Why do we eat?
I used to think that I knew exactly why I was eating. A chicken salad was for fuel, a piece of cheesecake was for joy, and an entire pizza was how I comforted myself when I needed to feel better. I used to think that I was bad for eating for emotional reasons and I used to think that I was good when I ate for fuel.
Then I became aware of the subtleties. Sometimes eating a chicken salad was for fuel and other times it was a punishment because I had eaten something bad. Sometimes a pizza was for comfort and sometimes it was for joy. My food choices came from what I was thinking and feeling. It wasn't about a particular food being good or bad, as much as it was about the reason behind why I was eating it.
I learned to create awareness around my food choices by asking myself why I was eating.
Was I eating:
And was it working? Was the food I was eating for fuel actually providing the fuel I thought it would? Was my comfort eating actually helping me to feel better? Was I really getting joy from that cheesecake?
I first experimented with this using my morning coffee.
I have a thing for iced coffee drinks. It’s a bit of a love affair - lattes, iced americanos with cream, decadent half sweet almond milk pumpkin spice lattes. I have a coffee drink everyday, sometimes twice a day.
Each time, before I went off to get my morning coffee, I would ask myself:
Why was I buying it?
How was I feeling now?
How was I hoping the coffee would help me feel?
There was no judgement. I wasn't telling myself not to get the coffee, but I really wanted to know why I wanted it. I wanted to get to know myself better.
The answer depended on the day and the type of drink I chose to buy. Sugary lattes were almost always because I was somewhat stressed or bored. I was looking for something to make the day better. The drive to the coffee shop itself was often an escape from the office. I would notice that I craved coffee less on days I enjoyed work more. On days when I experienced joy from my coffee, I was already feeling pretty good.
Soon, this questioning became natural and habitual. I’d ask myself these questions before I decided what to have for dinner or what to buy at the grocery store. It wasn't about always making healthy choices - it was about actively choosing instead of unconsciously consuming.
Start with asking why.