Hungry Like the Wolf
Why am I not 300 pounds?
I would like to say exercise. But that would be a bald-faced lie. One day I’m sure Mrs. Fussy will fit me with an odometer to count my steps over the course of a normal day. Naturally, I argue that I’m plenty active just taking care of the business of everyday life. I go up and down the stairs at home countless times every day. But largely my life is sedentary. So the answer is not exercise.
Clearly it’s not diet either. I just bought a big one-pound bag of the lard chips Mr. Dave found recently in a local area market. Pizza slices and dim sum on the go make up a frighteningly large percentage of my lunches. And dinners, while mostly nutritious and lower on the food chain, aren’t exactly light in calories. Think black-eyed peas, cooked with ham hocks on 100% whole wheat toast (with Crystal hot sauce).
Genetics probably play some role in it. I’ve been blessed with a speedy metabolism. But I think there is something else at play, which you may want to consider as the Thanksgiving table approaches in just a few days.
Several years ago, Mrs. Fussy took stock of how we ate.
We ate with gusto and passion. We ate with focus and determination. We ate like wolves. Not necessarily savages. We sat down at the table, used forks and knives, and chewed with our mouths closed. But we ate hungrily.
One key observation was that during dinner, neither of us would put our utensils down unless we were going into the kitchen to reload our plates.
There were two key changes we made moving forward, and they changed our lives.
1) Used smaller plates for our meals, making smaller portions feel bigger.
2) Put. Our. Forks. Down. In. Between. Bites.
Here comes some honesty.
Transitions are hard. The first few weeks of the new system were trying. I did feel hungry. But that was a psychological hunger. I was used to eating more. The old me scoffed at the notion that a serving of dried pasta was anything less than a half-pound. Today I could eat through that much food or more, say if I were judging a pasta competition. But I’ve finally clued into my internal feelings of physiological satiety, and now a 13-ounce box of whole wheat pasta is sufficient for our family of four.
This kicked in recently at the Ala Shanghai dinner. Amazingly, after the dim sum starters, my hunger was gone. There were only four small morsels that could be devoured in about as many bites.
1) A soup dumpling filled with ground pork.
2) A pan-fried bun filled with ground pork.
3) A rich flaky pastry filled with turnips.
4) A dumpling filled with sticky rice.
But ground meat, rice, fat and flour are all filling and calorie-dense ingredients. Taking bites and carefully chewing the food seem to help my body keep track of what’s going down my pie hole.
Certain foods have a way of fooling my body. Ethiopian cuisine is one of them. I’ve never left an Ethiopian meal without feeling uncomfortable from overindulging in food. But I really shouldn’t blame the food. Because I know when I’ve had enough. I just can never resist those last few bites of sauce-soaked injera.
It’s not like I’m a saint. I go overboard all the time. But I think the key to a diet isn’t about the splurges. It’s about what happens on a daily basis. So yes, I go out for pizza at least a few times a week. But for me, a meal of pizza is one cheese slice. My dim sum lunches consist of a meat bun and a dessert bun.
Maybe if I’m extra hungry, I’ll go for the second slice. But I’ll never order two at a time. Primarily because if it’s there I’ll totally eat it. I have little self-control in that regard and I abhor waste (and certain leftovers). Secondarily, the second slice is never as good as the first, mostly because it’s been sitting there while you’ve been eating.
I say, that if you are going to eat something that you know is bad for you, find the best version you can of it and enjoy the hell out of it.
And when it comes to the big eating day, relax. Try to subdue your inner wolf. Here’s my plan. I’ll take small portions of everything, and make every attempt to put my fork down in between bites. I’ll enjoy a sip of wine after tasting each item, and evaluate all the individual pairings. And I’ll delight at being with my family.
It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. It’s food. And food should be enjoyed. So take your time and savor each bite. If you like, eat more than you should. I’m not preaching against the evils of overindulgence on Thanksgiving. I’ll be doing a bit of that myself. Instead I’m arguing for the benefits of lingering around the table and appreciating every morsel.
Still, old habits are hard to break. But the wolf inside all of us can indeed be tamed.
Leading up to the holiday I’ll have a few other tangentially related posts to Thanksgiving. But if you do have any urgent questions, ask away. Pressing questions get speedy answers. The rest are shuffled off to the next Ask the Profussor (which is shockingly delinquent).