure you have your cake and enjoy it too. There’s no need to feel guilty for having a reasonable portion of something in celebration of good times. And rather than scarfing it down and leaving yourself plenty of time to feel bad about it, give your "sometimes food" a little breathing room. Here are some quick guidelines for having a sane indulgent food experience:
Look at what you’re about to eat. What is it about the way it looks that makes you excited to eat it? Is it colorful? Does it have a beautiful texture?
Smell your food. Get right in there and take a big whiff. Does it smell like it tastes? Do you associate the smell with a happy memory?
When you do bite into it, Let the food melt on your tongue a little bit. I’ve got news for you: taste buds only exist in your mouth. They don’t continue down your esophagus so give your tongue some time with your treat. Let all the flavors sink in and resonate. Don’t stop with the first bite; examine the flavor with each successive bite that you take. Does the flavor change from the time you put it in your mouth to the time that you swallow? What kind of taste does it leave on your tongue once you have swallowed?
I hope this is helpful as you navigate your way through your next holiday event. This is a wonderful time of year with plenty of tasty treats and quality time with loved ones. Don’t waste your time feeling guilty about the fantastic foods you are lucky enough to enjoy!
By the way none of this applies unless you eat your veggies too. On a regular basis. Just had to make sure that was clear. Eat your darn veggies!