Jan 22, 2020

Triggers that push us towards junk food

The sequence of events from yesterday evening helped me understand the triggers that push me towards buying/eating junk foods. This is just a personal observation. Triggers might vary from one individual to another. So it makes sense to first observe our thoughts and emotions before we succumb to the temptations.

I had an early lunch yesterday and had a cup of tea around 3PM. I didn't eat any snack and took D to an activity class around 5PM. While waiting in the center, I was reading an informative book on my Kindle (a serious, non-fiction book on the jobs-to-be-done framework loaded with insights). I read for an hour and had made good progress with the book. My stomach started grumbling around 6PM. The class got over at 6:20PM and we headed to a nearby grocery store to pick up a few things. As usual, D wanted to buy her quota of ONE junk food per shopping trip. 

While she picked up a pack of cream biscuits, I was looking at a pack of tapioca finger chips and drooling over a pack of butter biscuits (that white colored small cookies we used to get in the bakery shops in the 90s). Off late, I've been feeling quite nostalgic and a strong yearning to get back the simpler times of childhood. These emotions were pushing me towards these packets. As I took a pack of the butter biscuits, I read the ingredients - wheat flour, sugar, shortening etc. Better sense prevailed and I kept it back but with a tinge of disappointment. I applied the same ONE JUNK FOOD rule and decided to buy the tapioca finger chips for myself. It's been a long time since I had it and used to be my favorite during college days. I came home and had dinner along with a serving of these chips. Here's what I learned from this experience:
  1. Never go hungry when you are stepping out for some errands. Carry a snack OR eat something at home. 
  2. Mentally stimulating work (reading/coding/writing etc) can increase our appetite levels. So plan accordingly and carry healthy snacks. I'm not sure whether our appetite levels change depending on whether we are reading a fiction book vis-a-vis a non-fiction book. Something to experiment on :-)
  3. Never step into a supermarket when you are hungry. The junk foods that you like will scream at you - "Pick me, pick me"
  4. Before you buy something, pause for a moment and ask yourself - "Why am I tempted by this? Is it ONLY because I'm hungry? Or is it something emotional that's pushing me?" More often than not, our emotional needs are what drives us most into using junk foods as comfort OR a way to avoid uncomfortable thoughts.
  5. Acknowledge the emotions for a second and then decide if you still want to buy the pack. Those few seconds of self-reflection might change your decision.
  6. Read the ingredients list. Our conscious mind and our intellect might bring us out of our temptations. I say "MIGHT" because the decision is dependent on how strong our emotional pull is.
  7. If nothing works, allow yourself to pick ONLY ONE JUNK and not more than that. Enjoy it without any guilt.

I firmly believe that self-reflection and self-awareness are powerful tools to observe our habits and our choices. It is even more important in today's time-starved world where we run on auto-pilot most of the time.

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