Thursday, July 22, 2010

women, food, multitasking moms, Italians and God

I am the queen of multitasking, which isn't to say that I'm proud to declare myself so. I can do a number of tasks simultaneously - but most of the time, one or two of or three of those tasks is not accomplished the way a non-multitasking me would see fit.
I'm now on a quest to focus more on one thing at a time, and one area that's been iffy for me has always been eating.
My unspoken thoughts up until recently have always been: why simply eat my lunch when I can eat my lunch at my desk, write, and browse the Internet, stopping every once in awhile to also read a text message or make a phone call? Why simply relax and eat my breakfast when I can also put the dishes into the dishwasher or eat something that takes no longer than five minutes so that I can also quickly scan the morning headlines? Why eat at all? I'm not that hungry! (and then of course I'll end up snacking on something not-so-healthy later on in the day, when I manage to catch my breath).
After Pupa's birth, my in-laws came from Italy to spend some weeks with us, and I quickly settled back into Italian life via my mother-in-law, who set the pace of our home back to Roman time. She woke up every morning, early, and sat at the table with her steaming cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal - a small meal, yet one that she ate with pleasure and in no rush, in the quiet of the morning. At lunch and dinner time, we all sat down, together as a family, to enjoy conversation, healthy food, a fine glass of wine and again, all without distraction (this is something that I can't always replicate at lunchtime, seeing that we all work, but thankfully our own little family does manage this every day at dinnertime). She taught me to carefully prep the vegetables and fruits that arrive in my weekly co-op delivery. She taught me how to make homemade pizza dough and hazelnut biscotti (that no matter how hard I try, I can't replicate to her caliber without her help). She forced me to put aside the chores, hand over the baby, and enjoy a meal (and even a glass of wine! at lunch! on a weekday!).  
The fact of the matter is that I can find a way to sit down to a an uninterrupted breakfast and lunch. And if I can't, then, well, some re-ordering of the day needs to be done. I can wake up earlier to a nice breakfast, together with the kids, instead of packing lunches while they relax and eat. I can brush aside work and media for the twenty minutes that it would take to eat my lunch outdoors, and then perhaps finish up with a nice walk afterwards.
In the book Women, Food, and God, Geenen Roth connects conscious eating with healthy weight. I've only read excerpts, but I am trying to apply the seven basic guidelines she has detailed to my own life:

  • Eat when you are hungry.
  • Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
  • Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
  • Eat what your body wants.
  • Eat until you are satisfied.
  • Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  • Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

 
I can imagine that following these guidelines would lead one to lose weight. My mother and sister-in-law live by these rules: and my mother-in-law is healthy and fit, in her late 60's; my sister-in-law, at age 50, appears at least 15 years younger. And no, they don't subsist on a low-carb, low-fat diet. On the contrary. When you take time to eat well, you are conscious of what you're eating, and therefore less likely to scarf down an entire bag of chips.  
I am choosing to focus on points #2 and #7. For me, this isn't about losing weight. Apart from a few extra post-pregnancy pounds, I'm fine in that department. Rather it's about taking time for me, and taking better care of myself, even if in a small way.
But it's not all about me: I am modeling life for my children. And I want them to sit back and enjoy life as often as possible, I don't want them to view eating that is something that needs to be over and done with, and in a rush. I want them to eat healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods that are prepared by themselves or others, with love. Children learn what they see, so it's obvious that it starts with me.
Life in Italy was always more conducive to eating with enjoyment, gusto, pleasure: The daily outdoor markets are inspirational - the fruit and veggies just taste better - and the many little local, family-owned shops selling housemade pasta and cheese and everything in between mean that there is never a shortage of the best of everything. Life moves at a slower pace there, and you can't help but to stop and smell the roses (or rather, the parmigiano reggiano) while dining at a cafe overlooking a picturesque piazza. But we can all bring a little bit of Italy into our home, by buying the freshest ingredients and cooking from scratch as often as possible, by taking a few extra minutes out of the day, to sit down, and dine, together (or alone) without distraction. 
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