As I explained yesterday, two of my New Year's resolutions are to eat healthy and to learn to recognize craving impulses without acting on them. These boil down to the same thing when it comes to portion control, which is probably the aspect of healthy eating where I'm least adept. I have dozens of recipes for kale, for quinoa, for lowfat vegan brownies; I cook my own dried beans; I don't eat much meat... but put a giant plate of noodles in front of me and chances are, I'll eat until it's gone. Same goes for dumplings. Or pie. Or cookies. Or chocolate truffles.
Lately I have been trying to fight this eat-like-there's-no-tomorrow habit by stopping when I'm full. Diet experts say you should actually stop when you're somewhere between 50% and 75% full, but for me that's already too high a bar. For now, I'll just try to stop when I'm full. This is easy when it's normal food, but when it's one of my comfort foods, declining a second (or third) helping seems almost impossible, like trying to hold my breath longer than a few seconds.
Yesterday I had noodles for lunch, and I was full after my first plateful. I knew the prudent thing would be to put away the rest of the panful for later, but it was shockingly hard to make myself do it. I tried applying my mindfulness practice. I looked at my empty plate, I felt the fullness in my stomach, I thought about the rest of the noodles just sitting there in the wok. I imagined how uncomfortably stuffed I'd be if I kept on eating. I said all this to Erik, and he encouraged me to do what I knew was best. But I just didn't want to do it. I sat in my chair, almost whining, "But it's yummy! I want more!" I sounded like a little kid.
Why is this so hard? Why does limiting my portions make me feel so panicky? It's as though I feel, by saying no to this yummy food, I'll never get to eat yummy food ever again. I said to Erik, half jokingly, "Maybe overeating is my fight against the transience of all pleasures." It's a silly thing to say, but I suspect there's some truth in it. As far back as I can remember, I always hated for nice things to end. I never wanted the guests to go home, I wanted our vacation trips to go on and on. Even now, after habitually eating way more than I need to, I'll look at my empty plate and say sadly, "My dinner is gone." I don't know where this fear and longing come from, but they're very deep-rooted. And so, when I can't have that extra helping of noodles, it really does feel like someone's wrenching it out of my grasp. I feel like I'm six years old and at my friend's house, and my parents say I have to go home and I'm not ready yet. It's that same powerless, desperate clinging.
Finally, the way I agreed to stop eating the noodles was by extracting a promise from Erik that he wouldn't eat that food later, that he would save it for me. Erik's not pathological about food, so he agreed easily, but for me it was important. I could stop eating the food now because I knew I could have it again later; in other words, the fun's not over forever just because it's over for now. I'm going to keep this insight in mind as I continue learning to limit my portion sizes.