Four Faces of Eating

Four Faces of Eating

It seems to me.... eating healthy and weight management are difficult enough without the added degree of difficulty piled on by having food as the center of our whole social structure. Whenever I'm trying to lose weight, it seems that I just get a good start and some food-centered function comes up and ...BLAMO... all my good intentions are blown to bits. Traditional holidays are filled with potholes for me and for most people, but often just everyday events cause problems too. 

With the intention of trying to find a solution -- a way to maintain better control over outside forces -- I have broken eating into four categories.  They are (1) social eating, (2) recreational eating, (3) emotional eating, and (4) eating for health.

For the longest time, I've wanted to get to the point where I eat for health and no other reason. With the amount of attention our society puts on food, I've determined that that's probably impossible unless I become a complete hermit. But I'm hoping that defining each category thoroughly and doing a little creative thinking on how to approach the challenges they provide, I might find ways to manage my eating instead of having my eating manage me. 

Let the analysis begin...

Social Eating...

I look at social eating as all the instances of overindulging around holidays, at parties, at Sunday dinners, at office parties and even when you drop in to see your neighbor and she encourages you to help her finish off the last of the doughnuts. Social eating occurs whenever: (1) due to someone else, you end up  saying yes to food when you would rather say no; (2) due to an event (birthday, office party, Sunday family dinner, etc.), you feel that it would be impolite to not eat; and/or (3) peer pressure causes you to eat more than you want to get the attention off yourself (for example, you are offered seconds and you succumb so the hostess will stop putting the spotlight on you for trying to decline).

Recreational Eating... 

When I think of recreational eating, a pie-eating contest comes to mind. But I think it's bigger than that. If it were just contest eating, that wouldn't be that big a problem because it would only come up a couple times per year. I think of recreational eating also as eating way more than you need to fill you up just because the food tastes so darned good and it makes you happy.  And, I think of it in terms of leisure time eating, such as popcorn at the movies, or potato salad at a picnic.  It's anytime you associate a certain food with a leisure time activity and it makes it hard (impossible) to resist. 

Emotional Eating...

Emotional eating is a rough one. With social eating and recreational eating, you can come up with rules to rein in your eating behavior to a certain extent. For example, you might make a rule that you can have popcorn at the movies, but only a small box. Emotional eating is a whole different matter. When emotions become involved, you are talking about a behavior that has, with repetition, become necessary (addictive to you). This includes eating when you're sad, depressed, lonely, bored, and even happy. If eating is tied into making you feel better or calming your emotions and not about being hungry then it is emotional eating. 

Eating for Health...

There can be varying degrees of eating for health. It can be eating a certain way to lose weight. It can be eating a certain way because you are going to run a race or play a sport and you feel and perform better when you eat a healthy diet, and it can be eating to prevent a disease or condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. I have come to think of it as eating to fuel my body in the most efficient way and to prevent illnesses I don't have and/or to reverse illnesses I do have.  In my case, I started concentrating on eating for health about 6 months ago. I've made stabs at it before, but they never lasted for long. 

Last year, I developed reflux and needed to drastically change my diet to make myself well. I experimented with all variations of restrictions to reduce the acid. Some worked, and some didn't. When I tried a whole-food plant-based diet, it seemed to work the best for me. It made me feel better than I had in a long time. I'm not saying that it's the best way of eating for everyone, but I am saying that you can figure out for yourself what will be best for you. I do believe strongly that eating for health should be your priority in the eating arena.


Eating for health is a lofty goal and an admirable one.  The healthier you eat, the longer you'll live and the better your life will be with more energy, fewer aches and pains, and increased ability to ward off illnesses. Due to social eating, emotional eating and recreational eating, healthy eating is often, at best, a difficult goal to achieve. But with awareness of when and why you eat, you may be able to shape your behaviors and educate others as to what works best for you and for your health. And, don't feel bad if you need to reach out for some help in making these changes. 

Let me know in the comments if this is all too familiar to you.  We'll talk about it again and go into a little more detail on each of these areas. In the meantime, if something works for you, let us know.



I Eat Plants... What do you eat?

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Oh Yum: Breakfast Skillet Scramble

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