Find what you love and eat it…Part 1

by Andie Mitchell on June 6, 2011

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…

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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…

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Anni June 6, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I was actually nodding along in agreement while reading this post. I could have written it, subbing out grocery store brownies and Pizza Hut breadsticks for the Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. I remember all too well the feeling of loathing that would begin before I even ate, because I knew I would eat way past full. I felt like I had to “make it count” but it was an endless cycle. So good to hear others who have been there talk about it.

Funny thing is, I ate (a couple pieces of) decadent, greasy Whole Foods pizza tonight and it was damn good. Because I hadn’t had it in months, and I had eaten healthy all day, and I’m not beating up on myself right now. I didn’t keep on eating because I had to make it count, I just enjoyed what I was eating. Food tastes so much better now!

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The Teenage Taste June 7, 2011 at 4:14 am

You are such a talented writer! I was literally hanging onto every. single. word.
I can totally relate to the “eating just for the sake of eating” thing. I mean, I love food, but I also love good food. There are some things that just aren’t worth eating. Like those McDonalds fries that you don’t even like.

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ally@GirlVFood June 7, 2011 at 4:27 am

I had this moment so many times, and a lot of it was about two summers ago when I dropped the last 20 pounds. I realized I didn’t like binging on nuts and peanut butter in the middle of the night. I didn’t like a giant serving of French fries. I didn’t like just eating to eat. Do I like weird things that my parents make fun of me for? Yes. But it’s what i like to eat.

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Katie Cooper June 7, 2011 at 5:17 am

Another great post that makes me look into my own habits post-weight loss. Sometimes, I still struggle with wanting food just for the sake of eating it. I have to remind myself that food will always be there…especially during moments where I feel like I have to have it NOW. You are totally right, eating indulgent foods every day take the fun and appeal out of them. We can still eat them, but they taste to much better when you eat them when craving them, not because they are part of your daily routine.

I’m truly loving your blog because you put into words things that I am feeling but don’t necessarily know how to explain. You are a wonderful inspiration and I appreciate coming to your blog because I leave having learned something about myself.

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Carissa June 7, 2011 at 5:26 am

This post really speaks to me. My husband and I have been transitioning our diet to be healthier and sometimes it’s a real treat to have some fries. Eating them conciously and rarely makes them better!

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Denise June 7, 2011 at 5:32 am

Great post; thank you! I thought I was living fairly consciously, but I have become unconcsious about my eating. I am a bedside nurse now and we usually bolt whatever food we have time to eat during 13 hour shifts, while standing up in the back room for 10 minutes. Any free time we have is a choice between slugging water, going to the bathroom or cramming in junk food. Then, when we get home, we’re familshed and exhausted, so we raid the refrigerator. And. Don’t move. All the nurses on our unit have gained weight since they started. I’ll have to slow down and think to heed your lesson here!

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Kelly June 7, 2011 at 6:58 am

Good post Andie! I liked so many points you brought up! I agree that changing how you view food and eating isn’t something that changes overnight. It takes a while but that is the important part. It forces you to learn things about yourself along the way. Hard earned changes are the lasting changes and the lasting changes are what makes us healthy.

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Barefootcookingirl June 7, 2011 at 7:20 am

….the immediate hit of ‘yum num num’ endorphins. That’s the technical terminology….AND YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! Well said Andie! Although I am in the middle of a weight loss regimen, I found I was standing in the order line at Wendy’s the other day, about to order what I could NOT have on my new eating way of life, because I had left the house with my lunch still sitting on the counter. I was about to order that Baconator and the new “Natural Cut Fries” with sea salt. It was old habit. But, watching the others in front of me, ordering just that, or something else completely calorie laden for a mindless yum num num….I actually stopped and ordered a berry salad instead. No dressing, no nuts. Then I sat down and enjoyed every crunchy bite. Do I still want those fries and that bacon? Yes. Will I ever be able to eat them again. Heck, yes. But I’ll be mindful while doing it. And it will be a once in a while thing. As well as that sugary dressing and the nuts on a future berry salad.

BTW – That lasagna looks amazing….Garfield would approve.

Bless you Andie!

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Corinna June 7, 2011 at 7:35 am

I love to read your recipes and devour the pictures, but more than that I love reading these personal insights from you. Each and everyone has been so wonderful and inspiring.

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Alexis June 7, 2011 at 7:36 am

ah i love your site<3 you're an amazing writing and so inspiring. People probably tell you that all the time but I really do mean it! (and i'm sure everyone else does too :) ) I've noticed how giving into my cravings satisfy me more than depriving myself of it. Once I satisfy the craving I'm full! I don't need anything else.

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Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) June 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

You should read “women food and god”… it talks thouroughly about this topic.

I feel the same way about fries now… I’d much prefer sweet potato fries (which I once hated!).

Even last night… I made Tyler a lasagna for his birthday + garlic bread & caesar salad… I wanted to have a second piece of garlic bread but I realized at that moment that I was full already and wasn’t enjoying the feeling I got from trying to eat just-one-more-bite.

If you learn to trust yourself around food, and make no food off limits (as long as you only truly eat it when you actually want it), some things you think you ‘love’ will fade away.

I always have said that I was obsessed with mike and ike candies. I could eat a whole box. Usually (okay, always) when I did eat them… I would get a stomach ache and end up complaining about it. I also usually went to eat them after a stressful day (& didn’t want to deal with my emotions so I would just eat instead)… now I realize that I don’t really like eating them (anymore then a couple) because the feeling I get isn’t worth it. I now deal (or try my best to deal) with whatever is bothering me instead of pushing down those feelings with food.

I hope this makes sense… I’m not trying to ramble!!!

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Gina June 7, 2011 at 9:26 am

This is exactly what I’ve realized recently about my sugar habits! Dessert is no longer special to me when I have it every single day! I’ve started this 21-day cleanse to detox and re-set. I am hoping to come out the other side with less sugar cravings, but also an greater appreciation for food and its many natural flavors (rather than flour/butter/sugar!).

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Leslie June 7, 2011 at 10:03 am

I just adore you!! You are a very talented writer and so intouch with your feelings!!

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Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio June 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing and I can’t wait to read part 2.

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Clarissa @ Sober and the City June 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

The new fries at Wendy’s are pretty fantastical! I agree eating should be for the enjoyment and the nutrition, not simply just to EAT. I think everyone has their own unique relationship with food, some more destructive than others. But in the end, we have to eat to survive – and finding a happy relationship is the goal!

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet June 7, 2011 at 10:26 am

Another wonderful post and another series I’m excited to continue to read! I’ve tried to eat intuitively and haven’t quite gotten there, but I have learned to listen to my senses and eat only food that I enjoy in that moment. Not only does it taste better that way, but I am so much more satisfied and much less likely to binge or feel deprived.

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Online Sunshine June 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

I was raised on McDonald’s. My mom used to use it as a bribe to get me to go to church. If I went to church, I could have McDonald’s afterwards. Those were the days when fast food wasn’t an everyday thing. As I got older, I had it more often. I loved their fries and I’d get a cheeseburger just to make it a meal. But the past few years I’ve been making things at home from scratch. If we have a dish at P.F. Changs, I will find a way to make it at home. Pretty much all of our favorite foods are now made at home…much healthier and tastier.
Recently, I realized that I no longer love McDonald’s like I used to. I still love fries, but I prefer the ones at a local joint that has been around since 1948. Their portions are too big so my sweetie and I always have to split the fries and burger and we’re still full afterwards.
Many people don’t understand how I can stand to be in the kitchen so long for dinner….I have no problem spending an hour and a half if I know it’s going to taste really good! I also seem to be incredibly slow…I don’t know if the prep/cook times are for people who are in a race, but you can usually double the time for me. Last night I made Sassy Shrimp Stir-Fry by Taste of Home and it says it takes 30 min to make. It took me an hour. The recipe was pretty good. We give all recipes a grade and this one got a B/B+…which means it barely made it into the repeatable recipes pile, but it made it!
Okay….I’m rambling…..congrats on the new place! :)

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Sara June 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I’m sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face. If I hear someone coming I look away like I need something from my lower desk drawer so they don’t see and ask why I’m crying.

I identify with everything you just said, actually, this has happened more times now than I can remember reading your posts; except you write out your feelings and thoughts far better than I think I ever could.

P.S. There are times I want nothing more than a small, no big size for me anymore by choice, order of FRESH McD’s fries and other times the smell of them makes me want to gag–so strange.

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Alexa @ Simple Eats June 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm

One of the hardest things in life is to start eating for the right reasons, I feel. How many times have I eaten because I was bored? Or because that last bite tasted too good to not be followed by another? Plenty. It’s incredibly difficult, and it’s SO awesome that you learned to eat in the way that was right for you!

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Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy & Healthy June 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

It’s a dangerous trap to fall into. Not only do you eat without tasting, smelling, chewing and savoring each bite, but you are more concerned with that “feeling” of when you are completely stuffed and nothing but that feeling will satisfy it.

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Parita June 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm

You articulate yourself so well! I wish more people would view eating and food in this way – I think it would help cure a lot of our problems…

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Riss June 8, 2011 at 5:25 am

I love how you can always express exactly what I’m thinking, Andie. I had a similar experience this past weekend… I was visiting friends in Louisiana and we went out for seafood (served fried, cajun style, of course!). Mid-way through dinner, I noticed everything on my plate tasted the same…. fried.

And I suddenly realized that I really DON’T like fried foods… at all. Yes, I have a love for the occasional french fries with my burger and possibly really crispy, battered chicken fingers. But that’s it.

I want my foods to TASTE like those foods… not deep-fried versions of them with varying textures and colors. It’s time we start eating things we really ENJOY and not obsess about having certain dishes just because our diets have restricted us from eating them for so long.

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Rachel @ The Avid Appetite June 8, 2011 at 6:43 am

I totally agree with your points Andie. Food is SO much more fulfilling when it is savored and truly desired. Oh and I’d take your fries or tater tots any day over McD’s :)

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Mila @ loftyappetite June 8, 2011 at 6:55 am

So true. And it’s wild that this can be such an epiphany! I had this in college, after I went through an “i’m a crazy health freak phase.” I wasn’t eating anything without “nutritional value” I even stopped drinking. For a college student, this is just plain stupid, and missing out on the best years of your life! So, luckily I changed my ways before I hit eating disorder levels, and I decided, I should eat anything I want (in moderation) but it’s gotta make me happy. Eating isn’t just about nutrition, but enjoyment, culture, and socializing! But you shouldn’t put anything in your body that isn’t worth it. So thankfully ice cream, homemade cookies, and fruity drinks came back into my life, in moderation of course! ;)

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SugarcubeOD June 8, 2011 at 8:00 am

Thank you for sharing your French Fry epiphany! I had the exact same one almost a year ago now… I realized that I didn’t like French Fries (of any manufacture) but that because they come with things (burgers, sandwiches) I ate them. I realized that we all know they’re terrible for you and I don’t even like to eat them… and since then I’ve never eaten another french fry…
It’s amazing what you discover when as you say, you stop to think about the thing in the moment… not just with food but with other behaviors, thought processes etc…

Excellent!

Darcy

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Lindsey @ Cardiopizza June 9, 2011 at 4:54 am

Great post and so true. There are times now that I sometimes find myself eating on auto pilot. I have to actually remind myself to be present with eating. When I am, food is much more enjoyable and I’m not just simply going through the motions.

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Allison's Delicious Life June 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Wow! I love this. I’m new to your blog, but I will follow because of this post! Can’t wait to read part 2.

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Caitlin June 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

The imagery in this…the image you painted..I felt like I was there with you (maybe it’s because I have been there many nights, and yes I got the McFlurry.) But you drive home a VERY relevant and interesting point here and that is this: we DO live a lot of life on auto pilot, and WHY? Why are we content to do say act and think the norm? I suppose because it’s easy and we as humans can become lazy very quickly but does that give us an excuse? Absolutely not. Can’t wait to read the next part!

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eemusings January 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I loooooove MCD’s fries. But thankfully, I rarely eat them (only occasionally with my partner gets them – that’s when I indulge…).

Life is too short to eat bad food. I know I can’t quite make every single meal a pleasure, but I try.

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