C.S. Lewis and the Art of French Eating

Sometimes two very different sources can reinforce a similar idea from diverse perspectives.  Case in point: C.S. Lewis and the book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret to Eating for Pleasure have created a strong link in my mind as they both deal with the dynamic between thoughts and feelings.

My tendency toward introspection is often at odds with my desire to connect with my emotions in the present moment.  As I went through my awakening, I noticed that I could either feel or think in any given moment, but I couldn’t do both at the exact same time.  C.S. Lewis describes this by explaining that attending to your object of love, fear or hope is a distinctly different activity than thinking about your feelings of love, fear or hope.  He says: “…the enjoyment and the contemplation of our inner activities are incompatible,” (Surprised by Joy, pg. 266).  Lewis goes on to state: “You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment…” which gets at my experience of contemplating and evaluation emotions instead of feeling them.  The best example in my life is time spent with my children.  When I observe and experience spending time with them, I feel joy, hope, love, and peace.  However, when I turn toward those feelings and analyze them, the tender moment passes as my attention is now focused on my thoughts.  Lewis says, “The surest way of spoiling a pleasure was to start examining your satisfaction,” (pg. 267).  This is very true!  The thoughts, judgments, and analysis I engage in chase away the felt emotions in the moment.  Loving my children is a different activity than reflecting on how much I love my children. 

Last week, I found a really delicious recipe for low carb pizza crust.  We have pizza and movie night every Friday and I always make myself a low carb version either with eggplant or a homemade pizza crust.  I’ve tried lots of different combinations of grain free flours with mixed results over the years.  This recipe was very promising – made from shredded mozzarella, cream cheese, cashew flour and flax meal.  When I settled in to watch the movie and enjoy my pizza creation, I was also engaged in a text exchange with a friend about a challenging situation.  The pizza was really good!  However, when I finished eating I clearly thought: “I didn’t really enjoy that because of all the distractions.”  I couldn’t access the pleasure of eating because my attention wasn’t on my food.

As luck would have it, a couple days later I picked up the book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret to Eating for Pleasure at the book store in Julian.  Mireille Guiliano makes the argument that French women don’t get fat because of ingrained cultural ways of eating and their approach to life.  The part that struck me was that French women tend to eat for pleasure rather than seeing food as the enemy, the way restrictive dieting cultures do. Guiliano encourages women to eat high quality, delicious food in smaller quantities and to focus on the pleasure of eating without distraction.  Yes!  This gave words to what I experienced with my homemade pizza last week and my typical mode of eating.  I’d gotten in the habit of eating in front of the computer, with a book, in front of the television, or in the car.  Basically, other than family dinners at the table, I rarely ate with my sole focus on my food and the company around me. 

This week I’ve been making more creative meals, enjoying them without distraction, and feeling satisfied with much less food.  I’ve made a weekday morning ritual of taking my coffee and breakfast out to our patio under the umbrella to enjoy it before starting work. Teo joined me a couple times last week and we watched hummingbirds have a turf war and listened to other little birds sing as we ate. It’s amazing how much more pleasurable food is when you eat mindfully and give the tastes, textures, sights and smells your full attention.  When my attention was divided between my meal and whatever I was reading, watching, or doing, it was hard to enjoy my food. 

It’s really true, whether you talk of emotions or enjoying food, you simply cannot directly experience the moment if you’re also thinking about something else.  I’ve gotten such a boost of enjoyment in life by making meals their own event, rather than scarfing down food while doing something else.  Do you relate to this idea? Have you tried eating mindfully and noticed a different in your enjoyment of food?

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