I pride myself on honesty. I don’t pretend to be perfect. I miss workouts. I eat things I shouldn’t. However, I achieve balance by eating well and exercising most days of my life. I’m not proud of the tale I’m about to share with you, but it teaches an important lesson about planning ahead and “preventative eating”.
Before I delve into this embarrassing story, it is important to mention that there is a difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is an instinctive physical need to consume energy, often demonstrated by a rumbling stomach. When ignored, hunger can cause fatigue, headache, low blood sugar, lightheadedness, and poor food choices. Conversely, appetite is a mental desire to eat, typically triggered by witnessing a mouth-watering morsel (such as watching “Cake Wars” on Food Network…just saying….) or social cues (such as time of day or a special event). There is an easy method to distinguish between hunger and appetite. If you’re hungry, a healthy food (such as a banana, handful of nuts, or a hard-boiled egg) will generally sound scrumptious. If you’re having an appetite-induced craving, your body will not exhibit physical hunger signals, nor will healthy foods seem tempting.
I coined the term “preventative eating” early in my graduate school education. It means listening to your body’s hunger signals and responding before they get out of control. An early response can prevent you from making poor food decisions later in the day. Preventative eating requires planning. I typically keep a healthy Lara bar or banana in my purse, just in case I need it. If I’m going on a road trip, healthy snacks (such as whole wheat wraps with organic peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, and grapes) prevent me from consuming fast foods while traveling. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, nor is it difficult to carry a healthy option or two. I barely think about it anymore! Unfortunately, last weekend I failed to plan ahead and learned why my habitual planning is so important.
I attended a show in Richmond last Sunday. I ate a healthy lunch before I left and shoved a banana in my purse, just in case. However, I failed to consider the 90-minute drive, length of the show, subsequent traffic, and the long drive home. A banana simply wasn’t enough to sustain me. I ate my banana before entering the theater. Three hours later, on the drive home, my hunger started to get out of control. (This is a crucial moment. When hunger begins to get out of control, we get “desperate” and look for the foods that will result in a quick rise in blood sugar, a.k.a. fast, processed carbohydrates). I should’ve stopped at the nearest exit and grabbed a healthier option from a convenience store, such as a bag of almonds, a yogurt, or a piece of string cheese. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the stop and it led to a downward spiral of poor choices.
Not only was I getting a headache, but hormone-fuelled cravings started to seep into my brain during the drive. My thoughts turned to why I “deserved” a treat. This is never a good train of thought! When hunger starts to grow, it can collide with appetite, creating a veritable “food tornado”. (“I’ve been craving cake. I want cake. I also want queso. Yes. Chips and queso. I need some spice. I got that cake and queso from Whole Foods for my birthday. It just didn’t do it for me. I DESERVE cake and queso. It has to be vanilla with vanilla buttercream. That Whole Foods buttercream was barely buttercream. It wasn’t sweet enough. I work hard. I deserve it. Yes. I’ll go to Kroger when I get back to C-ville. They’re sure to have what I want…”)
I must reiterate: I’M NOT PROUD. By this time I was shaking. If I would’ve carried or purchased a healthy snack, I certainly would have eaten it, and, perhaps, regained a modicum of sanity. When I arrived at Kroger (shaking and nursing a wicked headache), I practically ran through the store in search of my “fix”. Queso. Check. (“It’s from the organic section. I’m being responsible.”) Tortilla chips. Check. Finally I lapped around to the bakery section. (“I’ll just grab a slice of cake from the bakery display. One big slice. That’s all I need.”) The bakery case had a few slices, but no vanilla with buttercream. (“No! Only vanilla with buttercream will do.”) I spotted small cakes on a shelf. Strawberry. Lemon. Coconut. Eww! I rummaged through the refrigerated dessert case. (“Whipped frosting?! Oh, no they didn’t!”) The only cake that met my psychotic requirements was a ¼ sheet cake costing $16.99. Yes, folks. I left the store with a ¼ sheet cake!
I ate those chips. I ate that queso. Oh yes, I ate that cake. (Not the whole thing, just a couple of pieces). Did I enjoy it? Briefly. The thought of eating bad food is always so much better than reality.
This is an extreme example, I know. Furthermore, these exceptionally poor choices were fueled by hormones and a desire to “get a little crazy”. However, it reminded me why carrying a few healthy options is so important! So, if you’re feeling a little rumbly in your tumbly, answer your stomach’s call with a healthy, whole food. You’ll be glad you did!
P.S. Have you ever had a “food crazy” moment? Please tell me I’m not the only one! 🙂