Last night I made myself a bowl of popcorn (my favorite nighttime snack) and sat down to watch a movie. I remember the first few bites of the popcorn and then it all sort of became a blur. I don’t remember eating it but after awhile I looked down and all I found were un-popped kernels. I had eaten an entire bowl of buttery, salty popcorn (I am talking about a big bowl, think large dinner party salad serving bowl) without even noticing. I have a vague suspicion that you have done this before. No?
I certainly have. I have finished off buckets of popcorn before the opening credits and wondered where it all went. I have polished off a granola bar on my way to work and then promptly forgotten if I had eaten anything for breakfast. I have stuffed myself at a restaurant while I wasn’t paying attention and gotten full from nothing but nibbles while cooking.
Brooke Castillo (a life coach who specializes in weight loss) refers to this as “fog eating” and she makes the case for why it’s no good. When we eat in this kind of a fog, it’s like we are eating behind our own backs while sleeping. If we can’t remember it, we probably weren’t enjoying it and most likely it wasn’t doing us any favors in the health department (not many people are prone to fog eating broccoli).
Brooke has names for other types of eating too. She categorizes them into four groups; Fuel Eating, Joy eating, Fog eating and Storm eating.
Fuel eating is just like it says on the tin, fuel. Food is meant to perform a job in our bodies. When we hire good employees, (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins and fiber) we get good results and a more efficient healthy machine. You know when you are fuel eating because you are hungry, you are making healthy choices and you feel good when you are finished. I don’t just mean you feel good about yourself as in self-righteous because you ate something green, I mean your body feels whole and healthy and satisfied.
Joy eating is also pretty self-explanatory. It is when you are eating purely for joy. You know the kind. For me it is when I am savoring the goodness of copa mista gelato. For you it might be cheesecake, butter, potato chips, candy or bacon. It’s food that isn’t really helping you any in the health department but is giving you pleasure when you eat it.
Storm eating is that kind of powerhouse eating that happens when we aren’t hungry, we want to stop eating but we feel as if we can’t. Have you ever continued to eat the french fries on the table even when you knew that you didn’t want any more? Have you ever gone a little crazy on trail mix or sees candy and found that even though you were fully aware of your eating and really wanting to stop, you just couldn’t? It’s kind of like fog eating except you aren’t in a fog; you know you’re eating but feel powerless to put the fork down.
I would love for everyone to pay attention to these four eating habits this week. See how often you eat for fuel and how often you eat for joy. If your joy-eating ratio is three times as much as your fuel, you might want to be aware of that. If you can catch yourself in the act of a fog, well you might want to pay a little more attention to that bag of chips. Do you want to eat the whole bag? If you do, then joy away but if you don’t, it’s probably better to be conscious of it. I also think that if you put a name to that french fry munching behavior (storm) you are less likely to feel out of control and powerless against them.
The first step in being mindful of our eating habits is by being mindful. Notice how you eat and how you feel when you eat and you will probably make healthier choices. This does not mean that you are going to stop eating cupcakes; it simply means you will enjoy them more.
Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live