Friday, March 26, 2010

Gaining the art of conversation

One of the most important things about Eight Bites is that with the limited food intake you have a lot of free time at the dinner table. This free time should not be spent alone if possible. As we lose weight we tend to isolate ourselves a bit as we transition from that overweight person into someone completely different. It is a bit of a lonely process because you are going through it by yourself. It is very important that we try not to isolate ourselves at meals since this can be both emotionally and physically draining. Having a loved one to talk to or friends over for dinner helps in the process of weight loss transition and makes you feel better about yourself.

You need to have people around you who understand the physical processes you are going through and support your efforts. Sometimes  friends can be a bit of problem if they don't understand the physical process or the why you did this in the first palce. They may try to get you to eat a bit more. I think its because they can, and they don't want to feel that they are an issue. Be careful with that second group of "dietary helpers" since they can really sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Last Thursday we attended a large dinner for artisan food producers in the upper Tiber River Valley here in Italy. There were about 120 people in attendance and only a few spoke English. Still being in the beginning phases of learning Italian I found the prospects of the dinner a little intimidating and potentially isolating. I have had a number of experiences at meals in the recent past where virtually everyone spoke Italian and I found those evenings a bit painful. While I am starting to understand what is being said, or at least the gist of it, the textural quality of the conversation is lost on me.  The emotional tenor of the conversation must be defined by the expressions used and the inflections of the speakers. I had the opportunity to sit next to a gentlemen from Wisconsin who was now a goat farmer and artisan cheese maker. And a good one at that. He had lived in Italy for 20 years, and being from the US he was able to translate for me at least as much as I needed to get the points in the many speeches and conversations swirling around me. Without his assistance I would have sat there rather quietly for a three hour dinner. The ability to converse is a significant asset in the socialization process.

It was a multicourse meal as Italian banquets are want to be.  The antipasti included a variety of cured meats, lardo (actually spiced pork fat and pretty good), and some local bread. Fagiolini beans with stewed Chianina beef were next. All of the foods prepared were generated by the artisan food growers and producers. We had braised lamb, more Chianina beef osso bucco, braised spinach, mashed potatoes, and for dessert, goat cheese from my new friend. Colomba (an Easter bread) and vinsanto were then served. It was a pretty good meal and because it stretched out over three hours, I was able to eat a little bit of everything. It takes about two hours to clear the stomach after a meal so a three hour meal of small bites provided me with plenty of nutrition and a varied set of new tastes. I did miss conversing though and I spent a great deal of the time quietly listening to the conversations at our table.

We have had a friend of Elizabeth's here for the last month. Winder was in her 70's but was a lively dinner conversationalist (an aging Hippie)  and our evening meals were often filled with arguments, discussion of current events and general banter. While we did not always agree, we did hold interesting conversations and the table was never silent for long. I was able to eat my small amounts and still feel like I was an integral part of the dining experience. The give and take in the conversation was what was important. Sometimes attempts at conversation can be restricted by simply stating rhetorical statements or  questions. These types of interactions generally do not foster conversation but more often silence. A statement made that does not require an answer or a question that only has one answer does not elicit conversation. It is the true give and take that makes for meaningful conversations at the dinner table.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that it is important to not eat alone; to interact during the dining experience, and to be willing to listen to different views and attitudes without prejudice. I assume this is called active listening and it is good for the mind as the weight loss surgery and the resultant weight loss is good for the body. Just remember, no fighting at the dinner table, it disrupts your digestion and makes you eat (and often drink) more than you should. Discuss, argue, debate, but don't get angry.

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