I got a random memory the other day. It was a childhood memory of me being hungry about an hour before dinner. In response, my mom told me that I had to be patient and wait until dinner to eat and that I was not allowed to have a snack to hold me over. I also remember this being a common parenting practice.
Side Thought: Today would this be considered abusive?
I got this memory as I was walking to get my lunch on my work break. I went through my usual mental routine: “What do I feel like most? Where can I find it? How far away is it? Is it worth it? Is there an alternative if that place is too far?” I made my decision pretty quickly, and on my way there, I had an epiphany: “Wow. I can eat literally whatever I want, whenever I want, and that would be totally normal.”
Today we live in a world where everything is at our fingertips – and food is no exception. We can satisfy nearly any craving instantly, making instant gratification the norm meanwhile traditional values like discipline and patience have been largely forgotten. Eating food has become a practice which is socially acceptable at any time of day, anywhere, in any quantity, and in any form. Do you feel like cookies and a coffee? Get it. Is it technically mealtime? Who cares. We can choose which eating style best works for us. “Social freedom” is great, isn’t it?
No. This is absolutely terrible. The overabundance of information and possibilities only increases our cognitive load, makes us less confident in our decisions, and thus decreases our overall satisfaction with the food that we finally decide to eat.
With all of the fad diets and nutritional information (and misinformation!) around us, we are distracted from the most fundamental, foolproof ways to consume food:
- Eat 3 balanced meals a day
- Portion your meals
- Eat your meals around specific times
These days there are plenty of excuses not to stick to these three rules, such as…
- as long as it’s (paleo/vegan/carb-free/raw) then I can consume as much as I want
- as long as I don’t go over my calorie budget then I can eat whatever I want
- the time that I eat my meals doesn’t matter because I want to learn how to eat “intuitively”
- snacking is good for your metabolism
- I can make up for this massive meal with an extra cardio session
In my experience however, nearly all of these types of thinking have lead to uncontrolled binging at one point or another. They all pave a slippery-slope to disaster. And I’ve read more than enough testimonials to know that I am most definitely not the only one. Our “social freedom” when it comes to food is making us fat and unhappy.
So if you’ve fallen victim to today’s food culture, I invite you to think about this. Seriously consider ignoring whatever you see on social media and go back to the basics when it comes to food. These days, I personally follow the three traditional rules listed above and limit snacking to special occasions only. Doing this has helped me reclaim a significant amount of my mental sanity.