Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I have been craving something for several weeks now. It buzzes around me like an insistent gnat... bumping against me often enough to ensure I remain attuned to its presence. I have no idea how to sate it. And... because I am somewhat lost, I find I am turning to my habitual form of response for such unidentified longings: food.

So unfolds several weeks of craving-induced picking - a spectrum of nibbling to over-eating most often geared toward the categories of junk and sugar.

Trader Joe's sweet and salty mix; graham crackers with whip cream spray-can blasted in lovely swirl patterns; banana-oatmeal-coconut-chocolate chip bars with a nod toward health in my experiment to reduce the butter and sugar by substituting apple sauce and maple syrup; dark chocolate candy bars with caramel and sea salt; mounding bowls of popcorn prepared stove-top in a pool of salt-infused extra-virgin olive oil; snap pea crisps; corn chips and homemade guacamole; a handful of my daughter's "all-colors" goldfish snacks; and finally... chocolate chip cookies - in all their buttery, sugary, risque glory.

It was the cookies that finally did it. I opened the mason jar full of chocolate chips and caught a whiff of what smelled like a strange and unnatural (e.g., non-food) scent. Can chocolate chips go bad? I wondered. Shrugging, I dumped them in, cooked all the batter, and sampled my efforts.

They tasted funny. They didn't make me feel any more satisfied. I wondered if I had done something wrong or missed a step or used something funky and past-its-prime.

My husband came home and made a beeline for the container full of goodies. "Oooo! What's this? Are these for us?" "Yup," I answered. He excitedly ate one and grinned and maybe even wiggled a little bit. "They don't taste funny to you?" I asked. "Nooooooooo. They taste really good."

When we moved downstate and re-fashioned our lives into a wholly new state, one of the things my husband and I agreed to do was eat out less often, choose healthier foods, and change our eating patterns so they might include less "fake" food.

With concerted effort, we've actually done a pretty good job. We went from eating out nearly every night of the week to once a week on average (twice if we're being really naughty). We buy whole foods and organic as often as possible; I cook three meals a day most days; and we try not to buy junk food or super fatty/sugary dessert items to reduce temptation and help Ari set food habits heavier on fruit and vegetables than chips and soda.

And while we do indulge in the occasional gelato or sticky rice with mango, for the most part, we are careful in our "treat" consumption. So it's been incredibly fascinating to become more alert to my cravings for unnatural foods - and to wander through some musings on what it all really means.

What am I really craving? I thought it was sugar, salt, and fat (and all manner of man-made concoctions based on processes of refinement and chemical tomfoolery) - but lately I've noticed, just as I had years ago with smoking, that whenever I do indulge the seeming ache for such foods, I wind up feeling worse. The aftermath of such eating is more yuck than yum... and the craving persists, unsatisfied and unmet.

So I have decided to meditate upon my actions and try to pinpoint the message I am sending myself. Clearly, some form of misinterpretation is present. Something is lost in translation... and so I must move toward a clearer form of communication - seek out a process of understanding untied to my habits and long-time associations.

In the meantime, I still feel a strong urge to stuff a cookie into my mouth whenever I walk past them in the kitchen. But so far, remembering how it feels to eat said cookie has enabled me to maintain mountain mind and stand fast. Wandering mind is always close behind though... waiting for the chance to dart through and race after the sugary illusion of comfort.

May you separate your habits from your true desires. May you find satisfaction in all you do.

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