Dear Food Diary in the two weeks of being abroad in France I have to admit I have forgotten all about you. I did pack you in my luggage but when living out of a suitcase things do get lost.
In your absence I have eaten some good things. At least three salads and one serving of fruit with yoghurt, and gone for two runs – 6km and 4km in Paris. I have also, however, been served bread with every meal and eaten it! Not to mention the croissants and chocolate fondant.
My trainer Gaz Brown of GetRunning said ‘enjoy, enjoy’. Well ‘I did, and did’. It is hard not too. But guess what, on my return I didn’t tip the scales. In fact I was lighter, weighing 69.8kgs compared to my last official weigh-in on April 23 of 70.3kgs. To date the lightest I’ve managed to reach on this fitness journey is 69.5kgs but hey, what are 300grams between baguettes?
In the past, when I’ve travelled, I’ve consumed every last morsel presented to me on a plate as it were my last meal and piled on the pounds. But this time, thanks to the wise words of university professor and epidemiologist John D Potter, who I sat beside on the plane on the first leg to Paris, I managed to show some restraint and thanks to our conversation it was incredibly easy.
Professor Potter studies people and their behaviours around food and he shared with me that we still have this primal thing at the back of our brain that tells us to eat everything when a meal is presented to us ‘because the brain is telling us you never know when the next meal will come’. This goes back to days when we hunted mammoths and really didn’t know when we’d eat again.
The difference today is that, in the Western World at least, there is an abundance of food and always a next meal.
Another thing we discussed was guilt around wasting food when there are people living in poverty in third world countries, as well as the message that was drilled into the post-war generation to not leave any food on your plate because during the Depression there wasn’t always a next meal either.
Our conversation was a personal epiphany for me as it finally explained why all these years I’ve found it so difficult to leave food on a plate. It was as if I had finally been granted permission to ‘waste’ food that I know is not good for my ‘waist’.
So on this trip to Europe I embraced this new awareness of my primal brain and consciously ate to satisfy my ‘hunger’ and that included eating bread, croissants, mille-feuille and cheese washed down with a glass of Champagne. I was doing what Mireille Guiliano author of French Women Don’t Get Fat (who I met earlier this year) has professed all along – eating in moderation. As Guiliano says French women don’t get fat but they do eat bread, pastry and drink wine.
The intellectual part of my brain has known this for years (it’s not rocket science) but my primal brain didn’t connect. Instead I’ve berated myself every time I’ve scoffed an entire cheese platter and felt miserable to boot as moderation went flying out of the window. But now that I know about the primal part of my brain I feel liberated. It’s not my fault. I’m wired this way, we all are. So no wonder in a world of abundance with all this food around us, fast food in particular, that obesity is an ever-increasing problem.
However, the real liberation comes from now being able to recognise when my primal brain kicks into action, and eating accordingly. No more hoovering up every last morsel. Guilt has been pushed aside, including the conflicting guilt of eating everything versus leaving stuff on the plate. A conundrum I’ve always battled with.
And that’s how I managed to stay on track in the land of bread of cheese. Thank you Professor Potter.