Food Is Not Your Enemy

It’s Always Time to Eat
June 14, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Restaurants, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , , ,

There didn’t used to be a McDonald’s in the children’s department of Macy’s Herald Square. Or a Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. Or a café at the library. Or drive-thrus open 24 hours a day. Or burritos and donuts at gas stations.

Over the past generation, we have seen a new phenomenon develop: the constant availability of food. Every minute of every day has become an opportunity to eat. My favorite example: Last year I accompanied my daughter’s class to Ellis Island, and watched as a family bought several bags of M&Ms from the ferry concession stand at 10 in the morning in order to tide them over during the 20-minute ride. Would this family have otherwise thought that they all needed candy that morning if it hadn’t been for sale right in front of them?

If you go to Macy’s to buy your child a bathing suit at 4 p.m., suddenly he wants a cheeseburger because he sees the McDonald’s right there. Is he even hungry? Would he otherwise have asked you for any food at all if he hadn’t smelled it and seen those familiar golden arches?

When I was in Paris a couple of years ago, I noticed that many restaurants simply didn’t serve food if it wasn’t what was considered mealtime. But in the U.S., it’s always mealtime, or at least snacktime. We’re encouraged to eat wherever we are, and, surprise surprise, it’s not vegetables or fresh fruit that’s pushed on us, but the junkiest junk foods. And no matter who you are and how healthy you try to be, it can be pretty tough to avoid that temptation all the time.

It’s unlikely that this is going to change–food companies want to make money, so they’re constantly looking for ways to get you to eat more. Putting food in your face everywhere you turn is a really effective way to do that.

To avoid getting sucked into the habit of grazing all day long when you’re out and about, before you pull into the drive-thru or wander into the mall food court because you smelled cinnamon rolls, stop and think–am I actually hungry right now? Or am I about to buy this food simply because it’s there? Would I have felt the need the get a snack right now if I hadn’t seen this concession stand?

This may sound simple, and you may wonder if it would actually make any difference, but awareness is the first step in making changes in your life, and can be very effective. Try it and see what happens.


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