Let’s play a little game of word association. If I say birthday, you say? Cake. If I say movie, you say? Popcorn. Burger? Fries. Christmas? Cookies. Thanksgiving? Turkey. So many of the things we do and events we celebrate are so solidly paired with foods that we can hardly think of one without the other, right?
When I was first starting to eat mindfully and make healthful choices, a large part of my struggle was unpairing events and food. It was similar to when I quit smoking…every single time I did it.
I smoked when I drove, when I drank coffee, when I drank beer or when I read on Saturday afternoons. When I decided to give up the cancer sticks, I had to change other behaviors, as well. It was difficult – very difficult. I had to find substitute behaviors to fill the void the cigarettes left. When I drank coffee or read, I filled that void with food, which turned out to be a totally different struggle, as you know. When I drank beer, I filled the void with drink stirrers. I chewed on them.
One night when I was out in Atlanta with friends, drinking Guinness and debating the pros and cons of the death penalty (light conversation for light beer), I nearly took the waiter’s hand off for trying to take my collection of drink stirrers. Others at the table were smoking, but I was dutifully chewing on my little plastic straws. Ridiculous? Sure, but it got me through the night.
I thought of that night on Monday when I went to see the new Sin City with my friend David – the one who remembers to get butter all the way through the popcorn. I didn’t have any popcorn that day, but it was a struggle – not because I was hungry, I wasn’t. But because eating popcorn is just what I do at the movies.
It’s the Where and When that is the Why.
When I’m at home, I eat salted peanuts in the shell; but, I’m pretty sure the Roxy would frown on me dragging in a bag of peanuts then leaving bits of shell everywhere. Plus, there would be the blood after the other viewers tore me limb from limb for making all that racket. Nah. The teenagers at the theater definitely don’t get paid enough to deal with that. My struggle to keep my mitts out of the popcorn bucket decreased as the movie went on, not only because of the implied and displayed gore of the film but also because I got more and more comfortable with just not eating while I watched.
Making healthful food choices at home is a challenge due to budget, time and convenience. Making them out and about is a challenge largely due to availability. But the challenge for making mindful choices is the same regardless of location. It’s important to my continuing health improvement that I eat mindfully and purposefully rather than habitually.
It’s vital that my Why is the Why I chose, not the one Where and When did.