Monday, May 18, 2009

Blame It on Mom: Rule 7 to Control your appetite

It is important sometimes to ask why you eat the way you do. The most satisfying answer to that is "Mom made me do it."

Mom may have made you do it. But, mom is not a villain, of course. Nor was she on a path to destroy your happiness. She saw her job as passing on the dietary wisdom of her mother and grandmother, while making some new traditions of her own.

Moms do that. But that is not to say mom was always right. You know that too, but what you only fleetingly understand is that her most indelible lessons were not taught to you. They were caught.

Just like mom passing on her cold to you, although she didn't realize you were catching it from her. Nor did she intend it. Nevertheless, you caught the cold from her. She sneezed. Later, you sneezed.

How we eat, what we eat, what we don't eat, when we eat it, are "caught" things. Mom could preach all she wanted about healthy eating habits, but most likely you now eat like her, healthy or not. You followed what she did, not what she said.

Now, I'm not saying you like and eat the same foods as mom. Perhaps you do, perhaps you don't. No, the real mirror image of your mom is in your attitude to food. I'll give you some examples:

--Do you feel compelled to eat just about everything that's put on you plate even today?

--Do you pick at your food?

--Or push it around with your fork while you're thinking of something else?

--Or eat absent-mindedly?

--Or eat when you are tired, or depressed, or upset, or discouraged?

--Or reward yourself with a sweet or fattening treat? (Especially late at night?)

In each case you are either following her pattern, or rebelling against it.

She didn't tell you to do any of these things, but if you remember carefully, you'll pick up the clues to how you "caught" these habits early on. And they are persistent habits, long after mom has stopped being a major influence in your daily life.

The other night I was at a quick serve restaurant with family friends. It was a bit late and the regular restaurants were all closed. We had just gotten out of the movie, and we were famished. So we loaded our plates and began to eat. Now I wasn't half way through the plate when I began feeling full. A few bites later, I was stuffed. Still I kept forking it in. I was seeing more and more plate, and less and less food covering it.

How stupid was I? I wasn't hungry. Still I ate. And ate some more. Then I realized, "Mom made me do it."
We didn't always have the most abundant or elegant food on the table when I was young, so my mom's rule was, "If you put it on your plate, eat it all. Or don't take it at all." I definitely joined the clean-plate-club at an early age. I'm still a card-carrying member. Our old mantra: "Remember all the starving children in China!"

Knowing I don't have to eat it all--knowing I shouldn't, hasn't stopped me from eating more than I should--I eat it just because it's on the plate. I'm not stupid, so how can this be?

Have you ever felt that way about eating? Do you feel compelled by a mysterious force to eat in ways that you know is not the best for you? Perhaps mom is at fault. But, that doesn't solve anything does it?


The key understanding is freeing yourself from these hidden, powerful compulsions. You do that by first understanding they are there (whether or not you caught them from mom). Next by choosing and consistently using new, more healthful habits.

Once you start that process, you will uncover layers of strangely self-defeating eating behaviors, lurking just below the surface of the most obvious ones.

The difficulty is that this process is not an easy task. It is not a fully rational task. You can't just talk yourself out of a silent, compelling behavior of which you are dimly aware. But you can flag it, so that when it happens, you can give yourself a pause, and take the quick action needed to change your behaviors.

It's sort of like a diet. But this is not a diet about food. It is a diet of ideas. You need to eliminate the caught things--behaviors, ideas--that push your hunger and your cravings out of your control.

What I have learned to do is to be aware--of what I eat, when I eat it, how I eat, and what I don't eat. These "caught things" can destroy my best of intentions if I didn't bring them out of the darkness of unquestioned habits.

Does any of this resonate with you? Have you ever felt food compulsions in any way?

You see, it is easy to blame your lack of healthy eating on mom, especially when she's not around to defend herself. But, if you are looking for a solution, look in the mirror. You really do know most of what you need to know to control your appetite and lose weight. You just have to discover the hidden "caught" things that constantly defeat you. Then implement a way of consistently doing something more healthy.

And you need to do them now. Why? Because it is the mom in you that is passing on your "caught things" to your kids and grandkids. Is that what you want?

How do you control your appetite?
Conclusion 7: Blame It on Mom


Next time...
How do you control your appetite?

Rule 8: Quiet the Ghost in Your Genes

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