You just went to some all you can eat sushi joint, and now you “can’t quite seem to stand up under your own power””, as Chief Wiggum would say.
We’ve all been there.
It always ends up the same way. You know exactly what is going to happen before you even take the first bite.
You know that you can only stomach so much food at once. But you also know that the food is delicious.
Perhaps more importantly, you know that no matter how much you eat, you are going to pay the same price. More on this later.
Indian Food And “Busch Pasta Maria”
For the past two days, I’ve had lunch at this fantastic all you can eat Indian buffet.
For about ten bucks, I had the opportunity to stuff myself silly with delicious samosas, gulab jamun, and my favorite, malai kofta.
Combined, I had five to six full plates of food. As I write this, I am feeling the effects of the three plates I had just an hour or so ago. I don’t want to say I feel sick, but it’s not quite a good feeling.
For the past four years at school, I would take advantage of what my friends and I dubbed “Busch Pasta Maria”. The Busch campus dining hall had one of the most delightful food service employees I’ve ever dealt with, Maria. She worked on the cook to order pasta line, and she made the most delicious, heaping piles of pasta you can imagine.
While most of my friends would show some degree of moderation, I would finish my plate every time.
And guess how I would feel afterwards?
Why Do We Binge Eat?
I’m not talking about binge eating disorders here. I’m talking about the random feasts that most people will go on at fairly regular intervals.
As my story above indicates, I am an expert when it comes to eating way too much, way too quickly.
From listening to my own self-justifications for this behavior as well as talking to others about it, I’ve come up with a couple reasons why people binge.
“I’ve Already Paid For It.”
By far the most common reason most people I’ve talked to will overeat is because it doesn’t cost anything extra. This is the case for any dining hall type experiences, eating at home, or an all you can eat buffet.
It makes some sense. After all, it doesn’t seem to cost you anything to eat more, so why not?
But even though it might seem to make sense at first glance, it doesn’t. Here’s why:
- You have to buy more. If you overeat the food at your own home, you ignore the fact that it’s the replacement cost that matters. It doesn’t matter that you already own the food; when it’s gone, you’ll need to buy more. People think of the food they have at home as free, but that is hardly the case.
- It’s a sunk cost. In non-economics terms, a sunk cost is simply a price that has already been paid and can’t change. If you go into an all you can eat restaurant, the cost of the buffet is a sunk cost. No matter how much you eat, you already are paying that amount. You eat as much as you can “to get your money’s worth”, but if you eat too much you impose additional costs. You can’t change what you paid, but you can avoid a stomach ache by moderating yourself.
“It Tastes Sooooo Good!”
This is where I fail. I just love food. I’m sure many of you can sympathize.
When I eat something delicious, I just want more and more without any regard for the consequences.
Perhaps my taste buds are more sensitive than average. I don’t know.
What I do know is that the allure of something tasty can reduce my self control to that of a small child.
How Can I Stop Binge Eating?
Again, I want to emphasize that I am not talking about people with a legitimate disorder here. If you think you might have binge eating disorder, you can get help. Some of these tactics will be useful, but you probably need more than just a blog post to get better.
But for those of you who overeat on a less frequent basis or to a lesser degree, there are a couple of tactics that can help.
Hara Hachi Bu
This is a Japanese term that is translated to mean “eat until you are 80% full”.
There is a time delay between when we eat and when we get full. Even if you feel a little bit hungry when you are done eating, within about twenty minutes you will feel satiated.
It’s easier said than done, for sure.
Self control is necessary here. In a later post, I will discuss specific ways to consume less, making the practice of hara hachi bu easier. In the meantime, just give it a shot.
A simple trick is to load your plate with less food. You will feel less “obligated” to eat it if it’s not on your plate already.
Savor The Flavor
Instead of scarfing down your meal without even noticing it, spend more time enjoying it. It’s so common for people to sit in front of the tube and inhale their food while distracted by stimulus that a TV provides.
Next time you eat something, consciously notice the taste and texture. Chew it for longer. Swirl it around in your mouth for a little while. Make sure you have swallowed what’s in your mouth before you shovel the next portion in.
In short, you need to practice mindful eating.
If you can savor each bite, you will be able to eat less while getting even more pleasure from it.
Overeating is a very common problem.
Despite it’s prevalence, there are simple solutions that anyone can implement in order to moderate their food intake.
The next time you sit down for a meal, try to savor each bite and eat until you are only 80% full, and you will have a much less painful experience afterwards.
Do you have any suggestions on how to eat less at mealtime?