It’s All in My Head

Unless you really sit down and think about it, the average person doesn’t really realize how much of the process of eating is purely psychological.

Think about it.

Are you eating because you’re hungry or because it’s convenient?  Are those four Oreos you’re walking back to the couch with necessary for the sustenance of life?  Are your morning breakfast choices based on need or desire?

I’ve made a concerted effort this week to really think about my food choices.  Every time I find myself angling for the cupboard or fridge I’ve forced myself to wonder at my motivations.  Why am I doing this right now?  Am I really hungry?  Do I need a snack?  Am I just eating to fill time or procrastinate?  It’s an interesting psychological (and sociological) exercise.

My outcome so far?

I’ve discovered, almost exclusively, that most of my between meal snacking is in my head.

All in my head.

It’s the same thing with coffee.  I’m beginning to see that coffee and I have the same co-dependent relationship cigarettes and I used to have.  When push came to shove, I didn’t need to smoke.  Granted, I had to go a little crazy before I finally overcame the psychological addiction, but I survived without smoking.  I’m trying this week to survive without drinking as much coffee as I have.  Seriously, I drink between 50 and 65 ounces of coffee a day.  My highly unscientific self-study has revealed that after the first two 16 ounce cups it’s all diminishing returns.  I’m not drinking coffee to survive or stay alert, I’m drinking coffee out of habit.

And how many of us can say the same thing about how we eat?

We walk through life doing things because we believe we should or because of unconscious habit developed through rote action or belief.  I’ve really come to believe that if we sat down and removed ourselves from our fictitiously busy lives for a few moments and really thought about our motivations and actions we would come to some startling conclusions.  Food is meant to sustain and energize, not comfort and fill psychological niches that need something else.  There’s no hole in your heart that can ever be filled by rocky road ice cream or that bag of chips.  Your daily chocolate bar is as much a habit as the poor souls standing in -15C temperatures to have their hourly cigarette.  I know, I used to believe I needed both.

So be honest with yourself today.  Go find a quiet room or put on your headphones, close your eyes, and blot out the office for a few moments.  Really, honestly assess your eating habits (and your life as a whole if you’re up to it).  Got those things in your mind that you can easily identify as unnecessary?  Good.  That’s a place to start.  Successful change isn’t a radical process, but one of steady and recursive identification and elimination.

After all, who knows what you’re capable of?  If I can cut down to one cup of coffee a day, ANYTHING is possible.


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