How do you decide what to eat?

Decisions, decisions…  Image:  Still Life with a gilded Beer Tankard, Willem Claesz. Heda, 1634 , Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

Decisions, decisions…

Image: Still Life with a gilded Beer Tankard, Willem Claesz. Heda, 1634, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

How do you decide what to eat?


I can think of at least half a dozen ways. I've experimented - far more than necessary - with them all. They're mostly terrible.

1. Let your culture decide. If you're French or Japanese or Mexican, you might do all right. If you're American, mmmmm. Probably a terrible idea.

2. Let your eating disorder decide. Eat by compulsion. Plenty of people do this, and tell themselves it’s their “natural hunger” or their “body” making the decision.

Variant: Let your best friend's eating disorder decide. Just go along, because it serves your own habits.

3. Let your partner decide, because that keeps peace in the home. If only they cared as much about pleasing you as you care about pleasing them. If only they cared more about your health. If only they could get dinner on the table before you pass out from starvation and are forced to stave off death with Cheez-Its.

4. Let your Diet Guru du Jour decide. Or let Instagram decide. Same same.

5. Let your legit physical hunger decide. You can do this, but I have found it to be an amazingly effective way to boost hunger. <- not a great outcome

6. Let your prefrontal cortex decide. NOT TERRIBLE! Our prefrontal cortex was MADE to make smart decisions, based on trial and error and evidence and feedback from your body, in terms of how you feel and what you weigh and what you know to hold true over time and in the majority of cases. Of which you already have plenty.

I recommend taking approach #6 the minute you've got enough evidence about what does and doesn't work. Making a decision about how and what to eat, and sticking to it, has the virtue of simplicity. You can make a few key decisions, and not remake them over and over every time you eat. You can repeat!

Most of us already know a lot about what works and doesn't work for us. A very simple way to corral that information is to sit down with pen and paper, recording app, or keyboard, and ask:

What do I already know about* what works and what doesn't work for me around food and eating?

Then let her rip, let it sit, review your mini-Body of Knowledge - and act on what you know. 

Which will be plenty.

*Thank you, Havi Brooks, for that perfect formulation.

Max DanielsComment