Think about it for a second – when you choose to eat something, how do you decide what you’re going to eat? The psychology of eating is quite complex. There’s the what, when, where, how and why; and each is based on complicated factors.
Let’s break down WHAT you eat and WHY you choose those particular foods.
What we eat is based on many things. The food available to you, for example. If you’re at home it’s the food in your kitchen, and if you’re at a restaurant it’s the food on the menu. Perhaps you take your lunch to work or school and what is available to you is the food you brought or what is served in the cafeteria. From these foods available you have the choice of what (if anything) you’ll eat. That’s the WHY.
Consider why you choose the foods you do. Is it based on what your body is telling you sounds good (i.e. intuitive eating)? Or perhaps it’s what you’ve deemed is the “right” choice because it’s healthy or fits some type of food rules or diet plan you’re following. Maybe it’s strategic, like an athlete who eats a post-workout snack containing a 4:1 ratio of carb:protein to aid in recovery from a workout. There’s certainly room for both internal and external factors in your decisions about eating. I’m not implying that some reasons are “good” and others are “bad.” I’m simply pointing out that our food choices are influenced by many things, and it’s important to be aware of these things.
If you are basing your decisions solely on what you think you “should” eat, you’re likely going to feel deprived quite often. Any time we tell ourselves we should do something, it automatically becomes less appealing. Just saying “should” indicates it’s something you don’t really want to do.
Forcing yourself to eat foods you don’t want or don’t like just because they fulfill some criteria you’ve deemed as acceptable isn’t a satisfying way to eat. Dissatisfaction is a set-up for overeating. If I really want some Oreos but don’t allow myself to eat them, what do you think is going to happen the next time I do? Chances are good that I’ll eat more Oreos in that moment than what my body really needed. Would it really have been so awful to have a couple Oreos when I initially craved them if that meant not eating an entire sleeve of them later?
Try this – next time you are going to eat, ask yourself, “What am I hungry for?” and give yourself permission to eat that food. Be observant of any judgments that pop up about the food, and just notice them. Eat the food mindfully and stop when your body tells you it’s satisfied. This is easier said than done, so be patient with yourself. It takes practice.
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