“Because I love food, Thomas! Duh”
I love food too, guys! A lot of people don’t believe me and assume I’m super disciplined with healthy eating. It’s not true. My love of food knows no bounds (except for papaya. I don’t understand papaya).
But I don’t eat food just because I love it. Like everyone else, I eat for different reasons. It all depends on the situation. I took some time to identify the 5 situations during which I eat. Maybe you’re motivated by these too:
I eat when…
- I’m hungry. At the core, food nourishes us. It gives us energy and helps us grow/heal. When it comes to mindful eating, hunger cues help us know when we’re hungry and fullness cues tell us when we’re done. I always remember my friend, Jo’s, tool to know the difference between “stomach-hungry” and “eyes-hungry”. This is your stomach calling. Pick up.
- I have a craving. Food tastes so good. I can’t go a day without some dark chocolate. Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered caramels are my weakness. For others, maybe it’s mac & cheese, white rice, or salty chips. Whatever you crave, your pleasure cues come into play here. This is eyes-hungry.
- I am fueling my workouts. Functional eating occurs when we eat when we’re not hungry. For example: when I’m going into a 3-hour meeting but I’m not hungry. I decide to eat because I know that if I don’t eat now, I’m going to feel starved after that long meeting. Or when I am planning for an intense workout in the afternoon, I will eat an extra snack even though I’m not hungry. Why? Because after 12 years of working out, I know that not fueling properly (or eating enough) reduces my performance at the gym.
- It’s in front of me. I may be full but if you put a bowl of chips and salsa in front of me, I will just mindlessly eat the entire bowl. I don’t know if it’s because I’m bored or I just need to keep my hands busy, but I’m eating even though I’m 100% full. There’s definitely something behind the expression “out of sight, out of mind”. Get it outta my face!
- It’s comforting. Food comforts the soul. It can provide social satisfaction like when we break bread with friends and family. Or it can be seasonal: during Christmas, nothing satisfies like a mug of hot cocoa (marshmallows please!). The pleasure of eating is important. A lot of times, we eat fast trying to maximize that enjoyment, but my recommendation is to eat it slowly. No, it’s not a portion control tip. Eating slowly really allows us to maximize the pleasure we get from food. The flavors. The textures. Everything awesome about food gets to be enjoyed when we’re not hoovering our food.
Creating a balanced relationship with food isn’t easy. All too often, we hone in on #1 (hunger) or #2 (cravings) and try to restrict ourselves so severely that we rebound and binge. We can even become afraid of our own appetites, which is no bueno. Looking at this list, you can see that we eat for so many reasons. Knowing which motivator may be in play when we eat helps us make a more informed decision. I hope you take a moment to understand why you’re eating when it comes time. It’s an important skill I encourage everyone to learn and put into practice.
Happy eating, friends.
Thomas Ngo, RD