Why Are You Eating What You’re Eating? [Podcast Episode #064]
For much of my 20's I had an evening ritual...
Before bed, I would pour a giant bowl of Raisin Bran and enjoy it while watching sports highlights on TV.
Was I actually hungry at that time of night? No. But that bowl of Raisin Bran served a purpose: It was my downtime. It gave me something to do while watching sports highlights. Maybe I felt as though I needed to be doing something "productive" instead of just watching TV?
I talk to people every day who do the same. We eat, not out of hunger, but because food satisfies some other underlying need or desire. Why are you eating?
Make Your Body Work Podcast: Episode #064
Why Are You Eating What You're Eating? [Full Text]
Dave: Hey. Thanks so much for joining me on this episode of the Make Your Body Work podcast. As you know this show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life, and today we're talking about a really important subject. We're talking about why we actually eat the things that we eat, the quantities that we eat, the times that week. What goes into that? What is it because for the vast majority of us, myself included, it's not typically driven by physiological needs?
We're not typically eating or making the food choices that we make just because we're hungry. There's all kinds of other factors that go into it and that can become very confusing because, particularly for people who are trying to lose some weight, it's really hard to overcome some of these habits, these deeply ingrained habits, that are causing us to make the food choices that we make. Serge wrote in and he had an amazing, he put this in a very great way that I know a lot of people will be able to relate to, so let's dive right into Serge's question.
Serge says, "Dave, I feel silly even writing in because I have a science degree and a background in nutrition. I could write up a perfect diet plan but I still can't seem to stick with it. I'm such an emotional eater and I snack, and snack, and snack when I'm stressed out at work. I even catch myself, but then I think I don't care and I keep eating. Do you have any tricks for people like me?"
Serge, thanks for writing in. I appreciate your writing in particularly because it sounds like you have some expertise in this area yourself so I thank you for your honesty in saying yes, I know what I need to do but putting it into practice is a real challenge.
Serge, I went out and found an amazing guest who, her entire practice focuses on this idea of somehow flipping that switch, or taking our knowledge and putting it into practice and developing the habits, and the triggers, and everything that we need so that we're making the choices that we actually want to make. I'm really excited to introduce to you Shelby McDaniel.
Meet Shelby McDaniel
Dave: Hey Shelby. Thanks so much for joining us on the show today.
Shelby: Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Dave: Yeah, well we're excited to have you as well. Now, I was reading about you on your website, TNT nutrition, and you have an interesting designation. He said that your licensed as an am I hungry licensed mindful eating facilitator. Can you tell us what does that mean?
Shelby: Yes. That's actually a special training specifically in the realm of mindful eating. The creator is actually a doctor. Her name is Doctor Michelle May and she has given health professionals like ourselves the skill sets and the tools that we can use in our own practices to help people understand more about their eating behaviors, which allows us then to really get to the bottom of some major issues.
She really has outlined a wonderful way, which I'm going to be utilizing today to answer Serge's question, to look at the decision-making process surrounding why people do what they do when it comes to their eating behaviors.
You go through months of training to be able to do this. Of course there's little checks in the boxes like with any sort of additional training that you have to complete, so that is the official title is the am I hungry mindful eating facilitator. We actually can put on workshops for our clients, and which we have done so at TNT nutrition.
Dave: It's really cool. Hearing you talk about that it sounds like it's very psychology based.
Shelby: That is it in a nutshell. This is a perfect question that you're giving me that is the example that it's not just about what you're eating, and I know that you know this too. If it were that easy and it's just about proteins, and carbs, and macros, then we wouldn't be here, but it's not. It's much more in-depth.
I've been coaching for more than twelve years now and from the beginning I always knew that it was more than that. You almost become a therapist to some people and I've been called that. Hey, you're a cheap therapist. I love it. I'm paying for you to be my therapist not my nutritionist, but you know that means I'm doing a good job. I'm asking the right questions.
Eating is intertwined in so many other areas of our life and so that's why it's not so simple just to change what you're eating. It's much deeper than that and that's what we're going to walk through a little bit today.
Dave: Yeah, you said that so well you know. If someone were to listen to all the podcast episodes that I've done on the Make Your Body Work podcast, or could read certain books, or listen to other podcasts, or whatever it is, and make notes of what it takes to eat a healthy diet everyone could outline on paper a playbook for a really healthy diet. Like you said, if it was that easy everyone would do it but it isn't that easy.
Shelby: Yeah. I wish. I wish, and Serge, the client that we're going to be addressing here today, is a perfect example because he has a degree in nutrition. This guy knows a lot about nutrition obviously. He can even write his own meal plans, but yeah, we're going to go through what's called the mindful eating cycle with him a little bit and just give a new perspective to looking at maybe what's really going on here that I think some of your listeners will really be able to relate to.
Dave: Yeah. That's awesome. I like that we're actually going to go through a process here because that's practical. I want to be able to have listeners walk away and know what they can actually do, so let's dive in, and just a quick little recap.
Serge basically says hey, I know what it takes to have a healthy diet. I have a science degree. I've got a background in nutrition. I could write up my perfect diet plan but I can't stick to it. He also mentions being stressed at work and emotional eating, so I'll let you Shelby take it away. What are we doing here?
The Mindful Eating Cycle
Shelby: Sure. With Serge he, again, obviously knows what to eat or what he "should" be eating, right? That's not the issue so we need to look at why he's eating in the first place. When I work with an individual I go through what's called the mindful eating cycle, and all that it is, it allows me to see better insight to an individual's thinking. We start with the question why. Why am I eating?
There's actually three different cycles that we can actually be an at given times, and one of them is called the over eating cycle. Another is called the restrictive eating cycle, and the third is called the instinctive eating cycle.
I'm going to walk through the mindful eating cycle, and there's the same questions throughout each cycle that the answers are all different depending on where your brain is that, where you're at mentally.
With Serge we start with why he's eating, which is the driving force to this mindful eating cycle. It will then affect when he's eating. It will affect what he's eating. It will then affect how he's eating, how much he's eating, and then in the end where he's investing this energy.
The "Why?" of your eating affects the when, the what, the how and the how much you're eating
The Overeating Cycle and Its Triggers
When we're talking about emotional eating we're talking about triggers, right? That's a big one. Emotional eating for Serge, we're talking about stress eating but there's so many more triggers, and I'm sure that you've heard it from your clients as well. We've got boredom eating, restless eating, we're sad, we're ticked off.
That's more of that emotional trigger but we've also got environmental triggers. We see it. We're offered food. We smell it. It's in the cafeteria, right? It's free! So we've got environmental triggers and then we have physical triggers. We've got thirst. We've got we're tired, we're fatigued. There's people that eat because they're in pain. These are all what we sum up to be as triggers, and when someone is in what we call the over eating cycle, like Serge, why they're eating is because of these triggers.
Serge has specifically said he's stressed, so emotional trigger, so then we get to the next decision-making stopping point, which is okay, well when am I eating? When someone is in this overeating cycle when they're eating is when these triggers occur, and sometimes it feels like it's all the time. If that's where you have these habits that you have created, you're going to feel like you're in this overeating cycle all the time.
Dave: Shelby, I'm just going to jump in there really quickly for the listeners out there. When you were listing all those triggers I'm sure listeners you can put your hand up and say, oh yeah, that's me, and if you didn't I'd encourage you to just maybe rewind. Go back and just re-listen to those triggers and maybe jot down which one or two or three you think is applicable to you.
Shelby, as you were saying that, right away as soon as you said tired my hand went up. I know that when I'm tired I feel like, okay, food will give me a burst of energy, and it's something that I can do without too much thinking. For that step, answering that why, everyone who's listening, write down your answer. What was your why? Sorry to jump in there, and then Shelby, take us through what's our next step?
Shelby: No. Absolutely. Don't let me forget. We're going to go through just a couple strategies of how to meet what we call the underlying need and I want to address yours specifically in being tired.
Dave: Done. Perfect.
Shelby: Okay, so we're going to address the stress for Serge and we're going to address yours for tiredness. Going along, again, this model to looking at Serge's decision-making process and how everything starts to play out, starting with that big question of why. We've gone to the when. Now we're looking at what we're eating.
If you're eating because of triggers, and Serge is stressed, you're tired, maybe somebody's mad or sad, you're not going to get a chicken salad. You're not going to get salmon and fruit. You're getting some grub. You're getting your grub on, right? You want that comfort food. Again, that why, which is why we start with that question, has a direct relation to what you're eating.
If you move on to how you're eating, when you're eating because you're stressed, or again, any of those other triggers, how you're eating is usually very mindless. You're sort of in another place. We call it the autopilot zone. It's just going and you're re-acting out the past essentially.
If he was stressed two days ago he's probably just re-acting out what he always does at this point in time because that is the cycle that he is in, so you're very mindless. You're not really enjoying the meal. You're not slowing down and being mindful. You're just somewhere else.
Dave: I know that, again, I can relate to that and a ton of the clients that I work with can relate to that, is we get into these patterns of meetings, and after eating a bag of chips or a bag of M&Ms or whatever it is, it's really easy to look back and think holy cow, where did that just go? I don't even remember eating that.
Shelby: Well, you just led into my next stopping point which is how much do I eat. We're going to get into these other two cycles, the instinctive eating and the restrictive eating here in a second, but when you're not eating to basically feel your body, which is again, we're going to get into this instinctive eating cycle here shortly, then when it comes to how much you're eating and your eating because of a trigger, how do you know when to stop?
You said it. When the bag is empty. When you're at the bottom of the pint. When the plate is scraped and licked clean, or when the movie is over, or maybe you're physically sick. It takes something else to tell you hey, you've had enough. It's not your body wisdom. It's something else. Again, he's in this other world and many people get into this place when they're in this autopilot place. It just happens. It's just on repeat constantly.
When we talk about where then is he investing all of this energy, well what do we tell clients? When you consume more fuel than what your body really needs you're consuming more energy, what happens?
Dave: We're going to gain weight.
Shelby: You’re gaining the weight. That's one place that someone like Serge is probably investing energy when this is all said and done. He's probably also thinking I don't know why I keep doing this. I know this isn't good for me. What do I need to do to correct this? How much cardio do I need to do to burn the off? He's also investing the energy mentally, maybe beating himself up, or again, thinking okay, how can I make this better?
Stress affects your mental energy, which in turn affects your physical energy
What typically happens is when you kind of go your rounds through this mindful eating cycle, what do you want to do? You want to get back on that wagon. You want to be good again. That's where people tend to head into what we call the restrictive eating cycle.
The Restrictive Eating Cycle
This is where the rules and the regulations lie, and definitely we can put pretty much any diet that somebody has done in the past that was a quick fix or that had some sort of crazy rules and regulations, such as they're taking out carbs, or they're taking out meat entirely for two days, or they're fasting.
They're counting points rigidly, and maybe an Serge's case, and this happens a lot with people that know a lot about nutrition, the nutrition information starts to build up almost as a rule list. I have many people that come to me that have nutrition certifications. Again, just like Serge, it's not that they don't know. It's just those start to become rules to them, and what do we do when we have too many rules? We want to break those rules.
Dave: Exactly. It's interesting too. I like what you said when you were talking about the energy that goes into stressing out about this sort of thing because again, I get people that email me on the daily basis that will talk. They won't say it as clearly or simply as you just said it but they'll talk about being in this information searching place and it's like they almost think that if I read one more article or talk to one more expert I'm going to get that piece of information that will solve my problem, but that in itself becomes stressful because being that search mode, it could go on forever.
Shelby: Absolutely, so true. You're right on point. Let's keep going. You're going to understand I think and see the bigger picture of how this yo-yo dieting in our society is really a problem. It really is. It's not just, again, with people who don't know about nutrition. It's happening all over.
I work with also a lot of fitness and bodybuilder competitors, and these individuals, they do their research. They know. They're very in tune with science and in the end, I'm consulting them to try to renew their relationship with food. It's the same thing with Serge from what it sounds like.
You have all of this bundled up information and it can easily become rules. When we talk about the restrictive eating we talk about the rules and the regulations, so getting back to the mindful eating cycle and going through each decision-making process, if we're starting with why am I eating, we're eating because of the rules.
Serge, I think, probably goes back and forth between, once he's done in this over eating cycle, he goes back to the rules. He goes back to eating what he's eating because that's what he feels he should be doing. In other cases, again, it could be another diet that somebody else is following. In Serge case he's just got this big buildup of information, so he's eating because of the rules.
Then we look at, okay, well when is somebody eating, the next decision-making stopping point. In Serge's case, I can't speak for Serge, I'm sort of assuming since I can't talk to him personally. I'm just going based off of my years of coaching experience on this particular subject matter, so when we're looking at okay, what when in my eating, for Serge, maybe he's eating because he's read a gazillion times he should be eating every three hours. That's a rule to him. For other people maybe it's every two, or it's 9:00, or it's dinner time. Even if he's not hungry, maybe he's eating because that's the rule that's in place.
The Instinctive Eating Cycle
Dave: I think probably most people eat rule-based eating just like you just said.
Shelby: Yes, so our goal is to get out of the rule-based and get into what we call instinctive eating, which will be our third cycle we'll go over here in just a second. When we move forward to what am I eating, when somebody is in this restrictive eating cycle what he's eating, such as Serge, he's eating what he feels he should be eating, what is approved. He probably understands all of the food groups.
Maybe it's he's got this overabundant information about macros and logging, and this is big too. I'm sure that you've been exposed to people that they live on things like MyFitnessPal. They're logging constantly and so it becomes almost like a battle zone every day to check the box, check the box, check the box. Did I get this in? Did I get this in? Did I get this in? It's like they're pressuring themselves to be good and to be a good student because that's what they feel they should be doing.
Dave: Yeah, and this entire topic of rules, it's interesting because for some people tracking their food like that, it might be good and it might not be stressful, and they might be an analytical type of person who just likes to see that information, but for a lot of people they might hear that tracking their food and watching their macros and counting calories is the way to lose weight, and for them that actually isn't their style, but they get locked into this pattern of thinking, okay, this is the rule that I heard that I need to use, and therefore I must do it, and it's an awful way for them to approach it.
Shelby: Correct. You're exactly right. I have to ask people, like when I do free consultations with individuals I will ask them okay, what's their history? How have they tried to lose weight before, and many of them say that they log their food and then they stop logging.
It's like this all out or nothing mindset and I'll just flat out ask them, "Hey, do you like blogging? They go, "No. I hate it," and I'll say, "Well, why are you doing it?" What are we going to continue for the long term if we hate something? Who does that? We don't do that as humans. We go away from pain and we go towards pleasure, right?
Again, that is where those rules come into play with the restrictive eating cycle and what they're eating. The food logging applications can definitely play a role here. How is somebody eating when they're in this restrictive eating cycle? They're eating very rigid. They're trying to be good. They're trying to check all of these boxes, right? Some people go as far as weighing their food. They're measuring their food. It's different per individual but those are just some examples. The point is that they're investing a lot of energy in this.
Dave: Yeah. It's an interesting even using the words that you're using there in talking about being good versus being bad. I'm sure you see that with your clients. I see it with my client as well that we start to label foods as good or bad, and it's very black and white like that, and that's a dangerous place to get into. We start to develop a pretty unhealthy relationship with food when we see certain foods as being bad, and therefore if we eat them, we are bad.
Shelby: Oh, absolutely. I have that on my talking point list here today I want to make sure that we get to, because that has a huge, I think also underlying problem that Serge may be experiencing here just because of what he knows from his nutrition background.
Nutrition starts to almost become a weapon rather than a tool for many people, so the next stopping point is, okay, well how much am my eating then, and again, getting back to trackers, getting back to rigid meal plans or other sort of diet programs, how much is already predetermined?
You're given a certain amount of carbs per day, or calories, or percentages, or that's just what's on your meal plan, so there is absolutely no affiliation or connection to feeling full, feeling content, to determine how much that we should be eating. Again, rule-based determines how much we're eating so if we were to talk about okay, will how much energy am I investing here...
Again, I don't know how much energy Serge is specifically investing but when we're in this restrictive eating cycle it's pretty obvious. We're investing a ton of energy thinking about food, thinking about weight and weight loss, and did I get all this done, do I have everything with me? It's overwhelming, right?
The Pendulum Analogy
If we were to picture, we'll use an analogy, let's say that. If we were going to use an analogy of a pendulum, a pendulum that swinging right to left, and if we were to swing this pendulum to the right, and the right direction meaning the restrictive eating cycle, it's like we're trying to hold this pendulum all the way to the right.
We're trying to control all these variables so we can be good and do what we "should be doing." What's going to happen? At some point eventually you're just going to let go and say screw it, because it's way too much to sustain, to try to be perfect. The strive for perfection today, when it comes to our eating, is out of this world. People panic over the smallest things so if you're trying to be a perfectionist, you got to find another way because it ain't going to happen.
Dave: Particularly too, when you were talking about this whole rule-based eating, when we're trying to eat to perfection on someone else's rules it's very hard to do that because we don't have buy-in. We worked part of the process of creating those rules. It was something that maybe we read or someone else dictated to us, very hard to maintain that for any meaningful length of time.
Shelby: Absolutely, and that is what we're up against. It's hard to ask someone, hey, just forget everything that you've been exposed to.
You can't do that, so this is basically how I can over time, get through to an individual to help them to separate emotionally from these rules, and just bring awareness to their eating so they understand more about why they're doing what they're doing, and specifically literally going through these three cycles initially so they get a better idea of how they're maybe in the restrictive eating cycle, overeating cycle, and the goal is to be in the instinctive eating cycle. Serge question, as simple as it may sound it's not so simple as far as the solution.
It is best to eat when you're hungry, not because you feel you have to, or because you simply want to eat in the moment
There's many levels to it. That's why today I'm doing my best to give as much information as I can, but it definitely goes deeper than what he's giving me in terms of the question and the problem.
Once somebody lets go of that pendulum, getting back to this pendulum swing, they go right into this overeating cycle. Let me just say that the number one, we're talking about triggers, right? What triggered forces individuals to let go of this pendulum? Its deprivation. It's restriction. That is the number one emotional trigger, and then, so now we're back in the overeating cycle. We're eating because of triggers.
We're eating when those triggers occur. We're eating comfort foods. We're eating fats. We're eating mindless. We're not really stopping when we're full, and now we're guilty, and what we do? Boom. We go right back to the rules and the regulations. The solution in many people’s eyes, another diet program, more rules and regulations, is actually the problem.
Dave: What is the solution? How does someone make the jump from being in that pendulum and just keep swinging back and forth into this instinctive eating?
Shelby: We have to relearn our body wisdom. We have to go back to our own innate ability to determine when we're hungry, what we need to eat, how much we need to eat, etc. We're all born with this. Think about it. What do babies do when they're hungry?
Dave: Yeah, they cry.
Shelby: They cried. No one's saying, "Hey baby. It's three hours. Why aren't you eating yet?" No. They cry. Their body knows. When a baby gets enough food what do they do?
Dave: Yeah, they stop. This is so interesting you bring this up. I was just visiting my sister and she has two young children, and at dinner there's a two-year-old and a five-year-old, both of them just stopped eating and didn't want to finish their meal, and they liked their meal. I remember thinking, wow, I'll eat that for you.
Dave: For kids, yeah, they eat just as much as they need to eat.
Your body instinctively know just how much food it needs to eat. Listen
Shelby: Kids are the best forms of examples of instinctive eating because they haven't really been exposed at such a young age to all of these rules and regulations in our food abundant society. That also doesn't help. It's not just the rules. There's food everywhere around us.
That is the goal, to get back to the instinctive eating characteristics, and so we're going to go back through the mindful eating cycle and look at what the answers will be when someone really learns to trust their bodies again.
The tracking, all of the rules, it takes away from our own ability to really tune into what we really want and need, and we're too busy, and we're too distracted now to try to please everyone and everything else, and we just lose ourselves throughout the process.
If we were to, once again let's picture this pendulum swing, the analogy. We don't want to be all the way to the right where we're holding this pendulum, and we also want to be all the way to the left, we're in this overeating cycle, in this autopilot, very negative place.
We want to be somewhere softly in between where our pendulum swing, it's flexible. It's more neutral. It's softly swaying a little to the right. It's softly swaying a little to the left but it's not in either one or the other cycle. It's very calm.
Why Should You Eat?
Dave: In that place then, like you've talked about this whole why, what is the why when someone is in that neutral place?
Shelby: What do you think is the light? When someone is instinctively eating, why are they eating?
Dave: Ideally it's because physiologically they need food.
Shelby: Exactly. They're fueling their bodies. It's a saying out there eat to fuel your body but most people really do not understand what that really feels like and what it really needs. It's good in theory but they've never really personally experienced it.
Now, there are some individuals out there that really showcase a lot of instinctive eating habits, and that's what makes it hard for them to understand why some people just can't stop eating. They're not there. They're not in those other cycles very often. They are very blessed and fortunate to keep their instinctive abilities.
Why someone is eating, when that is the goal to get into this instinctive eating cycle, why they're eating is to fuel their bodies, so then when does somebody eat when they're in this instinctive eating cycle, is well, when they're hungry, just like the baby, right? They eat when they're hungry.
The problem with this is that through time and trying to eat based on everybody else's rules, or they're eating because of triggers, I have worked with individuals that really are nervous that they can't tell when they're physically hungry anymore, and it's a huge relearning process.
For others it's much easier. They do feel that little rumble in their stomach, or they do feel like they're losing focus and they're losing that energy, but that is what they are tuning in now to determine when they need to eat, are these signs from their stomach and from their glucose levels that hey, my fuel gauge is starting to go on E here. I need to eat.
Dave: Even that idea of understanding what it feels like to be hungry is something that's really lost. You talked about how plentiful food is in our society and it's so true. I'd say most of us very rarely actually experience true hunger.
Shelby: Agreed, and you know what people have experienced is a couple things. One, they might have had a really bad experience where they got so hungry that something bad happened. Maybe they passed out or they got sick, something really terrible, so then their mission becomes to never get hungry again, so they do what's called passive eating, and they just eat by the clock. Can't get hungry. Can't get hungry. Can't get hungry, and now once again, we're moving away from our own body wisdom.
It's a little scary sometimes for people to be okay with feeling a little hungry. It's a fear for many people, and for some people again, they kind of cruise through this one. They realize, hey, I actually am in tune with my hunger cues, which is great, so we don't have to spend a ton of time in this particular area. Everyone's a little different here.
Eating For Nourishment Or For Pleasure?
When it comes to what somebody is eating in the instinctive eating cycle, this is where it gets pretty interesting. We look at what we need to nourish our bodies, but it's not just about nourishing our bodies physically.
We have what's called two worlds, eating for nourishment, which is when we're trying to be "good" and give our bodies everything that it needs to flourish and to thrive, proteins, calories, things that maybe for medical purposes that work for us, maybe somebody they don't feel well on dairy, or they don't feel well with grains in their diet, then that is where they look at what they're eating as a reason to choosing the specific foods of what they're eating in their diet.
Now, that is eating for nourishment but the world that everyone misses is this world of eating for pleasure. We think that this is a world that we should be forbidden, and this is also a world where past rules, maybe in Serge's world for example, that he labels food as bad. We are human, and we have to learn how to allow these two worlds to coexist and to overlap slightly, and how much they overlap is different per individual, but we have needs as humans for moderation.
We have needs for interest. We have needs for variety, and so that is in that world of eating for pleasure. We tend to ignore that, and when we ignore that, that's when we go from restrictive eating to overeating, and then back to restrictive eating and overeating. We just have to let these two worlds exist.
When you take the restrictions off and basically say look, there's nothing that's really that's off limits, that's very scary for people because they spake well, I'm just going to eat everything and I'm going to gain all this weight, but it's so amazing, this process, when you really just learn to trust it. It changes everything so dynamically.
When you give yourself permission it's like the power that food or certain foods have over you starts to dissipate because you're tuned in now to what you really want and you'll decide well, you know, maybe I just want a couple bites of it, or you know, I'm actually pretty good. I'll pass, because you're not pressured to make a life or death decision to have a food that you feel is bad.
When you give yourself permission, you're less pressured into temptation
Dave: For someone like Serge then, because he actually asked, the end of his question he says, "Do you have any tricks for people like me," and I don't know if it's a trick per se or maybe a strategy, so for someone who's trying to move into this space where they're actually making mindful decisions about what they're eating, and they're trying to be in tune with their body, practically speaking, what can they start to do to develop that strategy?
Strategies For More Mindful Eating
Number one, he needs to ask himself first of all, getting back to this why am I eating, okay, and I even hungry here? It sounds like he already knows the answer to this question, which is good. Some people don't and they're just habitually eating, and they don't even know that they're doing it, and this question allows people to put on the brakes for a second and say whoa, all right, what's going on here?
For Serge, if he knows that he's not hungry, he's not in this instinctive eating cycle, he's not trying to fuel his body, he's got triggers going on better giving him this urge to eat. What can we do? We've got a couple of options here. One, not necessarily in Serge's case but in general, if somebody has an urge to eat and they know they're not hungry, how do they get around it?
Number one, they can eat anyway, which you may find surprising that I'm saying that, but think about this scenario.
Okay, somebody's having an office party, and its Bob's going away party, and everyone is collaborating and they're spending time together, final moments with Bob, and they're passing out cake. You may decide that it's a need for you to meet to enjoy is this camaraderie with your team. Maybe you haven't had cake in a while. That is not a mindless choice.
You're looking at the needs that you're meeting by eating this cake, so it is a choice. You can eat anyway. If you continuously eat when you're not hungry then yeah, it can become a problem, but just because you choose to eat something when you're not hungry doesn't mean that you're necessarily mindless. That's part of normal eating. It's just it becomes too excessive and that's where it becomes problematic.
Dave: Even just focusing, sorry to jump in there, even focusing on your language, the idea of choice, and I think that's really important for the listeners is you think about your office party example. I know that happens to people at times. Someone brings in cookies or whatever it is, cake. The choice, so stopping even for a few seconds and deciding I'm going to have whatever portion size of this, and this is a mindful choice. I feel okay with this and it's not going to turn into three or four or five servings of whatever that food is.
Shelby: Exactly. Mindful eating doesn't necessarily mean, it doesn't relate to nutrient dense choices necessarily. It's just being aware of your choices. That's all that it is. You're in the moment. That's option one.
Option two, he can do what most people have heard before, redirect his attention. He's stressed. He sees the cookies on Jody's desk and he says okay, I know this. I'm just stressed out. I'm going to go and basically sidetrack himself. That is definitely an option but the best option for Serge and anyone else that's really all that emotional front, you have got to deal with the underlying need at hand.
If it's stress, then for Serge, he needs to look at okay, do I need some more down time? Am I not giving myself five minutes a day to just take a breath? Do I need to maybe turn the radio down on the way home to just relax my brain a little bit? Do I need an earlier bedtime? Do I need to go socialize a little bit more? Do I need to go to church more? I mean there's so many things as far as an underlying need that can help him deal with this stress.
Dave: I love the fact that you mentioned a bunch of ideas that aren't food related because quite often the solution becomes okay, I'm not going to eat cookies and I will replace it with fruit or whatever it is, but there are things that satisfy these psychological needs, and perhaps physiological needs as well, that aren't even food.
Shelby: Absolutely. Normally when it's emotional it's not about food at all. Somebody's mad, they need to have a conversation with somebody, maybe need to jot down their thoughts, what ever it is you need to address the needs and wants you address the need it's like the food will just proof. It's gone. You won't even think of it.
Then you're going to feel so much better after you actually meet this need that the next time this situation rolls around and you're realizing okay, I need to meet this need again, you're going to want to go towards actually meeting the underlying need versus food because it felt awesome.
Dave: Yeah. It's such a win.
Shelby: Yes. It's such a when. Food will just be like, just forget it. It's not even going to be that go to anymore. You just kicked it to the curb basically.
Using "If-Then" Statements
Dave: Shelby, as you were talking here you just reminded me of an article I just recently read that was talking about something called if then statements. Basically the strategy is you think about areas in your life where you're susceptible to temptations, and so we're talking about food and I'll Serge's example.
When I'm stressed out, so that if part would be if I'm feeling stressed at work, and the typical response might be I eat cookies. Instead Serge comes up with this if then statement. If I'm feeling stressed at work then "I will go for a walk", or then "I will call my friend", or then "I will...", and think of whatever that then statement can be for you, but then you have this construct in your mind and it doesn't have to be this huge amount of work to create some sort of plan B when that if statement happens because you've already created it before it even happens.
Shelby: Agreed, and you said the keyword, before it happens. If you just give yourself, I tell people, I put time to kind of assignments for my clients because in their minds they build it up to be this huge ordeal, and the solution, you can figure it out in five minutes or less. I'll tell people, "Look. Take five minutes. That's all.
You're worth five minutes a week, and just stop and think, hey, what are other things that I can do to meet this underlying need?" Boom. They'll just list, list, list, list, list. Now they have all of these options that when that time rolls around, and that autopilot wiring of the brain wants to take place and eat instead, guess what? Now they have all these other options and they're on their way to creating new habits.
The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one
Not that they're going to be an ace in the hole every single time. I wish it were that easy but it's going to get a lot easier the more practice that you put in, and that's the key. Again, you can't expect perfection. These are habits.
When you're eating emotionally these are habits that have been with you probably for some time so give yourself a little break, a little breathing room, to practice and don't beat yourself up if sometimes the autopilot behavior when one minor battle. You're going to have a lot more battles. In the end you're going to win the war.
Make Your Body Work Takeaway
Dave: Yeah. I love the word you use there, practice, so important. We like to wrap this show up with something that's called a Make Your Body Work take away. I know we talked about a lot of awesome, awesome ideas here. What would you say for someone like Serge who can identify and say I know I'm eating for non-physiological reasons. It's stress. It's social reasons and I want to change that. What's the first step they can take?
Shelby: I think the first step is to, number one, just be aware of what are those triggers, especially if we're talking about the emotional. What is really going on? You have to take, again, take five minutes. You'll figure it out. You probably already have the answer but maybe you just don't want to say it out loud or write it down, but list what is the problem.
Why am I eating? I'm sad. I'm mad. I'm bored. Then you've done step one, step two now is okay, what are all the things that I can do to meet this need, and literally list them out from simple solutions to more complex solutions. Simple meaning something that's more immediate and more readily available.
For example, maybe it is just jotting down a few notes. You can do that then and there. Getting an exercise routine to deal with stress maybe at work, you can't do that, so that's what I'm saying. You've got to look at simple strategies and complex strategies, so complex again may be a workout regimen for stress, or you could get into book reading, or again more socializing.
There's so many things that you can do when you really stop and think. Again, give yourself five minutes, but when you really stop and think what can I do to meet this underlying need, you'll be surprised. You have the answers within you. You just need a couple guiding questions to help pull them out.
Dave: Yeah, and taking the time to do it. I'll challenge all the listeners. This is Make Your Body Work episode 64, so if you go to MakeYourBodyWork.com/64 my challenge for you is in the comments section at the bottom of the page is to tell us those two things that Shelby just mentioned, so examine why is it that you tend to eat when it's not out of hunger, and then what is that thing that you can do that would replace that need, whatever it is.
We talked about a whole bunch whether it's boredom, or fatigue, or stress, or a negative emotion. What is it that you can do that'll help you through, help satisfy that need without it necessarily being food? Jot that in the comments section and I'll take a look, and maybe Shelby you can drop in and if we have any sort of advice or added thoughts, we can add those as well.
Dave: Now Shelby, before we go I know that this probably a lot of listeners that have questions about this process or maybe questions about their own situation. Where can they connect with you if they want to find out more?
Shelby: Sure. Well, you can actually sign up for a free consultation. If you want a little bit more information just go to TNTnutrition.org. It has a big red symbol in the corner to book a free consult. You can also get involved into our blog. We do a lot of blogging, as you do, specifically in the mindful eating department and along with other areas too, but we've got a lot of great articles and resources already online that are available.
We're providing some free downloads as well after this podcast, so that's a great way too to keep up with us, so yeah. That's where I would say to check out the information and also I'll be checking out your blog after you post this and I'll be able to answer some of your listener questions as well.
Dave: I appreciate that. For the listeners again, if you go to MakeyYourBodyWork.com/64 I'll have a link to Shelby's website and also to her mindful eating download, and maybe Shelby you can just tell us really quickly, what will people get when they download that?
Shelby: Sure. It's going to be a nice little recap of what we had talked about today, but I did also include 101 Other Things To Do Besides Eat, which goes right along with what we were just talking about to meet different underlying needs. I think it'll be very helpful for your listeners.
Dave: I'm excited. I'm going to download that because a hundred and one, I don't know that I could come up with a hundred and one of my own. Shelby, thanks again for being here. You're an awesome guest and thanks for all the advice you've given.
Shelby: Hey, no problem. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it Dave.
Dave: Thanks again Shelby for joining us on the show today and thanks for giving us some really practical ways that we can evaluate what we're eating or why we're eating, and then even more than that though, the ways that we can sort of make some adjustments to the way that we approach food so we can make the choices that we actually want to make, and that's the really important piece is putting this into practice, so thank you for sharing your expertise.
Thanks for all the listeners for taking a few minutes out of your day to join us and to hopefully learn at least one thing, take away at least one thing that you can apply to your life. I'll just challenge you to think back over the conversation that I just had with Shelby and our question from Serge. What was one thing from today's episode that you can put into practice to help improve your life, and even if it's only improving your life like that one percent, all of these little changes really do add up over time for some huge, huge benefits in the long term, so what is that one change?
Now, I do have a favor to ask. If you enjoy the Make Your Body Work podcast you can make a huge difference in terms of how to easily other people are able to find this podcast. The way that you can do that is if you go to MakeYourBodyWork.com/iTunes, MakeYourBodyWork.com/iTunes, that will take you to the show in the iTunes store, and it's free as you know but all I need you to do it to give it a rating or to give it a comment.
Tell me what you like, what you'd like to see in the future, and this will help me plan out future episodes and improve the show as we continue forward, but even more importantly it'll help others find the podcast, and maybe they're looking for answers to the questions that have already been answered or will be answered on future episodes.
One last time, a quick favor, it'll take you two minutes, MakeYourBodyWork.com/iTunes. Give the show a rating or give it a comment. I personally read through every single comment. I look at every single rating so I'd love to get your feedback. That's it for today's show but as always I can't wait to see you here again next week.