Sunday, January 06, 2008

Food Choices: Small Decision, Big Impact

I have a thing for advice columns. I like to think that it's derived from a constant desire for self-improvement, but in reality, it's probably because I'm a voyeur and subconciously enjoy reading about people crazier than I am.

Whatever the reasons, I'm a bit of a connoisseur of the columnist. My favorite, by far, is Carolyn Hax, who has a daily column in the Washington Post. I like her so much that I once, long ago, hauled myself all the way to DC to see her speak at Barnes & Noble. Her advice is clear and practical and thoughtful. (As an aside, I also really like Dear Margo on Yahoo and Dear Prudence on Slate. However, I find Ask Amy - from the Chicago Tribune - not so good. I think her advice is too colored by her own experiences and choices. Too biased.)

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that during Friday's live chat with Carolyn, she gave some advice that really resonates with me:

Anonymous: My 2008 goal is to try and find myself and my voice because I've been so wrapped up in living the life I should be living (versus the life I want to live). The problem is I've been living this life for so long, it seems I've lost my bearings. I have no idea what I am really interested in or how I truly feel about certain things. I have a hard time saying no and more times than not I don't put myself first. Any thoughts on rediscovery after being gone for so long?


Carolyn Hax: Little things. Picking a restaurant, for example, deciding what to wear when you go, picking something from the menu--all these are minor expressions of self that have negligible consequences for any one night but that start to express something over time (your tastes, your weight, your self-image, your companionship). It's in these small and therefore low-risk decisions that you can start to learn where you feel a sense of belonging, and from that a sense of yourself. Food, again, is just an example--the reasoning applies to all your daily decisions. The point is to making conscious changes at this level to nudge your confidence up to the point where you feel you can make stronger statements/bigger investments, like taking a class, joining a group, making a friend.

This notion of food as an indicator and agent of change makes so much sense to me - hearing it from her in the form of advice, validates a lot of what I've come to think, after two years of writing it out, about the role of food in life and the power of food to shape our thinking and behavior. It also directly connects to something I blogged about last May: research that explained why my ability to easily make small decisions, like about what to cook for dinner, made me a happier person in general.

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