Lesson Five – Putting food in its place.

I want to preface this post by saying that we observe the Division of Responsibility in Blogging around these parts – which means, I offer information, and you decide what and how much of it you want. Not everything applies to all people – because People Vary, and because Reality is Complex.

As Ellyn Satter says, food is one of the great pleasures of life – but only one of them.

It is important, but it has its place – which is to say you should not have to be thinking constantly about it. And you want the thought and attention you do give to be of the useful and pleasurable sort, not of the fretting and obsessive variety.

In this lesson, I’m going to talk both literally and figuratively about putting food in its rightful place.

Let’s get the literal out of the way first, because it is astoundingly simple.

Put it away.

Yes, that’s right – put your food away. Be neat and tidy with it. Organize it a bit.

Don’t leave random stuff laying around on counters, coffee tables, desks, bookshelves. Don’t put food somewhere it will hover right in front of your face, especially if you are slightly food-preoccupied due to chaotic eating and lack of permission, a history of dieting, or just because you are a primate who is immediately attracted to tasty, tasty food, regardless of whether you actually want it at just that moment.

Because if any of these are true, having it constantly before you gives the food more power than it deserves. It interferes with genuine decision-making. It calls to you in that really annoying food-voice.

In a sense, the food begins to boss you around.

We don’t want that. You’re the one in charge here. You get to decide what you eat, what you like, and how much feels good.

You don’t want those important decision-making criteria pushed into the ditch by RANDOM COUNTER COOKIES!!!

Now, it’s one thing to think, “Yeah, some cookies would be awesome right now,” and then you go and get some cookies, and indeed they are awesome.

It’s another thing entirely if you pick cookies by default because they were there and you didn’t have any better ideas.

If they’re right in front of your face, you will probably never come up with tastier or more nourishing ideas, because you’ve got an easy out – something sweet, perennially tasty (even when you’re not particularly feeling cookies), and that requires no thought, effort, or preparation.

You’re human, which means you are an animal. Animals like to conserve effort wherever possible – including when it comes to acquiring food. So of course you’re going to take the easy way out.

However, a strong aside:

This is not a trick to get you to eat less.

This is, however, a trick to help you be the one making the decisions about it. I really don’t care how much you eat, because that is none of my (or anyone else’s) fucking business. That’s entirely between you and your stomach. I only care about your eating being enjoyable, nourishing, and satisfying.

At the same time, especially if you’re of the “Oops, I forgot to eat lunch!” variety, it’s important that food be reasonably convenient to you, so that you can continue having regular meals at regular times.

That still doesn’t mean it should be staring you straight in the face. It means that, if you’re busy and don’t have much time or energy to cook, you should find some quick and easy meals, even frozen or instant stuff…and then put them away until it’s time to eat.

It means that, if you sit at a desk all day long and often forget to take a lunch break, or bring a lunch to work, you should get some tasty, filling snacks…and put them in your desk drawer until it’s time to eat.

Or create a snack box.

I have a snack box. It’s where I store the food that I eat with my clients during sessions. Because we’re dealing with food issues like guilt, or shame, or vague fears about “unhealthiness,” a lot of this food is of the delicious, immediate-gratification variety. Otherwise known as “junk food.”

I discovered long ago that leaving this food just sitting on my desk – a Snickers here, a bag of chips there – instigated both Jeffrey and me to primal feeding sessions of the type not seen since Wild Kingdom. Which was rather inconvenient, since then I would have to go back out and buy the food all over again, and also since we’d not be very hungry for dinner. Which is a crappy feeling.

The solution cost like two bucks at Ikea – one of those cardboard cassette boxes with a lid.

I set that puppy on my desk, all the tasty snacks went in there, and it was just…no longer an issue. Not because we were disallowed from eating the tasty food (we can still raid it, in a pinch, and we still sometimes do), but because it suddenly just didn’t occur to us anymore.

This works because, first of all, neither one of us is a restrained eater, meaning we’re not abnormally preoccupied with food – and second, because it is no longer bossing us around by gazing into our hungry ape souls.

When we do decide to open the snack box, it’s because we really want that food, and it’s going to be awesome enough to be worth the hassle. Win-win.

That said, now for the figurative aspects of putting food in its place.

Food is only one important aspect of your life.

It is necessary for survival, yes, just like sleeping and going to the bathroom and drinking water. But, ordinarily, none of those activities consume our thoughts when we are not doing those things, or preparing to very soon do those things.

When we do start to become preoccupied with them, it’s usually because something is out of whack – we’re stuck in traffic with no bathroom in sight; we’re burning the candle at both ends to get a project done, or to nurse a baby; we’re hiking in hot weather and the water bottle is empty.

So, what does that mean for food? When you are preoccupied with it, outside of planning for meals to happen, or actually sitting and eating, then it could be a sign that something is out of whack.

Normally those things are either 1) you’re not getting enough to eat, or 2) you’re not getting enough permission to eat.

If you’re not getting enough to eat, it may just be a practical issue – you need more time. You need more money. Or you need to be a bit more organized about getting groceries into the house and food on the table.

You need to make getting fed more of a priority, just like most people normally do with sleep and going to the bathroom.

When you gotta go, you gotta go – and when you gotta eat, you gotta eat.

It may also stem from a lack of permission, which is the second issue, and which is something I see very often in my clients.

You need to give yourself permission – by saying explicitly to yourself that you have it, and then following through as though you believe it – to eat as much as you want. To eat the food you really, really like. And to eat frequently enough that you’re not starving in between times.

Sometimes a lack of permission is present even when you are getting enough (or sometimes too much!) to eat – though that sounds totally counter-intuitive. Even so, merely the hint of a thought of possible future food restriction, maybe, at some point, on the Fourth of Vague – that can be enough to set off the alarm bells in your crazy monkey brain.

And here’s how it responds:


This is not only the sound of crazy-monkey-alarm-bells, it is the sound of food taking over your life in a completely inappropriate, and totally useless, way.

How do you get over it? Present yourself with enough tasty food at regular times, and then give yourself the permission to eat it. Even give yourself the permission to overeat it, since that is probably going to happen anyway for a while, until your crazy monkey brain starts to trust you again.

You may as well short-circuit the shame spiral, right now, and interrupt the feast-famine cycle. And since it’s hard to interrupt the panic eating part of the cycle, target the thing you can control, and stop beating yourself up about it. And for God’s sake, stop threatening yourself with thoughts of future restriction.

Once you’ve calmed down and stopped obsessing, you can work on directing your attention toward other things – like pre-planning some of your meals for the week. Like asking yourself what you’re hungry for, and then putting in some effort to make that happen. Like making a list of what you need to stock your cabinets and fridge, and then actually going and buying those things.

Like eating with a reasonable amount of attentiveness, and pausing to give yourself explicit permission.

You know – useful stuff. In manageable quantities. Right where it belongs.

If you feel like you need to work on this more, you can sign up for one of my groups, or work one-on-one with me.

And we’re also going to talk about it right here, cause that’s what we do.







72 responses to “Lesson Five – Putting food in its place.”

  1. Ashley Avatar

    This is pretty great advice. I wish I had more to say but you pretty much nailed it.

  2. Niika Avatar

    Crazy monkey alarm bells… yes, that’s exactly what it IS like. It’s a sort of frenzied anxiety, and it really does feel like it takes you over sometimes. And the only way to calm it down is by actually giving your body what it wants (not just what you think it
    “should” have — thought distortion right there!).

  3. ako Avatar

    I think the basic idea behind this (keeping food far enough away that you’re not constantly faced with the presence of really easy snacks and have time to think) is really great. And I know that, for me, it works a lot better when I put permission first, and let myself know that I can eat whatever, even if it’s not good. (It turns out I don’t want to fill up on sugar and find myself feeling low-energy and unwell a few hours later, or stuff myself to the point of discomfort, or miss out on nutritionally-useful fruits and vegetables, as long as I know that I can regularly eat until full and enjoy stuff that strikes me as yummy.)

    The specifics of how I implement this are somewhat different from what Michelle does. (I know Michelle is very open to people adjusting and modifying their approach and doing what works for them. I’m mentioning this for people who might be looking to try different things.) The snackbox thing doesn’t sit comfortably with me. (It doesn’t provide the same “Out of sight, out of mind” effect. Oddly, due to the layout of my current place, leaving stuff on the kitchen counter actually does result it in being out of sight enough that it doesn’t influence me to bad eating habits. I think that, for me, “You actually have to stand up and walk over there to get the food” provides the right amount of distance to let me distinguish between impulse and desire.)

    One thing that works well for me, which probably wouldn’t work with everyone, is knowing I can go out and get it at any point. When I live in a place, such as my current neighborhood, where there’s a grocery store within a reasonable walking distance, it’s easy for me to just not keep certain things in the house unless I’m sure I really want them (I only do this with certain foods – keeping my house reasonably well-stocked with a decent variety of foods is important). I’ve been there enough times that I know I can comfortably walk down there and back if I really want, for instance, chocolate pudding. I also know that if I keep it in the house, I’m likely to eat it up quickly regardless of whether I’d enjoy it. So if I get in the mood for chocolate pudding, I put on my coat and shoes, take a short, pleasant walk, buy some pudding (and whatever else I need or want from the store), come home, and eat it. I don’t feel deprived because I know I can buy it, and sometimes I do, and I only eat it when I feel the desire for pudding, not out of “This is an enjoyable and convenient thing that requires no effort” impulse.

    People should definitely feel free to do whatever works for them in terms of providing thinking time when it comes to food.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I think the details of how to actually do this vary quite a lot from person to person, since everyone’s space and set-up is so different. If your kitchen is out of sight, out of mind, then that’s perfect.

      I would, however, be a little questioning of the “I can’t keep it in the house at all” issue. I can totally understand doing this, and I have in the past, but I also felt like my ultimate goal was to be able to keep anything in the house and not have to feel out of control around it. Eventually, it seems I’ve gotten there. (Though at one point, I did have to specifically go out and buy five different boxes of cookies to have all at once, as a way of getting there – shades of Hirschmann and Munter, I suppose.) Anyway, just something to think about. But overall, it sounds like you’ve got it worked out well.

      1. FatChickinLycra Avatar

        Sometimes I think it’s the mental process behind not keeping it in the house that decides whether it’s a good/bad strategy. If it comes from an OMG, OMG, OMG I can never have this forbidden food and if I do I’m bad… not so good. If it’s more of a conscious decision, maybe not so bad?

        I don’t keep potato chips in the house, because I’ll eat them mindlessly and not feel so good. There are other foods I’d rather eat on a regular basis. But do enjoy them, and I don’t hesitate to eat them at a party or if I go out at lunch. I also don’t binge when I see them. I have no emotional baggage where potato chips are concerned, but they’re a special occasion food for me.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I don’t keep potato chips in the house, because I’ll eat them mindlessly and not feel so good.

          This is the part that interests me, though I do think you have a good point. My question would be – why does having x food in the house automatically = mindless eating to the point of not-feeling-good?

          It’s a question I’ve worked my way through, personally, several times, and I think it’s an interesting one, if not of critical importance. I think you can still be a really, really good eater while using this strategy. But if it were me? I’d want to know why.

          1. Samantha Avatar

            I can’t speak for the original poster, but I know that for myself, potato chips are a quick and easy salt fix. I’d much rather make my own kale chips, but if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll go for potato chips. However, because they don’t satisfy me in the same way and I almost exclusively crave salty when I’m working, I can and will eat a whole bag without really noticing, which then makes me feel gross. The simplest solution to this to not keep potato chips around and to do my best to have kale chips made or at least kale around to make them. When faced with the (only 10 minute but in the Canadian cold) walk to the grocery store, I choose making the kale chips and end up happier in the long run. If I really want potato chips, I can go get them, but they aren’t there as a lazy but ultimately unsatisfying alternative to what I realy want.

      2. s.h. Avatar

        I totally agree with the not keeping certain foods in the house thing — I have several foods that I like, but that I don’t like keeping in the house. The reasons vary — some of them are rather expensive (fancy cheeses), some of them are delicious fun if I have them every once and a while but become less delicious and fun if they become just a regular thing (chai lattes), some of them are easy go tos for snacks & taste good but often leave me unsatisfied (pretzels & hummus), and some of them I’ll eat if have them around but don’t miss or crave when I don’t have them on hand (potato chips & cheetos). Having to spend that extra effort to go to the store & spend the money makes me consider if I really want whatever it is or if there’s something else going on. There are plenty of snacks that I keep on hand (dried apricots! olives!), but I find that some things work better if I just don’t buy them, even if I like them.

        Same is true for cooking & baking actually. If I’m not motivated enough to make whatever it is myself, then I find it’s usually not something I really want. It’s not a denial thing for me — 90% of what I eat is something I cooked myself & I find cooking a great stress-reliever, so cooking isn’t some huge obstacle for me — it’s just that I find that having that extra step makes me think about if it’s something I want or just something that’s convenient. (Or if I’m not really hungry but I just REALLY WANT to cook. That’s ok too. Chopping things is relaxing.)

        1. Michelle Avatar

          and some of them I’ll eat if have them around but don’t miss or crave when I don’t have them on hand (potato chips & cheetos).

          Again, this is the part that interests me – and let me be very careful in stating that I don’t necessarily think you are depriving yourself by not keeping these things around, nor is it necessarily disordered in any way. It can be a useful strategy.

          But I think a bit of mild interrogation of these thoughts and motivations – “I’ll eat it if it’s in the house, even if I don’t really want it” – is warranted, for the sake of increasing your own understanding of yourself and your eating if nothing else.

          For myself, personally, there are some foods that are like this, in a sense. It’s not so much that I’ll eat them just because they’re in the house, but I only crave them at certain times, so that’s the only time I buy them (chips are like this for me.)

          I think there is a very fine distinction between not wanting something all that much, most of the time, even if you like it reasonably well when you do have it, and so therefore not buying it until you feel the urge coming on – and actually not buying a food on purpose because you WILL eat it, regardless of wanting.

          I can keep chips in the house without eating them when I don’t want them, but because I don’t want them all that often, I just don’t.

          If it’s something you truly don’t want at that moment, even if you like it reasonably well, why are you eating it simply because it’s in the house? This is the question that interests me.

          1. s.h. Avatar

            I think we’re basically in agreement — because, first, yes on the only craving things at certain times! Re: chips/cheetos sometimes I do really want them enough to run to the store. But those times are few and far between (like … once a year? I get my chip fill when I have a few at parties usually). Sometimes I have a brief flash of “oh chips!” because I saw an ad for them on tv or something or (more often) because I ran out of my go to snack foods (apricots! olives! nuts!) and I don’t really want to run to the store so I think “wouldn’t it be great if I just had potato chips here?” But of course I don’t *really* want potato chips — it’s just sort of a “too lazy to buy food, so might as well blame it on something else” thing. (And then I pull on my big girl pants and go to the fucking store.)

            And if they are there around, basically, I would think “well, shoot, these are here, I’m sort of hungry, and I should eat them at some point to get rid of them or it’s a waste of money” and then because they aren’t *really* what I want & I just ate them because they’re there, they’re unsatisfying so I eat more than I would have otherwise. If that is more clear? I just don’t like having things around that I know I won’t really want/use even if sometimes I have a brief flash of a craving. My chip cravings are rarely “real” — that is, they are rarely about wanting chips. Other cravings I get — fancy cheese, avocado, squash, chocolate, soup dumplings, pears, limeade — I pay a lot more attention to because I know from experience I like those things more. If that makes sense???

          2. ksol Avatar

            Very good point. I ‘m definitely all the way to intuitive eating yet. I did not experience food deprivation growing up, but it was a big household on a blue-collar income. I have some big issues with not wasting food — it’s difficult for me even to leave a bite or two on my plate. I also had a food pusher in my life. So there’s a definite “eat it now! it might go bad! finish it off” soundtrack in my head. I’ve turned down the volume in the last couple of years (in part, thanks to your writing), but it’s still there.

      3. ako Avatar

        It’s not refusing to keep the foods in the house at all, exactly. It’s only keeping them around when I’m in the mood for them, because I can easily fall into bad patterns with regards to those foods and irrational obligation-eating (thinking I have to finish them off after a certain length of time). I think that, in some cases, it’s a case of me not having the patience to completely break the habit. (I don’t like feeling overly full, and I’m pretty sure I would eat myself unpleasantly full on those foods at least a couple of times before I broke the habit.)

        I know my eating habits are not perfect. If I can hit the point where I’m generally feeling good and happy about what I eat, my health is reasonably good, and I never actually feel deprived, I tend to call that close enough and not put my effort into correcting stuff that doesn’t actually bother me or cause noticeable problems.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I totally agree. Good enough is good enough.

  4. Katie Avatar

    It is crazy how much of this applies to me, a chronically just-recovered anorexic (I’m technically ED-NOS because my BMI is just above 17 and I still get regular periods). I cannot tell you how helpful your posts have been to me and I’ve been in and out therapy since I was seven. The whole crazy monkey alarm thing happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially if I’m in a situation where I don’t know what the food will be or if I’ll like it or if I’ll have to lie and say I ate beforehand so people don’t think I’m being rude and find a place to ditch my plate at a party- HI HOLIDAYS HOW YOU DOIN.

    Annnyway. Yeah. Thank you for this blog and everything you’ve written. I’ve been spamming your blog posts all over Facebook and my CRAZYASS FAMILY who denied I even had an eating disorder and was just picky is actually finally starting to get it.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      You have no idea how much this comment made me laugh. Thank you, and thanks for spreading it around! I appreciate it.

  5. Louise Avatar

    Furthering the idea of putting food away so that one eats it when they want it rather than just when they see it how does one manage the never ending urge to try things and snack whilst cooking so the meal can be enjoyed afterwards without already being full?

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Well, my first thought would be: don’t wait until you’re desperately hungry to start cooking! I think that is usually what is behind the uncontrollable urge to pick at stuff while you’re cooking.

      It’s one thing to try the food so you know it’s good – that’s just part of being a good cook. But if you’re eating enough to actually kill your appetite for the meal altogether, then something’s off a bit. Most probably you are too hungry, because you didn’t have a snack after lunch, or you are trying to restrict yourself and “be good,” (lack of permission again!) so you’re very sneakily getting around that by eating ingredients, which we all know don’t count :)

      My answer: have an afternoon snack so you’re not starving by dinnertime, and give yourself permission to have as much of the meal as you want when it’s finished and on the table.

      1. s.h. Avatar

        This. I’d also say that, you might want to drink something while you cook. Now that it’s winter where I am I will often drink hot cocoa or hot apple cider while cooking, or in the summer I might drink lemonade or juice. When I am cooking while hungry it’s usually enough to stave off my hunger, while also not ruining my appetite. YMMV.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          Or beer!

          I always enjoy cooking more, and become much more creative with it, when I’ve had a beer :)

      2. ruby Avatar

        I am a consummate ingredient snacker, to the point where I sometimes get full before dinner. This leads to me getting frustrated with myself when I’m too full to eat the delicious looking meal I’ve cooked (and I’m a good cook!).

        I’m coming to realize that the ingredient snacking is coming from a childhood where (a) sometimes there wasn’t a ton of food at meal times, so everyone had to make sure that their portion left “enough to go around” and (b) a household that–once the food scarcity time was over– became increasingly diet-centric. As a teenager, I often felt that I couldn’t take as much as I wanted because of what that said about my appetite/desire for thinness, etc.

        I’m going to try all of these tips: to make sure to satiate hunger an hour or so before I start cooking dinner, maybe having a beer or sparkling water while cooking & giving myself permission to eat as much damn dinner as I please, once it’s fully cooked and fully delicious! Thanks all.

  6. julie Avatar

    Very good post. I think it’s so important for people to repair the relationship with food, especially get off the “shame spiral”, I can’t see why food rules and health advice in general so rarely go there. Too complex? Bad for business? I feel mostly recovered, and have spent years feeling my way through this stuff, yet still sometimes get thrown off balance and can barely claw my way out of my neurotic hole.

    I tend to do food more like Ako, there are certain things I’ll just eat, if I know they’re right there. I don’t keep them around, but can always walk to the store and get them. Other things I keep in the freezer, so they don’t rot, and are available, but I have to want them enough to make the effort to defrost them. For me, it’s a comfortable situation.

  7. Alexie Avatar

    Ha, interesting post for me to be reading today. Some presents landed on my desk today – 500g of hand-made European chocolates and a big panettone from Italy. I gave away the chocolates and, having had one slice of panettone, wanted to throw it away but my partner won’t let me. If it’s around, I will binge eat it. What’s interesting is that I’m not consistent – my partner and I bought some chocolate advent calendars, and every morning we’ve been having a chocolate. I can do that. I like the ritual, and I don’t feel like I need to raid the whole thing at one go. But a box of chocolates in the house? They’d be gone quickly. I’m like that with some very specific wines. My wine racks have got wines in them that have been there for a long time. I can drink most wines and take them or leave them. But good Italian red is like kryptonite to me – once I start, I don’t stop. My own behaviour appalls me. I’d rather the stuff wasn’t in the house at all.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Sounds to me like the chocolate and panettone are definitely “issue foods” for you for some reason. And I can completely empathize – even after I went through the whole “How to Eat” process with a size-friendly dietitian, my bit of unfinished business, for many years (and still sometimes on occasion if I’ve not been eating well, or eating enough to feel satisfied), was that feeling of CERTAIN FOODS ARE KRYPTONITE AND I CANNOT STAY OUT OF THEM. It took a while to really get it resolved, and it took some willingness to experiment.

      For this stage of the game, I’d really recommend reading Overcoming Overeating, or When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, both by Hirschmann and Munter. It is at this point of the process that I find some of their techniques useful, but still within the context of structured eating.

      Another way of doing this is to provide yourself with these “forbidden” foods (whatever “forbidden” means to you – it will be slightly different for everyone) in the same method you would provide them to a child – see the technique here:


      Here is how to do the balancing act with ”forbidden” foods:

      * Include chips or fries at the occasional mealtime, and arrange to have enough so everyone can eat their fill. Unlike sweets, fatty foods don’t compete with other mealtime foods.
      * Manage dessert (if you like dessert) by putting one serving at each plate, then letting your child eat it when she wants: before, during or after the meal. No seconds on dessert.
      * Periodically offer unlimited sweets at snack time. For instance, put on a plate of cookies or snack cakes and a glass of milk, and let her eat as many cookies as she wants.

      You can do this for yourself – I often eat chips with a sandwich, which sort of symbolically turns them into “normal” food, just like any other food. I also do what she suggests with stuff like cookies and chocolate – occasionally, I dedicate a snack to an unlimited amount of these things (some of my clients will remember my story about the cupcakes that started to piss me off, until I remembered that I was allowed to put as many of them on the plate as I wanted.) I get my fill, and then I move on – whether or not I still have some of them in the house.

      I also make sure to put this kind of food on a plate or in a bowl, instead of eating out of the container. This is not a portion control strategy – it is a respecting the food by treating it like real food and not a furtive, guilty pleasure strategy. It is also more enjoyable, because you can see the food, the presentation is nicer, and it feels a bit more fancy and enjoyable.

      I can always go back for seconds (or thirds, or fourths…), but there is also a natural decision-making point that I reach when the plate or bowl is empty. It inserts a moment of mindfulness, and a moment of autonomy: Do I want more? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. Either way, I’ve been the one to decide, and not the package.

      And I try to avoid congratulating myself for the times when I eat less, and instead give myself credit for paying attention and making a conscious choice – whether that choice was to eat more, or to eat less.

      1. DuckyBelkins Avatar

        I know this is way later than the article has been posted but I’d seriously like advice if you have time.

        Soda, Coke specifically. I can’t stop it. I come from a family full of addiction and I worry that this is an actual addiction.

        I really enjoy Coke and it can sometimes make me feel relaxed when I need it to but mostly I can’t stop drinking it. This isn’t a problem for me with any food and it wouldn’t be a problem for me with Coke except for the fact that it makes me feel, physically, awful.

        Sometimes I try to let myself have as much Coke as I want intuitive eating style but I end up drinking 3-5 cans a day, every day, and it makes me feel physically miserable but I still don’t stop. Then I try to restrict myself to 1 a day, which quickly becomes 2 a day, which quickly becomes “quit restricting yourself, remember intuitive eating?” and I’m back to feeling bad again.

        I try to make deals with myself, I can have as much Coke as I want as long as I drink a glass of water with each can but that just makes me want water less and I STILL drink the Coke.

        Once upon a time, before intuitive eating, I tried not keeping Coke in the house, which lead me to spend way too much money on fountain Cokes (and I still drank just about as much as I do now).

        The longest I’ve gone without Coke in the past 10 years was 3 months. 3 months! And I never stopped craving Coke during those 3 months. (I was without headaches and everything.) So I decided to treat myself to a small vanilla Coke from Sonic and boom, that day I must have had 3 sodas.

        I’ve tried replacing the caffeine, doesn’t work. I’ve tried replacing the sugar, still doesn’t work. I’ve even tried replacing the carbonation and it still doesn’t work. I even tried replacing it with caffeine free Root Beer and blehhhhh.

        So I’m sorry that this was so long I’m just desperate. I’m tired of feeling so physically lousy all the time because of all the soda I’m consuming.

  8. Daniel Avatar

    This post speaks many many relatable words to me. I find that it covers both ends of the spectrum – eating too little and eating too much – at the same time and permission seems to be a huge key factor in all of it. More often than not my mind is racing around the idea of food. Part of it is because I’m going to school as a dietetics major with an intent to be a public nutrition educator and I absolutely love to cook, so it’s a hobby that sits on my mind. Ad the same time, I’m always thinking about food and what choices to make and what I should eat, when I should eat it, what I’ve already eaten earlier that day, so on and so forth.

    My parent, on the other hand, falls into that type of person who will turn to whatever is fast, convenient and available, which tends to be the pretzels on the counter or the cookies on the table when available. We’re both working on our eating issues at the same time but at different angles and I felt the need to comment that this post hits two birds with one stone.

    I know that I need to give myself permission to eat, but I just find it so hard sometimes because I feel as if I’m gluttonous for doing so. And my problem isn’t even choosing between cookies or a nice salad, it’s like fighting over a second helping of roasted vegetables or a piece of fruit versus finding something I’ve “had less of” that day in order to balance nutrient needs. I need to get off of the damn micronutrient train and board one that doesn’t make eating so freaking difficult.

    Why do I have problem eating massive quantities of healthy food? Uncertainty as to what may come or how others may judge me because I’m actually enjoying myself? Yea, that’s it, because I care too much about how others perceive me and our society makes it seem like anyone who indulges a little is a slob who needs to learn self control, and after losing 100 pounds I don’t want to spiral back into the same situation I was in before (though I’m 99.9% positive that will not ever happen again).

    Glad you wrote this, it helped me think a bit about what I need to work on and what’s really bugging me. :)

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I need to get off of the damn micronutrient train and board one that doesn’t make eating so freaking difficult.

      Hahaha, this is a great way of putting it. And lots of people really are soooo focused on micronutrient-rich (and energy-poor) foods that it creates a whoooole other kind of imbalanced nutrition.

      I think it’s also useful to ask – what would be so horrible about regaining weight one has lost, aside from the judgments of others? I lost 30 lbs., and then regained it (plus a lot more), and honestly, I am healthier mentally and physically now than I ever was then. I’m not constantly sore and injured. I haven’t gotten pneumonia since. I’m not hungry all the time. I don’t constantly think about food and exercise. And despite what our culture tells us about the sad lives of quiet desperation led by all (and only!) fat people, my life is anything but. I was more sad and desperate while I was losing weight than during the regain process.

      I know it’s not easy – it’s something we are all trained, over and over and over, through many years, to believe and think. But it is worth giving some thought to.

      Good luck on your continued recovery, and your degree. I think you have a lot to give in this field.

      1. Daniel Avatar

        Good luck on your continued recovery, and your degree. I think you have a lot to give in this field.

        Well thank you, I appreciate the compliment and, after reading your recent post about [not] being and RD, I know for a fact that I don’t want to be a conventional dietician that follows all of the rules and practices of the ADA. I really don’t want to tell everyone that milk is the only way to get calcium and that vegetarian diets have to be extremely well-planned down to every excruciatingly minute detail. I’ve also been told by professors that having / recovering from anorexia will make me more passionate in my field and if I could prevent other kids/adults from going through what I have I would be in my dream job.

        what would be so horrible about regaining weight one has lost, aside from the judgments of others

        I honestly think the judgment is the thing that’s holding me back. I know that I’d like to start a relationship soon and I still feel that high school stigma that being thin means everyone likes you and you’ll find that special female. I honestly agree with you that gaining weight would help me immensely and I would benefit from it not only from a physical health perspective, but from a mental one as well – it’s extremely taxing on my body to be thinking about food every waking moment in a way that requires me to not have any fun with it. I seriously need to just let go of this idea that people will judge me because I choose to eat a certain way and let the assholes who actually do judge me go get bent.

        Who knows, maybe I’ll even start to let myself have more fun, you know, actually enjoy the foods that I make for myself and others. Thanks again. ;)

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I know that I’d like to start a relationship soon and I still feel that high school stigma that being thin means everyone likes you and you’ll find that special female.

          I know this feeling so, so well. And luckily I have found that it is actually not true – which is a good thing. Not everyone is going to like me, no matter what I look like, and I am going to experience romantic rejection whether I am thin or fat (and I have.) The best part of this is, it doesn’t have to kill me to not be liked, or even to be rejected, because I know that I am an intrinsically worthwhile human being – because I know that all people are intrinsically valuable.

          If I am intrinsically valuable, then I stop focusing on behaviours intended to “increase” my worth – because you cannot increase something that is absolute and inherent. It just is. Neither can you decrease it. So letting go of the battle to lose worth or gain worth means I can instead take up the project of living a meaningful life, maybe even one that is healthier for me than trying to shape myself into an object of other people’s desire.

      2. Megan Jackson Avatar
        Megan Jackson

        The damn micronutrient train – Peter, you expressed that brilliantly! I am a nutrition teacher and I drive myself and my family bonkers by my attempts to ensure that all is in balance and the ‘right’ amount of variety is present. Sometimes I think life would be much easier if I just stopped caring…

        1. Michelle Avatar

          I know this feeling well – but I think, better than just not caring, is deciding that good enough is good enough.

          Are there multiple food groups present? Is everything reasonably tasty? Is there enough to go around?

          Good enough!

  9. Screaming Fat Girl Avatar

    I feel quite the opposite about putting food away. I think that putting it out of sight is a way of saying that it has power over you and is irresistible. Is there anything else in your life that you feel must be put out of sight in order for it to occupy its proper place in your life?

    The “proper place” is a mental one, not a physical one. I knew that food stopped mattering and occupying an inappropriate space when I could leave it out in the open all of the time and not be preoccupied with it. It was as relevant as the bottles of liquor my husband keeps for himself (I’m a teetotaler and have zero interest in alcohol) or an expensive set of golf clubs which has no interest to me as a non-golfer. That is not to say food is something I’m quite that indifferent to as I really enjoy it, but I don’t have to put it out of sight in order to keep it out of mind.

    Part of being okay with food is not giving it power over you and that means not treating it any differently than other things in your life which you access on a daily basis. Part of being okay with it is also being okay with every experience related to food (including being hungry before eating rather than eating when not hungry). Part of it is not placing food out of bounds or creating arbitrary rules or boundaries. And a big part of it is not placing value judgments on food. Putting food away is not something I feel helps with the psychology of putting it in its place. I believe it is saying you lack self-control in the face of temptation.

    I believe this is an action that puts the cart before the horse. The basic idea is that the action will resolve the problem thinking, but the issue is the thinking and you’re not going to repair it by putting food out of the way. You’re just going to reinforce your sense that you have to keep it out of view or it will control you. You are, in essence, saying that we need to stop responding to food cues. I would agree with that, but I think that the battle is in the mind, not in a tidy pantry. I say this as someone who weighed between 300-400 lbs. for most of my adult life, and figured out in the last 2.5 years how to put food in its place mentally and emotionally without a lot of controlling obsessive behavior (I couldn’t do that anymore). It’s a lot more complicated than “put the food away”.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I really think, if doing it this way works for you, then great.

      However – I would never recommend this as a technique on a general basis because 1) it is culturally appropriate to put food away in cupboards, refrigerators – most of the people reading this blog probably do this anyway, to some extent – so it’s not a far stretch to recommend it as a way of helping mild food preoccupation; 2) eating from a candy bowl just because it is in front of you is pretty normal and doesn’t deserve to be pathologized; 3) leaving lots of food out and about, where it’s always in sight, while at the same time exercising self-control around it is actually a really textbook symptom of anorexia nervosa.

      I am not at all suggesting that you’re doing something disordered here, and I really do believe that if it works for you, go for it. That’s the People Vary part of things. But as far as a recommendation goes? No, I can’t get behind it.

      I also feel like, since I am getting some disagreement on both sides of the line (from not being able to keep certain foods in the house at all, to thinking it’s better to actually leave food out in abundance), I’m pretty confident that means that the technique of putting things away, and yet keeping them reasonably accessible, strikes important middle ground. It may not be a perfect solution for all people, but I am satisfied with it as something that can be safely recommended to the majority of people who struggle with regulation of hunger and satiety.

    2. KellyK Avatar

      Like Michelle said, if it works for you, that’s a good thing. To me, having food put away feels the same as having a general meal plan for the week–organized and reasonably in control, without obsessing. I don’t think food needs to be a battle or that food “having power” over you is a bad thing–it’s a basic biological necessity after all, and the sight of food can trigger hunger.

      I believe it is saying you lack self-control in the face of temptation.

      I think feeling like you have to leave food out to demonstrate “self-control” would be counterproductive for me. Because once you make something about “self-control” it’s very easy to be judgmental or hard on yourself about it. And I’m just not seeing putting the cookies in the cupboard as a failure of self-control or an admission of defeat.

      Also, as far as being okay with hunger, I think there’s a limit to that, because I think it turns really easily into a diet mindset of “I will be virtuous by ignoring hunger.” Hunger is your body’s way of signalling a problem. It’s not a major problem if you have access to food and can remedy it, and it shouldn’t provoke panic, but it’s a signal that should be responded to.

  10. RNegade Avatar

    “…because People Vary, and because Reality is Complex.”

    I appreciate your respect for individual differences. For some of us, trigger foods are triggers of a different kind. Your post and the comments have helped me think more about the differences in meaning of “not keeping certain foods in the house.” The thought of putting particular foods “in their place” is lovely, just not always possible if one’s lifelong wiring conveys messages of destruction and death at the sight or smell of, say, mashed potatoes and creamed corn. I’m speaking here about PTSD triggers, which sometimes are particular foods, or combinations of foods, and which are unpredictable in their intensity and their likelihood of occurence. At one point in time, for instance, a plate of brownies may be just a plate of brownies. On a different day, however, a plate of brownies may become a very nasty ride into a place of despair, isolation, and terror. I like the image of the box with a lid. In our home, there are no forbidden foods, but my partner respects my need to keep some foods inside cupboards where I know they take up space–less chance of suddenly opening a door, without warning, to chaos.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      This is a really great point, and something I never even thought of, but that deserves to be acknowledged and discussed. Thanks for adding it.

    2. Kathy Avatar

      oh man I had food as a PTSD trigger for years I couldn’t eat an egg salad sandwich..long story but something about eating them as a kid after they’d been in a hot vehicle in the summer time…

      1. Michelle Avatar

        I think this is closer to a food aversion, but it is awful! I had this for years too with a few particular foods.

  11. Cindy Blank-Edelman Avatar

    This is a truly helpful post. I think it’s hard to convey the idea that, really, it’s just food — without making people feel bad for eating it when they feel like it. I especially appreciate your emphasis that this is not a sneaky way to get people to lose weight! So many such articles are precisely that. As a therapist, it is always helpful to find things I can share with my clients about healthy eating. Thanks for sharing your approach.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Hah, thanks for commenting, Cindy! :)

  12. Chris Avatar

    You’re my favourite kind of awesome.

  13. Kathy Avatar

    I tend to go between not eating enough (basing it on how freakin hungry I get between meals and snacks and how little energy I have) on some days and eating enough to not have either of those symptoms. On the eating enough days, it feels like I am eating too much. I feel like I go fr. what feels like starvation to what feels like a binge and then back again. Probably not the best thing I could do for my body.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Yep, this is a really familiar cycle. Feast-famine, I call it.

      When people are eating too little on purpose, for dieting purposes, they call it restraint/disinhibition. The disinhibition (or feast) part of the cycle is unavoidable – it’s your body’s defense mechanism against starvation. You cannot break that part of the cycle just through sheer force of will, unless you develop a restrictive eating disorder (and even then, most people will end up bingeing at some point.)

      The part of the cycle you CAN break is the famine part. By quitting dieting, if that’s your issue, or by just making sure you put regular meals in place. When you’re no longer starving, you’ll find the bingeing part of the cycle disappears too, over time.

      1. Kathy Avatar

        Makes sense Michelle. And I’m working on feeding myself more, more often. I am also dealing w/ a bit of food insecurity fr. my poverty days so a full stocked fridge, pantry and freezer makes me feel really good. I don’t know if that’s part of the famine cycle though, i don’t think so though. (?)

  14. JH Avatar

    I like the idea of putting food in it’s place and putting it out of sight. This works for me because I have used food as a distraction in the past. My eating has gotten disordered in the past when there was something I was trying to avoid dealing with so I would create food issues to occupy my consciousness. And it worked. This was very unhealthy for me both physically and emotionally, by restricting and then eating obsessively and excessively, and stagnating emotionally. My eating has normalized, probably not perfectly normal yet, but sufficiently better, and putting food away removes a potential distraction from my day to day existence. I find that I really enjoy eating much more when I’m hungry. Food tastes amazing and is more emotionally satisfying too. I don’t like to do a lot of comfort eating, particularly eating to soothe sad feelings. Physically it delays my hunger, which can suck after a while, and emotionally because it can cover things up that need to be illuminated to deal with effectively.

    1. Ellie Avatar

      I have used food as a distraction in the past. My eating has gotten disordered in the past when there was something I was trying to avoid dealing with so I would create food issues to occupy my consciousness.

      This is such an accurate and succinct description of my relationship with food.

  15. Danikajaye Avatar

    The “not keeping certain foods in the house” discussion has got me thinking. I generally don’t keep chocolate or icecream in the house because I rarely feel like them. Over Christmas I have had 4 litres of icecream in my freezer left over from Christmas day. I ate a bowl of icecream last night that I didn’t really feel like just because it was there. What was the thought process?

    Brain to body: “You know there is icecream in the fridge.”
    Body: “I know. I don’t feel like icecream but I do feel like something pleasurable.”
    Brain: “Lot’s of people enjoy icecream. Icecream is delicious.”
    Body: “Actually I rarely need icecream. Sometimes when I really need fat and sugar I find it delicious but I’m pretty sure this isn’t one of those times.”
    Brain: “Just try eating it. Maybe you’ll get into it once you start? Maybe it will bring you great joy? I know lot’s of other people love icecream.”
    Body: “Sigh. Okay then. I’ll try it.”
    Brain: “Sooooo, how’s the icecream.”
    Body: “It’s a sticky, creamy nightmare! I feel sick! I f***ing told you! Stupid brain with your big ideas.”

    And that is how it goes. It also happens with liquorice. I know I hate it and yet I try to eat it over and over again because other people find it delicious. It looks so cool with how it’s all curly and it sucks me in but I actually hate it. The same thing has happened with rum balls because they look so festive. I have eaten 20 giant rum balls and I actually don’t like them. They were just so cute and colour coordinated rolled in their chocolate sprinkles. I’ve eaten a box of chocolates that 1) I don’t like that brand of chocolate and 2) I didn’t even feel like sugar AT ALL just because I like unwrapping the little wrappers. I now feel horrible because I have over loaded on fat and sugar and I didn’t even enjoy it. What am I doing?

    1. JH Avatar

      I kind of do that too. It’s like a rebellion to restriction I think. I sometimes think I’m restricting myself if I don’t go ahead and eat sweets when the thought crosses my mind, then after, especially if it’s not really awesome, I’ll be disappointed. My body actually prefers less sweets, because they tend to throw off my appetite and that’s annoying for me. I tend to enjoy eating when I’m hungry, versus for taste and emotional soothing, and sweets throw that off, unless it’s at the end of a meal and a small amount. Because I’ve restricted in the past, my mind has a hard time accepting a limit. At least now I don’t over eat sweets that often. I do enjoy them once a day though. I actually find that the fat +sugar is better for me then just sugar, it seems to balance it out. I sometimes think that sugar cravings might indicate a nutritional deficiency.

    2. ksol Avatar

      So, so true. On the flip side, I remember learning that I wasn’t supposed to like spinach from Dennis the Menace. I loooooove spinach. Wouldn’t touch it when I was a kid because the world said it was an “icky” food that you only ate because it was good for you. Kind of like downing cod liver oil.

    3. Michelle Avatar

      Hahha, I find this hilarious, because it’s something I’ve done before too. I think we need to learn to actually respect our likes and dislikes a bit more, no matter what “everyone” thinks about particular foods.

      For me, it’s cherry tomatoes. I just keep trying them, even though I dislike them. Luckily they don’t make me feel sick or anything though. Well, actually, that’s a lie – I sometimes have a mild allergic reaction to raw tomatoes. I guess that’s probably why I associate the taste with BAD THINGS and I really should just stop trying raw tomatoes, even though everyone else looooooves them.

      1. Kathy Avatar

        With ya on the raw tomatoes Michelle. Cooked I love them. Yet when I mention I don’t like raw tomatoes everyone gasps in horror as if I’ve committed a crime or something.

        There were times over the Christmas holidays I felt absolutely horrible after eating certain foods — like I’d swallowed a watermelon whole or something..I was reminded of your post “food you like is food that feels good” and I wondered to myself “why do I torture myself eating ____ food when I may/likely will feel gross afterwards?” Only certain foods are “worth” it to risk feeling like that after (like shortbread).

    4. mara Avatar

      I do that with chocolates with soft centers. I KNOW I only like the ones with crunchy things inside. But I get seduced again and again because they look pretty and I know other people like them!

  16. BeagleSmuggler Avatar

    My challenge is still on the eating regular meals. I’ve got dinner down well, now I’m working on breakfast, and when that becomes regularized I’ll tackle lunch. I’m really the type to skip all my meals and then have a giant buffet at 9:00 p.m.

    So it was nice to realize that I had the putting food away habit in check already. I have to thank my beagle for this. Actually I guess that can be my recommendation to anyone who has trouble putting food away. You can complicate your life immeasurably and insure that food it always put away by getting a beagle. (Just to be clear, a sarcasm font would be particularly useful at this point). Beagles will learn how to get any food… mine learned how to open jars… sigh…

    The beagle has helped though, all food is now away, often requires a step ladder. Now, I’m also trying to ask myself what I want to eat before I go into the kitchen and stare into the fridge or the cupboards. I find this is helping me to give myself permission to eat what I want to eat instead of stuff food in my face because it is there.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I love beagles.

      I also like giving myself a second to ask what I really want to eat before I get hit with a bunch of visual food stimuli. Sounds like you’re doing well :)

    2. Kathy Avatar

      Cats work well for the same reason…although ours haven’t learned to open jars yet…

  17. Emily Avatar

    Totally with you on putting cookies away. Otherwise every time I wander into the kitchen to get water, I come back with a cookie. I do not actually want to eat a cookie every half hour.

    But I’m also hypoglycemic, and I have to leave some food out or I will seriously forget it is there. Nuts, crackers, and apples must stay out, otherwise I think “cookie” before I think “nuts, crackers, and/or apples”, and cookies do not help hypoglycemia very much (at least mine.)

    1. mara Avatar

      Yes, this. My house was swimming in cookies after Christmas and I was eating them, like, 8 times a day because I knew I felt like I needed to eat SOMEthing. I’m embarrassed to say it took me about 4 days to figure out that the problem was not too many cookies but a general lack of basic ‘something’s in the house (ie. I did not bother to go grocery shopping after Christmas, thinking there were plenty of things to be eaten through first.)

      It threw me for a loop a bit because I found myself chastising myself for how much shortbread I was eating, and my whole food sanity state depends very much on not.. judging.

      Anyways, I went out and got some veggies, whole wheat Damascan flatbread, cottage cheese, hummous, potatoes, oatmeal, pork tenderloin, etc., etc., and sanity was restored and now I’m back to eating a few cookies now and again, which is ‘normal’ for me. So, lesson learned – for me, anyway, sometimes ‘putting food in its place’ just means that any one particular food needs to be part of a mosaic of food, not dominating the picture.

      And this is partly an economic issue. I was lucky that I had the resources to do that comprehensive shop on that day. That hasn’t always been the case, nor is it the case for everyone. I have certainly been in the position where, after Christmas, for example, I am flat broke and feel like, thank god, at least I have enough leftover calories in the house in the form of treats and leftovers so that I won’t go hungry if I can’t go shopping right now. I know it’s sort of a Marie Antoinette situation and I’m very very lucky even to have that – but – it does not help so much with the putting food in its place issue! Which is, I know, kind of off the topic of how food is stored… but, you know, when I need the calories and there’s naught else around.. well, let’s just say, I’ve been known to eat baked goods straight out of the freezer, frozen!

      But I do get your point, Michelle, and I think it is a good one. Shortbreads are in a plastic thingy on top of the fridge, and it’s a bit hard to open and I generally do not bother, whereas if they were just out and about… well, the dog and I would have scoffed them all days ago!

  18. […] eating and health, I thought that Michelle, who writes at The Fat Nutritionist blog, had some words worth sharing about putting food in its […]

  19. Jesse Avatar

    You are one of the sanest people I’ve ever encountered. Let me just put that right out there on the table first thing. This blog is a beacon of rationality in a heaving sea of cognitive dissonance, and basically you rock.

    I’d like to ask you something that’s kind of off topic to this post; I apologize if that’s a faux pas, but email is not my friend and comment boxes are easy. :D The thing is, when I saw you do personal consultations, I thought, ‘Oh hey, that could maybe be a useful thing to do’ — but it seems your specialty is more emotional than technical, and what I could use some help with isn’t attitude, but logistics.

    In a nutshell, I have limited mobility, and the sedentary lifestyle this enforces has presented me with a weird little catch-22 where food is concerned. Either I can live with what you’ve termed ‘chemical hunger’ — I call it The Stupids, and it’s not only unpleasant, it keeps me from doing my job — or I can slowly gain weight, which for me is a structural issue, not a self-image issue. Putting more load on my messed-up joints limits my mobility even more. Emotionally, I’m fine with looking like Winston Churchill; structurally, I can’t carry that much swag. And just to make it all even more fun, I have autism and ADD flinging wrenches into my shopping/planning/cooking capabilities.

    Er… that was kind of a big nutshell there. Anyway, what I’m wondering is whether that’s the kind of thing you consult on. My physical therapist and my GP both essentially shrug and point at each other when I bring it up with them, and it didn’t occur to me until I saw your blog that a nutritionist might be what I’m looking for.

  20. yami Avatar

    is there any way of getting used to not having an entire food group and possibly cutting back on cravings? ie dr ordered no dairy/ no lactose and trying to cut back cravings that have me munching through 2-3 tablespoons or more of salt 5times a week. i know that much salt isn’t healthy but i figure at least switching to sea salt from table might mitigate the effects? the reason for avoiding dairy is because of some stomach/ intestional issues i’m trying to get taken care of. i usually just lurk and read your posts since i’m in a constant battle with my mind to try and eat somewhat regularly and healthfully. i honestly can’t ever remember having “normal” eating patterns even as a child and come from a family of dieters on both sides.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      This is a tough one – sorry you’re in this situation.

      My usual approach for this kind of thing is to ease into the restriction a little at a time, while at the same time building up your alternatives and finding things you like. In the case of severe issues, it can be troublesome or impossible to ease into it, however – it depends on how serious your issue is and what your doctor recommends.

      If you haven’t already, looking for some dairy alternatives is a good idea (coconut milk products, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc.) You might find one that you really like that can take the edge off.

      1. yami Avatar

        i’ve found almond milk tends to be a good substitute. it’s more the matter that i can’t use cheese and other dairy in my cooking that is the worst matter. i should have been a little more clear about that. the salt cravings are something i’ve had since childhood and seem to just get worse with time. i’ll just eat it straight without a clue why i want it so often. part of the reason i find it troubling is because of a strong family history on my father’s side of high blood pressure.

        1. Michelle Avatar

          For a craving that intense, I would really recommend going to the doctor and getting screened for any possible nutrient deficiencies. Sometimes, for example, iron deficiency can cause weird, intense cravings that don’t make sense. I’m so sorry you’re going through this – there are some substitutes for cheese, but I know they are not perfect and you may still feel deprived. But the really intense salt craving worries me the most – not necessarily because it will give you high blood pressure (though it might – but that’s very individual, and a family history is not a guarantee) but because it signals to me that something else is going on behind the scenes.

  21. Kaz Avatar

    That… is an excellent idea. And one I could really use: I’ve started keeping an emergency food supply next to my computer for flare-ups, which tend to be pretty bad times for me foodwise. But I’ve been keeping it in a clear plastic box, and I sort of keep eating it. Even if I am not hungry and I don’t know I’m going to have food problems yet and I don’t even really /want/ to eat it – I’m still working on this, but my emergency food supply consists mainly of stuff where I won’t feel ill if I eat a ton of it except this also tends to be stuff that I don’t find super-delicious per se (more stuff like breadsticks and rice cakes instead of crisps or candy).

    Or I tell myself “no, I’m not allowed to eat it, this is for EMERGENCIES ONLY when I feel really bad” but then that leads me into “do I feel bad enough to access the emergency suppy yet?” which is a very bad train of thought both from the disability angle and from the good relationship with food angle! So it’s not really been working out how I wanted, and now that you mention it it seems absolutely obvious that just covering it up will make a big difference. Putting it away not so much, because “stand up and go over there and open that box” can be too much for me in very bad phases, but taping some paper so I can’t see what’s inside and/or making sure it’s reachable but not in line of sight should do it.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I would definitely try an opaque box and see if that helps. And give yourself some time to get used to it, too – and plenty of permission. Oftentimes a lack of permission drives these kinds of problems.

  22. Loves good food Avatar
    Loves good food

    I’m actually interested in the McDougall way of eating, at least insofar as it concerns cutting out oils and using whole wheat pastry flour. I’m Indian, so I’m not sure how cutting out oil would work for tempering spices, but that aside, feeling better/no inflammation sounds good. I’ll give it a shot.

    However, I have no desire to cut out all things that aren’t nutritionally good for me, and I’m still going to eat out and consume oil in other people’s food. Also, I like cupcakes and chocolate, and I’m going to keep eating them. It makes me sad that in the McDougall camp, as in other forums, people feel the need to judge themselves/others and say they’ve been “bad” if they were less than “perfect” per the plan’s guidelines.

    I’m thin, but I’ve been nagged in my life about weighing too much when I was younger or eating junk by my husband (who also eats his own brand of junk!), and the result is that part of me wants to rebel. I think you’re totally right about that.

    If we allowed more permission along with education, as you’re doing, people would be a lot more well off. *sigh*

    Anyway, thanks for the work you do!

  23. Catharine Avatar

    So awesome. And crazy monkey brain, as we all know, is really the Fuzzy Self, the cute little part of us that knows so much better than the front of our brain whether we’re hungry or not and for what. I love Fuzzy Self.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      But of course! :)

  24. Claire Walsh Avatar

    All the food that was on the counter is now tucked away elsewhere. Thanks for the great idea! :)

  25. Annesofie Stisen Avatar
    Annesofie Stisen

    Im still working out the boundary between craving-due-to-stress-and-so-on and craving because of actual appetite, so this post hits the nail on the head.

    Due to issues with stress, im not yet at the point where i can comfortably have the snack-box in the house, but im determined to get there, and i know the path goes through adressing my own ingranied thoughtpatterns of deprivation and indulgence as external ways of punishing and rewarding myself.

    i had a huuuge ah-hah moment a while back in regards to my own eating-patterns.
    I basically did the whole “losing weight by dropping carbs and becoming very snotty to listen too about it all”.
    After a while i went back to carbs, feeling very much like i was hooking back up with a no-good ex-boyfriend but was still stable/dropping weight ever so slooowly and i coulndt for the life of me figure out why.
    What i figure happened is that dropping carbs (even temporarily) allowed me to mentally reset my notion of portionsize, so i can actually asses what i need and how much of it, rather than mindlessly putting food on the plate.

  26. Theresa Avatar

    Hi Michelle,
    This post (and the comments!) are chock-full of things I can relate to, and give me a lot of yummy food for thought as I contemplate what to do about my own food issues.
    I like the idea of stowing food away when not in use. My kitchen could use a serious re-organizing and I’m going to try your suggestion; then perhaps my monkey-brain will be a little less drawn to the kitchen in those moments when there’s no actual need for food. I’ll let you know how it goes.
    With thanks for all you do —

  27. Jill Avatar

    It was like reading my own thoughts. It’s taken me years and years to develop a healthy relationship with food and even now I still struggle sometimes. The permission thing is definitely me and I had never realized I was denying myself permission to eat, and when I *did* eat I’d feel guilty. It’s always a snack thing, I eat meals pretty regularly and am structured with that during the work week. But on the weekends it’s not so easy to stick to a routine and every once in awhile I get hungry in the afternoon, and while I am legitimately hungry there is a little voice that tries to fight against that hunger and say to not eat. Which leads me to then overeat in a binge type of way.

    Very, very, very insightful post. Thanks.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      Weekends (and days off) seem to be universally hard for everyone I work with, when it comes to eating structure. But it sounds to me like if you get hungry in the afternoons, then you need an afternoon snack! And permission to eat it :)