I recently read an article where a woman discussed how eating like a child helped her learn to appreciate food and overcome her struggles with her weight. In the piece, she describes the experience of savoring a bowl of ice cream -- swirling the ice cream around in her bowl and letting herself truly enjoy the treat. While in many ways, the article was another version of "Why French Women Don't Get Fat" (they eat really slowly and actually like everything they put in their mouths), her words stuck with me (even if her name did not).
When I was a young girl, I had a love/hate relationship with food. I loved bread, fruit and anything containing sugar, and hated everything else. I turned up my cute button nose at cheese, eggs, steak, seafood, even rice, and would regularly drive my mother crazy with my pickiness. Dining out in restaurants meant that I would order a well-done burger and fries, fill up on bread and coke, take two bites of the burger and declare, "I'm full." I would then spend the rest of the meal playing with my french fries (plain with no ketchup) and attracting the ire of my temperamental father who would threaten to make me sit in the car if I didn't keep my fingers folded neatly in my lap like a good little girl.
I was not good. But I was on to something. Aside from missing out on vital nutrients, I had achieved something that millions of Americans struggle with on a daily basis. I ate only the foods that I really liked, and when I was full, I stopped eating.
Today, while I can't say that I always stop eating when I'm full, I can say that I do only eat the foods that I like and (try) to always take the time to enjoy every bite. Now that my taste buds are fully developed, the foods I like are no longer limited to junk or simple carbohydrates (unless I'm eating at Angeli Caffe or am PMSing). Eating like a kid does not mean subsisting on a nutritionally defunct diet of Kraft singles, canned Spaggetios and Wonder Bread, but there are certain foods that I still enjoy from the years I spent with a sieve over my mouth.
Cupcakes are an obvious way to harken back to the days of knee scrapes and jump ropes, but they do not necessarily adhere to proper serving sizes for either kids or adults. Other foods taste great through the eyes of a child, but lose their appeal when the child grows up. Jell-o pudding snacks, however, seem to have stood the test of time, maintained by the adoration of dieters and foodies alike, and today, is still one of my favorite post-dinner treats.
Last night, as I watched "Fringe" with my roommate, I slowly spooned tiny bites of a creamy chocolate vanilla swirl pudding cup into my mouth. I licked the lid, I attempted to eat the vanilla and chocolate parts separately, and when I was finished, I was finished. I didn't need anything else. The 110 calorie cup (with only 1.5 grams of fat!) was enough for me. As it will be for my future little niece, who will be making her foodie debut into the world this coming March.
For the sake of my brother and sister-in-law, here's hoping she's a little less picky than her aunt. But if she's not, at least I know that she's got good genes. (And is on track for a future lifetime of exquisite eating habits.)