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Food Associations

Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at

In the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, one of the things we talk about is when we want to eat even if we’re not hungry, and why that is. Everyone has their own reasons, but one might be food associations. For instance, watching a movie might be associated with having popcorn or other snacks.

These associations can be very strong, as I was reminded when coming across a description from my own experience about five months into my weight loss.

It started with a five-course meal at The Sedgley Place in Greene, Maine. I went with my family and a friend as part of a Christmas present, and since I’d been doing well with my weight, I decided to treat myself by not worrying about all the food. This meant that I ate everything they gave me: bread and butter; creamy vegetable soup; garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette; chicken cordon bleu; and a very decadent brownie sundae. I will also add that the portions, while not huge, were also not tiny, so it amounted to a lot of food.

By the end I was stuffed, and my stomach wasn’t very happy, especially ending with something as rich as the brownie. It meant that I felt queasy as went to my brother’s to watch a movie. Despite how much we had all just eaten, he provided even more: Doritos; Tostitos and salsa; crackers with three types of cheese; grapes; and carrots.

I said, “I don’t know that we need more food.”

He replied, “It’s part of the experience. We’ve got to have snacks for a movie.”

Even though I questioned it, and even though I by no means needed more food, I found myself eating anyway. Partly it was because the food was there, but I was also hoping the salty chips and healthier carrots and grapes would settle my stomach. It worked, sort of, except it only added to my misery when I got home.

And I was miserable. I slept terribly and felt so awful the next day that I had to leave work early. Some way to treat myself.

The only good thing was that remembering this sometimes helped keep me from overeating other times when the food looked good even if I didn’t need it. Not all the time, but even sometimes was more than I had done before. And although it was a hard-learned lesson, it did make me more aware of some of the reasons why I ate.

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