Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.
I’ve been thinking about how much I think about food. And how I think about it. It started on Wednesday, when I held an introductory session for the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program. As part of it, I talked about how people in an overeating cycle tend to think about food constantly. I also shared some of my own experience, and recalled that when I was heavy, I would think about food or eating no matter how recently I’d eaten. At the end, one of the women asked, “Now that you’ve lost weight and maintained it, do you still think about food all the time?” “Not all the time,” I answered. “I do think about it a lot, but in a different way. It’s more in terms of figuring out my meals and what I can make with different foods – I’ve discovered that I like cooking. I also love seeing what’s available at the Farmer’s Market.” That’s true enough, but in the few days since then, as I’ve been paying attention to how and when I think about food, I’ve discovered that it’s more prevalent than just meal planning. When I go by the kitchen at work, I can’t help noticing what’s there and considering if it’s something I’d want. Nine times out of ten it’s not, but I still think about it, and about how strange it is that I don’t want it. When I’m at the store, I notice the sorts of foods on sale and how that’s related to whatever the season or holiday is. As at work, I also observe that those foods no longer have any hold over me. For instance, these days I remember how much I used to love Cadbury Easter eggs. I was delighted in November 1997 when I got to go to Cadbury World in Birmingham, England, since it meant I could have that candy out of season. But now, I can easily walk past them. On the flip side, as I mentioned in the class, when I go to the Farmer’s Market, I’m excited to see what’s available each week, thinking about what I can do with it, and perhaps discover a recipe that will become a favorite. That excitement is the other major difference I’ve noticed. When I consider how I used to think about food (something that’s actually an effort for me now), I realize that it wasn’t with any sort of enjoyment. If anything, it made me miserable. I might derive transitory satisfaction in the moment of eating, but I never took the time to savor the food for fear of someone catching me in the act. As soon as I was done, I often felt guilty about it, or that I was a bad person. Not that it stopped me from eating again. It just made me more and more determined to eat in secret. It was actually somewhat exhausting. These days, I am happy to say that I can go for long stretches of time without thinking about food. If I’m not actually hungry, I can focus on what I’m doing without having that in the back of my head. And it’s wonderful to realize that the times I do think about it, it’s often with delight. So while I might still be a bit food-obsessed, it’s in a much gentler way. And given how much I now enjoy it, I’m okay with that.