On Eating (Poorly) After Eating (Well)

posted in: Ruminations | 18

I’m going through a problem here. At the risk of revealing myself crazy, I must admit to some eating-related fault; somebody help me out. Today, for instance, I just finished a decent-portioned lunch. Homemade pesto, whole wheat pasta, with shards of asparagus throughout. Totally filling — the carbs not lacking, the flavors satisfying. Everything was fine.

And then I get this weird urge. My belly is full and in fact feeling pretty darn huge. But I have a weak resolve and a strange inclination to act upon the worst possible thought in the world sometimes. I get up to go to the office kitchen again. I put coins in the vending machine. And two minutes later, at my desk, I’m crunching into salty chips, for no good reason.


This is probably a question best posed to a psychiatrist, since it speaks to non-physical yearnings, most likely. For one thing, that bag of salty chips goes against everything I believe in – it’s processed glut. It’s what people are eating instead of real food, and it’s especially disturbing to discover that in many lower-income communities, they’re pretty much getting all their groceries from a convenience store, meaning no fresh foods. And, the stupid snack-sized package ends up in a landfill and can’t be reused for anything, really, since it’s soaked in MSG-addled scents and covered with grime. (I once worked for a company that had Frito-Lay as one of its clients, and in their training brochures the company cleverly called their junk food: “Fun-for-you foods”… (shudder).)

Secondly, I wasn’t really hungry – physically, at least – to begin with.

I’ll call this compulsive “bad idea” eating disorder. Unique from binge eating, or compulsive overeating, it’s marked by either bad-idea foods or bad-idea times in which to eat them, such as right after polishing off a satisfying meal. Often, both.

Granted, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional junk food. I know this, and allow myself to some levels of tolerance, especially given the fact that I’ve thrown out pizza and take-out Chinese and all that would be deemed “eating out” for some time now.

Dieticians, nutritionists and health experts warn against eating as a form of recreation, but we food enthusiasts know that’s impossible. That would be like robbing our greatest joy in life.

Clearly, there’s a rebellious streak in my behavior that’s finding form in a new eating disorder. Perhaps this is a negative repercussion of the Not Eating Out strain, an unexpected antithesis to Reasons for Not Eating Out. I just hope it doesn’t last into my thirties, when my metabolism shuts down and I start inflating like a balloon (a la Violet Beauregard).

Life is a Willy Wonka world, sometimes.

18 Responses

  1. Sasha

    The main problem is that the vending machine is there, selling those kinds of snacks. That kind of thing is an invitation to compulsiveness. Besides, those companies have many scientists working on how to create flavors that will get those kinds of responses.

    You also may craving more salt or fats.

  2. Maiken

    Don’t beat yourself up too hard about it. It might just as well have something to do with the ‘time of the month’. I know, ‘totally’ uncool of me to bring that as an excuse to the proverbial table… But I have noticed a pattern where I tend to snack more during those days. Even when I am not hungry, even when I don’t particularly crave anything… I am guessing it is just for the kick of it. I LOVE to eat and cook (and your site because of it as well!) and sometimes everyone slips. It’s especially unnerving while trying to eat more healthily and/or lose weight, but as long as you are not doing it too much, it should be ok.

  3. Koren

    I agree with other commenters – don’t beat yourself up! We all eat things we don’t really need sometimes. I did notice that your lunch didn’t have any protein though, that could have contributed… maybe try to bring a hard-boiled egg or two when your lunch doesn’t have any protein. I find that helps me cut down on snacking.

  4. tina

    Just pretend the vending machine is NOT there. Darling.

  5. Joanna

    I think availability has a lot to do with it, or at least that’s what I’ve noticed about my own snacking habits. One of my coworkers (who sits right next to me, which doesn’t help) keeps a well-stocked “chocolate drawer” most of the time, and for a while I ate at least one mini chocolate bar every day. I’m not on a diet, and I generally eat healthily enough that I can afford to splurge, but there are SO many better splurges than mini Snickers bars. Yet I would finish lunch and think, “okay, chocolate time” and go grab one from the drawer.

    Said coworker is on a month-long business trip, and the drawer has been empty since he left, and… I haven’t missed it at all. I just kind of stopped snacking after lunch once the easy option was gone. I don’t know if this helps your situation at all, but I can definitely commiserate, especially when the problem is something like a vending machine that won’t go out of town for a month!

    Maybe bringing along some nuts would help? They’re salty and crunchy and full of protein…

  6. Yvo

    I do the same thing. On days I’m pleased that my bento was particularly well balanced (well, low carb, high protein, even had a snack in it), and I’m totally full afterwards, and I had a good breakfast (whole grain cereal or the like), and I’m on track to having a complete, wholly “good food” day,… I find myself after lunch (around now, actually) reaching for chocolate or craving ice cream. My belly’s full but I want that extra something. It doesn’t matter that I had a “dessert” with my lunch (fruit or a teeny bit of chocolate)… And I hate it. I have to resist.

    BTW, this reminds me, I was curious if you’d lost any weight by not eating out? I know you didn’t set out with that purpose (you’re thin enough… trust me!) but I was curious if you’d noticed any looser clothing or anything.

  7. Kristen

    I’ve been checking out your site for some time now, and I pretty much have taken on your philosophy (though not full time) to save money and eat healthier. Bravo to you!
    I have to say the reasons you listed for why these foods are bad for us and the environment, (and marketed in evil ways)are the reasons I keep away from them for the most part. I’m weak like everyone else, but when I have the urge to buy from the vending machine, I remind myself that I am playing into their grubby little hands. Even worse, I teach in a high school, and I watch teenagers playing into their grubby little hands all through lunch, everyday. I would say, for the most part, this keeps me from spending my dough on garbage. And by the way, I’m 38 and healthier and weigh less than ever, due to the fact that I cook for myself most of the time, so don’t despair!

  8. bob

    Bring some good yogurt to work with you Fage with honey. Pick up some bananas they are about 39 cents a piece.

    Get some bottled (in a glass) sparking water.

  9. Emily

    I have the same problem and I can’t figure it out either. I’ve developed a lot of tactics to minimize the damage (i.e. eating on small plates) but I’ve never been able to really get to the bottom of it. I have read that some people have a weak “full” signal. I also think there’s a really clear distinction between “some m&ms ‘sound’ good” (it’s like being hungry with your brain) and needing more food to sustain yourself ( I usually don’t). my only conclusions are that it really takes a multi faceted approach and that I think it’s all about getting through the craving somehow because if you can wait until you aren’t “mentally hungry” anymore, then you’ll truly realize “wait a minute, I’m not hungry” and it will be totally easy not to eat.

  10. donna

    I think eating is a way to distract ourselves. When I was busy working on a project, I hardly notice the time when I am not putting stuff in my mouth.

  11. susan

    i just came upon your site and i love it! i made my new years resolution to make all my own food from scratch and shun all processed foods or pre-prepared foods (though i do eat out at restaurants from time to time). i’ve found it such a great project and it’s radically changed the way i eat, view food, live and time i spend on the web (now reading food blogs!). even with sticking to my resolution, i still find that the vending machine craving comes up despite the fact that i remind myself that i am full and nourished with the best type of food possible. for me it always feels like some sort of rebellion with myself too. but i also think it’s ok to cheat every once in awhile to keep things in perspective. after eating chips from the vending machine i always feel kind of gross which helps me not want to eat them next time. sorry for such a long reply and thanks for writing such a great blog.

  12. j

    I do the same thing, but I have found that kombucha (sp?) green tea kills the craving. I can’t ignore the craving; it just gets louder. I can’t placate it with apples or carrots; I just want chips or chocolate after. But the tea stops it. Which tells me that it’s physical, not emotional or mental.

  13. Anita

    I am a baker, and always have my cabinet stocked with a bulk supply of chocolate. Ever since I started doing that, my chocolate consumption has plummetted. So, my suggestion: Stock one of your desk drawers to the brim with potato chips, and EXCESS of chips, and they will instantly lose their crush appeal.

  14. Shelby

    I’m just going to come right out there and say it, when it’s around that time of the month, you cannot keep salt away from me. I try to resist the urges, but then i just end up eating more than i would have had i just eaten what I actually wanted in the first place. I’ve learned that when my body wants salt, it’s best to just give it salt, enjoy it, and move on.

  15. You can recover and go on to live a happy, productive life, free of obsessive thoughts and behaviors surrounding food, weight, and body image.

  16. kittensinthekitchen

    Ok, the sucky thing is… I just had a lovely chicken, bacon and avocado sandwich on wholegrain bread for lunch and it completely filled me up. Then a co-worker offered some chocolate… and being of weak will I accepted.

    So, now I am slightly uncomfortably full, and a little sickened at myself. Yet when I read those magic words ‘salty chips’ I am immediately tempted – and actually have my coat on to go buy some… tut tut tut :-S

  17. Naomi

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.

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