Dear Leah Renee,
I overeat. I know I do. Sometimes I simply am craving something in particular and give in, while other times I’m legitimately feel hungry, so I eat then too. I tend to snack as well, and enjoy doing so because, well, I like food. Is there a way to enjoy food but not have the waistline to go along with it? –Anonomous
We get all sorts of cravings. We crave friends, family, happiness, love, food, desserts, warmth, vacations, activity, and alone time. What all these things have in common is they make us feel good. We like feeling good. What most of these things also have in common is they’re not always (immediately) attainable. Vacations typically need to be worked for, friends aren’t always around or we get busy, same with family, and we don’t always have time to do whatever we choose; but food? Food is always there. Food makes us feel good, and we can have that during just about anytime throughout the day.
We eat for all sorts of reasons. We reach for food when we feel bored, stressed, lonely, happy, sad; all of these emotions have the ability to affect our eating habits and have us reaching for something tasty.
What are you truly hungry for? It’s funny how much our psychology changes as we get older. Food is hardly just fuel anymore; dates are based around it, so are parties, and money plays a large factor. Think back to when you were a kid and you were called in from your outdoor activities to go have dinner. Is there anything else you would rather not do than to break up all that fun you’re having to go eat?! So annoying! Play > Eat. It was as simple as that. Now? Eat > Work. Eat > House Chores. Eat > Tackle other tasks or think about things you may not want to.
So what to do?! When it comes to meals, enjoy each one. Don’t be rushed with it. Sure, there will be times you’re on the go and you need something to fit in accordingly—but that does not mean you cannot appreciate what you’re eating and pay attention to the experience. Think about what you would like to have as a snack, and stock up and bring it with you so you’re not grabbing at just anything around. When watching TV, pay attention to the show. When it’s time for your meal, pay attention to that. By focusing on each activity separately, it’s harder to let the mind wander and mindlessly snack on something while simultaneously doing something else.
When it comes to overeating, we do so for many reasons. It tastes good, it feels good, we are in good company and get to indulge, or maybe we got a good deal on a value meal. One problem: your stomach doesn’t know a deal. It’s great when companies give us “value” for our money. I can appreciate a two for one or half off tickets to a movie, a concert, or theme park. Airline travel discounts—score! Food? Only when it’s not perishable! When I have to finish something in one sitting or it’s going to go bad the next day, I don’t see how we’re going to benefit from that. If anything our brain and pocketbook will see the value in this, but our belly will not. It just knows when it’s had enough—and chances are that extra amount isn’t going to do anything other than making you uncomfortably full. It’s either in the waste or ON your waist! A scale system in your own mind can help you evaluate as well: how hungry are you really, on a scale of 1 to 10? You be the judge, and be honest. How full are you on a scale of 1 to 10? Remember, it takes a little time for food to digest, so keep that in mind! Listen to your body.
Mindless snacking, overeating at a meal, or simply eating too much in general can helped be controlled by re-evaluating what it is you really want and how you can take control right then to satisfy that without using food as the aid. If you’re bored or frustrated during the workday—get up and stretch your legs, go for a quick walk, or bug another co-worker to give you the latest gossip for a distraction. If you’re home alone and already ate, go for a walk, go to a local coffee shop for some tea (we often confuse thirst for hunger anyway), call a friend (we don’t do that enough anymore!), start a project, watch a movie, or read something you can get lost in (or be like me and go on Pinterest).
We ALL get cravings, and that’s very normal! It’s also normal to give into them from time to time! We can’t be perfect all the time, nor should we expect to be. If I want some peanut M&M’s, it’s on. If you have a craving for something sweet and it’s been a while–go for it! If you’re seeing your waistline suffer because you’re doing so all the time, maybe you’re craving something else.