C is for Cookie: April 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mirror, mirror on the wall....

I promised that my next post would be on the challenges posed by changing one's behaviour, particularly around food. Well, having just come back from Mexico - on a business trip, no less - I had a tourist's challenge of finding green vegetables, food that wasn't fried or overly processed, and of learning to Just Say No to baskets filled with Pan Dulce. Delicious but less-than-healthy delights were everywhere.

For those of us who love food, every day, every new meal is a chance to savour and enjoy what we love most. Travelling, even visiting new local restaurants opens the door to experience and it's difficult to say no to new enticing foods, or to old favourites. So what's an epicurean to do?

Like with all pleasures in life, we try to strike a balance. It's much more fun to play than work, but bills have to be paid. We know what the repercussions are when we don't earn the money we need to pay our bills, but do we really consider the repercussions of eating badly, or too much?

Would you eat fewer desserts if you knew that each bite of cookie slowed down the functioning of your immune system? Would you refuse a plate of fries if you knew that the transfats it contains could eventually result in cell damage to your body's cell membranes? And what about if you could look inside your body to see where all the excess calories and fat were being deposited? Would that alter your eating habits?

As a child, I had a Steve Austin Bionic Man doll: a replica of the Six Million Dollar Man TV show character. I loved rolling up his "arm-sleeve" to reveal the computer chip in his arm, or the one in his leg, or peering through his head to see through his bionic eye. I used to wonder at how amazing it would be if we could see inside our bodies at any given moment. I still believe that we would treat our bodies so much better if we could see the incredible things going on inside of them.

The photo above was taken for the "Why are Americans so Fat?" article in the August 2004 issue of National Geographic magazine. It shows the MRIs of a "morbidly obese woman" and a healthy woman. See how the fat is loaded around the organs of the larger woman? And all the food going through her intestines? I see this photo and think of the strain on this woman's poor body to try and process all that food. Trying to avoid taxing the body like this helps me to moderate my cookie-crazed tendencies, not to mention the risk of so many health disorders that are linked to obesity.

Philosophy and psychology can tell us loads about how humanity has always struggled with competing desires. But this information is no help when we are faced with this daily conflict: should we choose food for fuel, or food for YUM!

Because I think of my body as a wonderfully intricate machine, I try to give it the care and attention it deserves. When delicious but unhealthy treats are dangled in front of me, I think about how they'll affect my body. If it's "good for the mouth" but not so good for the rest of the body, I try to save those treats for once a week. That way my eating habits are good for my heart, and my soul.