Why I Eat

I would like to report on my weight loss progress. Last time I added two new habits, walking my toy dog every day, and drinking more water from the enticing cute bottles I bought.

I named my stuffed dog Liza and I walk with her every day. I didn’t expect immediate weight loss due to this new regime, because my first goal was to get out of the house every day, even if only for two seconds. The next step will be to increase walking time to ten minutes.

Drinking a lot of water doesn’t work well. I spend too much time looking for bathrooms and panicking that I will not make it. I like the idea of drinking a lot of water, but I am not sure I can hold to it, if you understand what I mean.

Since taking on this challenge, I’ve gained two habits, but I haven’t lost a pound.

Now I’m upping my game. Below is my analysis of why I eat. When I eat, I believe that I am hungry. But looking at this more objectively I think this is not always the case: sometimes there are other reasons. I am listing these other reasons so I can fight them face-to-face. Here we go:

  • I eat to finish what is on my plate. My mom lived through World War II in Moscow, and instilled in me a terrible guilt when I throw away food.
  • I eat extra when I do not know when my next meal is. I experienced extreme hunger in my childhood, so I try to prevent ever having that terrible feeling again.
  • I can’t resist free food. I do not feel comfortable with my financial situation, so saving money gives me an extra push to eat even when I’m not hungry.
  • I procrastinate by eating. When I am facing a chore I don’t really want to do, I delay it by eating.
  • I crave sugar. It used to be worse.
  • I have a problem with delicious food. I think that deep inside I feel that life was unfair to me and this piece of tiramisu will be a small bright spot in my usually rainy life. Therefore I need to grab it and gobble it down before it disappears.

Hmm. That was painful to write. My psychoanalyst taught me that pain means I am on the right track.



  1. me:

    You and me both.

    I find that I can either cut to the core or not bother; what works for me is to restrict myself to olive oil, chicken and vegetables and to leave at least half of every dinner/lunch I eat out to be packaged up and eaten later. It takes a few days of discipline to get over the craving and then I am ok until I can’t resist something particularly delicious and I have to restart from scratch. The most annoying thing is, of course, that weight loss takes so incredibly much time, and I’ve never been overly patient.

    Apologies for the fake email, I enjoy my anonymity.

  2. Michal:

    Hi, I think throwing away food is bad habit and many people here in Poland thinks that too. Although my mother was not even born during WWII. If you do not want to throw food away just prepare yourself less. If you are hungry after 20 minutes after finishing the meal just take some apple or some vegetable.

  3. Ernest:

    Have considered increasing your protein intake? Drinking a lot of water might just mean drink as much as you feel comfortable drinking. Maybe those high volumes of water assumes you are at boot camp.

  4. Joshua:

    Tanya, you are already doing so many things well and thoughtfully. Here are some suggestions and resources you might find helpful:

    (1) Change and motivation: Joseph Greny gave a fantastic talk on habits and change in the leading@google series. Video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daOf4QMN6vA.

    Willpower is not the answer. There are strategies which can be effective, but they take conscious planning (for most people).

    (2) Use a collection of strategies and find what works for you.

    This seems to be what you are doing. There is no single magic bullet (superfood! amazing diet! miracle exercise move!) and things that work for other people may not be right for you.

    (3) http://www.fit2fat2fit.com: Drew starts out in great shape, eats junk food for 6 months, gains 35 kg, then tries to lose it and get back in 6 months. Highlights the importance of diet vs exercise as well, offers suggestions on other metrics to use beyond body-weight, and could be very motivational.

    (4) http://www.bodyrecomposition.com: really fantastic collection of research summaries on nutrition.

    If it will help you to know the evidence behind certain choices/tactics, this is a good place to go. If you will just find it confusing and distracting, then avoid it.

    (5) While nutrition and exercise are both significant, nutrition is more important for health.

    Some principles I’ve found helpful (but see point (2) above):
    + have an active plan of what I’m going to eat, not just what i am going to avoid
    + eat the most healthy diet I can enjoy
    + expect tastes to change
    + get enough protein
    + fats and carbs are neither good nor evil, but they can be sources of lots of unintentional calories. For me, I find it easier to control calories if I avoid carbs and measure fats. Others might find the opposite.
    + exercise as intensely as I can enjoy
    + focus on the process, not the end result
    + aim for improvement rather than perfection

    I’m always looking for co-conspirators in the fight to change my own habits, so feel free to email if you want to lend each other moral support.

  5. Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog » Blog Archive » Affirmations:

    […] our affirmations correctly. I recently discovered that I am deceiving myself into believing that I am hungry when I’m not. I should be able to reverse that. I should be able to persuade myself that I am not hungry when I […]

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