This is one of my favorite posts. I wrote it as a love letter to eating what I love, eating what I crave, and the realization that doing so will set me free…
I distinctly remember pulling up to the drive through window of McDonald’s in the twilight of a wintery Tuesday with my best friend six years ago.
Everything about it was regular.
We were doing the usual.
A late night drive listening to the best bleeding heart singers with no fan base nor big time record deal. We were singing, we were laughing, and most essentially, we were talking about life and love and the logistics of entering our twenties as millionaires.
I was in the process of collecting a very ordinary late night meal. We swung through Dunkin’ Donuts for me to pick up sausage, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel, a vanilla crème filled donut, and a medium french vanilla iced coffee with milk and sugar. And now we were yelling into a yellow box outside McDonald’s for “a supersized fry, please!!”
Rest in piece, super size.
I debated a McFlurry.
We drove away, a bevy of brown paper bags in my lap, and I ate, singing at the top of my lungs in between bites of fry and bagel and donut. Iced coffee with a quarter inch of sugar crystals shimmering at the bottom of my clear cup to wash it all down. I was in a state of bliss, high even, from the immediate hit of ‘yum num num’ endorphins. That’s the technical terminology.
And what I remember almost as vividly as the salt followed by the sweet, is finishing my last bite, looking out into the pitch black of Amherst, Massachusetts, and then turning back to my best friend to say,
“I don’t think I like McDonald’s fries.”
Very very interesting, especially considering I had ordered and eaten said fries upwards of seven hundred million trillion bazillion times in my life. Nights like the one I described here were normal, part of a routine. Why then, had I been eating them all that time if I didn’t even think they tasted fantastic? Wasn’t Burger King better, for cryin’ out loud?
Here’s what I realized in that moment: Much of life can be driven through on autopilot. A sad, but true, fact. It’s routine and comfortable day in and day out. And I wouldn’t say this is altogether terrible; I’d just say that when you do find those moments of extraordinary realization, you’ve got to seize them. The thought of not needing or even liking french fries anymore was nearly blasphemous for me at the time when it sliced through my psyche. If made to choose between complete world peace and fries five years ago, world peace would be hanging its lonely head in a corner.
I don’t think you can change the way you eat, the way you feel about food, and the way you go about experiencing it, overnight.
I know there are a series of small changes that snowball into a significant shift in thinking and doing. But realizing one simple thing about the actual foods I was eating really made a difference in my approach to eating.
That is, I stopped eating just for the sake of eating.
I no longer wanted to just feel full. I wanted to be sure that I was eating what I loved when I wanted it and when I could give my attention to it. The beauty of this is that it ties with living in the moment and living authentically to some degree. When you’re eating what you crave at the very time you crave it, you’re experiencing a much more intense engagement with food.
It wasn’t that I never wanted McDonald’s french fries again (because I’ve had them many times since), it was that I wanted to love the food I sought to fill my belly. I said to myself, no matter what size I am and no matter what I’m eating, I should be absolutely enjoying the tastes, the textures, and the smells of my meals.
After all, doesn’t having something everyday, even if it’s decadent and downright delicious, somehow cheapen its appeal? If fries and greasy breakfast sandwiches and donuts filled with vanilla crème are available at all times, and eaten with absolute abandon day in and day out, are they still quite as tasty?
The truth was no, they weren’t.
…part 2 to come…