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Conflicted Thoughts on Whether to Eat or Not

  • Eating

If you’re someone who regularly eats without being hungry or past full or satisfied, you’ll want to read, “The goal conflict model: a theory of the hedonic regulation of eating behavior,” which nails why you engage in this behavior. The argument of its author Wolfgang Stroebe is simple: “reduced responsiveness to hunger and satiation cues is not due to a lack of ability to recognize such cues, but to a more powerful motive governing the food intake of people with a weight problem, namely eating enjoyment.”

Of course, everyone who is higher weight does not have a “weight problem.” People have differing genetics, body structure and metabolisms. But the conflict Stroebe describes is exactly what I felt when I was an overeater: I wanted both to enjoy food and lose weight, which led me to doing neither very effectively. How can you enjoy food when you’ve been brainwashed to obsess and feel guilt about the calories you’re ingesting and how can you lose weight when food tastes, well, very, very yummy?

The article describes previous theories about why people overeat and comes to the following conclusion: “[Some] people with weight problems appear indeed less sensitive to hunger and satiation cues, and anxiety or stress tends to increase their risk of overeating. However, according to the goal conflict model of eating, they do not overeat because they are unable to recognize internal cues of hunger or satiation, but because they disregard these cues in order to enjoy eating palatable food. Given the delicate balance between these two goals in restrained eaters and the fact that in our food-rich environments, people are permanently exposed to stimuli signaling the presence and availability of palatable food, it is perhaps not surprising that restrained eating is not a certain path to weight control or even weight loss.”

Who are restrained eaters? Anyone who’s succumbed to the diet mentality endorsed by our society as necessary for health and happiness—from the mother who asks her teenage son, “What have you been eating? Your pants seem awfully tight” to the young adult who follows the latest fad diets on Twitter to the senior citizen who never allows herself dessert and spends two hours every day at the gym to maintain her weight.

It's hard to clean out our heads of thoughts about slim and trim being necessary goals and to eat mindfully without guilt and frustration. If you’ve dieted for decades, it’s a noble challenge to end scale addiction, but it’s possible and doable. Should You Get Rid of Your Scale? will help you move forward toward a weight-free focus while also allowing yourself to consciously enjoy food more. Sounds like a winning combination.