This is a quote I have in my favorites simply so that I get the reminder frequently.
In another of his books (Food Rules) Pollan also says:
The banquet is in the first bite
No other bite will taste as good as the first, and every subsequent bite will progressively diminish in satisfaction.
...as you go on, you’ll be getting more calories, but not necessarily more pleasure.
In many attentive eating paradigms (the works of Michael Pollan, mindful eating, intuitive eating, Naturally Slim, etc.), there is a focus on really paying attention to and enjoying what we are eating.
Part of the unhealthy habits many of us have learned around food contribute to food moving from something to savor to something to consume. Like other parts of consumer culture, we look for the latest "advances", the best bang-for-our-buck, the quickest thing, the most popular thing, the best advertised thing, or the super-utilitarian-just-get-the-nutrients-in-me thing.
Whichever of these we drift towards, our relationship with food moves away from thinking of food as something to enjoy in-and-of-itself, shifts away from cultural food traditions (with all their accumulated wisdom), and shifts away from (non-performative) eating with our community.
This reminder, then, is a simple call back to paying attention to what is being eaten.
Take a small bite.
How does it smell?
How does it feel?
How does it taste?
Does it change as I chew or as it lingers in my mouth?
Following this paradigm, a few things happen:
- I enjoy my food much more
- I'm amazed how the tiniest of bites can give as much (or more) satisfaction as a large one
- I realize that after more than a few bites of anything, I'm not enjoying anymore, but merely consuming
- I realize my fullness much more quickly
- I can eat my foods in any order I want, because I won't overdue it with anything on my plate, but know I will move on once I am no longer enjoying that item
Now, there is one big exception to this "intuitive" approach to eating. Some of these programs handle it, others may not.
SUGAR is basically a drug.
Sugar makes us more hungry. Seriously. Because of the way fructose and glucose work in the body, having sugar (and even simple carbs, which are effectively glucose) causes our bodies to store fat and ramp up our appetite. So, "intuition" gets short-circuited by our biological processes.
Pollan has lots of advice to help avoid this trap. Naturally Slim advocates cutting sugar. I'm not sure if Intuitive Eating handles it. (email me if you know?)
Because I used a Pollan quote related to dessert, let me pair it with these other practices from Food Rules, in order to present the more-complete picture. Bold is Pollan's wording, italics are my comments.
- 4 Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
- 5 Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
- 35 Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature. (e.g. whole fruit with fiber)
- 37 “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.”
- 39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. (e.g. if you want pie, chips, or ice cream you gotta make it from the raw ingredients!)
In the week ahead, this is a good reminder for me to be mindful. To eat rather than consume. May it be helpful for you, as well.