For the last three weeks, I’ve been following the “Eat to Live” program. It’s not been too difficult; I’ve not felt starved or even hungry and I have lost weight. I’m not saying its been a breeze or that I haven’t had cravings (mostly for salt), but I don’t feel like there are a lot of rules and there isn’t any calorie counting.
Last night I experience something new – completely different than any other diet program I’ve been on. It started when I made a soup for dinner – I made it from split peas and a few other assorted beans along with onions, cucumbers, spinach, garlic and carrot juice. Even after three weeks of not eating high sodium food or adding salt to my meals, I felt like the soup needed salt, but that’s not new.
While I was eating the soup, I felt like it was just ok. But after I finished my bowl and sat for a while, it happened. I found myself thinking about how good it was. I don’t mean I felt good about my healthy meal. The longer I sat there the more fondly I thought of the meal.
I don’t feel like I’m able to articulate exactly what I mean here. It might help to contrast with my prior eating experiences. In the past, when I’ve had a slice of pizza or a doughnut, I’ve enjoyed the meal while I was eating it. The taste of a warm glazed doughnut was awesome while I was eating it. But afterward, I have often felt remorse for my food choice and even the memory of the taste of it was bad.
This was an almost exact opposite reaction. I ate a meal that was just ok, but afterward I found myself thinking about how good it was; complete satisfaction, not remorse or regret. And as I look back over the last several weeks, I realize that I’ve had this same reaction to almost every meal. A salad that wasn’t bad at the time is remembered as amazing later.
This has huge implications for me. Let me explain; in all animal behavior there is tendency to herd. In humans, herding is a basic concept where you make decisions based on what the crowd is doing, like getting in a long line based on the idea that if it has a long line, there must be something good at the other end.
In Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, he introduces the concept of self herding (p39). Self herding is described as getting in line behind yourself – making decisions based on the fact that you have made that same decision before and if you have made that decision several times before, there isn’t a lot of thought required in making that same decision again. I’ve written about before (Starting a New Routine – Trying Not To Get Inline Behind Myself)
I don’t believe my “decision” to eat pizza and doughnuts was based on this self herding behavior – at least not in years. At first maybe it was, but I believe salt, sugar, and fat are addictive and making the decision to eat foods high in one or more of the three but are also low in nutrition was an addiction more than a food choice.
My point is that if I am without effort on my part, remembering my meals as amazing and delicious even if they were only so/so – then it might be easier to see the “line” of me making good health choices growing longer and longer and to follow the herd…