Friday, June 20, 2008

Watching rhe pond-sprite.

I have to do this everyday?

Yesterday went pretty well. What (and the amounts that) I ate will support my goals, I got in a solid hour of exercise which I also enjoyed (walking almost 4 miles from work to therapy and then from therapy to home), and I managed to endure a feeling of hunger and emptiness at the appropriate times during the day. I am noticing and remembering now that there is a definite physical sensation that goes along with losing weight—something not quite full-on emptiness and hunger, but something quite different than the satisfied and disinterested in food feeling that I usually pursue.

I also noticed that what I have been unconsciously in pursuit of when I eat is not satiety. It is a mark on the other side of satiety—a disinterest in food. I really crave and enjoy being in a state where I am not interested in food or eating, and I have noticed that this state is achieved by eating more than just what it takes to satisfy my hunger. It is a subtle difference and I am happy that I now notice it. I am hopeful about this.

But, back to this sensation that is present when I am in a negative nitrogen balance (losing weight). I associate it with feeling sick, though it is definitely not the same as being sick, but I naturally categorize it that way (which may end up being very revealing). It is hard to put words to it, the image that keeps coming to mind is of a wooden plank being scraped clean. It is a sensation at the core of my body, vertical in nature, and the thought I associate with it is that I should eat, though it is definitely not hunger. If it were a flavor it would be wheat bran, if it were a fragrance it would be smoke from good tobacco, if it were a texture it would be the surface of that wood plank after a good scraping with a putty knife, if it were a sound it would be the high, thin, pitch of an Oboe.

It is strongest before meals and most prominent in the morning when I wake up. If I eat only to the point of satiety it just fades to the background, still present but only very faintly, when I eat to this point of being disinterested in food it vanishes completely. For some reason I am actively investigating it is threatening to me in some subtle way, I want to rid myself of it.

In NYC the City health department is trying to require that chain restaurants post the caloric content of servings of food items right on the menu, next to the price. There's been a huge uproar over this, but a number of chains like Starbucks and Chipotle have gone ahead and done it. It matters. It has changed what I do at Starbucks and Chipotle.

Now at Chipotle I get the “bowl,” the meal sans tortilla(s), and I am not getting the bag of tostaditas I used to enjoy (570 kcals!) with my meal. I don't miss it really. I miss the habit of picking up that huge cylinder of food (when I ordered what they call a burrito) and devising a strategy to eat it while preserving it's structural integrity.

At Starbucks I have just about given up ordering any food completely, which is no doubt the reason why other retailers are resisting this, because almost everything in the display case is just short of 500 kcals a serving. The actually do have 300 kcal options (the bagels are 280 plain) but they aren't the things I thought would be on the lo-cal end. For example, the apple tart is 280 and the rice crispy treat is 270.

Of course, if I had given it much thought I could have figured that out, the tart is mostly apple and the rice crispy treat is mostly air (in volume), but I had this notion that a slice of pound cake was in the same caloric range. It is not. And muffins? Forget about it.

So, this is a public health issue and it is right for government to intervene. Seeing the caloric totals has changed my eating/buying habits, as it will no doubt do for others, and it is government's rightful role to enforce this kind of measure because it is in direct conflict with the interests of the retailers, i.e., it is going to hurt their sales. But, we will see the difference in reduction of health-care costs, and the non-monetary payoff of happier healthier people. I support this initiative and if it comes up in any of your cities you should support it as well.

Thank goodness that iced tea/coffee are almost calorie-free. I'm no angel.

I frequently find my mind wandering to thoughts like “Am I going to have to put up with this feeling every day?” “This feeling” can be anything from the feeling I discussed above to something else I find difficult or unfamiliar. Then I realize that I've been caught by the illusion of escape. I'm deluded by the notion that there is some other place than here and some other time than now.

Similarly, I find my mind turned to thoughts of being happy and satisfied at other times. I am reluctant to question the reality of these notions, but when I take a look I find that I am clinging to this time and place as if I could keep it by sheer effort or purity of motive.

I have never been anywhere but here, never lived at any time other than now. That's my real experience. But my mind gets caught like an “ooh shiny” Mercurial pond-sprite by that notion that there's something “out there” and people “other” than me.

Don't misunderstand me, as you well know, I operate in that context just like everyone does, I handle transactions as if there is someone else there and somewhere else to go, but my observations of direct experience don't line up with that at all. I don't find a place where I stop and everything else begins when I just look at it. The distinction requires that I believe something I can't see, and once you've done that the pond-sprite is back at the wheel.

Analogously, when I feel strong emotions, like in therapy, there are times when I take a backwards step in perception and see that wow, I'm really angry. The observer, the commenter, is not angry, it is just watching. My direct experience is that of observing myself being angry. I am sure that is happening.

But, when my mind turns to dominance, retaliation, and targeting others, then I enter this role and I begin to read from the script. I know how this goes, what will happen, under what conditions I will persist and under what conditions I will desist. I'm not observing anything at this level, I'm deeply embroiled in physical sensations and some construct of keeping score, protecting turf, and/or controlling another's behavior. That script is played out in my thoughts. I'm not observing anything, so why be so convinced that something is happening?

So, every day my direct experience is the same. There's no “every day.” This is what is going on. Watching the pond-sprite.

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