Checking in on your cravings with H.A.B.I.T.

by Health

I just polished off a handful of peanuts.
Yesterday I finished an entire bag of chips in front of the computer.
Why am I eating this way? Do I need to look at my H.A.B.I.T?

Everyone is guilty of mindless eating. I used to be one of those that prided themselves on eating while at the computer. I worked in an environment where leaving a site to have a real lunch wasn't encouraged and sometimes even looked down on. I don't know if I ever hit martyr territory, but I certainly wasn't eating for enjoyment or even for fuel.

I don't know the statistics, but my guess is what a lot of people put into their mouths are placed there without much thought of how it will affect them and is rarely tasted to the point that they are focused on the meal and getting any satisfaction out of it.

A couple of years ago I started using an acronym, which I have recently changed based on what my clients usually suffer from. I call it H.A.B.I.T.

When reaching for food, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I Hungry or Is it Habit? Is it time according to the clock? Is it my habit that after dinner I have something sweet?
  • Am I Anxious? Do I feel anxious or nervous and eating this food soothes me and calms me down?
  • Am I Bored? Is eating just giving me something to do right now?  Am I so addicted to multitasking that I can't watch television, work or drive without eating at the same time?
  • Am I Irritated? Will eating this make me feel less irritated or angry?
  • Am I Tired? Do I just need an energy fix? Will eating this keep me awake? Is this a counterfeit energy strategy of caffeine, sugar or processed carbs?

Eating mindfully is a significant shift in my former behavior several years ago. I started by making myself eat one meal a day without a TV or computer screen. Dining with friends, colleagues or family counts since I'm enjoying the meal and it is part of the event. Then, I worked my way up to eating two meals or no more than once per day of anything in front of a screen. Now it's easy for me. I'll sometimes listen to podcasts while I'm eating but at least then I am looking at my food when I take a bite of it, rather than looking at a screen and just counting on my hand to guide the fork or food into my mouth hole.

Next time you get a craving. Ask yourself if you're Hungry, Anxious, Bored, Irritated or Tired. It may not stop you from eating it, but it may make you think twice about what you are reaching for and the reason behind it.

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Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects