When we reach for a meal, a snack, or are simply feeling nibblish, we do so for a myriad of reasons. Whether (or not) the food choice is healthy isn’t the intent of this post. Rather, let’s take a look at WHY we eat. What makes us pick up a fork? This post contains 50 Reasons to Eat. Of course, there are many more. As they say, this list is just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce).
Interestingly, NONE of the following reasons have any basis in our biological and evolutionary need for food. And, I’m not saying they’re good reasons.
You see, most of us have become completely disconnected with our true physical feelings. We’re so disconnected, in fact, that we’re unfamiliar (and even distrustful!) of our own body’s hunger cues, hunger pangs, or sensations of emptiness or fullness.
When it comes to evaluating our reasons to eat, there are just two sides to the coin:
The desire to eat is either
physical or emotional.
Here’s a reality check that may surprise you — when naturally thin people are surveyed, they state that they eat for one reason – and one reason only … because they’re physically hungry.
But the rest of us?
We’ve got gobs of reasons. Many of us wouldn’t even know what it’s like to honor our true sense of physical hunger. It’s become lost in the shuffle. Most of us eat by the clock and for a plethora of other reasons. It’s important to understand this distinction — we eat for physical AND emotional reasons.
Here are just a few emotional reasons to eat —
- Because we’re in pain
- Because we’re fatigued or over tired
- Because it’s “time” to eat a meal
- Because it’s “time” for a snack
- Because we’re overwhelmed by stress
- Because we’re restless
- Because we’re bored
- Because we’re angry or mad
- Because we’re upset
- Because we’re sad
- Because we’re irritated or annoyed
- Because we feel helpless or powerless
- Because we feel inadequate or insecure
- Because we’re looking for comfort or a hug
- Because we’re avoiding something else
- Because we’re frustrated or cranky
- Because we’re lonely
- Because we’re distracted
- Because we want to be distracted
- Because we feel vulnerable or unsafe
- Because we feel lost or afraid
- Because we want to keep others away
- Because we wish others wouldn’t stay away
- Because we feel isolated
- Because we have leftovers that we want to enjoy again
- Because we “blew it” yesterday, so we may as well
- Because we were “good” yesterday
- Because we’re with someone who is eating
- Because we see someone eating on TV
- Because we see our favorite foods on TV
- Because we don’t look or feel like the “perfect people” we see on TV
- Because we always eat while we watch TV
- Because we want to relax and feel numb – even just for a bit
- Because we don’t want to feel what we’re feeling
- Because we don’t really know what we’re feeling, but it’s uncomfortable
- Because someone else made us feel shamed or embarrassed
- Because mindless eating is a habit or an automated response
- Because we see food (like a candy dish on a colleague’s desk)
- Because we smell food (like from a neighbor’s BBQ grill)
- Because we are disconnected from our sense of purpose
- Because we feel unsupported in our sense of purpose
- Because we feel empty, spiritually
- Because we feel we deserve a reward
- Because we feel that life is out of control
- Because we don’t have a partner or significant other
- Because we DO have a partner or significant other
- Because food “goes with” whatever we’re doing
- Because food is our “feel good drug” of choice
- Because food has always “been there” for us
- Because food connects us to our favorite memories
How ’bout it? Can you relate? Which items resonate with you the most? Do any of them make your cringe or nod in agreement? And, can you think of more reasons?
As always, AWARENESS is the key. Even thought this may make us feel uncomfortable, it’s worth digging into this juicy topic. Awareness precedes change. Once we’re aware of behaviors, then we have the power, purpose, plan, and motivation to make healthy choices.
Please jump into the conversation and share below! We’d love to hear what you think. What makes you grab a fork?
Wow, this is a pretty completed list! I can say I’ve felt each one of them at different points in my life. The only thing I can think to add is Because others expect us to eat (like with them, for instance) and because Because food has always been a friend that doesn’t talk back.
Hey Tina – that’s perfect! Social pressures from family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers have a BIG influence on how and what we eat. And, who can’t relate to the fact that food keeps it’s opinions to itself. Sort of like pets 😉 Silence is golden (and considered supportive/friendly).
Well, Sue, as usual you hit the nail on the head with the LIST. No wonder there are so many people making New’s Years Resolutions to lose weight that they just can’t seem to stay with despite new diet books available each year. Yes, I believe people including me are ‘eating their hearts out’ by not always addressing emotional issues or being unable to resolve emotional issues completely. A lot of it is training from childhood and acceptable behavior from society. It is a bit harder to keep food out of the house vs other substances yet ‘the fix’ is just as strong. How well I know this to be true. But the simplicity of it is incredible. Eat when physically hungry and stop when full. Therein lies the rub–some people don’t know what full means. Here it is that our guts are our second brains. We should be smarter then about this food issue, huh? I know for a fact that within my family of origin that love was shown via foods and celebrations including ice cream, candy, chips, so forth. I watched my mother down a huge bag of chips and a large bottle of Coke time and again. For a fact, my grandmother said that she watched as my mother force fed me as a baby/toddler. That is not a good bonding. But it was ‘love’. Stress need not translate to eating with abandon or not eating at all. Yes, there are extremes to this demise. I think this is so much like my faith. It didn’t do me any good until it went from my head to my heart. For me, food was a survival tool and one that is now difficult to lay down. I am better than I was years ago, but I still have a long way to go to heal. I love all your puns!
Wow Sue. Have you been looking through my window?
The statement that it is either physical or emotional – well, there it is. True!
Thin people only eat when they are hungry. But you are right, it is hard to recognise hunger. I always exercised a lot to compensate and stayed slimish, but when the Fibro kicked in I put on 4 stone (I don’t relate to kilos) in 6 months on the first drugs. And ever since I have tried to lose weight but felt hunger had beaten me. But is it hunger? Or an emotional pain I want to squash?
I’ve had Fibro fo about 25 years now and 4 years of rehab have helped me walk again but it is a constant daily task of what I do, how I do it, etc as you would know.
Thank you for the post, Sue.
I’m so glad you took the time to share with us, Shirley. So many can relate to the frustrations of fibromyalgia, food sensitivities and making healthy nutritional changes. It’s not an easy transition. Have you ever done any EFT Tapping? It can really help to smooth out the bumps in that transition. (And no, I’m not looking in your window – but through my blogs, you get to look into mine 😉
Meant to say I eat to dull pain BOTH physical, and emotional
Got it 😉
I find that if I am in pain or am depressed I cannot eat therefore I am underweight at 7 stone 12. I sometimes find that when I do eat I find it boring because of the fact that I have arthritis in my jaw and so have be very careful what I do eat (this means my favourite foods are a no no).
Marilyn – thanks for letting us know how this affects you! We are all so different and it’s important to hear from a variety of people. I do know others who don’t eat when sad, depressed, upset, etc. A feeling of despondency can lead to a poor appetite. I also am sorry to hear about your jaw pain. Because you’re limited in what you can eat, it would mean that getting creative in the kitchen is all the more important for you. Using natural food combinations, spices, and herbs can go along way toward making things more interesting. Thanks again for sharing!
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