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EAT THIS! NOT THAT! But I really feel like eating THAT right now…

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Blog Posts, Uncategorized | 32 comments

The other day, I was truly relishing a fresh poppy seed bagel (OK, I ate two) with regular cream cheese. It was warm and that perfect combination of chewy and soft, and I was pleasantly very full after I finished. I remember eating a whole bagel, thinking I was not quite satisfied, making the other half, then checking in, and finally eating the last half. I noticed also that I was not hungry until dinner time, about 6 1/2 hours later, which is odd for me since I usually am hungry for a small  snack with my daughter at about 4…

Anyway, as I was enjoying this bagel treat, I had a flashback to the whole “Eat This Not That” book series that I remember seeing initially years ago. It seemed like every picture compared a bagel with cream cheese to some whopping amount of food with the same calories that was more “nutritious.”

But, what if what I really want and will really enjoy is that, not this? What if I settle for this and then feel upset, or deprived, because what I really wanted was that? (Read this post about a study on the feelings of deprivation and how it might increase hunger.)

So, while I think it is interesting to compare the type of photo, in case that is not what you are really hungry for, but you are settling for it because you can’t think of anything else, and this is really something that does sound appealing, and it’s an interesting way of thinking about nutrition, and fullness and satisfaction. Or use the book because you are choosing that because you think it is “better for you” than this (as in the case of many fast-food “healthy” options that contain as many calories or fat as a less “healthy” option. Though this kind of thinking leans toward externally driven eating vs. internally…)

But, if you feel anxious, or deprived, or upset, or triggered by anything about this book, by the directive tone of the title, by the fact that it doesn’t take into account what you are looking forward to eating (appetite) or hungry for, or internal cues— skip it, and pick up a fun cook book instead if you’re looking for inspiration.

Be curious, tune in to your body. While I “knew” that eating two bagels with cream cheese wasn’t the most balanced or “correct” lunch, I sure as heck enjoyed it, have learned to give myself permission, and then observed my hunger etc. for the rest of the day. I’ve learned to trust that my body will figure it out, especially if I don’t let the head game get in the way. That’s a whole lot more pleasant, and eating competent it turns out, than forcing myself to eat an egg-white omelet with turkey bacon while pining for a bagel, which I then think about compulsively until I get one, and then maybe eat three or four… (Like the experience I described in my review of The End of Overeating when the author denies himself the ice-cream he so desires and has a miserable weekend obsessing about the ice-cream….)

What do you think? Do you like the Eat This Not That series? What’s your favorite bagel, and topping? (I love plain regular cream cheese, but I will also lick my chops over plain cream cheese, thinly sliced onion, tomato slice and ham. Reminds me of Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor…)

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  1. Nebet

    My favorite bagel is a cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted, with lox and cream cheese — or American neufchatel and ham, if I am making them at home. I like the thicker texture of neufchatel; it feels more filling.

    • katja

      I forgot about lox! Love it, but I like it on a plain with cream cheese, sliced onions and a few capers… Never heard of it on a raisin bagel! This is why “eat this not that” is pointless on that level. People’s preferences are so unique…

  2. maggiemunkee

    i hate those books so much. they are so preachy and policing. the author seems full of smug satisfaction that he’s educating (and shaming) all the poor (both pitying and actual poverty-stricken) fatties about how to eat the “proper” foods.

    if it was just a comparison of different food options, without dripping with condescension and judgement, it would be interesting.

    • katja

      I think I only ever saw the first one, and it was ages ago, when I too was probably dripping with condescension and in my pre-enlightened days, so I likely didn’t even notice it. Thanks for the warning that it’s not just side by side photos, but comes along with a lot of shaming etc.

  3. Ellyn Satter

    Interesting discussion. How lovely to hear from people passionate about food. I like this too: why you don’t binge. “there’s literally nothing I can’t have.” Would you accept a friendly amendment: There is literally noting IN ANY AMOUNT that I can’t have.”

    • katja

      chime in anytime! Thank you for the reminder! It’s why I shared that I enjoyed two as well. I find that you are right on, again, that many people talk about all foods being ok, but still cling to the “moderation” or the, carry that nice dark chocolate in your bag, so you can enjoy a piece when you feel like it… Implication, is enjoy A piece, feel guilty if you want more… Thanks! I shoot these replies off so fast, I often am not as thoughtful as I could be, but it’s fun to have the back and forth!

  4. Lindsay

    My mother owns the book, and I do find it to triggering and not entirely helpful to think about (maybe because I already had so much nutrition/calorie info drilled into my brain from my dieting/ED days anyway?). I’m very much into satisfying my cravings for “that” – no matter how scandelous it may be to some -little debbie snacks come to mind:). My intake is not the perfect food pyramid, no, but i do still get variety and I never want to binge because there’s literally nothing I can’t have. And what used to be binge foods can sit in my cupboard for weeks because I just don’t feel like having it for that long…and if you would have told me this years ago I would have not believed it possible!

    I do try to do more nutritious options of some foods when I can, like buying whole wheat instead of white bread, but then sometimes I’ll purposely buy the white just to prove to myself that yes, I am allowed to eat it (and I do like it), and no nothing bad will happen. :)

    • katja

      Yay! I think to have the “perfect” intake is the antithesis of competent eating. I’m so happy for you, and so hopeful. May I reprint this comment anonymously? Some day I’d love to put up a collection of hopeful recovery stories… I love your explanation of why you don’t binge. “there’s literally nothing I can’t have.”
      Thank you so much for writing in!!

  5. TropicalChrome

    Favorite bagel: Onion, lightly toasted, cream cheese. Alas, I’m from the NY area, so I was spoiled at a young age when it comes to bagels. They’re a rare treat because most bagels outside that area just don’t measure up.

    As for the books, I’m with you: if I want THAT, I’m going to eat THAT. I found the first book somewhat interesting with comparisons of nutritional content, but any book that treats food purely as fuel and thus any food is freely interchangeable with any other is not a book I’m going to take seriously. (Like all my young life was: don’t eat the chocolate, have an apple instead. If I wanted an apple, I’d’ve had an apple.)

  6. skye

    My fav is a lightly toasted everything bagel w/ hummus. Yum!

  7. Kirsten

    I love a good onion bagel with cream cheese!

    Regarding those books, I think they can be useful if your into makingnhealthy choices but no singular craving. I am learning that if I want something there is no point in denying myself of it, as I will have “the replacement” first, feel at the very least unsatisfied (even if full) and go on to have what imwas trying to deny myself in the first place. Double trouble!

    My motto? ‘If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad’ – Sheryl Crowe (or however she spells her name)

  8. Glittersocks

    My favorite is a toasted everything bagel with Toby’s (tofu “pate” – it’s an Oregon thing), tomato and red onion. I’m limiting my carb intake because of a recent pre-diabetes diagnosis so just a rare treat now.

  9. Eselle

    There’s a place out here in Southern California called Western Bagel Company. Once my husband had to have the sun roof repaired on his car. The shop was right next door to Western Bagel’s factory. They had a store on the front of the factory sw we went in while they did the repairs next door. We got the freshest bagels I’ve ever tasted. Still warm! We had them slathered in thick cream cheese with a generous layer of lox! Oh now I gotta go back. And these days that’s 100 miles from here. I’ll be thinking of you guys when I make the trek. :)

    • katja

      as a kid, there was New York Bagels in Southfield MI that made these bagels with tiny chopped and cooked onions and poppy seeds in the middle. Best. Ever…

      • Mercy

        In the middle? Like, in the middle of the bagel dough, or like a bialy, with a thin spot in the middle where the toppings are instead of a hole?

        Ok, now I’m missing bialys almost as much as bagels. Good thing it’s almost time for dinner!

        • katja

          YES! baked INTO the soft bagel. They were so good!! Going home for the winter break, will have to see if they are still there.

  10. Twistie

    There used to be an amazing bagel place in my town called Boogie Woogie Bagel Boy. Man! Once a month or so, Mr. Twistie and I would get a bag of their bagels and a couple of their delicious schmears for saturday or sunday breakfast. Probably my favorite combination was garlic bagels with olive cream cheese: full-fat cream cheese with a combination of roughly chopped black and green olives. They were juicy and salty in that cloud of cream cheese. Soooo satisfying.

    Alas! a couple years ago, the place got sold off to some people who wouldn’t know a good bagel if it smacked them in the face. The last time I went there, the bagels had a similar flavor and texture to Sara Lee ones – gummy and flavorless by comparison. Certainly nothing to compare with those crunchy, tender, stinky garlic-encrusted miracles of deliciousness I loved. All the speciality schmears were gone, too.

    Now I’m seriously considering rolling my own, as it were. I’m a good baker, and sometimes there is nothing as satisfying as a good bagel. Since I can’t buy one in town, well, I should probably give it a go.

    As for the ‘Eat This Not That’ series… I’ve always figured I was capable of figuring out for myself what options are available to me and which ones will make me feel best, both mentally and physically, at any given time. It never even occurred to me that there might be anything of use to me in them.

    I think I’ll stick to my cookbooks, and maybe get some more.

    What? Cookbooks are useful.

  11. Elizabeth

    I like salt bagels with full-fat cream cheese. Something about that crunchy salt on top really hits the spot.

    • katja

      me too! but I run some of the salt off, it’s too much salt, but I love some salt :)

    • Mercy

      I miss salt bagels almost as much as I miss pumpernickel ones. but I prefer (full fat, of course) cream cheese with chives on them.

      I am notoriously picky about my bagels because growing up, my father had a bagel store that I worked in summers, but here in Germany it’s REALLY HARD to find bagels at all, and then usually they’re Montreal style and only plain, poppy seed, or sesame (nothing against those types, but it’s not what I love/crave in bagels). And I can’t get flour with a high enough gluten count to make my own *hrrrmph*

      • katja

        Funny, I’ve wondered if a bagel store would fly in Germany… They have the Broetchen culture, what do you think? I’ve fantasized about opening a DQ in Paris, and a bagel shop in Germany :) Where in Germany are you?? I’m hoping to make it to Weinheim and Berlin next summer. Wonder if I can set up a workshop :)

  12. Eselle

    Should be “fervor”

  13. Eselle

    My initial take on the “Eat This Not That” series was that it was basic nutrition for young people who had no clue that bacon had more fat than turkey, etc. I thought that was a good idea since I do know some youngsters who truly don’t know what a carbohydrate IS let alone how they differ from protiens and fats. But soon the series evolved into a mantra of “these foods are BAD so eat these GOOD foods instead.” After that, he lost me.

    The author of the series also does articles that appear on Yahoo. Most of them he’s screaming about the horrors of fast foods and what to eat instead. For example he will take a product that is obviously meant to serve a number of people and wail about the massive amount of fat, salt and calories in the dish. I guess when your only claim to fame is how fast food is causing “the obesity epidemic” you have to whip up fevor where ye may to keep on selling books.

  14. Jennifer Hansen

    About filling up: On days when I know I’ll be going-going-going, I stop by McDonald’s for the sausage McMuffin with egg. Two of those in the early morning and I don’t need to eat until after two o’clock! I have to balance it with a dinner full of vegetables and low in fat or I will feel sort of oogy at bedtime, though.

    Oh, as for bagels, I love cinnamon raisin, split and nicely toasted, with butter.

  15. sarah

    I’ve never read this book, but I love your article.

    Since you asked, I love a bagle with honey and cheddar cheese (melted in the microwave please),

    At timmies, if I get a bagle, I go for toasted with butter on half – love the taste of butter, but I’ve figured out that my (mild) IBS acts up if I have too much fat.

    • katja

      Timmies??? Do tell! I love stories people tell about figuring out what works for their bodies, not in order to punish or try to slim them, but to feel good! Another example is below.

      • Sarah

        Whoops! Timmies = Tim Horten’s – a canadian coffee shop that is EVERYWHERE. (many smallish towns can even support two across the street from each other, so people can avoid turning left!)

        They do tasty sandwiches and soup as well as coffee and doughnuts – way cheaper than Starbucks and tastier food (IMHO).

        • DaynawithaY

          LOVE Tim Horton’s!!!! It’s been years since I had it (years since I’ve been in Canada), but I remember it fondly. :-)

  16. katja

    Love this comment. Yup, you hit it on the nail.

  17. Jennifer Hansen

    I’ve flipped through these books. I think that they can be useful under certain circumstances. Sometimes the “Eat This” option is more filling, or contains a wider variety of nutrients, or has a more pleasing assortment of textures, or is surprisingly easy to pack for lunch instead of buying the “Not That” option at a fast food joint and wasting part of your precious lunch hour standing in line; if any of these are a concern, the book is worth the money. But the underlying rationale is that some foods are “good” and others are “bad” and we know the harm that can do.