Hello and Happy Monday! Also, Happy National Junk Food Day… I think? You guys know I love my food holiday’s right? I mean I’ve got them all loaded into my Google Calendar and I have the Food Holiday App on my Iphone.
For some reason I’m just not as excited about National Junk Food Day as I am some of the other holidays. After reading a couple of articles/blog posts last week (here and here) I have been thinking about how many external factors affect what and how much we eat, and why those external factors typically work against us.
External Eating Cues
- How much the people around us eat. I used to watch how much other thin people would eat to judge how much I should eat. Finally I realized that this was the wrong approach, as I have no idea what else that other person had eaten that day, if she had exercised, or anything else. In other words, she could have starved herself in preparation for a feast, or ran 12 miles, or something else and I would have had no idea. Assuming her energy needs matched mine was wrong.
- How many calories we think is in food. This one dates back to my calorie counting days. One of the main reasons I stopped calorie counting is because it began working against me. (See posts on my calorie counting journey here.) On more than one occasion I thought to myself “this is low calorie I can totally stuff my face.” Only to find out it wasn’t, or I ate so much I definitely over did it and didn’t feel good. Now I focus on the quality of food and how it makes me feel, not just the calorie content.
- How much we are served or think we are served. Research is pretty clear on this one. If you are served a bigger portion you will eat more of it. Our eyes also play tricks on us as well. We are likely to be happier with a full small plate than a partially empty large plate.
- What we believe to be healthy. In the past my definition of food was the strictly low fat and low calorie approach. If it didn’t fit my criteria it was off limits, so when I did allow myself to have something outside my definition I would end up overdoing it. Now my definition of “healthy” is ever changing and mostly includes whole unprocessed foods, treats or not.
- If we believe we deserve the food. Healthy or not, there is a feeling of entitlement when it comes to food. For example, maybe you “deserve” a salad because you blew your diet that weekend or maybe you “deserve” a treat because you completed a task or did something good. The fact is we need food to live, we deserve to keep living.
- Believing we have access to that food again. Enter the holidays where certain flavors of food and dishes are only around for a limited amount of time. I used to feel like I could gorge because it won’t be around for another 12 months. Now I remember that there is literally a food holiday to look forward to pretty much every month. (Think about it- New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco De Mayo/Mother’s Day, Memorial Day/Fathers Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.)
- What the scale says. Although I haven’t completely gotten rid of my scale, I do weigh myself much less frequently. I used to weight myself daily, but it was controlling my life. The scale let me know if I was going to have egg whites or oatmeal for breakfast, it let me know if dessert was okay or if I should be happy with myself. I put a stop to that by buying a scale with a body fat percentage calculator, I got a range I like to stay in and a pair of jeans I like to fit in. I don’t let the scale tell me what I’m allowed to eat anymore.
- Advertisements/Social Media. This one is kind of obvious and hard to avoid. You see an ad for a burger and you want a burger. I usually just try to make healthy versions of those things at home to give into my cravings. The social media one is a bit different though. Even though I love reading and putting together What I Ate Wednesday posts, I found that reading them was affecting my appetite. One blogger has a nut butter craving that consumes their life and all of sudden I’ve strangely got the same craving. After that particular instance I took a couple weeks off of reading those posts and that solved the problem.
Focusing on Internal Cues
The thing is when we let external factors govern our food intake we are setting ourselves up for disaster. The problem is that these external food cues are coming at us from every angle. Every single person experiences them, no one escapes all of them. As I said before, I love food holidays, but my problem with this one is that it doesn’t celebrate a particular food item, dish, or meal. It simply is just another excuse to eat whatever you want. That’s the problem, you shouldn’t need an excuse to have a slice of pizza, a handful of chips, or a cookie (which by the way all have their own food holidays). Those types of things come around often at parties all throughout the year and should be enjoyed in moderation (see my post on what I think that saying really means.)
How do we fight off all these external cues? I think the most important thing we can do is acknowledge their presence. I know I’m being affected by so many different external cues so I check in with myself. I ask myself, “how I am feeling and what do I really need or want?” Focus inward on your own needs, hunger, cravings, preferences etc. Don’t restrict (or gorge) yourself based on all the external cues in the world that are telling you to do so. Eat intuitively based on your level of hunger and remind yourself you can go back. Remind yourself there are tons of opportunity for healthy and junky food, no food is on a pedestal. All food can be enjoyed and you can have a healthy relationship with food.
So I guess I’ll be sitting this one out (maybe we are going to a baseball game tonight so I might end up inadvertently participating)… but if I were going to pick a junk food to indulge in….White Cheddar Cheetos would be my choice!
Questions of the day:
Thoughts? What external factors affect the way you eat?
What’s your favorite food holiday?
What’s your favorite junk food?