Are You Eating to Be Good or to Feel Good?
I remember hearing a phrase, I think at Weight Watchers, which was: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.”
I never liked the expression, but after thinking about it more recently, I like it even less now.
And then I started thinking about in the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, we talk about eating with the goal of feeling good rather than being good (i.e., by following the rules). But what does it mean to feel thin good? Is that different from feeling good? And why does it cause problems to eat with the goal of being good?
What does being thin feel like?
Part of what bothers me about the first phrase is this bit about how being thin is supposed to feel so good. It’s a very black-and-white statement, and it doesn’t acknowledge that being thin might not always feel good.
Now, I will say that I appreciate certain things about being thinner than I used to be. Finding clothes fit much more easily. Knowing the seat belt will reach across me. Being able to walk through smaller spaces.
But here’s the funny thing about being thin. You get used to it.
As with so many things, once you attain something or acclimate to a change, it becomes your new baseline, and it’s hard to get as excited about it. So, you may try to get to a new level, or in this case, become even thinner.
Unfortunately, becoming too thin is dangerous. Always trying to get thinner can lead to eating disorders and health complications. From that perspective, thin doesn’t feel very good at all.
Eating to be good
When you’re stuck in that thin mindset, it’s very easy to focus on eating by the rules. If you follow the rules, then you’re being good – even if you still feel hungry or otherwise not that great. And if you break the rules, then you’re bad. Period.
This is also very black-and-white thinking with no real allowance for dealing with unexpected changes or needing more or different foods than what the rules say.
And even if you sometimes feel okay physically after eating by the rules, that’s more due to luck than design. It also doesn’t make up for the negative emotions you’re likely to experience after those times when you’re “bad” and don’t follow the rules.
Eating to feel good
That’s what I like about the mindful eating approach. It’s not about trying to be any particular shape or size, or about following rules. It’s simply about feeling good after you eat.
You may ask, what does that mean, if it’s not about being thin?
Feeling good includes a few things. Physically, you don’t feel stuffed or sick to your stomach because of overeating, but you’re also not distracted by being hungry. You’re not sluggish or sleepy but instead feel energized and ready to go about your day.
Emotionally, you also feel good since you’re not tormented by self-judgment or the thought that you’re weak and bad because you ate a certain way. You trust yourself to eat what your body needs and wants, and that makes you more confident.
You can have these good feelings without being thin or meeting certain ideals of body image. Because it’s about how you feel in your body, not how others think you should feel or look.
Eating to feel good on Thanksgiving
With that in mind, for those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I’d like to invite you to consider eating to feel good for the holiday.
I know Thanksgiving is billed as being about eating all this great food, but somehow I never got that much enjoyment out of eating so much that I had trouble staying awake or felt sick. It’s also hard to focus on visiting with relatives when you feel that way.
So by all means, enjoy the food, and if you choose, eat more than you might normally. But consider how you want to feel afterward, and if you decide to eat a bit less than usual, remember that it’s not because you’re on a diet or trying to be thin.
It’s just that you want to feel good so you can appreciate the day and be thankful for all that you have.