Three reasons why you're not eating right — Part 2

In my previous post I told you one of the top three reasons why you're not eating right: the media's heavy influence, social media in particular, over what we "should" buy, cook and eat. Today we address another big one: Not separating psychological "hunger" from physiological hunger.

Most of us don't like talking about this one. We know we shouldn't eat if we're not hungry and it's just another void we're trying to fill — be that because of stress, boredom, sadness or what have you. But not only is it difficult to avoid falling into this trap, the list is also a mile long when it comes to external forces that contribute to our internal hungers. For example:

  • When shopping with your kids, to avoid a temper tantrum you buy one kid a box of crackers (even though you know they are unhealthy) and, to be fair, when the other kid chimes in you buy her favorite kind of cereal (which contains sugar as the first ingredient listed on the box). An important note: This is fine if you want to "pick your battles." But if healthy eating is really important to you, this constant tug of war really gets under your skin and you're not standing up to your kids at the grocery store because you're worried what other people will think, it's not fine. Shop alone, order online, or let them cry while you peruse the aisles. STARE IF YOU MUST.
  • Psychological "hunger" can also manifest if you are a people pleaser and you want to dampen your enthusiasm for healthy eating because your spouse or partner is not fully on board. Again — maybe it's fine for your guy to have a bag of chips in the house if he is otherwise a good eater and it's not a trigger food for you. But if you all cave and eat them together and it turns into bag after bag of salty fatty fried GMO corn, that's...probably not fine if you're reading this and are trying to be more mindful. If it's important to you, talk about it with the whole family. Don't be shy — open up.
  • A lot of what we need to change around our eating actually traces back to our thinking. Consider all of the negative press that a "diet" gets, or how many people complain that healthier food is more expensive. What about the times you've ordered takeout because it just seems too hard to pull something together at home? Of course, if you mentally frame something as SO HARD or that it's going to take SO LONG, you're not going to want to do it! Vegan/vegetarian food is often labeled as bland and tasteless. But have you ever actually tried to cook a vegetarian meal for your family that's not just rice and beans? If you change your thinking, you will change your life. I used to think I couldn't eat a healthy breakfast because the boys were sleeping and I didn't want to make noise. How stupid is that? Since January 1 I've been making breakfast bulgur with poached fruit, baked oatmeal, or just a big batch of oats that keep in the fridge for a few days — and there you have it, a healthy {quiet} and delicious breakfast.
  • We could have talked about this in the last post as well, but comparing yourself to others also sabotages healthy-eating plans. If you are stuck thinking "I'll never be able to cut out sugar like so-and-so," it's much more likely that, while in your shame spiral, you end up face first in a pint of Ben & Jerry's instead of with your nose in a real-food cookbook. When you find yourself stuck in this lack mentality — I'm not good enough or I'm not as good as her — you lose sight of what the next right action is. Don't try to be more like them...try to be more like you.
  • A lot of times in this life also we tune out when we think we're really "living," even with things as simple as not turning off the TV during dinner or, in larger ways, when we ignore bigger problems, or we distance ourselves from our friends and family, or we suppress negative emotions without realizing that we're ultimately feeding an empty feeling with food instead of love and self-compassion. We talked about TV last week — and I will elaborate now that it's a filler. Did you know that you are more likely to keep eating until a show you're watching is over, even if you're already full? The mind can play some crazy tricks on our appetites. It is also blocking you from any meaningful connection with your family over the dinner table, which affects your relationships...your mental health...feeding false cravings rather than your true hungers. Engage in your life. Just like our children, we are often actually more hungry for human interaction and affection than we are for cheesy fries and deep-fried pickles. I know. Shocking.

Pin-pointing these issues may feel like finding the Holy Grail, but of course it's not easy — this is something we have to become aware of, which can often feel like self judgment every time we make a mistake. But it IS possible to notice your actions, thought patterns and feelings when you're eating and not beat yourself up when you slip. Stay aware, notice what's happening, and move on. Rinse and repeat.

In Part 3 we will cover perhaps an easier topic to tackle — poor planning. Organizing and preparing for the week ahead not just in terms of school runs and play dates but also breakfast, lunch and dinner can be the jump-start you need to calm down the chatty food voices in your head, feel this expanding awareness and start to tune out the media. Come back next week and learn to love sticking it to the man and beating your overeating demons.

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