Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eating mindfully over the holidays

Here is a faintly obnoxious holiday suggestion post, along the lines of eating more mindfully! I hope to add another free advice column on the importance of exercising regularly and in moderation at some point. Enjoy!

Eating mindfully
It just so happens that I am wearing a mouth appliance for the next three weeks. Over the Christmas holidays, to be precise. I am having my bite (as in, how my teeth fit together) adjusted in early January, before tax season madness, and as soon as we have a new pot of medical money available.

The particular device I am wearing is called a "deprogrammer," and it prevents my teeth from touching together at all. I wear it around the clock, except for eating and brushing. The idea is that my bottom jaw can now float freely, not bound by the fit of my bottom and top teeth, till it finally rests at its preferred place in about 3 weeks or so. It needs that time to be "deprogrammed" from its habitual position. If my jaw is happily realigned, the theory goes, it might also stop me from grinding or clenching my teeth. This all sounds a bit new-age, but it is the latest dental fad -- which is to say, it's completely new age! But I'm a firm believer in living by faith, as well as by reason.

In January, after my jaw finds its happy place, the dentist is going to gently shave off some jutting peaks on the tops of my teeth that are preventing my mouth from closing together very well, and encourage my teeth to fit together at that jaw position. As I explained to my sister, my problem right now is I am unable to bite off hangnails, or anything else in that size range, because of a small gap between my front teeth. I can still bite an apple, or carrot. Just no fine nibbling, and I do miss that.

I've decided that everyone should try wearing a mouth appliance -- a retainer, or something similar -- over the holidays. It forces you to eat more mindfully! You can't just stuff things in your mouth unaware. No food is going to sneak in, unaccounted for, when I am wearing this thing. Why? Because I have to take it out in order to chew. The procedure -- check for clean hands, reach inside my mouth and unhinge, and dig out a special container to store the deprogrammer -- is lengthy enough that I could actually change my mind, and decide not to eat whatever it is, assuming it's not a meal. (Not that it's happened yet.) In theory, it could become inconvenient enough that I would pass up some snack freebies here and there.

I've worn the deprogrammer before, this being the second go-round of dental improvements. Each time, I forget I'm wearing it when I go up for communion on Sunday morning and then have to walk back to my pew seat, juice-dunked bread in hand, and remove my mouth appliance before I can partake of the Lord's supper.

On a side note ... for possibly the first time in my life, I have experienced the bliss of eating movie popcorn mindfully. Usually I'm like most other people -- shovel it in, chew, chew, then go get a free refill! I really love movie popcorn, and I know it's absolutely X-rated food, which just makes it that much more thrilling to enjoy, in a furtive rapid-fire way in the darkened theater. (Don't think about Pee-wee Herman.) If you eat anything quickly enough, there aren't any calories!

What caused my mindful chewing was the fact that my sister and I arrived to the movie theater about 45 minutes early yesterday, in the middle of an unusually wet and dreary day. We went in and bought our snacks on autopilot, before it dawned on me that we could have dodged the raindrops to do a bit of nearby shopping. So there we were, popcorn and drinks in hand. The theater was empty, warm and dry (though playing overly loud commercials). I wanted to save my popcorn for the movie, but I didn't want it to be old and cold by the time I started eating it. The dilemma! What to do? So I took one or two kernels at a time and enjoyed the delicious, crispy, salty and buttery finish. Let's face it, popcorn is a food that is almost inedible without seasoning and some kind of fat added. (Have you ever tried plain air-popped popcorn?)  But add the gloss of fat (coconut oil is to die for -- probably literally) and salt, and wow!

Speaking of eating, I believe my hubby has our egg salad lunch almost ready to go! Time to pop out the deprogrammer and do some noshing. The hard part is remembering to put it back in again.

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