Our time is precious, so thank you for carving out some of yours and visiting my blog. Food. We all love it don’t we? I remember scrolling through my past tweets about a year ago wondering what college Jeremy was thinking. I came across a tweet that read, “Is it bad that the happiest parts of my day are when I am eating?” At the time, I laughed at that. Now, as I look at that quote, it’s really quite sad, because I know that a lot of people feel the same way.
Our relationship we have with food is one that we need to re-examine with wiser eyes. The love we have for the nostalgic and sensual foods is unrequited for the most part. The foods we love the most do not love us back. It takes time and effort to understand this.
I am what you call a compulsive overeater. I have slipped 2-3 times while on my health seeking journey this past year, and those slips are treacherous. It’s even worse, because I know that these decisions are bad. It takes a lot to climb back to equilibrium. I’ll tell myself, “Ok, I know I shouldn’t eat this, but I’ll get back on the horse tomorrow.” The next day comes, and I say, “Well, I ate a burrito yesterday, what’s some pizza today?” Then I’ll fast for 36 hours, and say, “That was good, I deserve a reward.” Next thing you know I’m raiding the cupboards until I’m stuffed to the rafters. The next few hours or days I find that I am beating myself up over the week long bender of eating nothing but junk.
It’s unfortunate. We attach emotions to food. It doesn’t help the fact that we need food either. Our brains know this and will release dopamine in anticipation of the next meal if we don’t have our desires under control. We see a billboard on the way to work and start salivating for dinner, and it’s not even 9am yet. The next thing we know all we are thinking about is that burger we’ve talked ourselves into.
Love and food are birds of the same feather, especially if you grew up in a household with a great cook. Dinner is sacred where I grew up. Your ass better be in that seat with the family come dinner time. Love and food become intertwined with one another at a young age even if family dinners weren’t a thing for you. At a certain point in our lives, perhaps early teens, food is all we think about. What should we get for lunch? What’s for dinner? Dates are set at restaurants. Your friend is in town, so you two get dinner. Vacations turn into “where are we going to eat?” reeeeeeal fast- to the point you’re planning your entire vacation around restaurants. You convince yourself it’s all about spending money on a cultural experience.
What happens when we are overeating is very interesting. You can’t really overeat the good stuff, meaning the fruits and vegetables, because the body in its wisdom will tell you when it’s time to stop eating. That next piece of fruit doesn’t taste as good, because you are full. It reminds of me of a classic quote by Dr. Herbert Shelton, “Variety is the spice of gluttony.” The fewer food types in a meal the better. You’ll notice at Thanksgiving that you can take down 2-3 plates of food. That’s because there are so many different kinds of foods. Whereas, if you stuck to 1-2, at the most 3, food types you’ll get full quicker.
The addicting foods are what gets us into trouble. Throughout my studies I’ve learned that one of the main reasons it’s so easy to overeat the bad foods is that your body is craving more nutrients. Those bad foods contain very little nutrients, so there is this illusion of hunger. In reality you can’t really fit anything else in your stomach. Your body is searching for those nutrients, so subconsciously we reach back into that bag of tortilla chips for another scoop of bean dip. The search continues, and we keep eating. Another issue is that these foods generally go down easy. Cooked food will slide down the gullet with more ease.
The good news is that I am back on the wagon. I’ve started to take my own advice when it comes to addictions and cravings. I am going to get into some techniques that we can use to curb our overeating and conquer bad habits. Some of these hacks you may have heard of before, so let’s take a look at what we can do to make some changes.
Have a designated area for where you eat. This is tough, because a lot of us like to eat in front of the TV. I’m guilty of that too at times. When we do that we tend to shovel. We aren’t really paying attention to the food or the digestion process of chewing properly. We need to make our food as digestible as possible. Try your best to eat at the table or kitchen island- a designated area that’s meant for eating as the sole activity.
Relax prior to eating. We live in a stressful world, no doubt. The collective sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” system) is in overdrive. Most people tend to eat when they’re very stressed out. We go straight to the comfort foods, and eating while stressed is one of the worst things we can do. Our bodies are not designed to digest food while we are under stress. Take 5-10 deep breaths and prepare for the meal.
If you’re REALLY stressed but hungry (a dangerous combo), then I’d recommend going for a run, taking a walk, deep breathing, or doing a quick set of pushups/squats. That’s what the sympathetic nervous system wants. Take 5 and chill out before you eat!
Put your utensil down in between bites. Take time to focus on chewing and swallowing. Pace yourself. It takes about 20 minutes for our body to signal the hypothalamus that enough is enough.
Take a break mid-meal for a few minutes. The bond with the food is broken ever so slightly, and you realize you’re in control.
Make the second helpings hard to reach. This one is pretty self explanatory. If the second helpings are in front of you, then you’re more inclined to reach for more.
Leave some food on the plate. This is a challenge for me. I’m a former board member for the “Clean Plate Club”. It was a badge of honor in my household. Didn’t even need to wash the plate after most dinners. When you leave a little on the plate there is a sense of power there. Remember what Benjamin Franklin said. “Who is strong? He that can conquer bad habits!”
Leave the designated eating area and wash your plate immediately when you’re finished eating. Remember, the table is meant for eating. Once you leave the table and wash your plate, you’re signaling to your brain that food time is over.
Floss and brush your teeth after dinner. Not sure about you, but my compulsive eating habits always came at night. After you take a few minutes and finish cleaning up your eating area it may be a good idea to take care of your oral hygiene. Some say wait 20-30 minutes after you eat to brush, but whatever you feel comfortable with. There is a lower chance that you’ll want to eat after that. Your mouth will be clean, and nobody wants to rebrush due to an extra little snack. It’s a signal that it’s time to wind down for the night and begin your evening routine before bed.
Incorporate fasting into your routine. This is the best way to really regain control. I recommend at least one 24-36 hour fast per week. It gives the digestive system a break, kicks in HGH and autophagy, and establishes self control. If you want to take it to the next level, then I recommend going on a juice cleanse. Here are 8 reasons you should consider doing one. Fasting establishes self-discipline. It allows for us to take back control of what’s controlling us: food. There’s a reason why food is arguably the worst addiction in the world. It’s because we need it!
Overcoming overeating is not easy. I’ve been on that road and continue to battle with it. It’s an ongoing war, but it can be done. Food can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Start incorporating some of these into your eating routine, and I’m sure you’ll start to create a better relationship with food.
In closing, here is a similar quote to think about by Aristotle, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies.” One can argue that desire is the ultimate enemy. Nevertheless, it takes courage to defeat one’s desires. Controlling your desires is something that’s been preached for millennia by some of the wisest minds in history, and there’s a reason for that. The first step is control over our relationship with food, and it goes way deeper than gaining weight or indigestion. It’s time to take our lives to the next level and be the best that we can be.
Thanks for reading, and let’s live logically, folks!