Image by Debbie Digioia
What can the way a computer learns and applies knowledge teach us about healing dysregulated eating? While reading a column entitled “Cyberwars: we must prepare ourselves for the wars of the future”, (Time, 12/26/16-1/2/17, p.25), it occurred to me that what the authors were saying about computer learning could well apply to dysregulated eaters. Hear me out and see what you think.
According to authors Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, “Machine learning, or computers able to learn from data, will be essential to decoding the battlefields of the 21st century. The more attacks we endure, the more training data we will have. This means for every attempted hack of an electrical grid or intrusion on a banking system, we will better understand how these attacks work and improve our defenses.”
This got me thinking about how, rather than view each troubling eating episode as a problem, you could better understand your “food attacks” and improve your defenses. As you’ve probably been a dysregulated eater for quite some time, you likely have accumulated a good deal of data from which to learn. If you’re not using this data to prevent future problems, the good news is that you have untapped capabilities.
To collect data in order to establish patterns, ask yourself these questions to identify exactly when, where and why you overeat or turn to food when you’re not hungry.
- What times of day do I do this? Be specific, such as saying between x and y or right after z.
- Where am I when this happens? Again be exact. Not just “at work” or “at home,” but “while passing the break room or the candy machine” or “when sitting on my living room couch watching Dancing with the Stars” or “in my car on the way home from dropping off the kids at day care.”
- What situations am I in? Consider whether you’re generally alone or with people, then identify which people. You may not realize that you don’t eat the same way around everyone.
- What am I feeling? It’s important that you identify your emotions and not say things like when I’m stressed or upset. Identify specific emotions from my Food and Feelings Workbook like bored, lonely, anxious, helpless, confused, lonely, guilty, or ashamed.
When you’ve finished identifying the when, where, and why of your mindless eating, prepare an alternate strategy for each circumstance—a defense against food attacks—and keep learning more about them until you are skilled at averting them.