Yet I try, like anyone, to reign it all in.
So in standing over my meal this noon, I looked down at the rice cake, blueberry spread and granola covered with nutty cereal and a bit of honey and asked myself a question that should be asked every day.
“Why am I eating? ”
Okay. Let’s answer that together.
I eat because I’m hungry.
And I’m hungry almost all the time. When I wake up. When I go to bed. When I’m writing. Especially at 10 am. I get hungry then. Eat more at noon. Then a snack at 2:30. Finally, I down something to keep my stomach from growling on the afternoon workout.
I read somewhere that athletes should always feel just a little bit hungry all the time. If you’re sated, you’ve eaten too much.
Well, that’s a tough way to go. Yet I’ve done it, and gotten good results in terms of losing those extra few pounds that creep on during the holiday.
So rather than eat until you’re full all the time, it makes sense to ask the question, “Why am I eating?”
I eat because it makes me feel good.
I love to eat. Eating is often fun. Food is fun. All kinds of food. Food food foood food foooood.
Okay, so we’ve established that food makes us feel good. But why?
Eating is comforting. Comfort food is an actual term that means we eat to make ourselves feel calmer or to take part in a ritual that gives a sense of well-being.
Yet that eating habit can also put you on edge when you feel guilty for eating comfort food.
Then it doesn’t feel so good to be eating when you know you should not. Seems like we almost need an internal alarm or an award system to reward ourselves for indulging just a little, like eating small meals all day (a recommended strategy they say…) versus eating until you get all stuffed and sleepy with comfort food and feel sluggish in every thing you do.
So we have to ask ourselves in those moments the question that will help us determine what type of eating we are doing. Is it just comfort food once in a while? Or are we truly stressed and our eating is a manic attempt to gain control of our brains when there is too much stimulus, or not enough?
Why are we eating?
What’s good for the goose is good for all the ganders. Because one of the things we all like to do (it seems) is eat together. That’s where you can really get in trouble. With everyone at the table ordering multiple beers and big menu items it is so easy to just “eat along” with the crowd.
My companion has gotten good at eating half her meal and carrying the rest home in a box. That’s a good example of managing your eating and answering both questions: “Why am I eating” and “Why are we eating?”
Social eating is a deceptively difficult situation in which to exhibit personal control.
You could just shove your face in a dish of food and be done with it.
Because let’s face it, that’s how we sometimes feel when we’ve overeaten. “I’m such a pig,” we say to ourselves. And then we go have an Oreo or two or six to top it off.
Ad-mit it! You’ve easily downed one of those six packs of Oreos that come in the deep blue wrapper. Your mouth gets all Oreo-y and the frosting well, it slides onto your tongue and it’s better than sex. Oreo sex!
We eat because we’re horny
My friend and I used to try to pick up women and if we didn’t get lucky we’d go out and buy containers of Haagen-Daz Rum Raisin ice cream and eat the entire pint. In one sitting.
But we both weighed less than 140 lbs. at six feet tall back then, which probably explains why women were not too interested in us from the get-go.
Yet when we did get lucky those lucky women found out that distance runners can go alllll night long because we were in such good shape. So there’s a wonderful little tradeoff there.
We eat because we’re anxious or depressed
If you’re feeling down or (sort of) better yet, a person with persistent anxiety or depression, eating can become a way of coping with feeling really lousy inside and out.
The warm glow of a slice of apple pie with ice cream can temporarily take away the gnawing grip of chronic anxiety.
Or, you can try to cope with depression by making yourself some mood-lifting tea.
But Citalopram or Xanax might just be a worthwhile addition to your diet. No apologies needed for that people. The answer to why we “eat” those pills is to get back to a normal enough state to even make breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s one of the tarsnakes of anxiety and depression. They both make life harder and you have to work a bit more just to feel normal some (many?) days.
Or we can go run or ride or swim. Add those to your diet no matter who you are, and the reasons for eating will become a bit less of an issue. Almost guaranteed.
We eat because we’re human
All that would be left is a few tribes in the Central Amazon (not that Amazon…) who live on grubs and tree bark. The rest of us would die and wash down into the Gulf Stream or some other global excuse for a dirty bathtub and then roll up into a giant human flotsam pile on the beaches. 10,000,000 years from now when some other intelligent life form either evolves or descends on earth they will find the piles of our bones and sift through them trying to determine what killed so many supposedly intelligent people.
Then one of them will dig up a tiny shred of blue wrapper with a brown cookie on the cover and turn to their compatriots and say, “Oh look, an Oreo wrapper.”
The whole paleontology team will nod its head and say, “Now it all makes sense. They ran out of Oreos.”
Because that is the ultimate answer to the question “Why am I eating?”
To get to the Oreos.