Home » A friendly reminder of "foodship" before you eat to oblivion

A friendly reminder of "foodship" before you eat to oblivion

Is anyone else sick of the talk surrounding how to “manage” the holidays? Even if I racked my brain ALL day, I’d struggle to come up with a new suggestion that would alleviate any stress surrounding the holidays, weight, and healthful eating. We all know what to do…so why don’t we (always) do it?

I had one of those most insightful sessions with a patient the other day. Our entire session was spent discussing the psychology and dysfunction behind why we do what we do when it comes to food. She recalled sitting at a luncheon and plowing heaps of food into her mouth despite being uncomfortably full. She said she felt as though food was going to lurch from her stomach it was so full – filled to capacity, literally. And yet when she realized there was a dish she hadn’t tried, she got up to help herself. She described eating to the point of exhaustion – mentally and physically. She had over-consumed to the point of being ill. And yet, 20 minutes later, she gives in to the ice cream and pie that she wanted to taste. She proceeded to consume large portions of dessert, despite having already been physically ill from eating too much. And she left the luncheon feeling completely confused by her actions, and moreover, the constant cycle of this behavior. WHY do we do this?

I don’t feel there’s any physical explanation as to why this happens; I feel this is wholly mental. Rather than focusing on calories, or journaling intake, or exercise, or adequate hydration, or food choices, I’ve decided to approach this behavior by confronting the behavior and not the food. My suggestion to my patient was to keep a log of her hunger cues and to listen to her body’s needs.

For example…

If you’re reaching for an apple…


Question: Are you HUNGRY? Yes or no.

If no, WHY are you going to eat? (circle one: everyone else is, looks good, bored, sad, excited, tired, celebrating, meal time)

If you’re not hungry, do NOT eat the apple.

Wait 10 minutes.


Question: Are you HUNGRY? Yes or no.

If no, do you still WANT that apple?

If yes, eat the apple.

If no, do not eat. Ponder your reasoning behind wanting to eat in the first place? What can you do to change this?

If this sounds crazy, chances are you’ve never struggled with your weight or over-eating. Consciously or not, this type of behavior happens day-in and day-out for most all of us. This type of behavior is mainly subconscious, but destructive and dangerous to health and body weight.

Most anyone who knows me or reads my blog knows that I am a HUGE supporter of the “Fit-Over-Fat” theory. And familiar with the “Health At Every Size” (HAES) concept, have probably heard of Linda Bacon, professor of nutrition at City College of San Francisco and author of “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight [1].”

Linda Bacon supports “intuitive eating” – a means of consuming food that is in tune with hunger signaling (i.e. eating when you’re hungry and quitting when you’re satisfied). There are few individuals out there who can deem their diets flawless. Anyone and everyone should aim to incorporate healthy eating and lifestyle patterns to consume the right amount of the good and work to eliminate the bad. As a nation, we are so hyper-sensitive about weight status, clothing sizes, and weight loss…it’s nearly impossible to get excited about simply making a change because it’s the right move for your health and relationship with food and exercise. Maybe you’re like myself and just wish to escape from food from time-to-time to improve your “foodship” – your relationship with food.

The above scenario I would consider a classic case of poor foodship. The exercise detailed above is meant to hone in on signals for eating and to initiate a pattern of intuitive eating rather than the constant, mindless eating so many partake in.

While food, nutrition, and weight comprise my job each day, I would also consider food and nutrition a hobby. I guess you could say food is a HUUUUGE component of my life whether I’m shopping, preparing, eating, or thinking about food…everything seems to come back to food.

Some individuals place little emphasis on food; my mother doesn’t think about food, “crave” food, over-indulge in food, or talk about food. It’s just not a focal point of her life, unlike mine. Which leads me to my next thought — those with little emphasis on food have not only good “foodship” but also healthier weight statuses. I think this also ties in to Linda Bacon’s “intuitive eating,” don’t you?

I’m sure others have heard the saying, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” As an RD, I feel over-consumed by food from all angles of my life, and I can’t help but feel over-whelmed sometimes. And I can’t imagine others don’t feel the same – weight loss gimmicks smothered across magazines in the check-out lane, commercials and advertisements in all of our media, TV shows devoted to weight-loss…it’s every where. Every day. All day long.

So, question…do you feel there’s just TOO much exposure and emphasis surrounding weight-loss, dieting, food, etc.? Do you think your “foodship” could use a make-over? Do you think much of our country’s obesity can be attributed to poor relationships with food and lack of “intuitive eating”?

Can make this holiday season more healthful by utilizing intuitive eating? Will your holiday season really be less fulfilling and special if you don’t leave your celebration with unbuttoned pants? Probably not. 😉

Merry Christmas to all and to all a healthful holiday!

[1]. Jameson, Marnell. Do Extra Pounds Always Equal Extra Risk? The Los Angeles Times. October 12, 2009.

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  1. December 25, 2009 / 3:15 am

    Great post. I try to utilize this “apple technique” as much as possible before I reach for a snack, but it really means slowing down to do so. I think Americans as a whole definitely need to get re-intouch with intuitive eating. When humans were first born, we ate when our body told us we were hungry. Now we eat whenever our mind tells us we our hungry…which is because our relationship with food has changed from what it used to be.

    I agree that when your life is revolved around food, it takes extra effort to have a healthy relationship with food because your mind is always on it. In fact, I was originally going to go to culinary school and part of the reason I opted not to at the last minute was because I wasn’t sure if I wanted my whole life to be surrounded my food. Food is a tricky, yet amazing part of life…

  2. December 25, 2009 / 4:19 am

    I find this topic so interesting because depending on my mood and then day, it can easily be me! Sometimes when there’s a new food I just feel like I HAVE to try it because I might not have that option for at least a year or if I think something will be gone soon that I really like I’ll eat it when I’m not even hungry just to be able to not “miss” it – crazy!

  3. December 25, 2009 / 4:28 am

    Nicole, I’m so glad you are addressing this issue in your post because it’s definitely something on my mind a lot, though it’s hard to really guide myself in terms of how to think about things. I am a fan of Linda Bacon’s book and I believe you can achieve health at any reasonable size. For me, emotional eating is a HUGE hinderance to me reaching my goal weight where I know I’m healthiest and happiest. Like your client, I will continue to move my mouth and get more food despite my stomach being full. It’s almost a sense as if your mouth is detached from your stomach – basically I have lost my ability to eat intuitively at times. I believe that the more the media chooses to drill and focus on these issues, the more we get skeptical and over-conscious about the things we put in our mouths. While it’s great to have knowledge of why we over eat emotionally, an article cannot change the behavior. It doesn’t have that kind of power. If anything, it makes me anxious because I know what I’m doing is “wrong” and since I’m wrong anyways, might as well keep eating cause at the time, that’s what I THINK I want.

    I often envy those who are able to eat intuitively and put their feet down (or stuff it into their mouth) when they’re full. To me, food just has too many roles – it takes work away from me, it helps me relax or not have to think or do work, it tastes good and is fun (most of the time)…all the way until I overdo it. *sigh* I’d love to know what more you think about this issue and how we can address it!! Thank you Nicole, and sorry for the uber long comment. 🙂 I LOVE your blog. hehehe

  4. December 25, 2009 / 4:48 am

    good points

    Merry Christmas,

    check out some training in Motivational Interviewing you will love it


  5. December 25, 2009 / 5:14 am

    Do I think there is too much emphasis on weight loss etc? Tricky question. I think it is part of a bigger picture myself: the cult of image. The pervasive concept that if we are thin = we are more beautiful = we are happier, more successful, whatever. I’m actually really encouraged by the steady growth over the last decade of knowledge sharing around healthy foods, healthy fats and fitness. Sure there are still people around who wish there was a pill to solve everything but even mainstream media is getting on the fresh fruit and vegetable wagon. Fresh food has always been a no brainer, but the Bob and Jillians of the world are making it sexier. Not to mention the Giadas, Nigellas, Jamies and all the other Food Network folks.

    As for intuitive eating, I think it’s only a concept that can really work in modern day society. We all still have deep instincts that drive us to eat too much when food is plentiful. I don’t think anyone without constant access to food ever worries about intuitive eating. I think need to nod in the direction of our caveman days when we reach for that bag of chips after a hard day at work, if you know what I mean. Sorry, I may be rambling now. We do all need to get in tune with our bodies and try to eat accordingly. I’m just not sure we are hard wired that way.

    Interesting post! Thanks! And Merry Christmas!

  6. December 25, 2009 / 6:08 am


    I love this post! Intuitive eating should be as popular as fad diets! Of course it is hard work (in the beginning) and maybe that is why people don’t stick with it. I lost almost 50lbs with intuitive eating and for the first time in my life I feel “at peace” with my food. Food also consumes my life, as it does yours. It used to consume it in a very negative way and I couldn’t ever get enough. Now I am consumed with food because it is my life, my hobby and my career. Funny…I am obsessed with food more now than ever, yet I don’t feel obsessed at all. I look forward to the holiday meals knowing that I can eat whatever I want as long as I stick to what my own body is telling me (what a concept, right?!). It is so important to talk about this stuff (especially the behavioral aspect of it), thanks for the post!

    Ps. I have tried following your blog (my fav!!!) multiple times since you switched over and it isn’t working. =( Any advice?

  7. December 25, 2009 / 6:14 am

    Is there too much fuss over weight loss? Perhaps. But only because there is too much emphasis on FOOD!

    It is only recently that we are starting to reverse years of encouragementl to not only eat unhealthy, but why not supersize it as you’re at it.

    Let’s all work on balance in our lives and replace some of the food emphasis on something healthy & positive.


  8. December 25, 2009 / 7:01 am

    I have some great hunger and satiety scales I have used for counseling before. Most people do not know when they are really hungry or when they are really full. The scales help to put feelings into perspective.

  9. December 25, 2009 / 7:12 am

    I think that this information is really, really helpful. Good for you on bringing it up. I often find these kinds of things really help the people that I talk with about their weight struggles.

  10. December 25, 2009 / 8:14 am

    you are def in the right profession girl!! thats awesome, and a great session w. your client. have a great christmas!

  11. December 25, 2009 / 2:00 pm

    Too much to comment on here! But I will say interesting post and I agree with what you say. I think the problem comes in that often we can stop and ask ourselves are we hungry…but even if the answer is a definite NO – we’ll still eat it…or I do :(…I’ve read that this is ‘okay’ as well – and is at least a step towards acknowledgement . The point is not to feel guilty about it but to acknowledge what you feel and what you did and why you may have did it. Even if it happens again…eventually patterns will change. Awareness and mindfullness and being “kind to yourself” and “not judging yourself” is key. Otherwise, it just spirals downhill.
    Merry Christmas girl 🙂

  12. December 26, 2009 / 1:47 am

    Thank you for this very insightful post. I know I sometimes mindlessly eat, and this is a great way to approach that behavior!

  13. December 26, 2009 / 2:07 am

    So many people eat mindlessly, so it’s always a good reminder to STOP before you eat and feel out your true hunger. Thanks for such an insightful post–Merry Xmas to you, your husband, and your bulldog 🙂

  14. December 26, 2009 / 5:25 am

    Great topic and post!

    I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

  15. December 26, 2009 / 9:37 am

    I think you give the best advice!! I too am so sick of hearing how to still loose weight over the holidays blah blah blah. I think its great that you suggest waiting 1o minutes and then ask if your hungry!

    merry christmas!

  16. December 27, 2009 / 1:10 am

    Great advice. There are so many tips and blog posts about getting through the holidays without gaining weight that it’s become monotonous. I like this post because it addresses a problem that is part of our lives everyday, not just on a holiday. I think intuitive eating is so tough for people because we aren’t brought up eating that way. We’re told to clean our plates from a young age rather than just to eat until we’re satisfied. Great post!

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