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copyright 1999-2005

how to eat better
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2

Every January, after a month plus of indulging in holiday gorging, the food hangover sets in. Our favorite jeans feel too tight, our skin breaks out; we realize that yes, it really is possible to get sick of the taste of (cheap) chocolate. This is when most folks take a look at their expanding waistlines, sigh over their ascending weights, and make a resolution: this year, starting now, I will eat better.

So we begin reading food labels, rethinking our diet; we start Atkins or South Beach or Weight Watchers, and buy a scale. We count calories, obsess over the sugar and the carbs and the fat, sub foods we don't like as much for ones we love. We give ourselves an invisible pat on the back each time we say no to the chocolate chip cookies, or a big plate of real pasta. We feel proud for picking at a salad for dinner. We're being so good, we think, as we learn to ignore that occasional grumble that's our stomachs asking for more.

If we're really dedicated, we make it to somewhere around March. There'll be a nasty breakup, or a particularly dreary slushy wintery stretch, or some deadline at work that'll have us sleeping too little and slaving away too much. We'll reach for that fat slab of chocolate cake, or give in to the McDonald's quick fix. And we'll feel terrible about ourselves, even as we sheepishly revert to the same old habits.

This year, I've made a little decision: no more obsessing. Spending too much time thinking about whether this food fits into the bad or good category just doesn't make me feel all that great; I'm either feeling virtuous for denying myself some tasty but not terribly healthy morsel, or feeling guilty because I've indulged in something I'm not supposed to. Neither state is particularly enjoyable, and assumes food's only there to keep your body functioning smoothly. And frankly, I just think food deserves so much more respect than that.

So my new year's resolution isn't to eat healthier, not necessarily anyways. But eating tastier foods and enjoying happier meals? An excellent goal indeed. Here's my 100% not nutritionist-endorsed plan for better eating in 2005

1 Try something new. Eating is so much more enjoyable when you actually like a wide range of foods. When you're restricting yourself to just chicken and potatoes, peas and carrots, plain old vanilla ice cream -- in short, all those tastes you already know you like -- eating becomes something you do out of habit, and habit can get a little boring. Just because you didn't like brussel sprouts that one time your mother made them when you were twelve years old, doesn't mean that you won't like them now. Maybe your mom overcooked them; maybe your taste buds have become a tad better developed. Just-tender brussel sprouts are quite yummy indeed so forget your preconceptions, and start expanding your food horizons. Greens can be delicious, mushrooms aren't always slimy, and there's really nothing inherently scarier about eating shellfish versus any other meat. Really.

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