Berkshire FruitI love to eat.  It’s a total tragedy if getting ill interferes with my appetite!  I not only like to eat but I particularly enjoy my own cooking.  I know what’s gone into it and how it’s going to taste based on the flavor profiles I’ve created.  I love it even more when I invite someone over for a meal and they make all the necessary sounds of pleasure.  So come on over.  Eat!  And Enjoy!

But not quite!  Eating and enjoying doesn’t mean pigging out or disproportionately consuming pre-made or manufactured food items wrapped in plastic, paper, or cardboard and preserved with chemicals.  So I have to modify my enthusiastic advice: Eat and enjoy the right foods in moderation.

I came to appreciate eating consciously when I discovered the Weight Watchers point system.   A friend of mine was using it and shared it with me.  I tried it for myself and ended up losing a few pounds.  I ate all the vegetables and meat I wanted and learned to stay away from “white” carbohydrate-laden foods.  I liked the idea of “banking” points to be used later in the week that I hadn’t used previously or that I had earned through some kind of physical activity in order to enjoy a sweet dessert. 

More than losing a few pounds I began to look at food and portion size differently.  I discovered that I could really pile on the food if it were primarily vegetables and if I inserted lots of taste in the form of herbs and spices.  Thus were born my versions of chili, bean soups, and meat stews.  I discovered I could be easily satisfied with a 5 oz steak or roasted chicken and I filled any hunger gaps with yogurt, almonds, and honey.  Making my own cranberry sauce with less sugar, which I could include in almost any cold meal or with yogurt, helped to boost vitamins and fiber (stock up on fresh cranberries at Thanksgiving time and freeze them until needed).

aCommunioI ramped up my breakfast with 5 minute oatmeal, low fat milk, banana and blueberries (which I bought in quantity at BJ’s and froze for winter use).  I also crack 2 eggs into the cooking oatmeal and stir them in as added protein, adding cinnamon to substitute for sugar.  I have a very fast metabolism and so get dizzy, cranky, and mentally zoned-out at 11:30 am sharp every day so I needed a more substantial breakfast to keep me alert until then.  For lunch I require a good dose of meat protein or beans stew to satisfy my cravings and boost my energy.  Supper is a smaller meal, often just cereal, fruit and yogurt.  Like the good Italian I am, I make a great tomato sauce and meatballs but I keep the pasta to a minimum.  A good handful is enough to give me the carb satisfaction without overdoing it.  And still I get to eat my 2 daily mini-Dove ice cream bars.

Another practice is cooking in quantity.  I bought a couple of large pots and whenever I make a meal, I make enough for 8-10 portions and freeze them.  I’m thus always ready to have a hot meal or to entertain a friend with something delicious.  I do the same with a weekly chicken I roast and then de-bone it.  The meat gets frozen in portions and is always there for a yummy sandwich or adding to a soup.

Taking charge of my eating habits was the first step to greater spiritual and physical health.  It meant some change and learning some new skills.  I’m surprised at how haggard and old men fifteen years younger than I look, partly because of the extra weight they’re carrying on their waistlines due to poor eating habits, stress and a lack of moving around.  Conscious eating lifts my spirits and offers me hope that I will be in good shape for whatever comes my way, even if the aging process takes its toll.  And I don’t have to be a vegetarian, deprive myself of food I enjoy, use diets, or spend a fortune at Whole Foods to do it.

original artwork copyrighted by the artist Michael Parise