Moderation Vs. Deprivation

A funny thing happened to me in New York City a few weeks ago. I flew in from Chicago to surprise my best friend Lorrie for her 40th birthday. She and 10 of her friends were spending a night in the Big Apple, going to a spa in SoHo and then a trendy restaurant.

Eager to show off my new and improved body and healthy lifestyle, I met them just in time for dinner at a place where the food is served family style for big appetites. Once there, each person ordered an appetizer, entrée and dessert, which were served on a Lazy Susan in the center of the table for sharing. A nice concept in theory, but once the food came it was literally survival of the fittest.

As the waitress dropped each plate onto the table, chaos ensued. Hands, spoons, napkins, menus and chopsticks went flying. The energy buzz went up a few notches. At one point, the woman next to me leaned in and said, “Just get as much on your plate as fast as you can and spin.”

She was right in that there was no time to think. I had no idea what or how much I was eating. I just ate, while the chemicals in my brain (which knew better) went haywire.

It had been a while since I ate until I felt sick and, when it was all over, I realized that I didn’t miss the experience – or the food hangover and tight jeans I had to deal with as a consequence. This was a revelation – a realization that maybe, just maybe, there’d been a shift in my food mentality over the past 10 months. Excess is no longer part of my new healthy composition.

Just to be scientific, I put this new hypothesis to the test with my friend Joan in Chicago at a neighborhood café and bakery. After sharing a petite Mediterranean salad and a pizza slightly larger than a compact disc, we wanted chocolate. We asked the waiter to bring us a truffle – a little confection the size of a half-dollar.

“Just one?” he asked, looking confused. Yep, just one. We’re sharing. “OK,” he said, as if we’d insisted on eating the rest of our meal on a bed of hot rocks. But I knew – we knew – there was a method to our madness: Kill the craving without sliding down the all-too-familiar slippery slope of excess as I had done the previous week in New York.

When the truffle arrived, we sliced it in half over and over again, until the pieces were tiny. We wanted to enjoy it slowly, bit by bit. Then we flipped for the last of it.

I enjoyed that chocolate in a way I’ve never enjoying chocolate before, simply because I hate my share slowly, methodically and mindfully. Savoring each morsel, the texture and flavor were punctuated by my awareness, confirming for me what I have come to know over time: that moderation over deprivation is the right approach to having a healthy relationship with eating.

Rest assured, the next time I attempt to eat family style, I’ll let my memory of that chocolate truffle serve me before the waitress does.

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