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Reprogramming my brain so that food is something I enjoy without guilt or remorse started with a plan for what, where and how I eat. I have always been a planner for the important things in life. I have a spending plan, so why not an eating plan? Just as I don’t wish to be careless with my money, I don’t wish to be careless with my eating.

My plan requires discipline. I believe that discipline can be as strong as it can be flexible. I don’t think of it as punishment or restraint. I think of it as a creative way to accomplish my objectives. And I feel that each discipline may be different, but without discipline in food we will never be healthy for long.

My discipline includes loving kindness, understanding and compassion when I stray from it. It includes deep looking to understand why I eat out of emotion rather than hunger. It includes food rules.

Rules do not take the fun out of eating. They put the fun back in. I had to ask myself if I was really enjoying food. I ate quickly without tasting more than the first bite. I automatically ate whatever was in front of me, whether or not it was something I really wanted. I ate too much sometimes, leaving me uncomfortable and guilty. I chose to replace unconscious eating with conscious rules.

My eating rules include three E’s:
Eat when I am hungry
Eat mindfully
Eat healthy

Before I start to eat, I ask myself why I am going to eat. Am I truly hungry? Am I using food to feel better? Is there something in front of me that I really like?

If I am truly hungry, I eat. If I am using food to feel better, I find something else that will make me feel better. If there is something in front of me that I really like and I’m not hungry, I might take a bite or set it aside until I am hungry. If I’m not at home, I reassure myself that this will not be the last time there is a piece of carrot cake in front of me.

By giving myself permission to do what I feel is best for me in the moment, because it’s a conscious decision, I eliminate guilt and any chance of me thinking I’ve been “bad.”

By eating mindfully, I really enjoy the taste and texture of food. I choose food that I really enjoy. I eat more slowly, by putting my fork down between bites. I stop when I feel full, even if there is food left on my plate. I know this will bother my mother if she reads this:)

My rule to eat healthy is a result of loving myself enough to feel I deserve it. Just as I would take good care of anyone I love, I choose to take good care of me. This is how I’ve reduced the power ice cream had over me. Gradually I’ve reprogramed my brain so that ice cream now resides in the same category as any other food. I eat it consciously, slowly and only when it really appeals to me in the moment.

Thanksgiving is a couple of days away. I will apply all my rules I will eat mindfully. I will enjoy the food. I will balance between food that is healthy and food that is less so. I will celebrate abundance.  I will not surrender to it.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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