Eating Fabulous Food Without Going Overboard

Four Fabulous Lessons on Eating from Julia Childs

Posted Aug 19, 2013

 The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.-Julia Child

As I wandered around a bookstore waiting for a flight to Paris for work, I couldn’t believe my good fortune in discovering the biography of Julia Childs entitled, Dearie, by Bob Spitz. Julia Childs, one of the first celebrity chefs, has many fabulous and notable quotes.  I include a few of them in my new book, Eat.Q. I mention Julia in the chapter about how to successfully navigate pleasure eating.  For many of us, eating tasty, mouthwatering food is the hardest thing to do without ridiculously overeating (see chapter 5).   From reading her biography, I learned something fascinating.  Julia seemed to have a unique knack for eating mindfully.

If you read this book, beware!  About p. 119, you may just start to salivate.  All the talk about cheese soufflés, mushroom omelets, béchamel sauce, beef bourguignon (and so much more!) can make a person pretty hungry.

Here are 4 reflections on her biography from a kindred soul who also loves and appreciates eating exceptional food in a mindful way.

1)      Cooking Can Be a Learned Skill—Thankfully!  My clients often throw up their hands and say, “But I don’t know how to cook,” when we discuss the many ways in which cooking at home can help you to be a more mindful eater and manage your weight/health.  Julia was a good example of the fact that you don’t have to be born with a whisk in your hand to be a good cook.  She admits many times to being clueless in the kitchen prior to her marriage.  For her, it was practice, practice, practice.  She went to school to learn how to cook a long time before she ever taught anyone else.  When she was trying to perfect a recipe, she would try it out many, many times.  In fact, it took over a year and 284 pounds of flour to develop one bread recipe.

Julia Child’s Quote:  “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.”

 2)      Food+Relationship Dynamic.  I was enthralled and captivated by the romantic connection between Julia, her husband and food.  Their love of food and her desire to connect with him around it was a passionate part of their relationship.  Who hasn’t been there?  We woo our partners with food.  Think for a minute about the roll food plays in your own relationships.  I discuss social eating and the sneaky impact of those around you on the way you eat in Eat.Q (chapter six).

Julie Child’s Quote: I think careful cooking is love, don't you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.

3)      The Turning Point Meal.   I paused at p. 172.  Although Julia doesn’t mention the words “mindful eating,” the description of her reaction to eating oysters in Paris for the first time was in lock step with the concept.  Initially, when she arrived in Paris, she stuck to two familiar meals.  Then, one night she ordered something new.  The book said, “it was like somebody had shown her what it really meant to eat, not simply to fill her stomach with food, but—to eat, to savor each glorious mouthful with gusto.”  It was a turning point meal that made her appreciate food in a new way.  Maybe you can think of your own “turning point meal.”  This would be a meal that made you savor the food, not just eat it.

Julia Child’s Quote:  “Everything in moderation…including moderation."

4)      Just Eat Mindfully.  There is lots of talk of food but thankfully no mention of weight obsession until p. 461 (yes, this is a long book—557 pages!).   Around 1989, Julia indicated that the “food police” came out.  She stated that suddenly, “butter, cream, veal, sugar, marrow, potatoes and fat,” became, “the seven dirty words you can’t say on television.”  She wondered, “what happened to good old moderation.”  (p. 461).  This makes sense.  Mindful eaters have learned how to gauge their eating, even of good food, without obsessing over calories or even hopping on a scale.  It’s interesting to ponder why Julia began to notice a dramatic shift in the anxiety over the way we eat in the 1980’s.                                                                                          

Julia Child’s Quote:  As we say in the American Institute of Wine and Food, small helpings, no seconds. A little bit of everything. No snacking. And have a good time.

Julia Childs seemed to be another example of the age old saying, “Do what you love and the rest will follow.”  Her exact words were, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”   

She never set out to be a celebrity chef according to the biography.  It didn’t just happen by accident either.  Like many people who hit it big, when you work, work, work at something you care about and it is meaningful to you, you are sometimes surprised at where it leads you.

Thank you to Bob Spitz for an enlighten book on Julia Childs.  She was a pioneer in her field and inspiring to many.  I admit that today I looked up on YouTube Julia’s black and white video on how to make a cheese soufflé.  She does make it look easy and yes, I am going to give it a go.

 If you want to read more about my recent eating adventures in Paris, tune back in soon.  “Like” us on facebook 

 See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, EatQ: Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence.  She is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the author of But I Deserve This Chocolate: The 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing and How to Outwit Them, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully 2nd edition, Mindful Eating 101, Eat, Drink & Be Mindful.  Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc.  Dr. Albers has been a guest on The Dr. Oz Show and many other news programs.