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Sunday, August 1, 2010

"If Not Now, When?" Part II

Tip: As you plan any meal, and even while you eat it, think “If not now, when?”

When I started my blog about my food plan, I referred to the terrific quotation, “If not now, when?” Many sources have been credited with that quotation, including John F. Kennedy; however, the saying appeared in the Talmud, long before President Kennedy’s lifetime, and is attributed to Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history. See, I warned you that almost nothing in my plan is original; the only originality I claim is that I’ve pulled all the best information together into one source that works for me. I hope it works for others, as well.

Staying in the moment allows me to be conscious of the fact that the time during which I plan a meal and eat it is the only time I can make a difference in my food intake. It took me a while to realize that I could not effectively say, “I’ll start dieting tomorrow,” because, as Little Orphan Annie told us, tomorrow is a day away—always a day away. Now, this moment, is the only time I can, in reality, do anything. This second is all I have. When I think, “If not now, when?” while I prepare food or consume it, I automatically plan healthier, lighter meals than I might have otherwise eaten. Continuing to think, “If not now, when?” even helps me stop eating before I have overeaten. It reminds me to leave even a little bit of food on my plate, which is something I had difficulty doing, in the past.

My excuses for cleaning my plate have been copious and compelling. Born in 1944, less than a decade after The Great Depression lifted, I grew up with parents and grandparents who still vividly recalled the days of shortages and hunger. I suppose they felt comforted that they could feed their children plenty of food. Even if I did not feel hungry, my grandmother commanded, “Eat! The children in Europe are starving.” As a child myself, I could not figure how my eating to the point of discomfort would help children on another continent, but I did as I was told. I was a good, obedient child. I ate.

If I thought I had it bad at home, though, my cousin had it worse. I spent a great deal of time at her house, and her mother had strict table rules: children never left the table until every morsel of food on their plates had been swallowed. No water was served during the meal, lest it use up one cubic centimeter of space in our stomachs that could have otherwise been filled with potatoes and beef. I have memories of my cousin and me in tears, forcing food down our resistant gullets for hours, or so it seemed at the time. I do recall at least one time we left the dinner table stuffed and waddled straight to bed, so much time has passed.

As a result of my upbringing, perhaps, I have always had difficulty eating small meals. Food was supposed to be enjoyed in massive quantities. If, however, I remember, “If not now, when?” as I prepare my meal, I remember to keep the quantities within acceptable limits, and eating every morsel on my plate does not create a problem.

Habits formed in childhood may be difficult to break, but no habit is impossible to break once I set our mind to it (heck, I even kicked the smoking habit thirty years ago; anything else is a piece of cake—whoops, no pun intended). My challenge, therefore, has been to stop eating when I’ve had enough, even if it means leaving food on the plate.

Leaving food on the plate…oh, so hard for me, in the past, but I dare myself to learn to do it, when the portion size I’m served is too large. We’ll talk more about this subject later.

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